NDP leader John Horgan made his first campaign stop Tuesday in a tightly contested North Vancouver constituency, promising further expansion of primary health care centres and defending his decision to call an election a year before his minority government mandate expires.
Horgan acknowledged the co-operation between the NDP and B.C. Liberals on emergency spending and restrictions since March, but argued that co-operation slipped away as a crucial budget vote approaches next spring. He said the imminent defeat of two proposed laws introduced this summer, and the retirement of former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, made him decide to call an election for Oct. 24.
“The level of contempt, the level of acrimony between the parties struck me as, at some point will no longer be sufficient to make sure we were all focused on the people of British Columbia,” Horgan said Sept. 22. “The prospect of coming to budget time in February, and having a confidence vote and having to be forced into an election in February and March, was something that I didn’t believe was in the best interests of British Columbians. I felt that now was the time to do this.”
New B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau said she met with Horgan on Friday (Sept. 18), and assured him that she and fellow Green MLA Adam Olsen still support the minority government agreement that contained an explicit promise not to call an early vote before October 2021.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson kicked off his campaign saying Horgan is trying to protect employment for NDP MLAs.
Another factor cited by Horgan was the pending retirement of seven NDP MLAs, including the current finance, forests and Indigenous relations ministers, along with a group of B.C. Liberal veterans. One of those, former Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies, has already retired, giving the NDP an extra vote in the B.C. legislature for up to six months.
“So it seemed to me that the time to renew our legislature was now,” Horgan said. “Fifteen or more MLAs not focused on their constituents, as much as they’ve all worked very hard over the years, means that there are gaps in the representation of our province. And the time to fix that is now, at the front end of the pandemic, not in the middle of it.”
Horgan promised that a re-elected NDP government would open 10 more urgent and primary care centres in B.C. communities, bringing doctors and health support staff under a single roof to replace the traditional family practice model that has left many people without a regular doctor. The NDP says there are 21 urgent care centres open or under construction, taking pressure off hospital emergency rooms dealing with pandemic cases on top of the regular acute-care demand.
His initial stop in the unscheduled election campaign was with North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma, the first NDP member elected on the North Shore in 25 years.