Premier John Horgan has the right and the authority to ask for a provincial election this fall.
But, thankfully, there’s a significant obstacle in his way.
As Global’s legislative reporter Richard Zussman explained in a Twitter thread this week, the timing for the NDP is perfect.
The polls look great, especially in Metro Vancouver, where the NDP could pick up numerous seats. Across the province, many voters are happy, pleasantly surprised or grudgingly satisfied with Team Horgan’s performance since taking power in 2017 and that was before their strong response to the COVID-19.
The B.C. Liberals know this, which is why their leader Andrew Wilkinson, his MLAs, including Shirley Bond, Mike Morris and John Rustad, are howling about even the hint of an early election.
They are playing politics, no different than Horgan.
If the polls showed the B.C. Liberals would sweep back into power if an election were held this fall, they would be arguing Horgan doesn’t have the mandate to govern during these unprecedented times and would be demanding an immediate election call. They’d be pointing to New Brunswick as the example of how to safely hold an election in the middle of a pandemic.
Of course, if Horgan does drop the writ this fall, he’s going to use New Brunswick as an example of why an early election is just fine, thank you very much. He’s keenly aware of how that minority New Brunswick government received a majority as a result of Monday’s vote.
Regardless of their stripe, it seems politicians just can’t help playing politics.
The bigger issue, however, is the legality of calling an election in B.C. at this time.
Zussman said on Twitter that Horgan has received advice from constitutional experts that B.C. Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin would accept his request for a fall election.
Yet both Zussman and Horgan remember well what happened when the last premier asked the last lieutenant governor to call an early election.
When the Greens and the NDP joined forces to vote out the B.C. Liberals in a legislative confidence vote in the aftermath of the 2017 election, Christy Clark went to Judith Guichon and asked her to dissolve the legislature and call another election.
Guichon politely refused and invited Horgan to form government.
That’s the best recent example of the importance of a representative of the monarchy in place to safeguard against politicians who put holding onto power over democracy.
If Horgan were to go to Austin asking her to dissolve the legislature and call an election, she can – and should – tell him to go away and come back in 12 months.
There is a fixed election date law on the books in B.C. and Horgan should have to give her compelling evidence that the law should not be followed. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant crisis, it is neither unprecedented, nor is the work of government unable to continue.
Just as the NDP’s response to COVID-19 has been commendable, the B.C. Liberals are equally deserving of praise for putting public health over politics by supporting the NDP government in its efforts to fight the virus and keep citizens safe.
Furthermore, it was the current NDP government that not only supported fixed election date legislation but also amended the law, changing the date from May to October so that voters could see accurate year-end financials before heading to the polls.
The true measure of any politician is restraint. Having the discipline to resist the temptation to use their power to increase their existing power – in this case, from a minority to a majority government – at the expense of their opponents is not a sign of weakness, it’s the hallmark of integrity.
If Horgan and his caucus honestly believe they’ve done a stellar job during their time in office and they are the better choice for British Columbians than Wilkinson and the B.C. Liberals, then they should have little to fear in waiting until next fall and letting voters decide their fate on the date enshrined in law.