B.C. Premier John Horgan has called a provincial election for Oct. 24 during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions.
Horgan said Monday he grappled with the idea of calling an election but there are significant health and economic challenges facing the province with an unstable minority government.
B.C. has a fixed election date set for October 2021, but he said to wait another year would be time wasted.
“I believe the challenges we face are not for the next 12 months but indeed for the next four years and beyond,” the NDP leader said.
“I guess I want to get the election behind us, not for myself but for the people of B.C., because they can’t afford to have partisan hectoring, uncertainty about whether bills will pass or not, which is what we’ve experienced over the past 3 1/2 years.”
The province’s minority NDP government took power in 2017 after signing an agreement with the Greens, but Horgan said political stability is needed and that is what he is seeking.
“I believe that stability will come by asking the people of British Columbia where they want to go and who they want to lead them.”
Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and Green Leader Sonia Furstenau have questioned the need for an election during the pandemic.
The NDP and B.C. Liberals were tied with 41 seats each when the legislature was dissolved by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin. The Greens held two seats, there were two Independents and one seat was vacant.
Wilkinson, who became Liberal leader in 2018, has been critical of the government’s response to the pandemic, saying last week that it has taken too long to roll out a $1.5 billion economic recovery plan.
Other provinces unveiled their plans months ago, he said last Thursday.
“They’re trying to stoke election fever with an economic plan.”
Horgan described the plan as building on a foundation of previously announced provincial and federal commitments aimed at recharging the economy.
The Greens, meanwhile, announced Furstenau as their new leader a week ago when she dismissed the need for an election, arguing the agreement her party has with the NDP is working.
“John Horgan needs to recognize that an unnecessary election right now is an entirely irresponsible thing to do,” she said at the time.
Elections BC has been consulting counterparts in New Brunswick after that province successfully held an election earlier this month during the pandemic.
Horgan said Finance Minister Carole James will be administering the province until election day. She is one of seven NDP cabinet ministers not seeking re-election.
Horgan noted that seven Liberal members of the legislature are also not running again and former Green leader Andrew Weaver is leaving politics as well.
“So now is the best time, it seems to me, at the beginning of the pandemic to renew the legislature,” he said.
“I think we need new ideas from every corner of the province, regardless of where those ideas come from and now is the time to do that.”
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
© The Canadian Press