Last night saw an extraordinary shift in British Columbia politics with Premier John Horgan and the BC NDP securing a strong majority mandate in what many deemed a risky snap election call in the middle of a pandemic. This marks the first time in B.C.’s political history that a sitting NDP Premier has been re-elected.

BC NDP BC Liberal BC Green
2020 Election 55 29 3
Seat Change from 2017 Election +14 -14 Even

Here are the highlights based on preliminary Elections BC numbers:

  • The NDP took 55 seats, a gain of 14 seats over their 2017 election showing, with the majority of those gains coming in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
  • The BC Liberals, under the faltering leadership of Andrew Wilkinson, saw a significant reduction in support, winning only 29 seats, down 14 from the 2017 results. This includes the loss of seats in traditionally very safe ridings for the party – more on that below.
  • The BC Greens maintained a three-seat result in the preliminary vote counting. Sonia Furstenau’s party achieved an important beachhead by picking up the previously-BC Liberal riding of West Vancouver – Sea to Sky, their first win outside of Vancouver Island.

You can find a good summary of the election night results from reporter Rob Shaw of the Vancouver Sun by clicking here.

While the BC NDP remains on the government side of the BC Legislature, there will be several new faces on both sides of the aisle.  With a number of MLAs who chose not to run again, and a number of incumbents not re-elected, there are set to be 27 new people sworn in once the election results are finalized. The B.C. Legislature class of 2020 will include approximately 40% women, nearly 10% of all MLAs will be under the age of 40, three Indigenous persons, and 16 persons of colour. Of note, NDP MLA-elect Aman Singh in Richmond – Queensborough will be the first turbaned Sikh in the Legislature.

It is hard not to overstate the political landscape shift that culminated with last night’s result. Even though there 1.1 million votes from mail-in ballots and advance polls still to be counted, it is unlikely the final seat numbers will change enough to affect the election outcome. This leaves a lot of room for the NDP to execute its comprehensive election platform. It will also result in some very tough conversations and soul searching for the BC Liberals in terms of how they will reposition and rebuild over the next four years while holding the NDP government to account amidst a dire economic situation.

As always, your H+K Team is here to talk through the implications of the results for your organization and to answer any further questions that you might have as we navigate the next few weeks until we have a final result later in November.

Horgan’s Gambit Pays Off
In an election like no other, where one of the biggest issues was whether we should even be having an election, there is no question that Premier John Horgan’s gamble to call a snap election a year early paid off in spades. This is the BC NDP’s best ever election result, and the first time a BC NDP Premier has ever been re-elected. The additional 14 seats in the legislature and a number of new faces elected in previously held seats gives Horgan new faces and new energy for the term ahead. His next step will be to appoint a cabinet while keeping everyone in caucus feeling happy and included – a task that becomes much more difficult given the larger size of his team.

In his election night remarks and then again speaking to media today, Horgan says he will be back at work on Monday and is committed to continuing to focus on helping people get through the pandemic, ensuring British Columbians have the services they need and charting a course for pandemic recovery.

Traditional Party Ridings No More
One of the most remarkable things in watching last night’s results was seeing traditionally safe BC Liberal ridings in play and then taken by the NDP or, in one case, by the Greens. The orange wave swept Richmond, the North Shore, parts of Surrey, and the traditional BC Liberal bedrocks of Langley and Chilliwack.

In a number of these cases, strong showings by the BC Conservative Party and BC Green Party influenced the voter dynamics, but in other cases, changing demographics and the impact of COVID-19 shifted voter priorities.

BC Liberal Collapse – Wilkinson’s Leadership All but Done
Without a dramatic shift in the final vote count, Election 2020 handed the BC Liberals their worst electoral showing since 1991. While they held all but one seat in traditional BC Liberal strongholds of the north and B.C. interior, the party lost traditionally safe seats and was largely shut out of Metro Vancouver.

As it stands with the election night numbers, the BC Liberals were also completely shut out of Vancouver Island. However, the Party is optimistic that Michelle Stilwell will keep her Parksville – Qualicum seat once a large number of advance and mail-in ballots are counted there.

Andrew Wilkinson briefly addressed the media with a short statement but did not concede defeat. It wasn’t until late this afternoon that Wilkinson called John Horgan to offer congratulations and concede the election. Although candidates and most party faithful are willing to give Wilkinson a short window time to reflect on the results and his own future with the BC Liberals. There is a strong feeling that Wilkinson has no viable path to stay on as leader, particularly given his handling of key election and pre-election issues and the role those stumbles may have played in the results.

BC Greens Gain on the Mainland
While they didn’t add to their 2017 seat count, the BC Green Party did better than expected in this election, largely due to the charisma of newly-elected party leader Sonia Furstenau. Under her leadership, the party was able to keep their existing two seats on Vancouver Island and picked up their first seat on the mainland with a win in West Vancouver – Sea to Sky.

What We Don’t Yet Know
There is still much to be determined following last night’s preliminary results. While we do not expect a dramatic shift in the final numbers, it is entirely possible that a few seats will shift once the 1.1 million mail-in and advance voting ballots are counted starting on November 6.

Currently, Elections BC is slated to have all results finalized and the writs of election returned by November 16; however, they have already said that the high number of mail-in ballots may delay that. Of course, if races remain tight, there could also be the potential for recounts or even judicial recounts, which would delay things even further.

But as those additional votes are tallied, we are watching four ridings in particular, which either have the potential to flip or where there is currently a margin of victory of 2% or less. This includes:

  • Parksville Qualicum
  • Vernon Monashee
  • Richmond South Centre, and
  • Abbotsford Mission.

What’s Next for Government Decision-Making
John Horgan told media before election day that an NDP-led legislature would reconvene as soon as possible in order to deliver on BC NDP campaign promises, like the COVID-19 relief cash. However. today he said he is not sure he will be able to recall the legislature this fall, given the need to allow Elections BC time to finalize the results.

While the counting of mail-in ballots cannot begin until Friday, November 6, and finalized elections results are not expected from Elections BC before Monday, November 16, the BC NDP’s significant majority means that while Horgan can begin with plans to form government, his powers will be limited until MLAs are sworn in, and a new Cabinet is appointed.

Once a new Cabinet is appointed, we expect public servants will begin their regular decision-making processes, guided by new mandate letters and priorities, many of which will come directly from the BC NDP’s election platform.

The new Minister of Finance is expected to table a fiscal update before the end of the year. Once a fall legislative session and fiscal update are complete, government’s attention will shift to preparation for a Speech from the Throne on Tuesday, February 9, and Budget on Tuesday, February 16.