After rolling out dozens of spending announcements and updates in recent days, B.C. Premier John Horgan has officially terminated his minority government agreement with the B.C. Green Party and called an election for Oct. 24.
Opposition parties have demanded Horgan not call an election a year early, as B.C.’s COVID-19 cases increase to the point where the province has the highest per-capita infection rate in Canada.
At a news conference in his home community of Langford Sept. 21, Horgan said he has “struggled mightily” with the decision to call an early vote, but the long duration of the pandemic requires stability. That stability is eroded three and a half years into his term with former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver sitting as an independent and preparing to retire, he said.
“I believe the best way forward is to put the politics behind us,” Horgan said, adding that sticking to the legislated election schedule would be “time well wasted.”
Horgan has requested the province’s lieutenant governor, Janet Austin, to call the next election, the B.C. NDP said in a statement Monday morning. The party said Horgan “will address how British Columbians deserve a say in our economic recovery and will decide the future of our province.”
B.C.’s election law specifies a minimum 28-day campaign period with an election falling on a Saturday, so the next available date from Monday’s announcement is Oct. 24. The law currently specifies the next election in the fall of 2021, but permits the lieutenant governor to accept a recommendation for an earlier vote.
Currently, Horgan is leading a minority government under a “confidence and supply agreement” signed in 2017 with the B.C. Green Party. Newly elected Green leader Sonia Furstenau said she met with Horgan on Friday to assure him that the two remaining B.C. Green MLAs would continue to support the government.
Since early last week, five of the B.C. NDP’s cabinet ministers announced they wouldn’t be seeking re-election: Forest Minister Doug Donaldson, Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser, Jobs Minister Michelle Mungall, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena.
Social Development Minister Shane Simpson also won’t be seeking re-election. Finance Minister Carole James announced in March that she would not be seeking re-election after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
James will manage the government while the election campaign unfolds, Horgan said.
The Greens announced Furstenau as their new leader on Sept. 13, who told supporters at the time that her party will be ready for any pending election.
During a news conference Monday, Furstenau called the decision for an election “irresponsible and unnecessary.”
“He has to realize that he is out of touch with reality for most British Columbians right now,” she said.
I met with @jjhorgan on Friday and told him he had a stable government. This election is completely unnecessary.
The NDP has chosen the pursuit of power over the health and safety of British Columbians. #bcpoli
— SoniaFurstenau (@SoniaFurstenau) September 21, 2020
When asked if the Greens would support another minority government, Furstenau wouldn’t speculate on any outcomes of the election.
BC Liberal and Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson called on Horgan to stick to focusing on the ongoing pandemic.
“For no good reason whatsoever, we’re now being forced into a general election that nobody in British Columbia wants except the NDP,” Wilkinson said. “The only reason for this general election is to try to secure the jobs of the NDP.”
Election dates and key info:
Election Day in B.C. is set for Saturday, Oct. 24. Elections BC has confirmed advanced voting will take place from Friday, Oct. 16 to Wednesday, Oct. 21.
British Columbians also have the option to vote by mail-in ballot. Elections BC officials will be releasing information in the days to come.
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