Sonia Furstenau is new B.C. Green Party Leader

The B.C. Green Party announced today that Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau won the party’s leadership race, triggered when MLA Andrew Weaver stepped aside to sit as an independent MLA in October 2019.

Ms. Furstenau ran on a traditional Green platform focused on the need to improve the resilience of communities and protect natural resources, including policies like universal childcare, and livable wages, demand and supply-side affordable housing measures, and the promise of consultations on a four-day work week.

From her early political advocacy to protect Cowichan Valley watersheds to her inaugural speech as leader today where she slammed Premier Horgan for floating the idea of an early election, she has a reputation as a thoughtful grassroots advocate guided by a clear understanding of the issues, but with a lower profile than former leader Andrew Weaver.

Ms. Furstenau’s win adds yet another dynamic to the already rampant speculation about the potential for an early election in British Columbia – potentially as soon as late October or early November.

Your Hill+Knowlton B.C. Team will continue to monitor these and other issues to keep you informed as we head towards a fall, spring, or scheduled election date in British Columbia.

Fall election speculation continues
At an unrelated news conference this morning Premier John Horgan was grilled by reporters seeking a yes-or-no response to questions about the prospect of a fall election. Without directly answering those questions, the Premier echoed his previous comments about the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) between the Greens and NDP having already accomplished most of what it’s set out to do, noting that within the context of a global pandemic, the agreement no longer provides the same kind of forward-looking approach that it did when signed in 2017.

The announcement of a new B.C. Green Party leader – the third since the CASA was signed – also provides B.C. NDP supporters with the ability to say that the document is no longer relevant today. It should be noted that although MLA Furstenau was on the B.C. Green Party negotiating panel that reached that CASA agreement with the NDP back in 2017, it was very much the personal relationship and dynamic between former leader Andrew Weaver and John Horgan that both pushed that deal across the finish line and has maintained it until this point.

Pre-election style announcements
The B.C. NDP made several recent high-profile candidate announcements and ramped up fundraising and Facebook advertising over the past weeks, suggesting that even though the Premier will make the final decision, the party does not intend to give even the slightest early advantage to the B.C. Liberals.

Government money and announcements have been flowing freely as well, with government announcing new regional spending as well as billion-dollar investments in the health care system. An announcement on the province’s COVID-19 economic stimulus spending is expected in the days to come, which could provide the Premier with the opportunity to say government requires a new mandate while showing how a future NDP government would make priorities. Expect to see Premier Horgan making the case for re-electing a B.C. NDP Government when he delivers the keynote address at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Convention next week.

How soon could an election take place?
If a general election were called this week, voting could take place as early as October 17, with possible voting dates each on Saturdays that follow, according to a document posted on Elections BC’s website. However, given the NDP’s plans to roll out their economic recovery plans as well as the upcoming UBCM convention taking place virtually next week, it is widely felt that the more likely dates for a Fall election, should one be called, would be in early November.

Looking at other provinces
If Horgan and the NDP want to see a test run of the impact of holding a provincial election during a pandemic, they may get it in New Brunswick. Voters in that province are voting today after N.B. Premier and PC Party leader Blaine Higgs recently called a snap election following unsuccessful discussions with opposition leaders to maintain his party’s previous minority government status. If Higgs still manages to gain a majority despite voter unhappiness with an early election call amidst COVID, it would provide a relevant example for Horgan and the NDP’s consideration.