Daniel Fontaine thinks John Horgan should have struck while the iron is hot.
There has been a bit of speculation over the last few months amongst a few New Democrats and BC Liberal supporters that Premier John Horgan may be interested in calling an early election. However, with the NDP’s recent decision to rethink a campaign promise to eliminate the secret ballot for union certification, it appears voters will not be heading to the ballot box this spring.
If Horgan truly wanted his Green Party colleagues to trigger an election, that would have been as good an issue as any.
No doubt lowering the election call to a Defcon 1 rating will come as music to the ears of many federal politicos. They were worried a snap election would serve to drain away financial and human resources as we ramp up to the October 21st election.
While Horgan and the NDP may not be open to triggering an election, there remains at least nine good reasons why they should. In politics, timing is everything. In the case of the NDP, the conditions for securing a majority government will never get any better than they are right now.
Here is my list why an early election call simply makes political sense.
REASON NUMBER 9: NDP CAN PUT TO BED A LONG-STANDING NARRATIVE THEY CAN’T BALANCE BUDGETS
Finance Minister Carole James stood in the BC Legislature to introduce her second surplus budget last February. Not only is this a rarity in Canada these days, it comes from a political party that – for better or worse – has been branded as the folks that “can’t manage a peanut stand.”
In that regard, James and her colleagues rightfully deserve credit for balancing the books and trying to put this old narrative to bed.
One of the biggest challenges any NDP government faces is to deliver on a costly social agenda, while not blowing the bank. While the books are currently balanced, there are rumblings that this could be the last balanced budget we see in a long time.
With home sales at record lows and even some casinos teetering on the edge of bankruptcy [who would have thought a casino could lose money], there are dark clouds on the horizon.
The folks in Victoria, regardless of political stripe, have become all too reliant upon the revenue generated by gambling and the property purchase tax to help finance social programs. The lure of ‘free money’ was likely one of the reasons the NDP embarked on a major expansion of gambling when they were in power back in the 1990s.
All that said, the last thing the NDP wants heading into a general election in 2021 are a couple of nasty deficit budgets. This would only serve to rekindle those negative media headlines and feed into the narrative they simply can’t manage the economy.
8: AN ISLAND OF ORANGE IN SEA OF BLUE
As we barrel toward a federal election, there is a distinct possibility we may be tossing out one of the last remaining progressive governments in Canada. Although nobody would have contemplated it a scant two years ago, the Federal Liberals are looking vulnerable. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer would be forgiven if he was caught measuring the carpet in the Prime Minister’s Office.
If Scheer were to take office, Premier Horgan and the NDP would be one of the last ‘progressive’ and left-leaning governments in Canada.
The prospect of fighting the federal government, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, and a host of their conservative peers in 2021 is not one the NDP would cherish. The chances of getting any commitments or promises out of Ottawa – which the NDP will desperately need heading into an election – would be slim to none.
Also worth mentioning is how the NDP-Green alliance in BC will hold up if [and there is a good likelihood] that Jagmeet Singh and his NDP colleagues get pummeled in the election, while the Greens make some significant breakthroughs.
7: BEST TO ATTACK YOUR OPPONENT WHEN THEY LEAST EXPECT IT
The best time to trigger an election is when your opponent doesn’t suspect it, or they are unprepared. While many could argue the BC Liberals have an abundance of talent within their ranks, even their Leader Andrew Wilkinson would agree they are in need of renewal. This will take time as they work to attract a younger, more diverse set of candidates to represent them in 2021.
The BC Liberals are also adjusting to new campaign finance rules which have served to limit their ability to generate cash from average British Columbians – a tactic the NDP mastered years ago.
A spring election would put the BC Liberals at a distinct disadvantage, because most of them have bought into the notion they still have another 18 months to get ready, raise the cash they need to fight a campaign, and put a dent in Horgan’s popularity.
6: WITH EACH MONTH THAT PASSES, THE LIST OF GOVERNMENT DETRACTORS WILL GROW EXPONENTIALLY
With each passing month the NDP governs, more and more tough decisions will need to be made. While they have successfully punted off some high-profile decisions like replacing the Massey Tunnel, approving ride sharing and forcing rentals in condominiums, their supporters expect them to pull the pin on these controversial decisions eventually.
Furthermore, the longer you are in government, the more enemies you create and the greater likelihood they coalesce and work collaboratively to turf you from office.
There is a growing list of groups and sectors of our economy beginning to openly criticize this government for choosing to listen primarily to their friends and insiders, leaving others on the outside looking in. It’s a narrative bound to have some appeal and will be capitalized on by the BC Liberals – and possibly even the BC Greens – as we head to a 2021 election.
5: NDP DNA INCLUDES A PROPENSITY TO TURF THEIR LEADERS
Another one of the NDP’s weaknesses has been caucus unity. They have a pronounced tendency to turf their leaders at the first sign they are faltering. Based on a number of recent polls, Premier John Horgan remains more popular than his party. But this is BC where the politics are known for being odd – and the electorate can be fickle at the best of times.
Horgan is only one scandal away from having his poll numbers drop below that of his party, triggering a natural instinct within his party to seek a change in leadership. If you don’t believe me, just ask Carole James, Adrian Dix, Glen Clark and Thomas Mulcair.
By all accounts, Horgan currently has the full support of his caucus and his party, something he may not have two years from now.
Check back tomorrow for part two.
Daniel Fontaine is the Chief Executive Officer for a non-profit seniors care organization based in Burnaby. A former weekly civic affairs columnist for 24 Hours Newspaper, Fontaine has been a political commentator on Global TV and CKNW radio. In 2008 he co-founded one of Canada’s most popular civic affairs blogs. In 2012, Fontaine was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for public service.