Bob Mackin (Updated Feb. 3, 2021)
Four months ago, Premier John Horgan called a snap election.
When it was over, his party’s grip on power got better: 13% more votes than in 2017 translated into a 57-seat majority. The best result in B.C. NDP history.
But British Columbia’s battle with the coronavirus pandemic only got worse.
Since Sept. 21, a 667% increase in infections and 393% increase in deaths from coronavirus across B.C.
When the death toll reached 1,234 on Feb. 3, B.C. surpassed the 1,000 fatalities mark since Horgan called the election that was not required by law until October 2021.
On Feb. 2, the eve of the tragic milestone, theBreaker.news wanted to know whether NDP president Craig Keating had any regrets over holding the election that coincided with the second wave of the pandemic. Keating refused to answer the question during a phone call that lasted 25 minutes.
Citizens, especially those in the pandemic’s epicentre Surrey, are left to wonder “what if?”
What if Horgan and the NDP opted to fight the virus day-in, day-out, all autumn instead of take a 32-day break from governing to fight for votes?
Would there have been an earlier mask mandate? Would Thanksgiving dinners and Hallowe’en parties, the source of many outbreaks, have been outlawed?
How many lives would have been saved?
Horgan might not have taken the gamble on Sept. 21 had he followed the thoughtful advice of citizens who took time to send him email earlier in September.
theBreaker.news filed a freedom of information request for the days after a Sept. 9 news conference where Horgan floated a trial balloon about a fall election. Horgan claimed the minority government’s confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party no longer applied.
The file finally arrived early in the new year. All but two messages, both dated Sept. 12, opposed a snap election.
“I would love to see the B.C. NDP remain in power. Whenever the election takes place, I will vote for the NDP,” wrote one (the government withheld all correspondents’ names for privacy).
“It’s great timing,” said another. “I agree with what is reported as your view that the agreement with the Greens is no longer valid due to the circumstances of Covid, etc. You have my support. Good job so far, let’s get another mandate for the NDP.”
The rest, covering more than 80 pages, included messages from longtime NDP supporters and recent converts alike. The consensus: wait until the fixed Oct. 16, 2021 date.
“As a proud NDP member for nearly ten years now, I am strongly urging you to not call for an early election,” said a Sept. 12, 9:04 a.m. message. “Even with the B.C. NDP polling within reach of a majority government recently, the act of calling an election in the midst of a deadly global pandemic is not one I can support. Especially when our province’s COVID cases have risen to record levels over the last two months, you would be putting the health and safety of British Columbians at risk for the sake of political points.”
A Sept. 11, 10:40 p.m. writer said other parties were unprepared.
“So I think you should take the high ground and publicly denounce a snap election as not being what is best for B.C. now, even though it might be best for your party. I think this position will gain you even more votes in the next election.”
The writer of a Sept. 10, 4:57 p.m. message expressed support for the fixed election cycle, because “it brings stability and predictability to our governmental structures and processes, and lends a sense of fairness to the political arena.
“So, in the absence of show- stopping no-confidence votes or other instances of legislative deadlock, no government, whether majority or minority, serves the people well by calling an early election. No matter what reasons are given for such a call, they appear to be rooted in partisan political opportunism, rather than in pursuit of good government.”
Here are excerpts from the top 20 messages to the Office of the Premier:
Sept. 11, 6:58 p.m.: “I beg you… don’t call an election now. I’m one of the few NDP among family and friends who all acknowledge you’re doing a good job, even if they don’t want to say that out loud. Calling an election now will seem so politically self-serving that you’ll lose all that good will.”
Sept. 14, 10:21 a.m.: “Let us vote a year from now based on how the government performs over the next 12 months.”
Sept. 14, 9 a.m.: “I heard you discussing a possible early election and this was what really frightened me… with a chuckle in your voice! This might be fun for you, but the rest of us have our lives dependent on who is in government… it is not a game to us! It is not a laughing matter… This is NOT the time to ask us to take our eye off the Covid 19 situation.”
Sept. 14, 5:22 p.m.: “Calling an election as covid cases begin to climb again and the back-to-school plans are still being tested and adjusted introduces too great a level of uncertainty for the general public. Opposition parties will attack you for being opportunistic (and it’ll be hard to disagree) and the public will be disillusioned with a political party that is choosing to hold a snap election rather than govern.”
Sept. 14, 5:45 p.m.: “The last thing the province needs right now is an election. People have enough to deal with now, the economy, Covid-19, forest fires, the implications of the U.S. presidential election, etc. WE DO NOT NOW NEED AN ELECTION!”
Sept. 12, 9:44 a.m.: “Just keep on doing the good job you are doing. Leave the election date as you had initially agreed for 2021.”
Sept. 14, 11:14 p.m.: “I am an NDP supporter, but agree with the Greens perspective about a call for an election — not at this time.”
Sept. 13, 3:58 p.m.: “I hope to vote to re-elect my NDP MLA in the provincial elections that are scheduled for next year and thus show my approval of your government.”
Sept. 14, 3:58 p.m.: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should is a quote that applies to the NDP Party thinking of calling an election.”
Sept. 11, 5:16 p.m.: “Mr. Horgan this would be a total waste of $!!”
Sept. 10, 9:23 a.m.: “Adding an unnecessary election to all this is unconscionable. Cooperation, conciliation and working together or the good of the province, its citizens and its future should be the order of the day.”
Sept. 14, 2:59 p.m.: “Why would voters choose another party now or next year? What are you afraid of? Don’t be cynical. Do politics differently.”
Sept. 14, 6:14 p.m.: “I am a long-time NDP member, donor and election worker. I think a snap election at this time is completely ill-advised… if an election is called, I will not donate, nor will I work on the election.”
Sept. 13, 6:15 p.m.: “I support you now but I will not be able to if you call a fall election. Do it in the spring.”
Sept. 14, 1:03 p.m.: “If things continue in this vein I will find myself voting NDP in fall 2021 for the first time in my life. That is, UNLESS you decide to call an election before the mandated time.”
Sept. 12, 10:26 a.m.: “Our Covid numbers are at an all time high and you just closed banquet halls, bars and reduced hours of other bars/restaurants (which by the way I fully support). After putting in more restrictions, I’m not sure how it can be justified to call an election which would force groups of people to the polls.”
Sept. 14, 7:50 p.m.: “There are much bigger needs to meet than political egos at the moment. As a retired public health professional, my recommendation is to put the greater need for public health safety as the priority.”
Sept. 9, 2:19 p.m.: “I’m not willing to exhaust myself and/or risk my health for anything non-essential. Even my patients have seen very little of me since March 13th.”
Sept. 14, 9:31 a.m.: “The imperative of leadership (to save lives!) trumps any need for re-election. Re-election will take care of itself at a later date.”
Sept. 14, 12:38 p.m.: “I ask you please park your writ in a nice and secure spot. Maybe put the writ under your USS Voyager model for safe keeping.”
DID YOU KNOW?
- On Sept. 21, B.C. reported 8,208 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 1,987 active, 60 hospitalized and 21 in intensive care. There were 3,233 people exposed and monitored for symptoms. The death toll since March 8 was 227.
- Oct. 26, the first post-election report, showed 13,371 cases and 259 deaths.
- A month later, on Nov. 26, when the new cabinet was sworn-in, B.C. had 29,973 cases (7,899 active) and 384 deaths.
- On Jan. 21, 2021, four months since the election was called, B.C.’s case count reached 62,976 and death toll 1,119.
- On Feb. 3, the death toll reached 1,234, which meant more than 1,000 people died in B.C. since the Legislature dissolved Sept. 21 for Horgan’s snap election.
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