Possible snap election had no influence on decision to step down, MLA Donaldson says

Election? What election?

New Democratic Party MLA Doug Donaldson says his recent decision not to run for a fourth term as the MLA for Stikine had nothing to do with rumblings Premier John Horgan may try to call a snap election this fall - roughly a year before a vote must be held under the province's fixed election date legislation.

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"The timing of this announcement wasn't tied to any election date other than the fixed election date," Donaldson said Wednesday. "My wife and I always decide a year in advance as a team whether to we're going to run again because it is a team because of the time and the sacrifices with a partner. So this is just about the right time, a year out, to be fair to anybody who might be interested and give a heads up."

Whether an election is held now or next year, the province will still be in a pandemic, Donaldson said in answer to criticism about the timing.

Four other NDP MLAs - Carole James (Victoria-Beacon Hill), Michelle Mungall (Nelson-Creston), Shane Simpson (Vancouver-Hastings) and Scott Fraser (Mid Island-Pacific Rim) have also said they won't seek re-election.

Jason Morris, a political science lecturer at the University of Northern British Columbia, said the announcements won't help the NDP, which depends on support from the B.C. Green Party to maintain government status in the legislature.

"If there is an election, I can only imagine the challenge of having to find candidates in short order, not just because of pandemic restrictions for gathering but it's an important and lengthy process to make sure at the riding association level that candidates are fairly and transparently chosen by the members of the local party organization," Morris said.

Donaldson, 63 years old, has been an MLA for 12 years and that came after 10 years on Village of Hazelton council.

"Twenty-two years in public life and it just felt like the right time to bring a little bit more balance back," he said. "I live in the Hazeltons and the Gitxsan territories for a reason and that's to get out and enjoy all the activities on the land.

"We've got a small property to take care of with animals and gardens and I haven't had much opportunity to do that in the last 22 years and especially in the last three years as cabinet minister."

As Forests Minister, Donald has squared off against Nechako-Lakes MLA John Rustad, the B.C. Liberals' critic for the portfolio. In interviews this week, the two expressed respect for each other, saying that while they disagree on many things they have been able to work together on others.

On the possibility of a snap election, Rustad said his hunch is it will be called for October 24, "since they want elections on a Saturday." With the number of COVID cases rising and flu season coming on, Rustad said holding an election the fall is "somewhat irresponsible."

"Having said that, if he (Horgan) is going to drop the writ and have an election, I look forward to campaigning, I look forward to fighting the fight, presenting the ideas that we think are going to be important, first of all, for keeping people healthy in B.C. and getting us back on track in terms of people being at work and getting the economy back into gear," Rustad said.

He also noted that B.C.'s electoral map will be up for review following the election and maintained that if the NDP wins, there will be a reduction of two or three ridings in the north.

"Historically, we have tried to protect the rural ridings, particularly the northern ridings, because they're low population and very large areas," Rustad said. "The NDP have fought against that, they've argued that 'no, it's population that matters and it's okay for ridings to be large.'"

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