BC Election 2020  

B.C. had 234 new cases of COVID-19, one death, in past 24 hours

234 new cases, 1 death

Active cases of COVID-19 once again reached unprecedented levels in British Columbia, as 234 new cases of the virus were identified in the past 24 hours, seven of which came from the Interior. 

The new cases bring the total positive tests in B.C. to 14,109, and active cases to 2,344. An additional 5,716 people are self-isolating under active monitoring after coming into contact with COVID-positive people. There are 89 active cases in the Interior.

Province-wide, 86 people are hospitalized, 24 of whom are being treated in ICU. After a COVID-related death in the Interior Health region this week, no one is currently hospitalized in the region. 

A woman in her 80s died from the virus in the Fraser Health region in the past 24 hours. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the woman contracted the virus after attending a small birthday party with her family, attended by less than 10 people. The majority of the guests at the small family gathering contracted the virus. 

Dr. Henry noted that many of the new cases the province is seeing are a direct result of transmission at social gatherings. She said her new public health order limiting house guests to six means there should be no Halloween parties this weekend. 

Additional outbreaks at four long-term care homes were declared in the past 24 hours, bringing the total outbreaks at long-term care homes to 24, while a single outbreak remains at an acute-care facility. 

Pensions for outgoing MLAs to cost British Columbians $27 million, says Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Outgoing MLAs' payout

Pensions for MLAs defeated in the provincial election or who retired and did not seek re-election will cost B.C. taxpayers more than $27 million.

“While we wish these defeated politicians well as they chart a new career course, taxpayers need to know the cost of these pensions,” said Kris Sims, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “These pensions simply aren’t affordable for taxpayers. Premier John Horgan needs to reform the MLA pension plan.”

Pending the count of mail-in ballots after Saturday’s vote, the CTF calculated the pensions of the nine MLAs who lost their seats in the legislature.

The pensions are calculated by taking MLA's highest earning years, years of service and whether they were a cabinet minister or held any other positions. Annual payments are capped at 70 per cent of their highest earning year.

For every $1 the politicians contribute, taxpayers pay $4, the CTF notes.

“It’s time to end these rich pension schemes,” said Sims. “Most Canadians are lucky if their employer matches a dollar-for-dollar RRSP. There’s no justification for taxpayers to put in $4 for every $1 an MLA chips in.”

In addition, MLAs who are not returning to the legislature are allowed to collect the equivalent of their salaries for up to 15 months while they look for new jobs – plus they get up to $9,000 if they need retraining.

Estimated pension totals for MLAs who were defeated:

  • Joan Isaacs, MLA – ineligible due to less than six years in office.
  • Jas Johal, MLA – ineligible due to less than six years in office.
  • Mary Polak, Former Cabinet Minister – estimated $80,000 per year and $1.9 million lifetime.
  • Sam Sullivan, Former Cabinet Minister – estimated $28,000 per year and $680,000 lifetime.
  • Laurie Throness, MLA – estimated $28,000 per year and $702,000 lifetime.
  • John Martin, MLA – estimated $28,000 per year and $695,000 lifetime.
  • Jane Thornthwaite, MLA – estimated $45,000 per year and $1.1 million lifetime.
  • Marvin Hunt, MLA – estimated $27,000 per year and $511,000 lifetime.
  • Jordan Sturdy, MLA – estimated $28,000 per year and $702,000 lifetime. 

Estimated pension totals for MLAs who are retiring:

  • Tracy Redies, B.C. Liberal MLA – ineligible due to less than six years in office.
  • Claire Trevena, NDP Cabinet Minister – estimated $80,000 per year, $1.9 million lifetime.
  • Shane Simpson, NDP Cabinet Minister – estimated $80,000 per year, $1.9 million lifetime.
  • Scott Fraser, NDP Cabinet Minister – estimated $80,000 per year, $1.9 million lifetime.
  • Carole James, NDP Cabinet Minister – estimated $82,000 per year, $2 million lifetime.
  • Michelle Mungall, NDP Cabinet Minister – estimated $58,000 per year, $1.4 million lifetime.
  • Judy Darcy, NDP Cabinet Minister – estimated $37,000 per year, $647,000 lifetime.
  • Doug Donaldson, NDP Cabinet Minister – estimated $58,000 per year, $1.4 million lifetime.
  • Rich Coleman, former B.C. Liberal Cabinet Minister – estimated $109,000 per year, $2.6 million lifetime.
  • Linda Reid, former B.C. Liberal Speaker – estimated $107,000 per year, $2.6 million lifetime.
  • John Yap, former B.C. Liberal Cabinet Minister – estimated $65,000 per year, $1.5 million lifetime
  • Darryl Plecas, Independent Speaker – estimated $38,000 per year, $714,000 lifetime.
  • Andrew Weaver, former Green Party Leader – estimated $31,000 per year, $764,000 lifetime.
  • Donna Barnett, B.C. Liberal MLA – estimated $46,000 per year, $400,000 lifetime.
  • Linda Larson – B.C. Liberal MLA - estimated $29,000 per year, $469,000 lifetime.

New Liberal leader will have to resonate with voters in Metro Vancouver

Letnick: Task was daunting

The next leader of the BC Liberal party will have to figure out why the party is so popular throughout rural B.C. and the interior and not within Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

That, according to Kelowna-Lake Country MLA-elect Norm Letnick, one of the senior statesmen within the Liberal caucus.

The party hopes to find that person as it searches for a new leader to replace Andrew Wilkinson, who announced this week he is stepping down after the Liberals lost ground to the governing NDP in Saturday's provincial election.

"What makes us so strong here and gives us 55 to 60 per cent of the votes and makes us not competitive in most of the ridings around Vancouver, is something the candidates for leader are going to have to convince the members of the party they know what that issue is...or, what the secret sauce is," said Letnick.

He says the person that articulates that best will have a good chance to becoming leader or the party, and the next premier.

But, that person won't be Letnick.

"I think I'm too old. I'm going to be 63 in a month, and I also think geographically, it's a challenge because our support is lacking in Metro Vancouver.

"It would be a very difficult task for someone outside that area to get a lot of popular support in that area."

Letnick said he wouldn't discount anyone from outside the Lower Mainland, such as Kamloops-South Thompson MLA-elect Todd Stone from the leadership, saying he will look at each candidate's credentials regardless of where they reside.

As for a total reboot of the party, Letnick says he has no problem with a name change but, as for new blood or a new direction, he reiterates the party just needs the best person.

"The challenge is what you change it to," he says referring to a name change.

"BC Conservatives is taken, BC Liberals is taken, the BC Party is taken. We've looked at this before and found most of the good names are already taken.

"The other challenge to that is if you vacate a name then somebody else might pick it up and use it. Then you're competing against yourselves."

As for the election itself, Letnick says the task of trying to unseat a popular premier in the middle of a pandemic was daunting at best, adding he can't think of anyone who could have pulled out a victory.

"Andrew put in the work, he put together a team that developed I think, a great platform...one of the best I've ever seen in all my years of politics," said Letnick.

"But, when you're working in a pandemic, people will tend, I believe, to support the status quo that has brought them well to this point."

The party has not yet announced when a leadership race will take place.

Voter turnout in B.C. election sinks to 92-year low

Turnout lowest in 90+ years

Voter turnout in the British Columbia election dropped to just 52.4 per cent, the lowest participation rate in more than 90 years.

Statistics from Elections BC going back to 1928 show the second-lowest voter turnout was 55.14 per cent during the 2009 election.

The elections agency says in a statement the calculation this year includes ballots cast in advanced polls and on election day, as well as estimates of the numbers of absentee and mail-in ballots returned.

It says fewer people voted on election day than those who voted in advanced polls.

While there were more than 700,000 requests for vote-by-mail packages, about 525,000 people returned those ballots in time to be counted.

Elections BC won't be counting the mail-in ballots for several weeks, although the outcome of Saturday's election that delivered the NDP a majority government is not expected to change.

As of last month, there were 3,485,858 registered voters in B.C.

Which BC ridings are most likely to change hands once all ballots are counted

What ridings might flip?

As the votes came in Saturday night, it became clear that an orange wave was sweeping through much of B.C.  

But exactly what this new government will look like is yet to be determined. 

Only 66.6 per cent of the votes were counted on election night, and there are still over half a million mail-in-ballots still to be counted – 28.7 per cent of the votes were mailed in and an additional 4.6 per cent were absentee votes.

Elections BC will have the number of mail-in votes by riding later this week. There are currently 17 ridings with a vote differential of less than 1,000 votes: the Liberals in the lead in eight ridings, the NDP ahead in seven, and the Greens leading in one.

The closest race is in Richmond South Centre, where NDP candidate Henry Yao is beating Liberal candidate Alexa Loo by 124 votes in a riding where it or its predecessor Richmond East has never had an NDP MLA.

Abbotsford-Mission is not the Liberal’s closet race, but the riding’s make-up and meagre lead of only 188 votes means it has the potential to flip.

The closest race for the liberals is Vernon-Monashee, where incumbent Eric Foster holds onto a 180-vote lead. Vernon-Monashee also has a relatively high mail-in ballot request for a rural riding at 16.7 per cent, but as a traditionally safe Liberal riding, it is unlikely to change according to pollster Mario Canseco. 

Despite having a larger vote difference, the riding make up of Abbotsford Mission and Vancouver-Langara combined with the orange wave making its way  through Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley make these seats more likely to flip than Vernon-Monashee or Fraser-Nicola, explains Canseco.

Polling before the election to determine which party is more likely to submit mail-in votes had favoured the BC NDP. According to an Insights West poll in late September, 54 per cent of decided NDP voters were expecting to vote by mail compared to 42 per cent of Liberal voters and 49 per cent of Green voters. This would suggest that the NDP are more likely to win these tight races with the Greens holding an advantage on its 604 vote lead against the Liberals in the West Vancouver-Sea-to-Sky riding.

Even if the Liberals win in all of their tight races, it would only drop the NDP to 48 seats, not enough to challenge its majority.

However, it could drastically impact the type of mandate John Horgan would govern with.

Vote leads of around 1,000 will be difficult for any party to overcome, so it would take a monumental shift in voting intentions between mail-in votes and in person votes for Liberal incumbent Stephanie Cadieux in Surrey South to lose her lead of 1217 votes.

Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Liberals left soul searching

British Columbia's Liberal party should view the election results as a wake-up call from voters who punished the free-enterprise coalition for refusing to renew itself in changing times, say former and current members of the legislature.

The Liberals lost up to a dozen seats and finished a distant second to the New Democrats who will form a majority government.

The election revealed the party's declining support in Metro Vancouver and its failure to recognize the needs of middle-class families, said Jas Johal, who was the Liberal member for Richmond-Queensborough until his defeat in Saturday's election.

The Liberals also must do better when it comes to reflecting and supporting diversity and the rights of LGBTQ-plus people and others, he said in an interview.

"When you think you can convert somebody who is gay to a heterosexual life, I think that's absurd," said Johal, referring to former Liberal Laurie Throness who placed advertisements in a magazine supporting conversion therapy.

Throness quit as the Liberal candidate in Chilliwack Kent during the election after comparing free contraception to eugenics at an all-candidates meeting. He continued to run as an Independent and was trailing NDP rival Kelli Paddon by fewer than 200 votes with mail-in ballots still to be counted.

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count, so the final result in some ridings could change.

Johal said the Liberals chose to lick their wounds after the 2017 election when they should have embraced renewal after winning more seats and votes than the NDP but found themselves out of power when the Greens helped the New Democrats form a minority government.

"So in 2020, B.C. voters inflicted renewal on the party and that's what you're seeing now," he said. "When you lose the amount of seats that we did in what was once solid B.C. Liberal territory, it's a wake-up call. To be very blunt, B.C. voters took us to the back of the barn and gave us a thumping."

Johal's comments came a few hours before Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announced on Monday that he will step down as party leader as soon as a successor is chosen. Wilkinson said his announcement starts the "challenging and exciting process of rebuilding the party."

Mike Bernier, a former Liberal cabinet minister, said the party will have to do a lot of soul searching after Saturday's election defeat.

The Liberals must find ways to keep the party's Liberal and Conservative supporters together to maintain a united front to counter the NDP, he said.

Bernier, who was re-elected in his Peace River South riding, said now may be the time to change the name of the party, which has no affiliation with the federal Liberals.

"In a big part of the province, a lot of the challenges are around the party name," he said, adding that past calls to change the name were not supported by its members.

Bernier said the Liberals were dejected following their loss of power in 2017 and renewal was not being considered, but it will be now.

"We need to look at our policies. We need to look at our vision and we need to look at what we can offer the people of B.C. as an alternative to the NDP," he said.

Johal said the Liberals must examine how they surrendered the urban vote to the NDP over the years.

The NDP won traditional Liberal seats in Vancouver, Surrey and even the Fraser Valley, he noted.

"Those ridings, especially the Fraser Valley, Richmond, that was the wall," Johal said. "That's where our support would never waver and now it has. It speaks to the fundamental need for the party to renew and speak to a new generation of voters."

He said a modern and renewed Liberal party must focus on more than just cutting taxes. It must speak to the needs of people, especially those in Metro Vancouver.

"It can't just all be about sawmills and LNG and an industrial economy," Johal said. "We're not having that broader modern conversation. We've got to start talking that urban language."

Vernon-Monashee hasn't elected an NDP MLA since 1984 - can Harwinder Sandhu change that?

36 years since last NDP win

The voters have spoken – but what did they say? In Vernon-Monashee, that won't be known until mid-November.

With the results of Saturday's provincial election still up in the air in Vernon-Monashee, there's a real possibility the riding could elect an NDP MLA for the first time in more than 30 years.

After the dust settled on Saturday night, three-time incumbent Eric Foster with the BC Liberals had a razor-thin lead on BC NDP challenger Harwinder Sandhu.

The two were separated by just 180 votes – 6,798 for Foster, and 6,618 for Sandhu.

That equals a 35.06-34.13 per cent split in the popular vote, making Vernon-Monashee one of the closest races in all of British Columbia. Only the Richmond South riding was tighter.

With more than half a million mail-in ballots still to be counted across the province, all Sandhu and Foster can do is wait.

Meanwhile, a look back at past elections shows right-of-centre parties have had a lock on the North Okanagan for decades.

The NDP have perennially come in a distant second since the party last elected an NDP candidate in the North Okanagan back in the 1984 byelection.

Foster garnered 47.87 per cent of the vote in the 2017 provincial election, handily beating NDP rival Barry Dorval by more than 5,000 votes.

In 2013, Foster was similarly dominant, with 46.34 per cent of the vote to 34.22 per cent for Mark Olsen.

First elected in 2009, Foster earned a 37.27 per cent share, compared to Olsen's 31.83.

Prior to Foster, the riding, which has changed names from Okanagan-North to Okanagan-Vernon, and now Vernon-Monashee, elected several right-wing candidates.

Those include the BC Liberals' Tom Christensen in 2005 and 2001, and before him, April Sanders in 1996.

Former Vernon mayor Lyall Hanson represented the riding for the Social Credit Party in 1994, 1991, and 1986, serving twice as a cabinet minister, in the Labour and Municipal Affairs portfolios.

So, it's a long way back to 1984, when Lyle MacWilliam last held the riding for the NDP.

MacWilliam ran unsuccessfully in the 1983 provincial election, then was elected in a 1984 byelection following the death of Donald Campbell. MacWilliam held the seat for a single term, losing to Hanson in 1986.

He went on to win the Okanagan-Shuswap federal seat in the 1988 federal election, only to lose it to Darrel Stinson of the Reform Party in 1993.

Foster characterized Saturday's election as "a real nail-biter."

"I feel bad about the provincial results, but this race is so close I'm by no means out of the woods," he said.

Sandhu, a registered nurse at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, ran for the NDP in the 2019 federal election, and also in the 2017 provincial election in the Kelowna-Mission riding.

She's been a longtime volunteer with the NDP both provincially and federally.

"Every vote is important and every vote should be counted," Sandhu said after Saturday's inconclusive result. "I am looking forward to the announcement of the complete results."

Also running in Vernon-Monashee were Keli Westgate with 16.22 per cent of the vote, and BC Conservative Kyle Delfing Conservative with 14.59 per cent.

Vernon Chamber responds to provincial election results

Chamber reacts to election

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce plans to advocate on behalf of the community and their members as the new provincial government forms.

John Horgan and the BC NDP won a preliminary majority government on Saturday, although thousands of mail-in ballots are yet to be counted – including the crucial ballots that will decide the victor of the Vernon-Monashee riding.

"We are eager to work with the government on matters that are extremely important to our members – both
business owners and non-profits – particularly as we continue to navigate the impacts of the global
pandemic," says Chamber president Krystin Kempton. "Specifically, we want to ensure the chamber’s voice is heard as recovery proceeds because the success of business benefits the entire community."

The Chamber has listed a number of issues they will continue to lobby for, which include:

  • Strengthening the forestry sector
  • Supporting the tourism, airport and aviation sectors
  • Balancing regulations that allow businesses to operate while maintaining public health
  • Access to domestic and international workers for agriculture producers and processors
  • Increasing mental health and addiction services
  • Focusing on affordable and accessible child care

"Premier-elect Horgan has indicated a desire to have an inclusive Legislature where diverse views are encouraged, and we would hope that would also include a willingness to work directly with business organizations, specific industries and civic leaders," adds Kempton. "Together, we can build a stronger province."

Richmond BC Liberal expects Andrew Wilkinson won't be leading party come next election

Wilkinson on way out?

BC Liberal candidate Alexa Loo doesn’t expect Andrew Wilkinson to be leading the party over the next few years.

Loo says she’s not calling for him to step down, but she expects someone new to fill his shoes before British Columbians go to the polls again.

“It’s clear we’ll have a leadership race before the next election,” she said.

Loo said she had confidence in Wilkinson while running in the provincial election – the outcome of which is still not clear in Richmond South Centre – but she criticized how her party’s messages were conveyed, for example, the benefit of cutting the PST.

“Andrew Wilkinson is a smart guy and I think he cares about people – somehow that didn’t come through,” Loo said.

Furthermore, Loo said people conflated the successful pandemic response to Premier John Horgan while it was a cross-party effort to combat COVID-19 and its impacts.

“We must have done a bad job explaining (that),” Loo said.

In her riding, Loo received 124 fewer votes than the NDP candidate Henry Yao, but with thousands of mail-in ballots uncounted, that result might change. In Richmond South Centre, 5,925 mail-in ballots were requested, according to Elections BC.

After losing what appears to be about 12 seats in the legislature, BC Liberals need to focus on the economy and the environment and become a “values-based” party, Loo said, with inclusivity, the economy, the environment and B.C’s role as a global player as the focus.

She said it’s time to get rid of social conservative elements in the party. During the campaign, Chilliwack-Kent BC Liberal candidate Laurie Throness was removed from the party after he compared free birth control to eugenics.

“We should be something that people come to, not that people fit into,” Loo said.

John Horgan says he will work across party lines to find ideas that work for B.C.

Wilkinson concedes

Premier John Horgan says his majority New Democrat government is open to exploring new ideas that can help shape British Columbia regardless of their political or geographic origins.

B.C. followed New Brunswick on Saturday, becoming the second province to hold an election during the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters in Saskatchewan go to the polls on Monday.

The NDP's election win in B.C. will see a government guided by strong ideas, not politics, Horgan said Sunday.

"I'll be influenced by good ideas wherever they come from," said Horgan at his first news conference following the election result. "I don't care where an idea comes from, if it makes sense we're going to implement it. That's how I will approach working with all members of the legislature."

More than 500,000 mail-in ballots and 75,000 absentee ballots must still to be counted. But the results on election night gave the NDP 53 seats, the B.C. Liberals 27, and the Greens three. Four ridings remain undecided.

Neither Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson nor the Greens Sonia Furstenau held news conferences on Sunday. Wilkinson did not take questions on Saturday night after making a statement that didn't concede defeat and urged people to be patient in waiting for the final vote count.

On Sunday, Wilkinson sent out a statement on Twitter saying he had spoken to Horgan on the telephone and "congratulated him on his win. The people of B.C. have spoken."

The results show a geographically divided province with Liberal victories in many rural ridings and the NDP winning primarily in urban areas, a division that Horgan acknowledged.

Horgan said now that there is a majority government he plans to spend more time outside of the legislature meeting people across B.C.

"I would have liked to have seen better results in rural B.C.," he said. "I'm going to have to do some more work, clearly, to get to those communities. Clearly, having a majority government will allow me to get out of Victoria."

Horgan credited the NDP win with the party's political vision, saying that mainstream values are New Democrat values.

"People don't think of the world as left and right," he said. "They think of the needs of their family, the needs of their community and I think that's how you build big-tent politics by responding to the needs of people."

But political experts said Horgan's election win was more about the government's handling of the pandemic, which largely involved leaving critical health decisions to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

"I'm not surprised that they got the incumbent COVID-19 bump," said Prof. Kim Speers, a Canadian politics expert at the University of Victoria. "People are tending to vote for the incumbent government if they have done well handling the pandemic."

She said the election result appears to forecast brighter days ahead for the Green party despite winning just three seats, but a period of turmoil and introspection for the Liberals, who lost more than a dozen seats.

"They have four years to figure out who they are, who they want to be," said Speers, who expects Wilkinson to resign or face pressure to quit.

Prof. Sanjay Jeram, who teaches political science at Simon Fraser University, said the Liberals have a leader in Wilkinson who carries too much political baggage from past Liberal governments.

"He brought with him a legacy of the past and that really hurt them," he said. "They really need to rebrand. The rebrand may start with the leader."

He said the Green party, which increased its seat total by one with a win in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, has given itself four years to build its base after posting similar results to the 2017 election.

Adam Olsen, re-elected as the Green member for Saanich North and the Islands, said the party presented itself as a viable alternative to the traditional parties.

He said the Greens worked with the NDP minority government in the last legislature and will likely do so again, but now it will be different for Horgan and the NDP.

"For the first time in his premiership he's going to have to take responsibility for the decisions that they make and not try to shuffle all the ones that are more difficult onto us," Olsen said. "That's going to be a new world for him as well."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Horgan on the victory, saying he is looking forward to working with the premier on the response to the global pandemic.

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