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UPDATE: British Columbians going to the polls Oct. 24

FILE PHOTO - NDP leader John Horgan at rally in Kamloops, March 27, 2017.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
September 21, 2020 - 11:41 AM

British Columbians will go back to the polls Oct. 24, a year earlier than required. 

"I struggled mightily with this decision and it didn’t come easily to me," John Horgan, who met with the Lieutenant Governor to get approval for his election request earlier today, Sept. 21.

There are 12 months left in this term, but Horgan said the instability of having a minority government in recent days prompted him to act now. He said that the NDP had a difficult time passing legislation during the summer, and he "can’t imagine 12 more months of bickering or wondering if a bill would pass" when there are such significant economic and health issues are at play.

The BC NDP minority government lasted over three years, longer than most minority governments, and polls indicate that the NDP has never been more popular. When asked if that was an opportunist move, given the global pandemic, Horgan said that it is still politics.

READ MORE: A look at some of the issues in the British Columbia election campaign

He also repeatedly said "the challenges ahead are not about him and they’re not about politics — they are about British Columbians."

The nature of the campaign will unquestionably be different, however.

Given social distancing requirements, door knocking and rallies will be out. It also could mean limited scrutiny and interaction.

Horgan said there are other ways for contacting British Columbians, as most people have learned as online interactions have grown.

"The notion of rallies and hysteria during election time puts style above substance," he said.

As for voting, there will be options that will allow British Columbians to vote from home.

READ MORE: Some facts on B.C. politics as the provincial election campaign begins

“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.”

The election will also be held on a Saturday.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and Green Leader Sonia Furstenau have questioned the need for an election during the pandemic.

Furstenau, who became the party's leader a week ago, said Horgan put his political future and that of his government ahead of the people of B.C.

"This is an irresponsible and unnecessary election," she told a news conference.

She also rejected Horgan's claims that Green opposition to NDP legislation during the spring session of the legislature contributed to his decision to seek a new mandate, adding that the agreement the party signed "didn't stipulate utter and total agreement with the NDP."

But Horgan said the issues of 2017 also aren't the same as 2020, citing the global pandemic and the economic upheaval it has caused as examples of what has changed.

"I have never been more confident that this is the time to ask British Columbians where they want to go. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions."

The NDP and B.C. Liberals were tied with 41 seats each when the legislature was dissolved by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin. The Greens held two seats, there were two Independents and one seat was vacant.

Wilkinson, who became Liberal leader in 2018, has been critical of the government's response to the pandemic, saying last week that it has taken too long to roll out a $1.5 billion economic recovery plan.

Other provinces unveiled their plans months ago, he said last Thursday.

"They're trying to stoke election fever with an economic plan."

Horgan described the plan as building on a foundation of previously announced provincial and federal commitments aimed at recharging the economy.

Elections BC has been consulting counterparts in New Brunswick after that province successfully held an election earlier this month during the pandemic.

Horgan said Finance Minister Carole James will be administering the province until election day. She is one of seven NDP cabinet ministers not seeking re-election.

Horgan noted that seven Liberal members of the legislature are also not running again and former Green leader Andrew Weaver is leaving politics as well.

"So now is the best time, it seems to me, at the beginning of the pandemic to renew the legislature," he said.

"I think we need new ideas from every corner of the province, regardless of where those ideas come from and now is the time to do that."

— With files from The Canadian Press

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