B.C. premier won’t rule out fall election, Elections BC working on pandemic protocols

Could B.C. be headed for a fall election?
Could B.C. be headed for a fall election?

B.C. Premier John Horgan says there is an “opportunity” for an election in the fall even in the midst of a global pandemic.

British Columbians are scheduled to next go to the polls on Oct. 16, 2021 but Horgan says his minority government needs to be prepared for an election at anytime.

“It’s mandated, by next October. And so there’s an opportunity this fall. There’s an opportunity next spring. There’s an opportunity next summer. When that happens is not necessarily clear to me today,” Horgan said.

Read more: Most Canadians back postponing elections until after COVID-19 pandemic: Ipsos poll

Elections BC has been working with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s office to create a plan if there is an election during the pandemic.

The plan includes increased advance voting opportunities to help reduce voting place crowds, increased use of remote voting options and physically distanced polling stations.

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“The┬áCOVID-19 pandemic makes it very likely that the next election will be held under some level of public health restrictions,” reads a statement from Elections BC.

“Administering safe and accessible elections during the pandemic is a challenge that election administrators across Canada and around the world are grappling with. Part of our mandate is to be ready to administer an election when required.”

In March, Dr. Henry’s office recommended postponing local byelections, considering the uncertainty the province was dealing with.

But the province is now in the position to move forward with the idea of an election at the local or provincial level.

City of Burnaby facing pandemic byelection
City of Burnaby facing pandemic byelection

“We know that we have a minority government, both here in B.C. and federally, as well as a number of byelections and other municipal elections that are scheduled in the coming months,” Dr. Henry said.

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“So yes, we are working with (Elections BC) so that we are prepared as a province for whatever comes up, whether it be the fall, next spring, next year, and that elections can happen safely.”

The B.C. NDP have been governing for three years in a minority government with the support of the B.C. Greens and now-independent MLA Andrew Weaver.

It is still unclear whether there will be a fall legislative session. The B.C. legislature is currently sitting for a rare summer session.

The B.C. Greens have no interest in an early election, which means the NDP would need to convince the Lieutenant Governor an election is needed, NDP members would need to be absent from a vote and the Liberals would have to vote against government in a confidence vote.

“I am concerned with Premier Horgan’s comments about an opportunity for an election,” Green Party interim leader Adam Olsen said.

“We have focused on governing and I think British Columbians have been happy with the governance through the pandemic and that is what we should be focused on.”