What if there were an election on?

Thankfully, Judith Guichon didn't listen.

Late in the afternoon on June 29, Premier Christy Clark stopped by the liuetenant-governor's residence in Victoria for a chat. Clark's government had just been defeated in a non-confidence vote in the legislature. As per the Westminister tradition, Clark was going to meet with Guichon, the Queen's representative in British Columbia, to offer her resignation as premier and to also give advice on what the lieutenant-governor should do next.

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Although Clark had said earlier that British Columbians had no appetite for another election and she would make no such suggestion to the lieutenant-governor, she went back on her word and recommended to Guichon that she dissolve the legislature and send British Columbians back to the polls.

As previously stated, thankfully, she didn't listen.

If Guichon had, we'd be smack dab in the middle of an election while 40,000 people are evacuated from their homes due to the Cariboo wildfires.

We'll never know whether how the electorate would have reacted in such a situation. On one hand, irate voters, annoyed at having their summer ruined by smoke in the air, signs on the lawns and candidates on their doorsteps, might have made double damn sure Clark and her B.C. Liberals were out. On the other, voters might have felt Clark's steady hand was needed during this crisis and in the months ahead.

The fires would have certainly presented an opportunity for Clark to play the strong leadership card. It would have also given John Horgan and the NDP a golden opportunity to lay blame for the forest fires right at Clark's feet.

In 2015, the Forest Practices Board put out a report highly critical of the B.C. Liberal government's efforts at protecting communities from wildfires. The report said the province had done a good job of working with larger municipalities like Prince George to reduce the threat but not nearly enough for smaller communities, like, say, Cache Creek or Ashcroft or 100 Mile House or Williams Lake.

The Forest Practices Board noted that in the 10 years since the release of the Filmon report, which set out measures to prevent a repeat of the devastating 2003 forest fire season, no more than 10 per cent of hazardous forest fuels surrounding municipalities had been removed.

In 2009, Bob Simpson, the Cariboo North MLA and NDP forestry critic (and now the mayor of Quesnel) complained bitterly that the Liberals were putting communities in danger by not implementing the recommendations from the Filmon report with more urgency.

"Bob Simpson frankly should do his research," scoffed the forests minister of the day, Rich Coleman. "He's just throwing out provocative comments."

If there was an election on and the NDP were blaming Clark for the forest fires, many outraged residents in the Cariboo and Central Interior would rightly have accused Horgan of playing politics in the middle of this crisis.

However, Horgan would have been able to reply that he wouldn't be playing politics if Clark hadn't broken her word and recommended to Guichon to call an election.

Furthermore, the blame game would have played well for Horgan in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, where the idea of burning trees upsets people more than residents fleeing flames. The forest fires would have presented an in-the-moment example to voters of Liberal mismanagement.

So maybe it's Clark who should be most thankful Guichon ignored her. If the lieutenant-governor hadn't, Clark's visit with the evacuees at CNC in Prince George on Wednesday might have been a far rockier affair.

There is no election on, of course, but it is surprising that at least one evacuee with a good memory didn't approach Clark to demand why the Liberals haven't done more in the 12 years and counting since the Filmon recommendations to prevent wildfires like the ones threatening the Cariboo.

Clark wouldn't have been able to turn her back and walk away, like she did to Linda in that memorable video that went viral during the May election.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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