While saying there is no need for an election, both Kamloops MLAs say their B.C. Liberal Party is ready for the campaign amid the pandemic.
Premier John Horgan has called a provincial election for Oct. 24. B.C. has a fixed election date set for October 2021, but Horgan argued that waiting 12 more months would be time wasted.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything — the people of British Columbia deserve a say in the direction of our recovery and the future of our province,” Horgan said.
Horgan also addressed how this election will have additional public health measures informed by the provincial public health officer to ensure the safety of everyone.
“Like a lot of things these days, this election is going to look different than previous ones. I know we can do it safely,” Horgan said. “There will be new opportunities for people to vote in advance or by a mail-in-ballot from the comfort of their homes.”
It costs an estimated $40 million or more to conduct an election, though that figure may be adjusted due to pandemic-related measures that need to be implemented.
In a poll conducted between Aug. 28 and Sept. 8 by market researcher Maru/BLUE for the National Post, Horgan holds the highest approval rating of any Canadian premier, at 69 per cent.
The NDP and B.C. Liberals were tied with 41 seats each when the legislature was dissolved.
The Greens held two seats, there were two Independents and one seat was vacant.
Kamloops-North Thompson Liberal MLA (B.C. Liberal) Peter Milobar said he was not surprised to see the premier call an early election, but noted it is disappointing, describing the move as “politicizing the pandemic” at a time when many people are feeling unease and cases of the novel coronavirus are spiking.
Regardless, Milobar said his campaign will “be hitting the ground running” to give people of Kamloops the opportunity to send a message to the NDP government that this is the wrong time for an election.
“We have a full campaign team geared up and ready to go,” he said.
Milobar said it’s clear the only reason Horgan is calling the election is to shed himself of the agreement his NDP has with the Green Party of B.C. and attempt to secure a majority government, striking when the polls are in his favour.
He also noted Horgan had been evasive for months about whether he would call an early election.
“People’s opinions do matter and people feeling like they’ve been betrayed and misled by a premier will matter and, hopefully, that all comes to pass on Oct. 24,” Milobar said.
Kamloops-South Thompson MLA (B.C. Liberal) Todd Stone said he was disappointed that Horgan went ahead with calling an early election, describing it as reckless and irresponsible during a pandemic.
“The government is going to be in caretaker mode for likely a couple of months and that means there’s no minister of education squarely focused on the safety of our kids in the classrooms, there’s no minister of health focused on the well being of British Columbians, there’s no minister of finance focused on economic recovery,” Stone said.
The election date is 32 days away.
Though the seasoned MLA has never been in a snap election, Stone said his team is ready to go, adding that under the pandemic, the campaign will be unlike any other.
“The traditional holding events and door-knocking will have to take back seats to a heck of a lot more phone calling and an even greater reliance on social media,” Stone said.
He said the snap election wasn’t needed given fixed election dates in B.C. and the commitment from the Greens to continue co-operating with the NDP until that date, adding that any lead the premier believes he has in opinion polls is likely going to evaporate with voters.
“There’s no one who wants it except for John Horgan, who’s seizing on the opportunity to further his pwn political interests,” Stone said.
Kamloops-North Thompson NDP constituency association president Rick Turner said the riding plans to announce its candidate by the end of the week or early next week.
He said there is one person going through the vetting process to receive party approval.
Turner said the NDP has a policy preferring female or visible minority candidates, which the Kamloops-North Thompson riding association is honouring with the choice.
“The person is a woman or a person from a visible minority,” Turner said.
Asked about the controversy surrounding calling an early election, Turner said he thinks Horgan has made the right call.
He said since former Green leader Andrew Weaver stepped down from his post for health reasons in January, the working relationship between the two parties hasn’t worked as it should.
“Mr. Horgan does need that mandate where he knows he has all the support he needs to get a recovery plan in place that will carry on from now for a few years to come, not only to deal with our safety from this virus, but also an economic recovery,” Turner said.
As for how physical-distancing protocols will work, Turner said he understands those details have been worked out with Elections BC.
He believes the polls will be open for much longer than in elections past because of the need for physical distancing, while mail-in ballots will be utilized, noting that option has been done en masse before with B.C.’s votes on proportional representation.
Kamloops -South Thompson NDP constituency association president Bill Roberts said the riding is still in the process of finding a candidate and hopes to have someone in place as soon as possible.
Asked about the criticism of the NDP calling the election amidst the pandemic, Roberts said he felt it “a legitimate point of view,” but noted the election has been called and will be going forward regardless of the debate.
“There’s things to be said on both sides of it for sure,” he said.
Tyler Carpentier, Green constituency chair for both North and South Kamloops ridings, said the party is in the process of selecting candidates and have two to three people per riding who have expressed interest in becoming the candidate.
Carpentier said he felt the election call was unnecessary given the “unprecedented collaboration” over the last three years via the Green/NDP supply and confidence agreement. He said it seems like opportunism.
As for the notion from the NDP camp that the working relationship wasn’t as good in the absence of Weaver, Carpentier said he’s not sure if that’s the case.
“I’m not in Victoria and I’m not in those rooms. I certainly haven’t heard anything from our Victoria office or from Adam [Olsen] or from Sonia [Furstenau] to indicate that anything on that level has substantially changed,” Carpentier said.
As for the upcoming election itself, Carpentier said the party’s expectation is to build on the success it saw in 2017, noting this time around, it will have an established base of donors, volunteers and political profile to build on, whereas three years ago, the party was starting from scratch.
“We don’t feel like the last election was a fluke, it wasn’t a flash in the pan,” he said. “I would not be surprised if the Greens had more seats through this election.”