Sep. 16, 2020

The debate for and against a fall provincial election

Where can you find politics more interesting with more ins and outs than in British Columbia?

The debate both for and against a fall provincial election continue unabated with signs everywhere. A fifth cabinet minister has indicated she will not seek re-election – Jobs Minister Michelle Mungall joins Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson and Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser in announcing their coming retirement from provincial politics. Shane Simpson and Carole James announced earlier that they would also not seek re-election. 

Making such departures now clears the way for the party machinery to get busy selecting replacement candidates. No doubt possible replacements have already been lining up behind the scenes, but they do have to come out of the shadows with a clear path in front of them.

I chatted with former Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford who knows his politics, and he is not convinced that Premier John Horgan will pull the plug and seek an election.

“Put yourself into Premier John Horgan’s shoes. If you were premier, sitting at 68-70 per cent approval rating, in a virtually tied legislature, dependent on another party’s support to stay in power, would you call an election?” 

He was quick to dismiss that, saying that’s not enough reason, especially at this time of challenges brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic and the attendant impacts.

The approval rating is tempting – Horgan has the best numbers among premiers in all of Canada, and the populace is generally satisfied with his government’s performance in handling the Coronavirus pandemic. (Thanks, Dr. Bonnie Henry). 

Another temptation to go to the polls is the lagging fortunes of the BC Liberals who have made it clear they don’t want an election now. So what could go wrong?

Being in what amounts to a deadlocked legislature, Horgan could go to the lieutenant governor and tender his government’s resignation, seeking an election. But that is not guaranteed. The lieutenant governor can invite the BC Liberal party to try to form a government.

Horgan knows all about that scenario, he was in it after the last election. The Liberals had one more seat than the NDP, and knowing the futility of trying to form a government, then-Premier Christy Clark asked for another election. The NDP forged an agreement with the three Green Party MLAs at the time and made a bid to form a government, which the lieutenant governor accepted – sort of winning without actually winning.

There has been some shuffling in the meantime. Liberal Bob Plecas accepted the speaker’s job, and became “sort of” independent. As well, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver tossed in the towel, making the working agreement even more tenuous.

The announcements by the three ministers don’t remove them from the Legislature, they remain until the election writ is issued – whenever that might be. Some pundits are predicting Oct. 24 or Nov. 7.

Do you want to see a fall election? comment to EDITOR@NANAIMONET.COM