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HomeBusinessHorgan’s pandemic power grab cost almost $52 million: Elections BC

Horgan’s pandemic power grab cost almost $52 million: Elections BC

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Bob Mackin

Premier John Horgan’s pandemic election — held one year before legally required — cost $51.6 million, according to Elections BC.

John Horgan on election night (BC NDP/Flickr)

In the July 27-released report, chief electoral officer Anton Boegman, said that works out to $14.64 per registered voter. That was more than $12 million higher than 2017, when the cost-per-vote was $12.15.

Horgan won a 57-seat majority in the election, as 1.9 million voted. The 53.9% turnout rate was a record low, worse than 2009’s 55.14%.

Expenses for this election included unique costs associated with the pandemic, such as face masks and shields, gloves, transparent barriers, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes,” the report said.

Other cost pressures contributed, such as rent for district electoral offices and voting places, postal services, staffing, transportation, advertising and drop-off locations to collect ballots.

The cost of PPE totalled $2.2 million, including the purchase of  617,000 disposable masks, 36,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, 16,000 containers of disinfectant wipes, 11,000 face shields and 9,000 acrylic barriers.

Modification to voting procedures meant almost 18,000 election officials were hired to staff voting places, compared to more than 23,000 in 2017. There were only six fewer advance voting places and 60 fewer general voting places.

More than 604,000 vote-by-mail packages were returned on-time, of which 505,000 came through Canada Post. The remaining 100,000 were returned at Elections BC district offices or voting places. There was also a spike in phone voting, almost 3,500 in 2020, compared to nearly 1,100 in 2017.

NDP newcomer Susie Chant upset incumbent BC Liberal Jane Thornthwaite on election night (Mackin)

Horgan’s decision to fight for votes instead of fight the virus unleashed $15.4 million of spending by B.C.’s big three political parties.

Almost half that was by Horgan’s NDP, which reported to Elections BC that its campaign cost $7.64 million. The NDP finished with a party record 57 seats. The BC Liberals had their worst result since 1991 and spent $6.36 million while the BC Greens were third with $1.41 million, according to the spending returns released Feb. 1.

The campaigns were directly subsidized for the first time after the NDP government banned corporate and union donations in 2017. The BC Liberals and NDP got roughly $1.59 million each in 2020 allowance payments, under a per vote formula based on the results of the 2017 election.

Boegman’s report said the new funding formula meant reimbursements of election expenses to the three main parties and 240 candidates. The NDP received $2.15 million, BC Liberals $1.5 million and Greens $301,000.

Parties needed at least 5% of votes province wide to qualify. For candidates, it was 10% in their riding.

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