Runner Debates: A provincial election can wait, battling a global pandemic cannot
Hope you didn’t have plans on Saturday, Oct. 24
Read the other half of this debate here.
Because 2020 wasn’t full of enough surprises, Premier John Horgan recently called an election. So on Oct. 24, like it or not, some British Columbians are heading to a polling booth.
“I’ve struggled mightily with this decision, and it did not come easy to me,” Horgan said during the announcement.
Were it not for the surprise election, the next scheduled provincial election would’ve been Oct. 2021. So then why the rush to the polls?
Two words: majority government. The NDP holds an early lead with 42 per cent of decided voters, ahead of the Liberals with 29 per cent, and the Greens at 16 per cent, according to Insights West and Research Co. The NDP currently holds 41 seats but needs at least 44 to secure a majority.
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and Green Leader Sonia Furstenau are not impressed. Wilkinson said, “He’s embarked on what we consider to be an unethical power grab, and it’s at the expense of the governance of British Columbia.” At the same time, Furstenau called the decision “irresponsible and unnecessary.”
If I was an opposition leader and viewed the current polls, I’d be anxious too. According to an August 2020 poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, John Horgan is Canada’s most popular premier with a 69 per cent approval rating.
Look at our southern neighbours. While the 2020 U.S. presidential election date has been decided for a while, its timing could not have come at a worse time. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and news of the U.S. election bubbling up through the newswire over the past year, I can only say how utterly fatigued and anxious I am, and I’m not even voting.
British Columbians echo that sentiment. “A total of 58% of B.C. residents are opposed to the decision to call an early election,” according to the Insights West poll.
Further cementing Horgan’s decision is his belief that the province will still be battling the COVID-19 pandemic next year, so waiting another 12 months for the election will only fuel “uncertainty and instability.”
Unless Horgan has a crystal ball, his guess as to what Oct. 2021 will bring is as good as any. He’s right, COVID-19 could still be leading the headlines, or there could be a vaccine. We just don’t know.
Voters crowding polling stations may be risking COVID-19 exposure with no provincial mask mandate in place. While mail-in ballots are expected to surge this election in popularity, the Insights West poll shows 53 per cent of decided voters are expected to vote in-person. Plus, there’s the cost of holding an early election when the province is already facing a $12.8 billion deficit.
With British Columbians facing COVID-19, unaffordable housing, and a struggling economy, a provincial election is simply one extra stressor that can be pushed onto the backburner. The province is still in a state of emergency.
“I understand that families are concerned about their loved ones and their livelihood,” said Horgan. “I know that people are uncertain and worried about the future.” I fear that the next several weeks of political uncertainty, on top of rising COVID-19 cases, will add undue stress on those families Horgan says he wants to protect.
While I empathize with Premier Horgan’s predicament of leading B.C. during this unprecedented nightmare, we’re currently living in. Sometimes, the best and most honourable thing is not to force an outcome but simply wait.