By Promod Puri
The Liberals got caught off guard. And so are the British Columbians when Premier John Horgan announced on Monday a flash provincial election just a month from now, on October 24.
My immediate reaction on social media was, “again! It was only yesterday.”
The province was to go to the polls in 2021 fall, according to the gentleman agreement, duly signed, between the New Democratic Party and its supporting partner, the Green Party of B.C.
The last election, three years ago, resulted in NDP securing 41 seats against the B.C. Liberal Party, winning 43 seats. The then-Liberal premier, Christy Clark, tried her best to claim her right to form the government. But Horgan’s maneuverability with the Green Party with its three-seat win got the NDP its minority rule.
The NDP-Green written agreement was that both the parties would not trigger an election until the next scheduled date, set for the fall of 2021.
The Green Party supported the NDP in the House while keeping its hold on the balance of power.
And this is where the premier did not feel comfortable, especially during the current pandemic crisis.
The pact with the Green was called the Confidence And Supply Agreement (CASA). According to Horgan, “ it was developed during a very different time and didn’t apply in the same way now. The stability that we had throughout our minority government is not as strong as it was when we began.”
Further, while announcing the election, Horgan said, “I want to get the election behind us, not for myself but the people of B.C. because they can’t afford to have partisan hectoring and uncertainty about whether bills will pass or not, which is what we’ve experienced over the past 3½ years.”
Responding to Horgan’s argument, Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau says, “there is nothing in the confidence and supply agreement that says that we have to obey, or that we have to agree with absolutely everything that the NDP put forward.”
The premier’s argument is indeed controversial. But it would brush off as the election campaign warms up in the coming days or the next couple of weeks.
The popular election issues of unemployment, health care, education, economy, etc. will be overshadowed by the CoronaVirus pandemic. And that is undoubtedly the number one or the main issue as to how the government is handling the crisis and its related issues.
The NDP government thinks that it has handled the crisis relatively well compared to all other provinces in the country. That may be true.
It is on this assumption that according to a very recent Angus Reid poll, 48 percent of decided voters favour NDP, 29 percent would vote for the opposition Liberal Party, and 14 percent would vote Green.
Is the NDP trying to cash in on its popularity to seek fresh election ahead of the due date? It certainly looks like that.
The opportunity is there to run the NDP government Green free, based on its proud record of “good governance.”
But Horgan’s election plunge is a high-risk move that could be high-rewarding for the NDP.