Almost one week into the B.C. provincial election race, many voters are just starting to realize that a campaign is underway. After the snap election call was made last Monday only a few signs have gone up (for the most part, these are signs kept from the 2017 race acting as stand-ins while new ones are produced) and there has been some media and social media attention. Overall, however, the parties still seem to be in warm-up mode.
The reality of campaigning in a time of COVID combined with the sudden election call means the parties have not been able to hit the ground running in quite the same way as previous elections. Candidates are still being nominated and campaign teams firmed up. These challenges (amongst others) were covered by Lori Culbert in the Vancouver Sun, which you can read by clicking here. You’ll call me biased, but I also strongly recommend an article by her colleague Rob Shaw (for reasons that will become obvious).
The pace of the campaign will speed up as we head into week two. Expect the BC NDP, BC Liberals, and BC Greens to find their rhythm and start rolling out more substantive policies and promises, not to mention their full slates of candidates. October 2nd is the Elections BC deadline for candidate lists to be finalized.
As always, your H+K team here in B.C. will be watching developments closely to provide you with up-to-date information and analysis of how this election will impact your organization.
Criticizing the Call
Arguably, the biggest issue of the campaign’s first week was why there we are even in a campaign in the first place. Premier John Horgan’s decision to ask the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve parliament and send voters to the polls has put the BC NDP on the defensive. Political reporters asked about little else during news conferences and both the BC Liberals and BC Greens piled onto that theme in their attacks. All of this culminated in what some have suggested was an ill-advised appearance by John Horgan on Global BC on Friday morning where he faced tough questions about the election and his decision to call it.
The Ballot’s in the Mail
With COVID-19 safety concerns hanging over this election campaign, Elections BC is making it easy for people to vote by mail. British Columbians seem to be embracing this option and more than 200,000 people had requested mail-in ballots by Friday afternoon. This is in contrast to the 6,500 people in total who voted by mail in the 2017 election. Some are predicting up to 35 per cent of all ballots could be cast by mail, which could delay the final election result in a number of ridings as these votes won’t be counted until November 6. If you haven’t done so already, click here to request a mail-in ballot.
Just as it did in 2017, housing and affordability will be key election issues for urban and suburban voters. John Horgan and the BC NDP used several campaign stops this week as well as a speech to the Union of BC Municipalities to highlight actions they have taken on both fronts over the past three years and promised to continue to make these issues priorities. Meanwhile, Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals have pledged to cancel the NDP’s vacant homes and speculation taxes if they are elected. Wilkinson also visited businesses harmed by their proximity to homeless shelters bought by the NDP government but offered no concrete solutions about what he would do differently if elected.
Public polls are interesting. They are also often wrong. So we would urge you to look at the polls as just one piece of the puzzle, not the whole picture. That said, there were a couple of interesting polls out this week that might be of interest. An Insights West online survey conducted September 22 and 23 found that although the majority (58 per cent) of British Columbians don’t want this pandemic election, the NDP’s decision to call doesn’t seem to have had a major impact on their public support. Another online survey released by Research Co. had the horserace a little bit tighter, but with the NDP still out ahead. You can click on the links above to see those polls for yourself or take a look at the CBC’s comprehensive poll tracker that goes beyond the individual surveys to focus on the overall trends.
What to Watch for this Week
None of the major parties have released their campaign platforms yet. However, we can expect to start hearing much more substantive policy announcements leading to full platform rollouts within the next couple of weeks. The BC Greens have already said that their promises will focus primarily on issues of inequality, while the BC Liberals have signaled a campaign emphasis on rebooting B.C.’s economy as well as issues centered around community safety, homelessness, and infrastructure. The NDP is expected to continue to highlight their record of accomplishments over the past three years, the challenges they inherited from the BC Liberals, and the need for strong leadership to rebuild a greener, more people-centric economy.