British Columbia needs a government with a majority mandate to face the province’s health and economic challenges during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NDP Leader John Horgan said Wednesday.
Horgan has been leading a minority government for more than three years, but he said the NDP wants a majority so that it can govern without worrying about its survival.
Horgan spent much of a campaign stop Wednesday in the crucial political battleground of Surrey defending his decision to call a snap election earlier this week.
“A lot of people have asked me over the past couple of days: ‘Why now?'” said Horgan. “I’ll remind everyone it’s been three-and-a-half years since the last election, and we have been in a minority situation where at any time the government could have fallen at the whims of a handful of members of the legislature.”
BC’s election was set for October 2021 under BC’s fixed election law, but Horgan called an early vote for October 24.
The NDP had an agreement to govern with the Green party since the 2017 election, but Horgan said the deal started showing signs of instability in the legislature this summer. He said the government had to set aside proposed mental health legislation that would have permitted officials to place youth with substance abuse issues involuntarily into care for a week. Horgan said the government was not able to secure the Green votes needed to pass the legislation, which was also publicly opposed by the coroners’ service, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the representative for children and youth.
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Green Leader Sonia Furstenau, who has called Horgan’s decision to call an early election irresponsible and unnecessary, said the agreement the Greens had with the NDP did not mean obedience to the governing party.
Furstenau said Monday she spoke with Horgan prior to the election and told him the Greens were committed to a stable government over the next year.
The NDP and BC Liberals were tied with 41 seats each when the legislature was dissolved. The Greens hold two seats, there were two Independents and one seat was vacant.
Horgan said he wants the certainty of a majority during uncertain times. “None of us contemplated a global pandemic three-and-a-half years ago,” he said. “I believe the people of BC want me to focus on today and tomorrow, not yesterday.”
Horgan said the election is about continuing the NDP’s goals to make life more affordable for people and having the stability to address the serious issues facing the province.
“The challenges before us are grave,” he said. “They are very important and we need to make sure that we have stability to address them.”