B.C. election: First full day of campaign begins amid COVID-19 pandemic
Published Tuesday, September 22, 2020 6:17AM PDT Last Updated Wednesday, September 23, 2020 8:41AM PDT
VANCOUVER -- B.C. Premier John Horgan says his decision to call an election started to crystallize in the summer when his minority government ran into legislative challenges.
Speaking in North Vancouver on Tuesday, the leader of the NDP acknowledged there has been "extraordinary co-operation" between Health Minister Adrian Dix and the opposition parties when it comes to tackling COVID-19.
But he said "contempt" and "acrimony" between the parties would divert focus away from managing and recovering from the pandemic, and the best way to "put the politics behind us" was to hold an election.
"We need to be sure that the public is with us and the best way forward is a stable government," he said.
"The prospect of us coming to budget time in February and having a confidence vote and having to be forced into an election in February and March was something that I didn't believe was in the best interest of British Columbians."
Horgan assured voters that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has made it clear to him that the election set for Oct. 24 can be held safely.
But Green Leader Sonia Furstenau disputed Horgan's explanation Tuesday, saying she told him as recently as Friday that her party is committed to a stable government.
She released a letter she gave to Horgan on Friday that outlines policy areas she believes require stronger action but that she saw as "the starting place to guide our further work together."
The letter says COVID-19 could not have been anticipated when the Green caucus signed an agreement propping up the NDP minority government in 2017, "but the response from all parties has been guided by the same commitment to collaboration and communication, with all three political parties coming together to serve our province."
She wrote that tearing up the agreement and calling an election risks undoing that progress.
"The more you let partisanship pollute public discourse, the less trust people will have in their leaders. And trust in our leaders will be essential for the difficult road ahead."
She said despite the "completely unnecessary" election, the Greens are ready for the campaign, adding that the party received a record donation on Monday in the tens of thousands of dollars.
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson called for three televised debates during the provincial election campaign so voters can hear what each party has to offer.
Voters need information and debates are the best way to provide it during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilkinson said.
He said voters need to hear the visions of all three party leaders on issues including employment, child care and addiction.
"We're putting out the message to British Columbians that they need more information in this election. It's a pandemic election and we've never done this before," Wilkinson said, noting voters won't have access to party leaders at large gatherings like in typical campaigns.
Horgan said he would not be involved in a decision to hold the three debates, but he added he's happy to talk to people in any format that's safe and allows a full "airing of the issues."
Furstenau said she fully expects to participate in the debates given what she described as the Greens "pivotal" role in B.C. politics over the past three years.
Wilkinson began the first day of the campaign by touting the Liberals' candidates so far, adding he expects to have an entire slate by the end of the week.
He said the Liberal party also expects to release its election platform in about a week, while Horgan said the NDP is also working on a platform that will be released prior to the election.
-- With files from Amy Smart and Camille Bains.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2020.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.