In a time like no other, expect an election campaign like no other.
On the request of Premier John Horgan, BC’s Lieutenant-Governor dissolved the Legislature a week ago Monday, setting in motion a pandemic-era campaign that ends on October 24. At dissolution, Mr. Horgan’s NDP minority government held 41 seats, which, backed by Green MLAs, was able to hold confidence against the BC Liberals’ own 41 seats, a delicate arrangement that lasted over three years – or about three years longer than most expected.
Although the first week of the campaign was relatively quiet, the party’s strategies came into immediate focus. Premier Horgan is targeting seats he needs to form a majority government by drawing a contrast with the Liberals on support for health and education in those communities. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is framing the election around bold action to kick-start an economic recovery. And Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau is using the early election call as a platform to criticize the Premier and stake a claim to a new kind of politics.
As week two begins, the campaign looks now to be shifting into another gear. With polls showing a consistent and wide lead for NDP, the BC Liberals moved to shake up the race’s dynamic with a promise to eliminate the 7 percent provincial sales tax for a full year and peg it at 3 percent thereafter until the economy recovers. The cost: $7 billion year one; $4 billion year two. So far, the response from economists and the public has been mixed. And the NDP is using the Liberal promise as a foil to make its case that Wilkinson and company can’t be trusted to protect health and education.
Looking ahead, expect the parties to release their platforms in the coming days and for details to emerge about debates. Premier Horgan will stick to a strategy that offers British Columbians a steady hand through the pandemic, the BC Liberals will campaign on their PST promise, and the Greens will look for creative ways to find their way into the conversation.
Elections in BC have traditionally been unpredictable, close and bloody-minded affairs. So far, this election campaign hasn’t played to type. But with four weeks left, many chapters are left to write and we could still be in for an old-fashioned dust-up.
Insights by David Bieber, Director, Western Canada, Jim Rutkowski, Senior Associate, and Ben Parsons, Account Director, Federal Advocacy.