It seems speculation that a provincial election will be held this year simply will not go away.
Pundits and columnists keep talking about it. Political activists keep insisting it could happen at any time. And, of course, the political parties are using this chatter for effective fundraising purposes.
Allow me to scotch all that talk with some political realities that clash with those theories. Here then, are my Top 10 reasons why there will not be an election this year:
1. The premier’s own credibility would take a hit. He is on record as saying he will not call an early election (as he told us during our year-end interview on Global TV). Perhaps more tellingly, he also told me “we’re at the halfway point” of their mandate.
2. The NDP-Green alliance is much more stable than many people realize. Even a change at the top of the Green Party leadership is not going to change that. The three sitting Green MLAs seem quite content with the role they play in the legislature and the occasional successes they can point at. Plus, there is no guarantee any of them face an easy road to re-election, which makes taking down the government a dubious prospect at best (and there is only one or two confidence votes, both occurring before a new Green leader is elected, so even if the new leader wants to take down the NDP that could not happen until the spring of 2021).
3. In any case, the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) between the NDP and the Greens specifically guarantees the Greens will support the NDP in confidence votes “for four years” and that period expires in May 2021 (not this year). While not a legal document, any breach of it for naked political purposes would damage the credibility of one or both parties.
4. Voters dislike contrived elections, which is how many would view a snap election call by Horgan. They may take out that dislike on the party that caused one (and he’s likely mindful that another B.C. NDP premier – Dave Barrett – called an early election and met a disastrous result).
5. Elections cost money – lots of it – and new fundraising restrictions have greatly reduced political parties’ war chests. It costs the two major parties about $7 million each to wage a modern election campaign, so they need a few more $1 million pay cheques from the taxpayers.
6. No vision or platform in sight. The NDP can hardly run on the “affordability” theme again, since life is not that much more affordable since the last election. In addition, the party has not been in power long enough to show a substantive track record to put in front of voters.
7. The NDP caucus does not want an early election call. I’m pretty sure the 13 rookie MLAs elected in 2017 don’t want to risk early retirement without much to show for it, and the veteran MLAs who remember all too well their long days in the Opposition wilderness don’t want to risk an early return there. A number of veteran cabinet ministers love quoting the old political adage “the worst day in government is better than the best day in Opposition” to me.
8. There is no evidence the electoral map has loosened up enough for the NDP to be confident of an election victory. The party won two seats (Maple Ridge-Mission and Courtenay-Comox) by less than 500 votes in 2017, and may be hard-pressed to keep them in the fold come the next vote (if they can’t, the B.C. Liberals would likely win the election). Things are that tight.
9. The NDP needs more time to rebuild its credibility in ridings outside of Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. The forestry crisis has contributed to a likely decline in NDP fortunes among voters in those seats.
10. John Horgan is simply having too much fun being premier. I have covered nine premiers in my career and have to say I’ve never seen any of them enjoy the job as much as Horgan does. He is going to ride this horse as long as he can.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.