Premier John Horgan is following through with the rumoured snap election in B.C. this fall adding more uncertainty to an already precarious fall season for many British Columbians.
Voters will head to the polls Saturday, Oct. 24, though it is unclear who they will be voting for in the Boundary-Similkameen riding which encompasses Oliver, Osoyoos, Grand Forks, Princeton and Keremeos.
Incumbent BC Liberal Linda Larson announced her retirement from politics last summer. As of Monday morning’s 11 a.m. announcement, no candidates had officially announced for either the BC Liberals or the BC NDP in the Boundary-Similkameen riding, where there is currently no riding association for the BC Greens.
“Well, we have 32 days, the final day for nominations I believe is two weeks from election day so this is a process that I believe everyone will engage in. I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest to spend the next 12 months arguing with each other. I think we can spend the next 32 days doing that and then have a government focussed on what they need to be focussed on and that’s people and their needs in every part of the province,” Horgan said while taking questions from the media Monday morning following the announcement of the snap election from his home riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca.
Horgan said British Columbians need stability from their government heading into what is likely two more years or longer of COVID-19, shifting blame to the coalition relationship with the BC Green Party.
“I want everyone to know I’ve struggled mightily with this decision and it did not come easy to me,” Horgan said. “I understand that families are concerned about their loved ones and their livelihoods. I know people are uncertain and worried about the future. I understand that full well.”
However, the world is likely going to struggle with COVID-19 next fall as well, and with the repercussions for years to come, he said.
“This pandemic will be with us for a year or more and that’s why I believe we need to have an election now. We can either delay that decision and create uncertainty and instability over the next 12 months, more speculation, more talk about what might be, or we can do what I always believe is always the right thing and ask British Columbians what they think,” Horgan said. “I believe the best way forward is to put the politics behind us.”
Horgan blamed the departure of former BC Green leader Andrew Weaver and policy disagreements with the Green’s new leader Sonia Furstenau for instability in the coalition government, despite a tweet from Furstenau Monday declaring the opposite, calling the election “unnecessary.”
“We have 12 months remaining in the mandate of this government but we have a four year project or longer ahead of us. We have had, as you know, through the summer some challenges with passing legislation. The stability I believe we had over the course of our minority government is not as strong as it was when we began,” Horgan said.
With Weaver leaving politics, there is a “great divide,” in the legislature Horgan said. He later elaborated there were differences between the coalition parties on energy policy, but more importantly, Horgan said, disagreements on overdose policy when it comes to minors.
“The one that was a concern to me was one to do with mental health and whether or not a medical practitioner, a doctor, could keep a minor, a child, who had been admitted with an overdose under observation for a week, that was what we were asking to do. There were people in the legislature that did not support that. And having met with parents who had lost children I was not prepared to accept that,” Horgan said. “But it seemed OK to others in the legislature and I’ll leave it at that, but that was really the deciding issue for me.”
Along with the former Green leader, there are roughly 14 sitting legislators retiring from politics and not running this fall, seven from the BC Liberals and seven from the BC NDP.
Horgan’s dissolution of the legislature Monday comes as B.C. has the highest per-capita active cases in the country during the ongoing pandemic, responsible for 223 deaths in the province and over 960,000 worldwide. COVID-19 could enter its second wave in the fall season according to provincial health authorities.
Preparations for physically distanced voting were already underway for the possibility of an election during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Elections BC. The provincial elections office is taking steps to increase advance voting methods to help reduce crowds in voting places and increasing the use of remote voting options like voting by mail or over the phone. Regular physical distancing measures will be included in polling places as well with increased cleaning and personal protective equipment, according to Elections BC.
Horgan said there will be multiple new opportunities for advanced or mail-in voting and campaigns will fully comply with public health orders.
“The COVID-19 pandemic makes it very likely that the next election will be held under some level of public health restrictions. As a result, we are actively planning and consulting with stakeholders to ensure our next election is safe and accessible for voters, election workers, and political participants. We want to make sure that voters don’t have to choose between exercising their right to vote and safeguarding their health,” BC Elections states on their website.
Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle