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Posted: September 27, 2020

Premier Horgan is gambling on a dangerous course

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

Politics is a nasty business.

I don’t have to tell you that. Just look down south and keep in mind the worst is yet to come. But here in Canada we tend to be smug about American politics when we have no reason for smugness at all given the state of our own politics. Let me explain.

Little more than a week ago, a provincial election was held in New Brunswick. Now Premier John Horgan has called an election for Oct. 24 and thanks to the machinations of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau we could be enduring a federal election in the dead of winter before the year is out.

There’s only one reason political leaders call an election. They think they can win.

In Trudeau’s case, he could lose a non-confidence motion and justifiably say he had no choice. But with Horgan it’s pure political opportunism. He has a signed agreement of support from the Green Party and is riding high in the polls, so he’s decided that a trivial matter like a COVID-19 pandemic is not going to stop him.

That’s what you call naked opportunism.

As I said earlier, politics is a nasty business. And what makes it even worse this time around is the current spate of elections is happening in the middle of a world-wide pandemic which makes it next to impossible to hold an election properly and makes voting itself a possible life or death proposition.

Politics like this is far more than nasty. It’s cynical and crude, but apparently that’s the way it is in Canadian politics now. Remember what I said about our smug, self-righteous attitude towards American politics? Keep in mind they have a constitution that mandates set election days and they vote on those days come hell or high water. In Canada the federal government and some provinces have mandated elections days too.

But both Prime Minister Trudeau and other provincial premiers feel free to ignore the rules they set themselves and that includes Premier Horgan.

Despite all the safeguards that can be taken including mail-in ballots, wearing a mask and election officials wearing personal protective clothing at the polls, voting in a pandemic is not exactly a walk in the park. The same can be said for campaigning by the candidates and the gargantuan task for election officials to make the act of voting as safe as possible for voters.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it next to impossible to hold live election forums, stage debates or allow candidates go door-to-door. The result will be more gaudy political signs littering the streets and countryside.

And who will this favour, especially in a snap election? The incumbent party, of course, which already has the most candidates ready to go and in the case of their MLAs can even re-use their signs from the previous election. As a result, those opposed to the party in power go into this election with one hand tied behind their backs.

But what I’m saying shouldn’t necessarily be seen as an attack on Premier Horgan or the NDP. Calling a snap election is perfectly legal and not that unusual in the Canadian political tradition. And I agree with those who say if a different party was in power its leader would probably do the same thing. But there is a pandemic on folks and living through it is hard enough without trying to get through something as divisive as a provincial election.

According to some polls, Premier Horgan is the most popular provincial premier in Canada. I’ve been impressed with the job he’s done myself. But being a battered and beaten old political curmudgeon, my memory of B.C. politics goes back to Ancient Times like 1975 when Dave Barrett, the first NDP premier in B.C. history, called a snap election and was promptly defeated. Voters don’t like snap elections and as much as Premier Horgan may lust to gain a majority this may not be the best way to do it.

In pursuing a majority at all costs, Horgan is taking a big gamble. He’s forgotten the old cliché – “be careful of what you wish for.”

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist who is seldom as careful as he should be.

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