John Horgan’s B.C. NDP is the second provincial incumbent to win a majority in a pandemic election

With BC’s provincial election coming to a close this Saturday, British Columbians have voted in wide support of Premier John Horgan’s government, handing the NDP a projected 55-seat majority out of a total 87 districts.

The big win for the NDP is historic, making Horgan the province’s first two-term NDP Premier. Premier Horgan’s stock was as high as it would realistically get when he called the snap election earlier this fall. Consistently polling as one of, and at some points the most popular of Canada’s Premiers, this snap election could be seen a mile away. A tight minority in which the BC NDP was propped up by the provincial Greens, was won in 2017, and with this mandate, Horgan has delivered on about 79% of the campaign promises made just three years ago.

Since calling a snap election on September 21st, Horgan and his NDP have been campaigning rather quietly in comparison to opposition BC Liberals and Greens, the latter of which had only just elected their new leader, Sonia Furstenau the week prior. Despite the Greens only winning 3 seats in the legislature, their presence at all provides another option for progressive voters in BC, keeping the NDP in check so as not to lose significant numbers to them.

The centre-right BC Liberals however, stumbled into this election really without any path to a win. Crises like the pandemic invoke calls for stability and consistency in leadership, effectively denying a transfer of power in such uncertain circumstances. Liberal leader, Andrew Wilkinson, really couldn’t muster much of any effort to challenge Horgan’s incumbent stature. Although, whether this was because the effort and resources weren’t worth it or because Wilkinson just didn’t have it in him is an issue that will likely be resolved among BC Liberals themselves, potentially resulting in a leadership change in the coming weeks or months.

Despite the big win, the NDP still hasn’t been able to break through the regional divide in the province, with most of their seats won coming from Vancouver districts as well as the Islands and other coastal districts. With the BC Liberals still dominating the interior of the province, John Horgan said this: “I’m going to have to have to do some more work, clearly, to get to those communities. Having a majority government will allow me to get out of Victoria. I’ve been tied in the legislature for big chunks of the year, and I’ll be able to travel now more freely to other parts of British Columbia and be the spokesperson for the issues that we’re bringing forward that will benefit rural British Columbia.” Even with a landslide victory, Horgan and his NDP remain focussed on bringing rural voters into their coalition of support.

The BC NDP has now solidified itself as the main political force in their provincial political sphere. Further, this win puts the province as the only one to be comfortably governed by the NDP, and the only NDP provincial government to be re-elected since Manitoba’s NDP were last in power in 2016. This places British Columbia in a place where it has been said that Canadians have known it was heading for quite some time now. As the head of progressive politics in Canada, British Columbia now boasts some influence on the national stage, being the only province with a functional and stable NDP government, it may have the reach to be able to direct Canadian progressivism at large.

For generations, Canadian politics has been dictated by rather conformist Liberal and Conservative parties, and while the NDP has risen and fallen to and from relevance on a provincial scale, Horgan’s stability, unlike that of NDP governments in the recent past, is something that has potential to spread. Granted, the need for that very same stability that brought the BC NDP a second term will likely block other provincial NDP parties from making similar strides in the foreseeable future. Despite that though, while Jagmeet Singh’s political games with Prime Minister Trudeau in Ottawa have garnered much criticism especially among NDP voters themselves, John Horgan’s leadership in BC is something that many of the party’s supporters undoubtedly dream of having represent them on the federal stage as well.

Overall, the Horgan majority was not a surprise of any sort, but now that it is relatively solidified, even though the finalized count will be completed next month, British Columbia has officially entered a new era of politics. The centre-right Liberals have really been crippled in comparison to their position just three years ago, despite still remaining as the official opposition. It is just one of those times for the Liberals where a new platform and party overhaul at large are needed to regain significant relevance. Now that they’ve shut themselves out of important decision making for at least the next four years, the party has nothing but time at this point. They would do well to not waste any of it and to get started on rebranding from the inside-out and re-appealing to the British Columbian electorate as soon as possible.

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