UPDATE 11:25 a.m.
British Columbians will be going to the polls October 24, pandemic or no pandemic.
Premier John Horgan confirmed Monday what had been speculated for the past two weeks: That he will capitalize on his high approval rating, and the weakness of the Greens and Liberals, to secure a majority for his NDP government.
He said he has met with the lieutenant governor this morning and received assent to call a general election.
"I want everyone to know I have struggled mightily with this decision, and it did not come easy to me," Horgan said.
He cited the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to address it, as one of the reasons for calling an early election.
"This pandemic will be with us for a year or more, and that's why I believe we need to have an election now," Horgan said. "We can either delay that decision and create uncertainty and instablility over the next 12 months -- more speculation, more talk about what might be -- or we can do what I believe is always the right thing and that's ask British Columbians what they think."
Horgan's NDP did not win the last election. The party won fewer seats than the BC LiberaIs, but Horgan was able to convince the lieutenant governor that he could form government, with the help of the Green Party's three members, who signed a confidence and supply agreement that allowed the NDP to govern.
In calling a snap election, Horgan is violating B.C.'s fixed election statute. In 2001, the former BC Liberal government enshrined fixed election dates into the Constitution Act. The next provincial election should be held in October, 2021.
The Horgan government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in high approval ratings, so Horgan is no doubt banking on that to secure a majority, and free his government from the Green Party's influence.
The Greens are currently down to two sitting MLAs, as former Green Party leader Andrew Weaver now sits as an independent and is not seeking re-election.
As "Machiavellian" as Horgan's snap election may seem, Richard Johnston, political science professor at University of BC, thinks Horgan stands a good chance of winning a majority, partly because of the weakness of both the Green Party in general and BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.
"The Greens have all along been a kind of a fake party," Johnston said. "They just caught some breaks this time. The Liberals have disappeared from view, and their return to visibility may not help them very much because Wilkinson just doesn't seem to have the jam.
"It's cynical today, but once the election begins, he has a record to run on, and the others don't particularly."
He added, however, that, at least federally, the record of snap election calls has not been good to incumbents. In general, frontrunners lose ground in snap elections, he said.
However, he added that Horgan's track record before the pandemic is generally strong.
"The NDP have strength in their case, generally, even before the pandemic, in the sense that they governed competently," Johnston said. "John Horgan was certainly not Glen Clark."
The NDP will need to field a lot of new candidates in short order, as roughly a dozen NDP MLAs have announced they will not seek re-election, including about half a dozen cabinet ministers.
— Nelson Bennett, BIV
ORIGINAL 9:50 a.m.
Premier John Horgan is expected to call a fall election today.
He will speak with media at 11 a.m. following a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin where he will request the Legislature be dissolved and an election called.
“Premier John Horgan will address how British Columbians deserve a say in our economic recovery and will decide the future of our province,” the BC NDP said in a news release.
Voting day will be October 24, according to Elections B.C.
Horgan appears to believe any blowback he receives from voters for sending them to the polls in a pandemic will be mitigated by his soaring approval ratings.
Both Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and new Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau have criticized Horgan in recent weeks over the potential of a snap election.
The provincial government made more than a dozen "announcements" on Sunday — a day when government public affairs offices usually go silent — including new affordable housing units in Kelowna and a new hospital tower in Prince George.
More to come...