British Columbia Premier John Horgan has called a snap election for October 24th, hoping his popularity will propel the left-leaning New Democratic Party to a majority of seats in the B.C. Legislative Assembly and four more years in power.
As with governors in the United States’ premiers in Canada’s ten provinces have seen their popularity soar during the COVID-19 pandemic.
British Columbia has seen daily, accurate briefings by Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Bonnie Henry.
British Columbia has experienced fewer than 11,000 cases of the coronavirus and fewer than two hundred and forty deaths.
Washington, meanwhile has been hit with more than 86,000 cases with 2,131 deaths. The B.C. government pushed early to close the U.S.-Canada border, uneasily watching the pandemic’s spread in the Evergreen State.
(The province, Canada’s westernmost, is home to over four million people, whereas Washington State is home to over seven million.)
Horgan has governed since the spring of 2017, thanks to support from the B.C. Green Party. In May of 2017, the NDP captured forty-one seats, the Greens three seats, and the long-ruling (not-so-liberal) B.C. Liberal Party forty-three seats.
The New Democrats and Greens had a confidence and supply agreement in place that was supposed to last through October of 2021. But Horgan cited the unprecedented pandemic as his reason for calling the election. “I’ve struggled mightily with this decision and it did not come easily to me,” said Horgan.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything – the people of British Columbia deserve a say in the direction of our recovery and the future of our province,” added the Premier, whose request for a snap election was granted by Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, the Queen’s representative.
Horgan is the anti-Trump when predicting the future of the pandemic.
British Columbia will be living with it and recovering from it through next summer and into the fall, he predicted Tuesday.
Geographically speaking, British Columbia is larger than Texas.
The provincial government has great power and owns much of B.C.’s land.
“When the Queen calls you, she gives you the whole bag,” the late Premier Dave Barrett once said, explaining powers of the provincial government.
The New Democrats, B.C.‘s equivalent of the Washington State Democratic Party, have governed for just sixteen and a half of the past forty-eight years. Horgan is seeking to be the first two-term NDP premier in British Columbia history.
The NDP have been the province’s reformers, from instituting government auto insurance to protecting farmland to vastly expanding B.C.‘s provincial parks.
The province has traditionally split between the democratically socialist NDP and a business-backed free enterprise party, once Social Credit and since 1991 the B.C. Liberals. The Greens, under University of Victoria climate expert Andrew Weaver, became a factor in 2017 principally on Vancouver Island.
Seven of the NDP’s cabinet ministers have announced they will not seek reelection. Three of the New Democrats’ former Members of Parliament (MPs) in Ottawa are running provincially. They were part of a small faction in the House of Commons, while cabinet posts beckon out in B.C.
Horgan heads into the election with a sixty-nine percent approval rating, the highest of any premier in Canada, according to a recent Angus Reid poll.
A recent poll by the same firm showed the New Democrats with forty-eight percent support, the Liberals at twenty-nine percent, and the Greens (who, as mentioned, made Horgan’s minority government possible) at fourteen percent.
The Liberals’ leader, Andrew Wilkinson, argued that the snap election is unnecessary. “John Horgan chose politics over people,” he said.
“For no good reason whatsoever, we’ve now been forced into a general election that nobody in British Columbia wants, except the NDP.”
Andrew Weaver has left the Green Party and now sits as an independent in the Legislature. New party leader Sonia Furstanau, a Vancouver Island legislator, denounced the election call and argued that Horgan is just trying to consolidate power. She wondered whether he can be trusted in the future.
Preceding Horgan, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs called a snap election earlier this month, based on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His Progressive Conservative Party (yes, that’s a thing!) won a majority.
Horgan has found common cause with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, particularly when it comes to protecting the Salish Sea.
Both have opposed the Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion. The tripling of an existing pipeline would carry 890,000 barrels of oil a day from Edmonton in Alberta down to an oilport at Burnaby just east of Vancouver.
The oil would be exported, bringing thirty-four oil tankers a day through Burrard Inlet, Haro Strait (separating the San Juan and Gulf Islands) and out the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The project is backed – and owned – by the government of Canada, thanks to the efforts of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
It has survived challenges in Canadian courts.
Canadian election campaigns are short, usually just four weeks at the provincial level. Under parliamentary government, the executive and legislative branches are combined. Any party that wins a majority of seats gets to form the government and its leader becomes premier, Canada’s equivalent of the position of governor.
At times, as with Horgan, a minority party supplies votes that keep a government in power. The Trudeau government in Ottawa warily watches whether the federal NDP or the separatist Bloc Quebecois will support a no-confidence motion.
The Horgan government has won widespread support for closing off British Columbia, despite dire consequences to the province’s tourism industry.
Whatcom County, just south of the border, has experienced 1,274 cases and fifty deaths. The first outbreak of COVID-19 in North America was a little further south, in Snohomish County, which is sixty miles away.
The government has used the COVID-19 pandemic to urge its citizens to stay at home and experience their own province. Only British Columbians have been allowed to camp this summer at B.C. provincial parks.