Like New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs before him, BC Premier John Horgan made the decision that it was time to call an election. A pandemic election, at that. Worse, according to many of his critics, the NDP Leader did so by breaking the Electoral Law and by reneging on the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) Horgan signed with then Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.
And indeed, BC’s law states very clearly that an election would take place “on the third Saturday in October in the fourth calendar year following the general voting day for the most recently held general election.” That ain’t right now. But of course, there is a significant legal loophole, similar to the one Stephen Harper used to break his own fixed election date: “The Lieutenant Governor may, by proclamation in Her Majesty’s name, prorogue or dissolve the Legislative Assembly when the Lieutenant Governor sees fit.” And see fit, she did, on the advice of the Premier, of course.
What about the Premier’s own signature at the bottom of CASA? “The Leader of the New Democrats will not request a dissolution of the Legislature during the term of this agreement, except following the defeat of a motion of confidence.” That exception has not been met, evidently. Surely, that is evidence that John Horgan and his New Democrats cannot be trusted.
Certainly, if you are a Green Party member, you know that for a fact. Except, of course, that the former Green Party leader and other CASA signatory Andrew Weaver has already stated unequivocally that by calling an election, Horgan was not in violation of CASA, stating the that the goals of the agreement were largely achieved and that the minority government had remained stable for a remarkably long time. Weaver, now an independent MLA, even went further by endorsing John Horgan’s candidacy.
So Horgan has (legally) ignored the law and has reneged on his own signature, with the approval of the other signatory. Is that enough for BC voters to sour on Horgan? Certainly, that is what rookie Green Leader Sonia Furstenau would like to see. She is out of the gate, fast and furious, saying voters can no longer trust Horgan and that he has lost his credibility by calling an election, despite her assurances that he had a stable government. She is hammering that message forcefully, every day.
New Democrats are pushing back, saying that Weaver leaving was a massive hole in that facade but also that the Greens had had a few internal fights about voting non-confidence over the past three years. They also point out obstacles and barriers put up by the Greens over time. What they won’t say is that they would rather not give Furstenau the opportunity to put her mark on the Green brand and build her own record by securing concessions from the NDP government.
Meanwhile, the BC Liberals are jumping on that bandwagon, hoping to help the Green’s case: “John Horgan’s credibility on the timing of this election is in shreds. No one trusts his answers anymore and any time he brings up one of his allegations about the Green party they immediately say he’s making it up,” stated Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.
Will voters care? John Horgan’s approval ratings have gone through the roof during the pandemic. A recent Angus Reid poll has Horgan sitting at the top of the pile with the highest approval rating in the country, at 69 per cent. The NDP is gambling that the only thing that matters to British Columbians is who is best to lead them through a pandemic.
That’s the first battle of this election. Who will be able to set the ballot question? While the Greens are campaigning about how upset they are at being mistreated and the Liberals are doubling down on trustworthiness, Horgan is campaigning about managing the next steps of the crisis and keeping people safe.
Early on, that message seems to be resonating more strongly with BC voters than those of the Liberals and Greens. “NDP favoured in spite of overwhelming disapproval“, hilariously headlined the Vancouver Sun this week, referring to a poll of British-Columbians about the decision of calling a snap election. Furstenau and Wilkinson might be right, voters might agree, but unless they are able to make this the ballot question, it won’t matter.
Yet, the NDP’s lead and Horgan’s recognized qualities in leading BC through the pandemic so far could be quickly undermined if the virus gets out of control during – or because – of the election. It did work out for Higgs in New Brunswick. Horgan now hopes it’ll work for him, too.
Photo Credit: Vancouver Sun
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.