B.C.’s next provincial election is scheduled to happen on October 16, 2021.
But it could take place earlier if the B.C. NDP government of Premier John Horgan decides to call an election earlier.
Or if the Horgan government loses the confidence of the legislative assembly.
By many indications, Horgan and his B.C. NDP are preparing for an election in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past weeks, Horgan’s party has announced candidates for several key ridings.
Also, the government has been making announcements for already-committed projects like the SkyTrain extension down Broadway in Vancouver.
And Horgan is seen to be setting the groundwork for breaking his agreement with the Green Party not to call a snap election.
“Nowhere in that document will you see the word pandemic,” Horgan said.
Elections B.C. and party campaign workers are preparing for a potential election to be called.
According to recent polls, the NDP and Horgan have never been more popular.
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says his party doesn’t think an election is needed.
Wilkinson said B.C. Liberals will focus on the economy, the COVID-19 response and reopening schools if one is called.
“Who wants an election right now? Because I haven’t come across a single British Columbian who’s pushing for one other than John Horgan,” said Wilkinson.
“People are very concerned about returning to school, the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout B.C, and the prospects for them having a job by Christmas time,” Wilkinson said. “So it seems the only people who want to talk about having an election are the NDP.”
Meanwhile, the possibility of a federal election seems to be easing as the Liberal government prepares for a return to Parliament on September 23.
This comes amid concerns Canada could already be heading into a dreaded second wave of the COVID-19.
Fears of a COVID-19 resurgence hung over a cabinet retreat on September 15 as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers met behind closed doors for a second straight day.
There had been questions about whether the throne speech would serve as the catalyst for a fall election.
The minority government of Trudeau needs the support of at least one opposition party to survive a confidence vote in the House of Commons.
There was also speculation the Liberals wanted an election, and were planning to use the throne speech as an excuse for launching a campaign in the hopes of winning a majority government.
Such talk was emboldened by election results in New Brunswick on September 14, where the Progressive Conservatives under Blaine Higgs went from a minority to a majority government by riding a wave of support for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appeared to take the wind out of federal election speculation on September 15.
Singh suggested that his party would hold its nose and give the government a pass on the throne speech and then hold the Liberals to account on the budget or future legislation.
“What they say in the throne speech really doesn’t have that much impact. It doesn’t really matter when it comes down to it because they’ve said a lot of things in the last throne speech that they haven’t followed through on,” Singh said.
The throne speech is expected to include some commitments that would align with NDP priorities, such as on child care.
This increases the likelihood, although does not guarantee, that Singh’s party will find a way to support it.
The throne speech is expected to include three main priorities.
These are: measures needed to protect Canadians’ health and avoid another national lockdown; economic supports needed to help keep Canadians financially afloat while the pandemic continues; and longer-term measures to eventually rebuild the economy.
Emergency aid to help Canadians weather the pandemic has already pushed the federal deficit for this year up to an unheard-of $343 billion.
With the government operating on the assumption that the pandemic will continue to plague the globe for at least two more years, unprecedented amounts of red ink seem destined to continue flowing.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said she’s “well aware” some people are concerned about the amount of debt the government is piling up.
But Freeland defended it, arguing “the best thing we can do for our economy is to keep coronavirus under control. I can’t emphasize that too much.”
She pointed out that 1.8 million Canadians are still unemployed or under-employed as a result of the pandemic and said the government is committed to getting them all back to work.
New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservatives won re-election on September 14 with a majority government for Premier Higgs, who last month called a snap election, the first provincial vote to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Higgs won his coveted majority after two years of leading the province’s first minority government since 1920.
Touting the importance of stability in a tumultuous year, Higgs spent the abbreviated four-week campaign championing his government’s successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Brunswick and the province’s ongoing economic recovery.
It’s the first general election in Canada since the emergence of COVID-19.
Trudeau issued a statement congratulating Higgs.
“I look forward to working closely with the provincial government as we recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Trudeau said. “Together, we will continue to safely restart the economy and lay the groundwork to keep New Brunswick communities strong and healthy.”