An overview of BC’s 42nd provincial election

The election was called early by John Horgan

PHOTO: Arnaud Jaegers / Unsplash

Written by: Michelle Young, News Editor

On September 21, Premier John Horgan called a provincial election for October 24. While BC had an election date set for October 2021, Horgan cited COVID-19 as the reason for the early election, stating that “this pandemic will be with us for a year or more and that’s why I believe we need to have an election now.” He added, “The challenges we face are not for the next 12 months but indeed for the next four years and beyond.” 

Key Information

General registration closed on September 26. However, you can still register at the polling stations on election day. Advance voting begins on October 15 and ends October 21 at 8 p.m. Voting in advance is an option for all voters, though locations may differ from General Voting Day. 

On October 24, voters are assigned voting locations, but you can vote at another voting place if it is more convenient. Voters may also vote at any BC district electoral office, either from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during advance voting, or from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on October 24. You can find your polling station using Elections BC’s app here. 

COVID-19 protocols for in-person polling include physical distancing, capacity limits, and sanitizing stations, amongst other guidelines. According to Elections BC, “Voting places will follow the practices outlined in [their] voting place safety plan.” 

Voters can also vote by mail, and should request a vote-by-mail package by October 17. This allows voters to complete their ballot from home and mail them in. Packages must be received before 8 p.m. on voting day and can be requested by calling Elections BC or online. Vote-by-mail packages can still be requested after October 17, however they must be requested from a district electoral office. 

Major Party Pledges (as of Oct 4)

BC NDP

Horgan pledged to complete a hospital in Cloverdale and “10 new urgent and primary care centres by the end of the year.” He also promised to shift the funding from for-profit corporations to fund “new long-term care homes and improve wages for long-term care workers.” 

Furthermore, Horgan stated that he will “expand student access to up to $4,000 per year” to cover tuition, textbook, and school supplies. He also pledged that BC would reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Lastly, Horgan promised to refund profits to drivers collected by ICBC during COVID-19. 

BC Liberals

Andrew Wilkinson pledged to remove the Speculation and Vacancy Tax, which is “an annual tax based on how owners use residential properties in major urban areas.” Wilkinson says he would then replace the tax “with an anti-flipping tax.” This aims to target those who buy a presale home and then resell it for profit. 

Furthermore, Wilkinson also promised free flu shots for all those in BC — as some remain ineligible for them. Wilkinson pledged to eliminate provincial sales tax for a year, aiming to reboot the economy. Finally, Wilkinson stated that he would “prevent protestors from blocking Trans Mountain pipeline construction.” 

BC Green Party

Sonia Furstenau pledged to “pause construction on the Site C dam.” Citizens have called on provincial governments to stop the project, following a BC Hydro Report that revealed the dam’s “geological risk.” According to the project’s website, it “will provide key benefits for BC, including energy [ . . . ] regional economic development, job creation, and benefits for communities” and Indigenous peoples. 

BC Conservative Party

The party pledged to “scrap the province’s carbon tax” and “allow private companies to compete with ICBC on basic insurance.”

For an updated list of party promises, check here

Political Implications 

Many have been discussing Horgan’s early election call — the motives, implications, and whether it was necessary. The Peak reached out to SFU political science professor Dr. Stewart Prest for more information regarding the election. 

Dr. Prest explained that after about six months since the last election, “a premier or a prime minister has the right, effectively, to ask for an election.” He added that in Canadian politics this is “business as usual” — even with a fixed election date. The controversy surrounding the 2020 election “is because we’re in the middle of a pandemic and there were no obvious, outward signs for a need for an election at this point.” Dr. Prest also noted that the NDP believe they have a chance at winning a majority government. 

In regards to COVID-19, Dr. Prest said that current indications demonstrate that the pandemic is “not going to have a huge impact on voting intentions.” He added, “We’ve seen some polling since the announcement of the election, and the NDP continue to enjoy that large lead in polls that led them to call the election in the first place.

“There is a roll of the dice by the NDP [ . . . ] If they do lose, they’re going to be wearing egg on their face.” Dr. Prest noted that the election will be an interesting one, as voter decisions will likely rely on the evolution of COVID-19. 

Voter turnout may also change, as it remains a possibility that overall turnout may be reduced in comparison to previous years. “That may be because of a couple of different factors,” he said. Factors that could influence voter turnout include frustration with the election call and discomfort going to polling stations on election day, if voters do not make arrangements to vote-by-mail or partake in advanced voting. 

Dr. Prest encourages “everyone to take part in the democractic process in a way that they feel comfortable with.” He concluded by stating, “One way to think about this election is that the BC NDP is effectively inviting judgement on the last three or so years of governance and asking for British Columbians’ opinion.”  

BC Election Resources