BC’s provincial election race shifted out of first gear over the past week with significant policy announcements that moved the campaign beyond the debate over why there is an election in the first place.

Week 2 began with an attention-grabbing announcement by Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals: a $10 billion pledge to eliminate the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) for one year to help stimulate the economy, then moving it to 3% the next year.

Meanwhile, BC Green party leader, Sonia Furstenau, continued her attacks on the NDP’s early election call and betrayal of their confidence and supply agreement. However, the race’s mainstream media narrative has moved away from that controversial decision, and recent polling shows the NDP’s wide-margin lead is mostly unchanged from before the writ drop.

John Horgan and the NDP focused their week on a series of good news campaign pledges around building schools, affordable housing, support for post-secondary students, and finally, a commitment to make BC Carbon Neutral by 2050. At the same time, NDP candidates and supporters stepped up attacks on Wilkinson and the BC Liberals, particularly regarding the party’s well-publicized missteps on LGBTQ issues.

All in all, this week saw a new election dynamic develop between the NDP and BC Liberals – one where the opposition party found itself on the defensive, with the governing party aggressively taking up a prosecutorial position in the race. It will be interesting to watch as Horgan works to keep his team in offensive mode.

Candidate lists are now final, and the stage is set for the campaign’s first (and perhaps only) televised leaders debate coming up on October 13th.

As always, your H+K BC team is here to keep you aware and informed on the latest from the campaign trail and what it means for your business or organization. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or for further information.

Campaigns Matter – But Polls Remain Consistent
Recent history has taught us not to put too much stock into public polling, given their predictions often don’t align with how the final votes tally up. But, looking at recent polls from a macro perspective, they do provide us with an interesting snapshot of continued NDP dominance in the campaign — at least so far. The Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer column on Saturday had a good look at the polls and the potential impact of the high number of undecided voters still potentially available to be swayed by all parties.

PST Pledge – Did it Hit the Mark?
For months, observers both inside and outside the BC Liberal Party have recommended that Andrew Wilkinson put forward bold policy ideas to demonstrate how his government would differ from the BC NDP. Last Monday, he certainly did just that when he announced a promise to give British Columbians a one-year holiday from paying Provincial Sales Tax on almost all goods and services and then another year or more with the PST rate being cut in half. The campaign pledge’s provincial revenue loss would add up to approximately $10 billion over two years. While the move certainly grabbed much-needed headlines for the BC Liberal leader, it remains to be seen if the promise will sway voters in any meaningful way, as noted by Gary Mason from the Globe and Mail in a column last Tuesday. This election “Hail Mary pass” might have missed the mark for what British Columbians are looking for in 2020. Critics have called the move “desperate,” and the NDP has pointed out that a tax cut won’t build schools, house the homeless, or improve transit.

NDP Pledges Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050
After British Columbians spent yet another week looking at blue skies through the haze of wildfire smoke thanks to worsening fire seasons, the NDP ended week two in Squamish with a pledge to legislate targets to make BC carbon neutral by 2050. This announcement builds on a previous move by the NDP Government to mandate all new vehicle sales in the province be zero-emission options by 2040. However, BC Green Party Leader, Sonia Furstenau was quick to weigh in on the NDP’s promise, criticizing what she says was a lack of detail and questioning how the NDP hopes to achieve such a target when also encouraging high-emitting industrial projects, such as LNG.

Candidate Call Closed – Only NDP/BC Liberals Running Full Slate
This past Friday, Elections BC finalized the list of approved candidates to be on the ballot on October 24th. The NDP and BC Liberals are the only two parties running a full slate of candidates in all 87 ridings. The BC Greens deserve credit for their effort to quickly coordinate candidates in 74 of 87 ridings despite the snap election call mere days after their new leader, Sonia Furstenau was selected. You can see the full list and totals by party here. The wildcard here is that while the BC Conservative Party is only running 19 candidates, their presence could draw support away from BC Liberals in crucial ridings, giving the NDP a route to victory in unexpected places. One only needs to look back to 2017 to see the BC Conservatives’ impact in Courtenay Comox. The BC Conservatives gained more than 2000 votes in a riding the NDP won by just 200 votes. Had the Conservative candidate not been on the ballot in that one riding, the BC political landscape would look very different today.

Community Concerns – The Rising Campaign Prominence of Safety and Homelessness 
Mayors from 13 cities came together last week, calling on all provincial party leaders to provide real solutions to the crises of homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction. The call came from the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus, which includes the mayors of urban centres such as Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Prince George, Kelowna, Victoria, and Nanaimo. The mayors say these issues have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic creating street disorder problems in communities across the province. The BC Liberals responded to the call with a pledge to eliminate the tent cities causing issues for many communities. The NDP used the Mayors’ call to highlight actions they have already taken to provide thousands of additional supportive housing spaces and a plan to further those investments.

What Ahead – Week 3 
We expect to see the full party platform from the BC Liberals and possibly the NDP and Greens this week. All parties will likely continue to announce key plans in the days to come. Today the NDP announced that drivers will receive an ICBC COVID rebate cheque at the end of the insurance corporation’s fiscal year, the BC Liberals announced a $7,000 annual tax credit to help seniors stay in their homes and a $1-billion plan to replace and upgrade care homes, and the Greens announced a grant program for low and moderate-income renters. The BC Liberals also announced they would put Surrey’s transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force on hold and put it to a referendum. All in all, a busy start to what could be a pivotal week three of the campaign heading towards election day on October 24th.