John Horgan’s BC NDP has won a majority government, but it will still be some time before MLAs are back at work.
There are several crucial next steps before the legislature is back in session and the premier can formally get to work.
Chief among the hurdles of getting MLAs back to Victoria is the unprecedented number of uncounted ballots, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elections BC estimates there are at least 600,000 outstanding votes (525,000 mail-in ballots and 75,000 absentee ballots).
Horgan said he spoke with Lt. Gov. Janet Austin on Sunday and would wait on forming his government until those votes are counted.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people who are waiting for their votes to count, so we will of course respect the process,” Horgan said.
“But in the meantime, there is work to be done. I’m returning to Victoria and I’m going to get back to it tomorrow.”
Elections BC typically waits 13 days to begin its final ballot count to allow all mail-in and absentee ballots to be returned to their home electoral district.
Staff then need to validate the votes, and ensure the voter hasn’t already voted in person. The process normally takes three days, but Elections BC said it may be extended this year owing to the volume of mail-in ballots.
“It is possible that final count will have a staggered start. Districts with fewer absentee ballots may be able to start on the usual 13 days after General Voting Day, while others with more ballots may require more time,” the agency said in a Friday update.
While the final count is not expected to affect Horgan’s majority, it could alter the number of seats each party is currently projected to win.
Naming a new cabinet
The BC NDP saw seven cabinet ministers retire before the election, leaving a gaping hole in Horgan’s front bench.
Before recalling the legislature, Horgan will need to choose a new minister of finance, transportation, social development, jobs, mental health and addictions, Indigenous relations and forestry.
In doing so, he will need to balance experience, gender and ethnic diversity and regional representation.
Stikine star candidate Nathan Cullen is a likely candidate, but look for Horgan to also try and find room for new MLAs from ridings the party usually doesn’t win such as Boundary-Similkameen and in the Fraser Valley.
“I am very excited about some of the young faces that are going to bring new perspectives and new parts of British Columbia that will be at our table, some for the first time in decades, and that will give me an embarrassment of riches, as they say,” Horgan hinted Sunday.
Recalling the legislature
There is no official timeline for the legislature to be recalled, but MLAs could be back in Victoria before Christmas.
Horgan said he was eager to get back to work and get started on several legislative priorities, election promises among them.
But asked Sunday whether the government would be able to get to work fast enough to distribute the $1,000/$500 pandemic financial assistance he’d promised for British Columbians, he offered no guarantees.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get back into the legislature, but I don’t want to make a promise I’m not going to be able to keep,” Horgan said.
“We’ll have to see how long it takes to finalize the count.”