BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Winter 2020
What the heck happened?
The 2020 pandemic election is clearly one for the history books
By Soren Bech
Editor, The Advocate
Held in the shadow of a global pandemic and the raging Trumpist denial of reality that dominated the news, there will never be another B.C. election like this one. I hope.
Many questioned whether the election could be conducted safely. I was one of them. Elections B.C. came through with flying colours.
With additional days of voting, voting by mail, and impressive safety precautions at polling places, public health said there were no cases of transmission due to the election.
In stark contrast to what we saw in the United States, B.C.’s political leaders and parties also followed strict safety protocols. Physical distancing. Masks. Daily monitoring. Questionnaires that reporters must complete before attending events.
The sounds of silence
Politics, like sports, is just not the same without the cheering and jeering. There were no banner waving crowds. There were no chance confrontations at shopping malls. It was so quiet on the campaign trail that our political leaders had to step up to heckle each other to fill the vacuum. Other than a few overthe- top Facebook ads, even that was remarkably civil. The Leaders’ debate also featured debate of policy choices and the candidates’ records, not interruptions and invectives.
A big win for the NDP
The major media projected an NDP majority government a little over an hour after the polls closed. Only a fraction of the ballots had been counted, but it was clear the party would elect at least 44 MLAs to B.C.’s 87 seat Legislature.
The final count included more than 600,000 absentee and mail ballots. They tended to favour the NDP. There will be 57 NDP MLAs in the Legislature, as well as 28 Liberal MLAs and two from the Green Party.
Thanks to a surge in support, some favourable vote splitting and a couple of unpalatable opponents, the NDP won in areas where it has never won before. Chilliwack. Langley. Abbotsford-Mission.
It also picked up three of the four Richmond seats, its first victory there since Harold Steves won a Richmond seat in 1972.
Overall, it is the largest majority of any NDP government in B.C. history. And it’s a far cry from the single vote majority that the NDP and Greens had during the last three years.
The big numbers
Elections B.C. did everything it could to make it easy. All parties encouraged people to vote. No one launched law suits to make it harder.
Yet there were 86,021 fewer votes cast than in 2017. Liberal votes down by 160,435. Greens down 48,0005. Only NDP votes went up, by 103,861.
Voter turnout, adjusted for an increase in voter registration, is estimated at 54.5 percent. That’s down from 61 percent in 2017.
Good, but could be better
The parliamentary system has a lot going for it. Rep-by-pop is not on the list. The NDP had a record 47.7 percent support, slightly less than a majority, yet won 66 percent of the seats in the Legislature.
Green Party candidates won 15 percent of the votes. A judicial recount confirmed a 60 vote Liberal win in West Vancouver - Sea to Sky, leaving the Greens with just 2 percent of the MLAs.
That, again, illustrates the fragility and unpredictability of first past the post. A few votes in a single constituency can make all the difference. If 95 people in Courtenay-Comox had voted Liberal rather than NDP, they would have elected a Liberal majority government in 2017.