Gambling on the numbers

Turnout could be key for this provincial election

The provincial writ dropped last week and a surprise election was called for October 24, 2020. Except it wasn’t a surprise to anyone with connections to the BC Legislature. As sure as the heavily berry-laden mountain ash trees point to a snowy winter, too many comments by BC NDP Leader John Horgan pointed to an election being called this fall. Especially comments relating to how the ‘agreement’ with the Green Party didn’t really hold anymore because the caucus was completely different.

Horgan is banking on his high approval numbers translating into a majority government for himself and the NDP.

Will it be enough?

Answer: maybe.

Horgan does have high numbers, and his chief opponent, the BC Liberal’s Andrew Wilkinson’s ability to capture the imagination of B.C.’s voters remains illusive.

Wilkinson is calling Horgan’s calling of a fall election a “power grab”. And it does appear that both he and Green Leader Sonia Furstenau are going to run on the fact that calling an election during a pandemic is foolhardy and unforgivable. And it may well be.

However, calling it a power grab is a bit of a stretch. It is a time honoured tradition in parliamentary democracies that a minority leader will call an election when he or she feels the signs are right to gain a majority. It has happened many times before. It will happen again. And I daresay, were Wilkinson and the BC Liberals in the same situation,they would likely do the same. So spare me the pearl clutching.

People are either going to be enraged by Horgan calling an election during this time or not. I don’t think that NDP supporters are going to let that stop them from voting for their party.

What it may come down to is turnout. And what drives turnout? Passion.

I know people in the United States who are so passionate to vote in this next elections they say they will stand in line all day if that’s what it takes, despite COVID.

Is that same passion felt in British Columbia? Not really. If we are truly in the midst of a second surge of COVID in October, and it appears we will be, turnout on voting day may be low.

However, early indications are that mail in ballots will be very much in play. There were 20,000 mail in ballots requested during the first 24 hours after Horgan dropped the writ.

Elections BC said last week that they expect between 35 and 40 per cent of voters will vote by mail. That’s around 800,000 people. Typically only 10 per cent of voters use the mail.

I’ve already applied for my ballot and it’s very easy. You either go to the Elections BC website at https://eregister.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/ovr/welcome.aspx# and follow the very easy steps, or call 1-800-661-8683. You will need ID either way — your BC drivers licence number or your BC Identification Card number.

Do it soon because your ballot must be returned by October 24, 2020.

What this does mean is that we may have to wait a few weeks before all the mail ballots are counted and we get final results.

The same thing is expected to happen in the U.S. Results will not be known on November 3, because mail in ballots will be big in that election as well. I don’t expect the results will be accepted as calmly though.

However, what this does is ruin a great evening’s entertainment for the politically inclined. Election watch parties will not be as much fun knowing a final result will not be announced immediately. Election day will likely give a good indication of which way things are going, but there will be no definitive winner declared.

We’re all going to have to be mature and calmly wait for the results. Going to be real difficult.

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