It bears repeating: This has truly been a campaign unlike any other.
The snap election getting called in the middle of a global pandemic, BC NDP Leader John Horgan dissolving parliament, and then rolling the dice in search of the majority government he desperately wants.
Officials at Elections BC expect this to be the first vote in the province’s history where more people will vote before election day than on the day itself.
As of Friday, approximately 478,900 British Columbians have returned a mail-in ballot, while another 681,055 ballots were cast in advanced polls.
Election Day is here and if you haven’t found the time to research the leaders, the platforms and the parties, don’t worry.
This comprehensive guide is all you need to catch up on the issues that matter and help decide who to vote for election day.
MAJOR PARTY LEADERS
John Horgan, BC NDP:
John Horgan has served as British Columbia’s premier since June 2017, when he led his party to 41 seats in the legislature. It was three seats short of a majority government. He was part of the negotiating team that persuaded the BC Greens to sign an agreement with the New Democrats that allow them to govern together for a little more than three years. Horgan represents the riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca. He has two adult sons. The 61-year-old has been party leader since 2014 and was first elected as an MLA in 2005.
Andrew Wilkinson, BC Liberal Party:
Andrew Wilkinson has been the party’s leader since 2018, succeeding Christy Clark. He held the portfolios of advanced education, technology, and justice in Clark’s cabinets. He won the party leadership race on the fifth and final ballot, ahead of Dianne Watts and Michael Lee. The 63-year-old has served as an MLA since 2013 in the riding of Vancouver-Quilchena. He is the father of three adult children and is trained as a lawyer and a medical doctor.
Sonia Furstenau, BC Green Party:
Sonia Furstenau is the newest party leader, having been elected only days before the election was called in September. She was long seen as the favourite to replace predecessor Andrew Weaver. She was part of the record-breaking class of Green MLAs elected in 2017, alongside Weaver and Adam Olsen, and was on her party’s negotiating team that decided to support the BC NDP to form government. The 50-year-old serves the riding of Cowichan Valley and moved to politics after her advocacy work around soil-dumping at Shawnigan Lake.
The Conservative Party of BC is running candidates in 19 ridings. It has yet to send an MLA to Victoria. The Conservatives ran 10 candidates in 2017 and received 0.53 per cent of the popular vote. They are strongest in the Peace Region and Fraser Valley, and is led by Fort St. John city councillor Trevor Bolin.
The BC Libertarian Party has 25 candidates in the race, and has never won a seat either. The party has released a full platform, including calling for an immediate end to the COVID-19 state of emergency and all orders of the public health officer except those relating to long-term care homes.
With five contenders, the far-right-wing Christian Heritage Party aims to “restore and preserve our Great Canadian heritage, granted by our Creator, which is the foundation of our democratic system of government.”
Here is a broad look at the main issues that have been debated so far during the campaign.
COVID-19 FINANCIAL RELIEF
The BC NDP and the BC Liberals have made big, expensive promises to put money back into the hands of voters amid the pandemic, while the BC Greens have taken a different approach.
BC NDP: Horgan’s party is promising a one-time $1,000 direct deposit to families whose household income is under $125,000 annually, with a sliding scale up to $175,000. It’s also promising a one-time $500 deposit to single people earning less than $62,000 annually, with a sliding scale up to $87,000. The promise would cost taxpayers $1.4 billion next year.
BC Liberals: Wilkinson’s party is committing to eliminating the provincial sales tax for a year, and then reduce it to three per cent in the next year. The Liberals are estimating that will cost $6.88 billion in the first year and $3.93 billion in the second.
BC Greens: Furstenau’s party did not make any major promises to provide a tax break or one-time cash deposit, and instead offered more specific relief (details below).
Funding childcare spaces has become a priority for all three parties. The NDP continues to focus on $10-a-day care, the Liberals are suggesting a means-tested plan, and the Greens are touting a plan that would make childcare the cheapest, but would also cost government the most.
BC NDP: The party is committing once again to bring in $10-a-day childcare to more families. The NDP is struggling to keep up with the commitment, and has created 32,700 such spots so far. But that’s below their targets set in 2013. The party has pledged to work with Crown corporations, universities, local governments, First Nations, and public and private sector employers to make sure workplaces include space for childcare.
BC Liberals: The Liberals would implement a $1.1-billion plan to bring in $10-a-day care to families with household incomes of up to $65,000, and $20- and $30-a-day care based on household income up to $125,000. If elected, they would create one waiting list for all publicly funded spaces and give parents the ability to turn down spots they are offered without losing their place in the overall wait list.
BC Greens: The Greens would provide up to $500 per month for families with children under three and one stay-at-home parent. It would increase child-care funding from $674 million in 2020/21 to $897 million in 2023/24. This would be on top of $300 million for preschool for three- and four-year-olds in their education budget.
BC NDP: The NDP promises to freeze rents until the end of 2021. After that, increases will be tied to inflation. The party is also promising an income-tested renters’ rebate of $400 a year for households earning up to $80,000 annually that are not receiving other rental support. It also vows to create a public system for strata insurance if rates don’t go down in the private market by the end of 2021.
BC Liberals: The Liberals have promised the most “comprehensive” housing affordability plan in North America. They would ensure rental properties are no longer valued by BC Assessment by their highest and best use, but on actual rental use. The party would also establish an incentive fund for municipalities with housing policies that foster increases in the construction and supply of new housing.
BC Greens: The Green Party will work with local governments to expand townhouses and triplexes as well as target support for new co-ops. The party will establish a capital fund to acquire and maintain rental housing by non-profits and close the bare-trust and speculation tax loopholes. For renters, the Greens would introduce a means-tested grant for low- and moderate-income earners who are paying more than 30 per cent of their income to rent.
ICBC AND VEHICLE INSURANCE
BC NDP: The BC NDP made the most substantial changes to ICBC in the public insurer’s history while in government. Its no-fault model aims to limit the ability to sue for damages, increase benefits, and save a driver $400 a year on average. The NDP has promised to provide COVID-19 premium rebates to drivers from any surplus that ICBC delivers during the pandemic. Other provinces, such as Ontario, have already sent out similar rebates.
BC Liberals: The BC Liberals would end the ICBC monopoly and give drivers the choice on all insurance products. They planning to reduce rates for young drivers by giving all new drivers credit for up to four years of experience when they demonstrate safe driving habits. The options for purchasing insurance will be either the private market (traditional system) or ICBC (no-fault system).
BC Greens: Their platform does not mention ICBC.
BC NDP: While in government, the New Democrats committed to hiring 7,000 new health-care workers in long-term and assisted living. If re-elected, Horgan would continue the single-site policy where workers are paid more to only work at one care home and limit the spread of COVID-19. The party is looking at eliminating multi-bed rooms in health authority-owned facilities and building new, better public long-term care homes with new beds. It would also start phasing out for-profit homes, but not in the immediate future due to the pandemic.
BC Liberals: The Liberals will invest an additional $1 billion over five years in new long-term care facilities. The goal is for every senior in long-term care in a private room if the person desires. The party is promising a new tax credit for seniors of up to $7,000 a year for home care.
BC Greens: The Greens have pledged to shift away from a for-profit model of long-term care. It would ensure public funds are only used to support direct care for seniors and require annual inspections, financial statements and audited expense reports. The plan also states the Greens would establish caregivers as a recognized health-care profession with a higher salary.
BC NDP: The NDP vows to fast-track improvements to online and remote learning and give students better access to school supplies so that parents and teachers aren’t buying them out-of-pocket. The party is in the midst of a massive investment in school construction across the province, but has not found a solution to portables in the Tri-Cities and Surrey.
BC Liberal: The Liberals would create hybrid and online learning options for all schools. Their platform commits to online portals for parents, including access to report cards, registrations and authorization forms. The party is also committing to new school construction in areas with rapid population growth.
BC Greens: School districts receive operational funding from the province based on how many students are enrolled each year. The Greens would provide the same level of funding next year, even though enrollment has declined due to COVID-19. The party would also provide the resources for remote and hybrid learning in all districts and maintain additional pandemic funding for personal protective equipment into the 2020/21 school year as required. It would also support student mental health with $24 million in new funding to enhance the number of counsellors in schools.
BC NDP: The NDP is committing to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan includes greater incentives for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles and a collaborative approach with the federal government around banning single-use plastics.
BC Liberals: The Liberals are focusing on encouraging the retrofitting of homes and businesses. The platform is short on details but mentions expanding public transit and supporting investment in more electric vehicle charging stations and comprehensive greenhouse gas strategy that reduces emissions. The Liberals also pledge to work with the federal government to review scheduled increases in the carbon tax.
BC Greens: The BC Greens’ entire vision is built around the environment. From education to the economy, the party has factored the environment in all its decisions. It would establish a $500-million fund to support sustainable jobs and develop a clean-jobs program focused on enhancing B.C.’s natural assets, tree planting, conservation, remediating environmental liabilities and improving community resilience to climate change. It would also transition works from the oil and gas sector and push to mandate 100-per-cent zero-emission vehicles by 2035, not 2040. The Greens would work to make B.C. carbon neutral by 2045, matching the goal set by California.
BC NDP: The NDP would move one per cent of the provincial GDP to a new $3-billion-a-year fund to help cover the construction of hospitals, schools and transit infrastructure. The party has made $23 billion in new infrastructure commitments over the next three years, and have promised to complete the SkyTrain extension from Surrey to Langley, though it’s unclear if the federal government will come up with their share of the cash.
BC Liberals: The Liberals pledged to invest $8 billion in infrastructure improvements over three years — an increase of 35 per cent. The party is also touting the biggest infrastructure investment in provincial history, at $30.9 billion over three years to cover transportation, hospitals, primary care clinics, seniors’ care homes, mental health treatment and affordable housing. The Liberals also plan on immediately restarting plans to build a 10-lane bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, which connects Richmond to Delta.
BC Greens: The Greens would consider mobility pricing to help pay for improvements to public transit, and is concentrated on “frequent and affordable” links between communities, such as the Cowichan Valley and the Capital Regional District on Vancouver Island.
HOW TO VOTE IN A PANDEMIC
Voters are encouraged to wear a mask at polling stations and bring their own pen or pencil to mark the ballot.