Yesterday may have been a Saturday but we saw something out in British Columbia that we rarely see on a weekend in this country; an election day. It marked the end of voting in the 42nd general election in British Columbia, a campaign that had its own controversies given the fact that it was called during a pandemic. Similar to what happened in New Brunswick a month ago, many wondered if that fact would end up having an effect on the end result and if it would result in a gamble worth taking for the government of the day. In this case, it was the NDP government of John Horgan. How did it all turn out, or at least so far anyway? Here’s what has happened so far, and a few thoughts from yours truly:
The Not-Yet-Ending but Pretty Much Over Campaign: The results that came in last night, from voting that took place on Saturday and advanced, in person polls, gave the NDP a very solid majority win. In fact, if things stayed exactly where they are right now it would be one of the NDP’s biggest wins on the west coast ever. But thanks to the complexities of COVID-19 and BC electoral law, some ridings will need to wait to be called. There are about 500,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted, much more than normal, and under BC election law, those ballots can’t be counted until November 13th. In most ridings, those extra ballots aren’t likely to change the result because of either the margin of victory. Also, given that the NDP was riding higher in the polls earlier in the campaign, one could assume that those ballots might actually be more in the NDP’s favour. Either way, the fact of a majority NDP government won’t likely be changed and if anything does change, it will be a couple seats here or there. So that means for the Orange Team it’s time to…
Party Like It’s 1996: 1996 was a great year in my life; I was in 12th grade, I was living with my parents in Laclu and I drove a beat up old 83 VW Jetta Diesel to school that was rough that if I ever ran for office again, someone could ran an attack ad against me citing that car as not being “green” enough. 1996 was also the last time the NDP formed a majority government in British Columbia. Of course given the fraught days that we are living in, there wasn’t any partying to see last night (which was as strange a thing to see as it was on-brand for 2020) but for the NDP they have been given four years to run the province. With one of the most popular Premiers in the country in John Horgan, the Orange Team didn’t just hold onto the seats that they held going in, they grew in areas that most conventional wisdom thought they could never win. They won in Richmond, a place they targeted and as of this moment, have taken three of the four seats. They won in the Fraser Valley. They defeated strong Liberal incumbents like Mary Polak, Laurie Throness, Sam Sullivan & Jane Thornthwaite. It was a solid victory that the Orange Team can be very proud of.
End of a Rough Campaign: For the BC Liberals, this was a rough campaign that lurched from one scandal to the next. Leader Andrew Wilkinson’s performance, his attitude and approach went over like a lead weight, especially when compared to the popular Horgan. Wilkinson’s platform was one that screamed of desperate attempts to win votes, from openly attacking the poor and homeless, right up to promising to eliminate the provincial sales tax as a “wartime measure” to help the economic recovery. It was an approach that was, at best, naïve or at worst, bungling. It all played into some of the worst stereotypes of that party in BC, to a near comic level. When you add to that the scandals involving candidates like Throness, Thornthwaite and Wilkinson himself, and the lack lustre response to them, it all came together to make not only a campaign to forget for the Liberals, but one that should leave them asking serious questions about what they do going forward. But they can’t get there yet because Wilkinson isn’t conceding the election yet, based on those mail-in ballots. It’s true that we need to respect those ballots being counted, the Liberals sent around that fundraising email yesterday talking about “protecting election integrity” that appeared to be something straight from the Trump campaign. The integrity of this vote has never been in doubt but to raise it now, in the attempt to raise a few bucks, is an undignified cap on top of this undignified campaign by the BC Liberals.
A Silver Lining for the Greens: For the BC Greens and Leader Sonia Furstenau, this campaign was one where they faced oblivion square in the face. With Furstenau less than two weeks into the job before the writ dropped, they weren’t ready to mount a full campaign and it showed. They weren’t able to get a full slate of candidates or even close to it for that matter. For the first couple weeks of the campaign, their whole campaign was about complaining about the fact that there was an election. They continued to beat that drum long after British Columbians had moved on from the issue, and it didn’t help the Greens at all. Adding to those troubles, Furstenau’s predecessor Andrew Weaver not only openly backed Horgan, but he also gave him his approval for moving away from the supply agreement that he signed with Weaver. That further undercut Furstenau’s attempts to make the fact of the election the issue of the election. With the NDP polling in the high fourties and the Greens seeing their numbers slip, it looked like they might get wiped off the map. With Weaver’s Victoria seat assumed to be lost, if the Greens had held onto Furstenau and MLA Adam Olsen’s seat, they would have counted that as a huge win. Going into the night, that was not assured, and it was a real possibility that they could lose both seats. As the votes came in last night, it became clear that Furtsenau and Olsen had survived the night, likely thanks to a solid debate performance from Furtsenau herself. But a surprise silver lining did appear for the Greens in the form of Jeremy Valeriote, who won in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky. That unlikely win gave the Greens their first win in BC off Vancouver Island, coming at the expense of the sinking Liberals. So for the Green team, they came out of the night with less power but with the same number of seats and four years to build around a new leader and a new beachhead in the Lower Mainland. If you told the Greens that’s what they’d get at the start of this race, it feels safe to say they would take it.
Happy for some Great People: While as a New Democrat I’m naturally pleased to see the Horgan Team win this campaign, I’m most happy for a group of new additions to his caucus. I’m speaking of some great people that I got to know to varying degrees in Ottawa during my time on the Hill, some of the hardest working and most sincere people I’ve got to know. I’m talking about Murray Rankin, Nathan Cullen and Fin Donnelly. These three gentlemen served and served well in Ottawa. They would have been frontline cabinet ministers in a Layton or Mulcair government, but sadly that chance never came. So I can’t hide just how happy I am to see all three have the chance to not just sit on the government benches, but to have the chance to likely get some cabinet role. Thanks to the profile all three bring into the Legislature in Victoria, and the large number of incumbent cabinet minister who decided to retire before the election, it’s likely that all three will be given cabinet posting inside Horgan’s next cabinet. In doing so, we’ll finally get to see these awesome people do what they have waited a long time to do and I can’t wait to see the results of that work.