It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The provincial political landscape was crystal clear: the law said the next BC election would be held on October 16, 2021- a year from now. A signed agreement between the NDP and Greens kept the government stable. And the BC Liberals were putting aside party politics to work with the Provincial Health Officer and the NDP Health Minister to get BC through the global pandemic.
Instead, Premier John Horgan called an election for Saturday, October 24, 2020.
Why now? We are, after all, in the middle of a provincial emergency and a global pandemic. We have not experienced a job loss and health crisis of the proportions we are living through, ever. British Columbians have been asked to sacrifice much and give up a lot since the unprecedented shutdown of large parts of our economy last March.
Millions in our province were asked to stay home and simply do nothing. Businesses were shuttered, jobs were lost, and livelihoods threatened. Everything from high school graduations, weddings, community events, local and professional sports were all shut down. Tragically, thousands of families have lost loved ones and worse, have been unable to come together to mourn their loss.
Today, families across BC are focused on how to safely settle their children back into school, and businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy and are facing tax deferral cliffs. A second wave of COVID-19 infections seems to be upon us, and countries around the world are reimposing harsh shutdown measures. Uncertainty is the one word that now defines every part of our lives.
An election now, why? It is a question that John Horgan has been unable to answer to anyone’s satisfaction over the past few days. Early next year, conceivably, a vaccine or vaccines may be available, an important milestone if we are to once again enjoy aspects of our pre-COVID-19 life that have been so quickly taken away.
So why the rush to the polls now at the risk of people’s health, in the middle of a global pandemic, when we had stability in Victoria and when British Columbians are rightly focused on keeping their families safe and protecting their businesses and their jobs.
Sadly, no one should ever underestimate how tempting it is for politicians to act, well, like politicians. Riding high in the polls as British Columbians rallied together to take on COVID-19, John Horgan saw a chance to get the majority government he so desperately wants.
On Monday, John Horgan ripped up the agreement he signed with the leader of the Green Party and with every Green Party and NDP MLA in 2017 to form government. The public is rightly cynical about the frequency with which politicians break their word, but throwing out a signed contract lowers this bar significantly.
The point of fixed election dates is to level the playing field and take the politics out of when elections are called – with this political maneuver, politics has been injected back into the timing of this election.
Given the sacrifices we and our families have all made in our personal, professional and business lives, it is hard not to feel a great deal of frustration and indeed anger at the cavalier manner in which the NDP have rolled the dice with everyone’s health and in the pursuit of power.
I cannot think of any time more than now when we need leadership and not politics in Victoria.
Chris Gardner is President of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
- Chris Gardner last wrote that governments face a long, slow economic recovery. Now's the time to be bold.
- Jody Vance: It's awfully hard to "put politics behind us" in the midst of an unnecessary snap election.
- Don't cast stones. Ada Slivinski asks you to spare a sympathetic thought for young people being asked not to act like young people.