Former political adviser suggests Lieutenant Governor 'send him away' if Horgan asks for election
VANCOUVER -- A former constitutional adviser to provincial and federal leaders has written an open letter to B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, suggesting that she send Premier John Horgan away for a night if he asks her to dissolve the provincial legislature and call for a controversial early election in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Norman Spector, a former journalist and diplomat, who once served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, offered Lt. Gov. Janet Austin what he called “free advice” in the Victoria Times Colonist, and pointed out she has the right to “advise, encourage, and warn” the premier.
“Send him away for a day. Overnight. Where he has a chance to look himself in the mirror,” Spector told CTV News Vancouver. “To get away from his political advisers. To look at himself and ask, what does he want his legacy to be?”
In the letter, Spector outlines three reasons a snap election this October or November would be a poor idea.
They include: a commitment by B.C.’s government to move to an every-four-years election model, with the next provincial election set for October 2021; the signed “confidence and supply agreement” Horgan made with B.C.’s Green Party in 2017; and, that “the remarkable degree of non-partisanship” the government has shown managing the COVID-19 pandemic “would be squandered.”
Spector wrote that he advised Andrew Weaver and the BC Greens in 2017 and was present during those negotiations.
“Does he want his legacy to be that he’s another cynical politician who broke (his word on the agreement with the Greens) to cash in on favourable public opinion polls?” Spector posed to CTV News.
Horgan has not yet responded directly to the letter.
And the former Green Party leader said it wasn’t Spector’s prerogative to try to explain what the details of agreement meant.
“Were Premier Horgan to call an election, I would unequivocally say that his reasons to do so would not be a violation,” Weaver said.
While speculation and questions continue to mount about a possible election – including after three NDP ministers announced over the last two weeks they would not run again – Horgan has not directly answered questions about if or when he plans to make the short trip to Government House.
Richard Johnston, a political scientist and professor emeritus with the University of British Columbia, called Spector’s argument “elegantly crafted,” but questioned Spector’s final bit of advice: that Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, if she chooses to send Horgan away to “think about it,” make that fact known publically.
“That’s probably a bad idea,” Johnston said, and explained that such a move could be viewed as the Queen’s representative intruding in the political process.
When asked if Austin could do something “unprecedented” in an unusual time, Johnston answered: “I think not.”
Austin can pose questions, Johnston said, but ultimately, if Horgan wants an election, “she has to give it to him.”
And Max Cameron, another political scientist at UBC, agreed: “I don’t think it is a constitutional matter, even though I fully agree that a snap fall election is a terrible idea.”
As for what Spector would tell the premier if he was advising him today:
“I want him to know that he’s better than what he’s showing British Columbians now,” Spector said.