John Horgan’s decision to call a snap election during the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have paid off as Global News is projecting the BC NDP to form a majority government.
The NDP is elected or leading in 55 ridings, according to Global News projections, ahead of the BC Liberals who are elected or leading in 29 ridings. The Greens are elected or leading in three ridings.
The New Democrats also had a firm grip on the popular vote throughout Saturday night, holding about 45 per cent to the Liberals 36 per cent and the Greens at 15.
Horgan called an election back on Sept. 21, saying the province needs a majority government to navigate the ongoing global crisis.
“This has been an extraordinarily difficult election for many, many reasons, but it’s one that I believe had to happen,” he said Saturday night.
“I’m grateful for all British Columbians that we have put the election behind us and we can get back to focusing on the things that matter most to you.”
Horgan faced criticism from BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and newly minted BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau for sending voters to the polls amid the global pandemic and breaking the agreement he forged with the Greens in order to form government in 2017.
Speaking on Saturday night, Wilkinson did not address his future as party leader.
He said the NDP are poised to form a majority government, but mail-in ballots have yet to be counted.
“We don’t know what the final seat count will be,” he said.
“We have to wait for these results because everyone’s voice needs to be heard.”
Alexa Loo, the Olympian and Liberal candidate in Richmond South Centre, said the party needs to move in a new direction.
“You go to games, you lose the race — you’re getting a new team leader,” she said. “So now, who will the new team leader be? Will it be someone who is new and dynamic and can push the team across the finish line all the way?”
Furstenau is projected to win re-election in Cowichan Valley while Adam Olsen, who served as the Green Party’s interim leader following Andrew Weaver’s departure from politics, is expected to win in the riding of Saanich North and the Islands.
Furstenau said her party will make itself heard in the legislature.
“We will do everything we can to hold them accountable,” she said.
“The NDP have shown while they will say the right thing they won’t act on it unless they are forced.”
The New Democrats picked up seats in ridings such as Boundary Similkameen and Surrey-Cloverdale.
They are also expected to pick up a seat in North Vancouver-Seymour, where Susie Chant defeated Jane Thornthwaite, the Liberal incumbent who faced controversy after commenting on the physical appearance of the NDP’s Bowinn Ma during an event attended by Wilkinson.
Ma is projected to win in the riding of North Vancouver-Lonsdale.
The NDP is also expected to win in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, the riding once held by former Green leader Andrew Weaver.
Cabinet ministers expected to return to the legislature include Health Minister Adrian Dix, Attorney General David Eby, Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark, Environment Minister George Heyman and Housing Minister Selina Robinson.
Races that were too close to call included the riding of Chilliwack-Kent, where the NDP’s Kelli Paddon had a narrow lead over Laurie Throness, the incumbent who was officially listed as a Liberal on the ballot but resigned from the party midway through the campaign to become an Independent after coming under fire for likening free birth control to eugenics.
On Friday, Elections BC estimated that only about 65 to 70 per cent of votes will be counted on election night, which could delay final results in close races.
About 478,900 vote-by-mail packages had been returned as of Friday morning, which represents about 66 per cent of all mail-in packages requested and issued to date, Elections BC said.
Advance votes were counted on election day. Mail-in ballots will be counted 13 days after election day at the earliest as per provincial law.
There are nearly 3.5 million registered voters in B.C.
At dissolution back in September, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats, another two were independent, and one seat was vacant.
The Oct. 24 vote came less than a week since provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry declared that B.C. is now in a second wave of the pandemic, with higher and higher numbers of daily new cases of COVID-19 in the last few days.
B.C. is the second province to head to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic. New Brunswick re-elected the Progressive Conservatives last month after Premier Blaine Higgs called a snap election. Voters in Saskatchewan will go to the polls on Monday.
For full election coverage, go to our B.C. Election 2020 page.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots were requested across B.C. this election. As mail-in ballots cannot be counted until after election night, these results are not final.
— With files from Richard Zussman, Simon Little and The Canadian Press