Premier John Horgan is well into his third year of governing. He must occasionally pinch himself, finding it hard to believe that his minority government is still in power.
Horgan is a realist. He has said on a number of occasions recently that the minority NDP government, propped up by three Green MLAs, is not counting on a full term. The next election is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2021.
The most likely challenge comes from former Green Party leader Andrew Weaver. Without his signature on a confidence and supply agreement, Horgan would not be premier.
Weaver has resigned as Green Party leader and has left the party’s caucus to sit as an independent. This is not due to a disagreement with the party. It is primarily an issue of principle. He has said he remains bound by the agreement. The only way his new status becomes a challenge is if he resigns his seat. There have been rumours that he could give up his Oak Bay-Gordon Head seat to return to teaching at the University of Victoria. Some suggest he will wait until the Green Party elects a new leader, and if that leader is not Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau, he or she will need a seat. Adam Olsen, the other Green MLA, is serving as interim leader and isn’t running for the permanent position.
It’s interesting speculation, but Weaver is his own master and plays the game of politics quite differently.
There is little likelihood of any NDP MLA stepping down. Surrey Panorama MLA Jinny Sims has left the cabinet and is under investigation, but it seems unlikely that will lead to her resignation as an MLA. If there was a byelection, it would likely be a close vote. The BC Liberals held the seat almost continuously from 2001, except for a brief period when Jagrup Brar (now MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood) won it in a 2004 byelection and again in the 2005 election.
Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along. There are plenty of positive signs, but government revenues are slipping and the forestry crisis isn’t getting any better.
Another challenge is continuing to advance the reconciliation agenda. The present challenge to construction of a natural gas pipeline to feed a Kitimat LNG plant is a stark reminder that not all First Nations groups feel warm and fuzzy about the B.C. government.
A third major challenge are the twin issues of ICBC and ride-sharing. Both of these are high on the radar screen in urban areas. Without movement to make ICBC rates more affordable and ride-sharing actually available, the NDP will lose votes.
Leadership on these two issues by Attorney-General David Eby (ICBC) and Transportation Minister Claire Trevina (ride-sharing) has been uninspiring. There have been colourful comments, but no concrete action in actually making life more affordable for drivers and offering more rides to people without cars.
The premier’s biggest asset is himself. He is a friendly, likeable guy – at ease with ordinary people and comfortable in his own skin. He comes across well. Most B.C. residents, even if they did not vote for him, like his approach to the job.
This asset may come in very handy between now and whenever the next election takes place.
Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor with Black Press Media. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.