NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, September 21st, 2020

British Columbia to hold snap general election on October 24th, 2020, premier announces

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.

Andrew Weaver and John Horgan

Andrew Weaver and John Hor­gan (BCNDP)

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.

Jay Inslee and John Horgan

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Pre­mier John Hor­gan take ques­tions from reporters in Seat­tle (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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.

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