Good morning! Wendy Cox in Vancouver her. My colleagues Madeleine White, legislative reporter Justine Hunter and reporter Ian Bailey have been working well into this morning to bring you the Globe’s election coverage and this special edition of the Western Newsletter.
British Columbia NDP Leader John Horgan’s gamble at calling a snap election has paid off handsomely, giving him the majority that he said he needed to guide the province through the pandemic.
Although almost a half million mail-in ballots won’t be counted for more than three weeks, the NDP’s win was so decisive as to render those ballots only details. By the time the results were almost entirely in, only a few ridings were so close that the mail-in count would make much of a difference.
For the Liberals, it was a humiliation. The party that had dominated British Columbia politics for 16 years and won more seats than the NDP in 2017 lost ground in suburban Vancouver strongholds in Richmond, Langley, Chilliwack and Surrey. Another riding went to the Greens, giving that party their first seat outside of Vancouver Island.
All three party leaders won their seats.
By midnight, the NDP was leading or had won 55 seats, the B.C. Liberals were leading or had won 29 seats and the Greens were leading or had won three seats.
The night started off slow with only a few polls reporting in the first half hour. But about an hour after polls closed, the NDP victory was called with just over 25 per cent of votes counted. That didn’t include the nearly 500,000 mail-in ballots that had been cast. Those ballots won’t be counted until Nov. 6 so it is unlikely that we will know the full tally until mid-November.
On election night, NDP leader John Horgan watched the returns in a downtown Vancouver hotel room. In a ballroom in the same hotel, the party’s headquarters for election night looked very different than a normal election. The pandemic protocols meant that party supporters were not allowed to gather, in fact just a handful of broadcast journalists were allowed in the room where Mr. Horgan spoke.
“A majority has been called but there are many, many – hundreds of thousands – votes to be counted,” Mr. Horgan acknowledged in his speech.
“This has been an extraordinarily difficult election for many reasons but it’s one that I believe had to happen.”
Mr. Horgan is the second premier in Canada to upgrade a minority government amid the pandemic, following in the footsteps of New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservatives.
As columnist Gary Mason noted, the NDP’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis was the real issue on the ballot, even as some voters grumbled about having to go to the polls during the pandemic.
“While many British Columbians were not happy with Mr. Horgan calling a vote a year ahead of schedule and in violation of a governing agreement he signed with the Green party, they weren’t prepared to punish him at the polls,” writes Gary. “And now the NDP has its first majority in almost 30 years and looks as strikingly dominant a political force in B.C. as it ever has been.”
Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson addressed briefly voters just after 10 p.m., thanking his campaign’s volunteers and the people working for Elections BC. But he did not resign, nor did he conceded defeat, though he did acknowledge the NDP’s lead.
“We will have more to say going forward but for now, we all have responsibility to be patient, to respect the democratic process and await the final results,” he said.
Even before the polls closed, the Liberals were appealing to their supporters for donations to help pay for challenges to election results in the coming weeks. “We need to ensure fairness and integrity in every riding in British Columbia,” wrote party president Paul Barbeau in an email.
“We owe it to every voter, every voter – no matter how they expressed their intention – to wait for the final results,” said Mr. Wilkinson during his speech.
Meanwhile, BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau won her seat in Cowichan Valley, while the Greens held on to their foothold in the legislature, including picking up a seat in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.
“For everyone who voted with hope and cast a vote for our party, I take your trust and faith in me and our party very seriously and I promise to serve you dutifully every day in the legislature,” she said during her election-night speech.
Early in the day, voters who hadn’t already cast a ballot by mail or at an advance poll in the province’s election had their last opportunity to make their choice.
In Victoria, the polling station in the bustling Cook St. Village was relaxed and orderly, with Elections BC staff paying close attention to pandemic health protocols. Voters were asked if they had a mask if they were not already wearing one, even though masks are encouraged, not required. Voters were offered sterile pencils to mark their ballots if they had not brought their own.
Mr. Horgan called the vote while he was riding a wave of public confidence over his government’s management of the pandemic, led by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. That framed the ballot question around which party and leader would best get the province through COVID-19 and a long period of recovery.
The election ended 3½ years of B.C.'s minority government, led by the NDP with the support of the Green caucus.
For complete, up-to-date coverage of the election head over to www.theglobeandmail.com.
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