By Fran Yanor, LJI reporter
Despite what the Premier has said, and because of what he won’t say, simmering speculation around a potential fall election in B.C. boiled-over in September after recent polling results revealed the NDP might win a majority if an election were called this year.
A summary on the non-profit Angus Reid website called the latest polling results ‘quite the irresistible opportunity’ for the B.C. government. Conducted at the end of August, the poll asked respondents who they would vote for if an election were called this fall. While one third of British Columbians said they would be uncomfortable voting in-person, 48 per cent indicated they would vote for the New Democrats, 29 per cent for the Liberals, 14 per cent for the B.C. Greens, 8 per cent for the B.C. Conservative Party and the remainder for other. Premier John Horgan also enjoyed the highest approval ratings of all the provincial leaders with 69 per cent of those polls approving of his job performance.
Polling also revealed some risks. Most British Columbians think the government has done a very good job during the pandemic, however approval ratings on the their handling of the opioid crisis and the pipeline protest issues were much lower.
Since the first opinion polls in early summer reflected the rising popularity of Premier John Horgan, the media have been asking whether he will call an early election.
From the onset, Horgan has kept his options open.
We have been a day away from an election for the past three years,” Horgan said of his minority government at a press conference in July. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing as long as I have the support of the legislature.”
The government’s retention of power relies on continued support from the B.C. Greens, whose two MLAs give the NDP the slimmest of majorities. Without them, the government would lose its majority and have to call an election. The next election is mandated no later than October 2021.
“This government has a full year left to govern and we are in the middle of a pandemic,” said Prince George-Valemount Liberal MLA Shirley Bond. “There is little rationale for the Premier to go to the polls other than wanting to try and secure a majority government.”
When near the end of the summer legislative session, Horgan was asked why the NDP would consider an early election in the middle of a pandemic if it’s not legally required, Horgan again sidestepped.
“What I have been focusing on every day is making sure that we’re providing the services British Columbians need,” he said, listing a ream of good works on the government agenda. “I’m going to stay on that track as long as I can.”
Several weeks later, Horgan was queried once more, this time on the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) the NDP signed with the B.C. Greens in 2017 to form government. Did Horgan feel bound by that agreement, which included a commitment not to call an early election? Again, Horgan didn’t close any doors.
“We’ve had great success here… with a collaborative approach to governing, working with the Green caucus,” said Horgan. “Nowhere in that document do you see the word pandemic, so the world we live in today is not the world of 2017.” Read more on our website