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Lieutenant governor should tell B.C. premier to ‘think about it’ before calling election: expert

Open letter to B.C.’s lieutenant governor published
Open letter to B.C.'s lieutenant governor published

As election speculation continues to run wild in B.C., a well-known political advisor has some advice for the province’s lieutenant governor: If Premier John Horgan comes asking for an election, she “should send him away to think about it.”

Norman Spector’s letter to Janet Austin appeared on the front page of the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper on Wednesday, as the premier continues to deflect questions on whether he’ll send voters to the polls amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s generally agreed that the lieutenant governor is constitutionally required to accept and act on the advice of the head of government, Spector wrote, but she also has the right to advise, encourage and warn him.

Open letter to B.C.’s lieutenant governor published
Open letter to B.C.’s lieutenant governor published

“Should Premier Horgan insist on a dissolution of the Legislature at this stage of the mandate, you would have no alternative but to accede to the request,” he said.

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“In light of the current situation in the province, however, you would be fully entitled not to agree to such a request on the spot.”

Spector was on the BC Green Party’s negotiating team that ultimately led to the party supporting the B.C. NDP in the 2017 election, allowing Horgan to form government.

He suggested that Austin remind the premier of the next fixed election date, Oct. 16, 2021, and that if he calls for an election before that time, he will be breaking part of the negotiated agreement with the Greens that allowed him to take power three years ago.

Premier John Horgan’s comments spark B.C. election speculation
Premier John Horgan’s comments spark B.C. election speculation

Horgan has repeatedly failed to deny that he’s planning for a snap election this fall. His party has announced a deluge of new candidates over the last few days, while several current MLAs have said they won’t be running for re-election.

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Spector also suggested that Austin encourage the premier to maintain the non-partisanship that Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have fostered during the pandemic.

“That non-partisanship would be squandered — and the effectiveness of pandemic management compromised — should the premier opt for an election for one reason and for one reason alone; viz., his party’s advantage in public opinion polls.”

Preparing for a possible fall provincial election
Preparing for a possible fall provincial election

At an unrelated news conference, Dix was asked multiple times whether he supports an election while the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has doubled over the last week.

“We will be dealing with [the pandemic] well beyond October 2021,” he said.
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“At some point in that time, there is going to be a general election. And I think it’s possible, of course, to do that safely.”

The premier’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Spector’s letter.