Lawrie McFarlane: Early election call could be a dangerous choice

So John Horgan has called a provincial election for Oct. 24. I’m an admirer of John and still, I hope, a friend. We had adjacent offices in government many years ago.

I thought he took a courageous decision at the start of his premiership, electing to proceed with B.C. Hydro’s Site C dam.

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But this has all the makings of a dreadful miscalculation. Yes, his party is far ahead of the provincial Liberals in the opinion polls — for now.

Yes, he’s seen as having provided effective leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And yes, Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has turned out, so far at least, to be a long drink of water.

But the omens aren’t good. Voters don’t like opportunism, and this reeks of it.

Britain’s Theresa May learned that lesson when she called a snap election in 2017.

Her Conservative party was up 21 points in the opinion polls before the writ was dropped. But come election day that lead had all but disappeared, and May lost her majority in the House of Commons.

Coincidentally, Horgan currently leads in the polls by 19 points — two shy of May’s initial head start.

Struggling for an excuse where none exists, Horgan had this to say: “This pandemic will be with us for a year or more, and that’s why I believe we need to have an election. Now, we can either delay that decision and create uncertainty…instability, (and) over the next 12 months, more speculation.”

There is no instability, and nothing to speculate about. B.C.’s election legislation clearly sets Oct. 16, 2021, as the day we were supposed to go to the polls. Where is the uncertainty?

In a recent letter to the Times Colonist, Moe Sihota, a one-time minister under Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark, attempted to walk around this problem: “B.C.’s fixed election date law (doesn’t) preclude an election at this time. The law implicitly acknowledges that minority governments can fall at anytime.”

This is pure bafflegab. Horgan’s government is in no danger of falling “at any time.” The Greens, who’ve been propping him up, have said repeatedly they don’t want an election.

Lastly, there is the fact that many British Columbians are uncomfortable having to vote in the middle of an infectious outbreak. And those most uncomfortable are NDP supporters, according to the latest polls.

The question is why Horgan, a savvy politician, would take such a clearly impolitic step.

I think it tracks back to that Site C decision. Although it was the right call, many of his colleagues and advisers were scandalized.

How does that figure here? You have to remember that NDP premiers in B.C. don’t serve at the voters’ pleasure.

They serve at their party’s pleasure. Just ask Mike Harcourt.

My guess is that John burned up much of his capital over the dam, and found himself facing a demand by pot-stirring insiders not known for being patient: Go to the polls now, or go home.

Ironically, had Horgan deferred the election till next October, he would have stood a pretty good chance of cleaning up. Running on his government’s merits, which are numerous, he should have won.

But this election now turns on only one question: Why have you acted in such a blatantly opportunistic manner? Even Andrew Wilkinson can score into that empty net.

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