Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

British Columbia’s New Democrats took a risk calling a snap election during a global pandemic to pursue a majority government, creating a major campaign issue for the party’s opponents.

NDP Leader John Horgan said he called the election more than one year ahead of schedule because he is seeking the certainty and stability of a majority during uncertain times, but he spent much of the campaign fending off accusations of political opportunism.

The Greens accused Horgan of breaking a governing agreement in place since 2017, and the B.C. Liberals said he withheld COVID-19 pandemic relief dollars for struggling businesses to bolster his chest of election goodies.

The election during the pandemic saw politicians campaign remotely with virtual town halls, Zoom calls and elbow bumps replacing traditional gatherings and handshakes from politicians wearing masks.

“Once British Columbians came to terms with the fact the election was underway they wanted to know what the options were, what their choices were and they’ll act accordingly,” Horgan said in an interview. “I believe now we’re days away from putting the election behind us so that we can have a new government, whoever that might be, focused on the needs of British Columbians.”

The election is being conducted safely and support for increased days of advanced polls and requests for mail-in ballots is encouraging, he said.

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic.

She said the agreement the NDP reached with the Greens to form a minority government after the 2017 election was stable, but Horgan decided to break the trust to further his own political ambitions.

“I believe that you need to earn trust everyday,” said Horgan. “It’s not just about an agreement among politicians. Where the confidence is required is in communities right across B.C. That’s what I’ve been talking about and getting a positive response.”

Prof. Kimberly Speers, a Canadian politics expert at the University of Victoria, said the timing of the election was a constant issue in the campaign and the NDP didn’t do a good job of articulating for voters the decision to go to the polls early.

She said she sensed Horgan may have considered potential changes in the NDP’s relationship with the Greens following the departure of former Green leader Andrew Weaver earlier this year.

Weaver, who left the Greens to sit as an Independent, is not running in the election and has endorsed the NDP.

“Something is going on there because if Weaver is supporting the NDP and not the new leader of the Green party, there’s something going on,” said Speers. “I don’t know what it is, but it does raise my eyebrows in terms of seeing that agreement breaking down somehow.”

READ MORE: B.C. NDP’s pledge of free birth control followed by Liberals, Greens

When the election was called, the NDP and Liberals each held 41 seats in the legislature. There were two Greens, two Independents and one vacancy.

Prof. Kathryn Harrison, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia, said the NDP spent a large part of the campaign trying to convince voters the election was not just about good timing for the party.

“I think the NDP had to have an argument ready about why they were calling an election and it couldn’t just be we’re ahead in the polls and we want to lock down a majority now,” she said. “They had to say we want certainty and stability.”

The trust issue also featured largely in interactions between Horgan and Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.

During the televised leaders debate, Wilkinson accused Horgan of betraying the Green party and withholding pandemic recovery funds from struggling businesses during the summer in order to introduce a $1.5 billion relief plan days before the election call.

Horgan said Wilkinson was wrong.

The Liberal promise to eliminate the seven per cent provincial sales tax for one year, with a return to three per cent the following year, saw the NDP counter with a pledge to give most families $1,000 and individuals $500.

“We said we wanted to put money directly in the hands of middle- and low-income British Columbians so that they can make their choices about how to get through this pandemic,” Horgan said. “The idea of a PST reduction to zero does nothing but blow a hole in the budget, some $8 billion.”

Prof. Andrey Pavlov, who teaches economics at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie school of business, said the PST cut does more for the stimulating the B.C. economy than the NDP’s $1,000.

“It’s a one-time payment,” he said. “It doesn’t really draw any other funds into the economy.”

Horgan also offered apologies during the campaign for his own comments and those of candidate Nathan Cullen, a former NDP member of Parliament.

Cullen was overheard making negative comments about a rival Liberal candidate.

READ MORE: Horgan, Cullen apologize for NDP candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Horgan also apologized shortly after the debate for saying he doesn’t “see colour” when asked how he reckons with his white privilege.

“The good news is there has been light shone during this campaign on racism and the need to not just talk about it in a debate during an election campaign, but we need to talk about it everyday,” he said on Wednesday.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC NDPBC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

web
PHOTOS: Pink Shirt Day in Mission

Mission residents wore pink today to help send out the anti-bullying message

Nietzsche, the ginger cat who worked at The Book Man, poses for a photo on Sept. 7, 2017. He died on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Famous Chilliwack bookstore cat, Nietzsche, dies

‘Every single thing you could want in a cat, Nietzsche embodied,’ says Amber Price

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

A homeless man being put into the back of an RCMP cruiser after a homeless camp fire on Feb. 13. Homeless camps at Horne Creek and FreshCo were dismantled without issue by MCS staff and bylaw officers, according to the MCS report to council. Patrick Penner file photo.
Mission Community Services staff say opponents have become allies following shelter expansion

Haven in the Hollow space increased from 27 to 57 bed in November

Screenshot of a video sent in to The Chilliwack Progress shows ice chunks falling at Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park on Feb. 20, 2021. The park was closed on Nov. 1, 2020 and is not set to open to the public until March 31, 2021. (Submitted
VIDEO: Chunks of ice rain down on visitors to Bridal Veil Falls Saturday

Despite the park being closed due to rockfall hazard, a dozen people were up close when it happened

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix wore pink shirts to showcase this year’s motto: “Lift each other up.” (Twitter/PinkShirtDay)
PHOTOS: B.C. celebs take a stand against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

‘We need to let young people know they are not alone and they can reach out to others for help’

A male customer without a face mask is seen inside a Burnaby Canadian Tire amidst an altercation with store security and staff members. (Screen grab)
RCMP investigating conflict between unmasked customer, staff at Burnaby Canadian Tire

Mounties received reports Monday of a customer having punched more than one employee

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)
COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

UBC Okanagan students are among the most food insecure in Canada, according to a new study by UBC.
(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
UBC Okanagan students among most food insecure in Canada

42.3 per cent either can’t properly feed themselves, or are worried they will soon run out of money

Average response times for critical “purple” and “red” calls were between nine and 10 minutes Feb. 19 in Metro Vancouver, with only less critical “yellow” calls receiving an average response time of 45 minutes. The longer than usual delay was due to a combination of factors, BC Emergency Health Services said. (APBC image)
After a night of one-hour waits for ambulances, union goes public with concerns

B.C. Ambulance Service says high-priority calls were still 10 minutes or less

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Contributed to Kamloops This Week)
B.C. teen in turtleneck, lace-edged dress sent home from school for ‘inappropriate’ outfit

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson was told the lace on the garment made it look like a slip dress

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and former finance minister Carole James roll out “StrongerBC,” a $1.5 billion business support plan for COVID-19, eight months after the B.C. legislature approved the money and four days before a snap election call, Sept. 17, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 business grant fund still mostly unspent

$300 million pandemic assistance approved almost a year ago

Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel (26) tries to get a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks cough up 3-0 lead, fall 4-3 to visiting Edmonton Oilers

Vancouver falls to 8-13-2 on the NHL season

Most Read