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BC Election 2020
BC Politics

So, What Does BC’s Election Outcome Really Mean?

A range of savvy political players and thinkers reflect on the NDP’s big night and what’s ahead.

David Beers and Olamide Olaniyan 25 Oct

David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee, and now editor for initiatives.
Olamide Olaniyan is associate editor at The Tyee. Reach Olaniyan here.

The Tyee reached out to close political observers for their reactions to last night’s election results. Most of them have popped up in our pages as sources or contributors in the past. Here’s what they told us. We have lines out to others and will add them as they roll in.

Tom Hawthorn: The BC Liberals spoke persuasively. ‘To rural Alberta.’

No PST. More cops. Private auto insurance. The BC Liberals ran an exemplary campaign — for rural Alberta.

A party that is too male, too white and too clearly uninterested in the life of people without stock (whether in a safe deposit box in the city or on the range in the Cariboo) took a shellacking. Rebuilding will be hard, as the Liberals are saddled with out-of-touch social conservatives. Is there a conversion therapy capable of making Laurie Throness love all God’s children?

For 75 years, a coalition of business interests — operating as (no kidding) the Coalition, the Social Credit party and, after a hostile takeover in 1993, the BC Liberals — has existed solely to keep the CCF/NDP out of power while sharing the spoils among friends. (You don’t triple delete computer files when you’re doing good deeds.) Before John Horgan, the NDP served as government in this province for just 13 years. The party last won a plurality of the vote 29 years ago. With dominance on Vancouver Island and in Greater Vancouver, combined with forays deep into the previously infertile soil of the Fraser Valley, Horgan’s NDP is positioning itself as the preferred choice for a diverse coalition of voters, including young suburban families. (How’s that for irony? The BC Liberals’ decades-long neglect on the housing file has contributed to demographic changes now costing them once-guaranteed ridings.)

The NDP’s strategic ambition is to replace a pro-business party as the voters’ default choice. Last night’s landslide was either a once-in-a-generation fluke, or the beginning of a historic political realignment. Evidence suggests it is more the latter.

A few more brief notes: Voters reward good governance.... Thanks to Sonia Furstenau’s steady presence in the debates, the Greens earned a last-minute reprieve from the executioner. They will be rejoicing, but the party’s vote total decreased slightly from three years ago and they remain a minor party.... The banning of corporate and union money was an underreported element in the campaign. No last-minute infusion of cash could rescue the Liberals or doom the Greens.... Both Furstenau and Horgan opened with Indigenous land acknowledgements. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, speaking at the One Wall Centre in Vancouver, did not do so. How come Wilkinson didn’t at least give a territorial acknowledgement to Peter Wall?... Horgan will surpass Dave Barrett’s tenure as premier on Wednesday and Glen Clark’s tenure 86 days after that. He is 54 weeks behind Mike Harcourt’s tenure as longest serving NDP premier.

Tom Hawthorn is a frequent contributor to The Tyee who lives in Victoria. He has had writing and editing contracts with the provincial government.

Garth Mullins: ‘One party doesn’t appear to care about drug users, one seems to hate us.’

An election that nobody wanted, ended the way everybody expected. Bonnie Henry won a majority. Just kidding. But along the campaign trail, reactionaries got a chance to beat up on poor people. The BC Liberals under Wilkinson jolted further to the right. Many of his candidates were not so much running against the NDP as they were running against homeless people and drug users. 

Meanwhile, the NDP could hardly muster a defence of marginalized people in B.C. Instead they offered to stay the course amidst a housing catastrophe and record overdose deaths. Luckily, Liberals failed in their attempt to dog whistle their way back into government on the winds of backlash, anger and fear. They courted a small but vocal harm reduction-hating constituency, some of whom called for drug users to be imprisoned on a navy ship. Voters roundly rejected this nasty worldview, punishing some of the most odious candidates with humiliating defeats.

But for people who really want to change the world, elections rarely hold out more than the chance to pick your opponent for the next few years. For those of us working to end the drug war, we had to choose between a party that doesn’t appear to care about drug users, and one that seems to hate us. But systemic change rarely comes via elections. Real change comes from below, from the grassroots. It always has. Yeah, I voted. And on election night I watched the returns and put on Chumbawamba’s “Never Mind the Ballots — Here’s the Rest of Your Life.

Garth Mullins is a member of Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and is host of Crackdown podcast.

Karen Tam Wu: The one thing parties seemed to agree on is critical.

It’s clear that B.C. voters expect strong climate action, with all three of the major parties promising to make the province a climate leader during the campaign. Just as we saw the parties co-operate to address the pandemic, British Columbians are depending on the NDP, Liberals and Greens to work together to tackle the climate emergency. 

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Pembina Institute’s Karen Tam Wu: ‘Just as we saw the parties co-operate to address the pandemic, British Columbians are depending on the NDP, Liberals and Greens to work together to tackle the climate emergency.’

We can take the best of their ideas: the Liberals see solar, wind and hydro as key to moving off of oil; the NDP have set their sights on achieving net zero carbon pollution by 2050; the Greens would like us to achieve this goal sooner, in 2045. Protecting our families and communities and getting on track to a resilient economy and safe climate are urgent imperatives whose impact will long outlast any election outcome. 

Karen Tam Wu is the regional director of British Columbia at the Pembina Institute.

Max Cameron: ‘A fundamental realignment may be at work in BC politics.’

Several conditions contributed to the success of John Horgan’s NDP. First, the world is going through a social democratic moment. Social democracies in other places have managed the COVID-19 pandemic effectively, in part because they have invested in universal health care and economic security. By contrast, neoliberal governments in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, India and Brazil have proven incapable of responding effectively to the pandemic.

Second, the NDP government has shown that it pays to listen to science and make policies informed by evidence. Elected officials — notably Adrian Dix — worked closely with public health officers — especially Dr. Bonnie Henry — to win the trust of the public and mobilize support for public health directives. The NDP did not politicize the pandemic response, and, in truth, the BC Greens and Liberals deserve considerable credit for supporting the government’s policies. It was, however, the NDP that won credit in the eyes of the public. 

Third, the NDP benefited from a minority Parliament. Minority situations encourage governments to be cautious, responsive and to hew closely to public opinion. Working within a historic Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC Greens, the NDP ran a government that made few errors and suffered few scandals.

Finally, new campaign finance rules introduced by the NDP eliminated corporate and union donations and capped contributions from individuals. This levelled the playing field.

A fundamental realignment may be at work in B.C. politics. In the past the Liberals have criticized the NDP for not being able to say “yes” to development projects. Horgan said yes to Site C and to LNG, and continues to provide subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. This has opened the door to a vigorous defence of biodiversity, wildlife, old-growth forests, sustainable fisheries and agriculture and, above all, advocacy of more aggressive climate action, by the BC Greens, who survived to fight another day, and will likely continue to be a source of accountability for the NDP.

Max Cameron is a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia.

Steve Burgess: The drama wasn’t lost in the mail after all.

Election 2020 was held in the shadow of tyranny — an ancient tyranny determined to reimpose its terrible grip on our lives. The would-be tyrant: the post office. The young will not remember the dark time when humans were slaves to the mailbox, subject to the whims of letter carriers for enlightenment. But with the large number of mail-in ballots in this year's election, Canada Post had aspirations to be in the driver's seat once again. Only when the mail-in ballots were processed, pundits claimed, would the results be known. Hardly. It took one hour and one minute after the polls closed for Global BC to call an NDP victory. Foiled again, posties. Back to delivering Amazon packages. 

Steve Burgess is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

David Moscrop: A majority means ‘the pressure is on.’

The BC NDP majority win is at once an endorsement of the competent governance of the last three years — in no small part thanks to the BC Greens, who were also rewarded at the ballot box — and of the government's management of the pandemic. The extent of the party's fortunes, in some instances in places where they're not traditionally successful, also suggests that B.C. residents trust the NDP with pandemic recovery, too. But the pressure is on with a majority to address several (often overlapping) crises at once: the pandemic, the overdose crisis, housing, transit, inequality, child care and, of course, the climate crisis and more. If those challenges can't be managed, the majority will become a relic of the past sooner rather than later.

The election was also an utter indictment of the BC Liberals, a party that needs a total tear down immediately, from leader to ideology to the ridings they cater to and beyond. A name change wouldn't hurt, either; but, of course, there may be good strategic reasons to try to blend in with the centrist red side. 

David Moscrop is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow in the department of communication at the University of Ottawa, a contributing columnist to the Washington Post and the author of ‘Too Dumb for Democracy? Why We Make Bad Political Decisions and How We Can Make Better Ones.’

Andy Yan: Winter is coming.

The province is on the edge of entering a winter of its discontent. The ongoing pandemic is still exacting a tragic human toll, but also threatens to unleash economic carnage — which still has yet to fully emerge on a provincial, national and global scale. This winter is particularly harsh as it also sees the converging winds of climate change, an opioid poisoning epidemic and an affordable housing crisis throughout the province.

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Andy Yan of SFU’s City Program: ‘Communities like Sun Peaks, Duncan, Victoria and Pemberton face their housing affordability challenges similar to those in Metro Vancouver.’ Photo: SFU.

With the removal of the precariousness and constraints of being minority government, the election sets great expectations on the NDP government to make bold and decisive actions on these files. The need for stability is inevitably going to shift to demands for progress. The craft for this government will be how these actions can be done consistently and fairly in a province that is the size of France, Germany and Denmark combined and spans the long-standing crevasses of class, race and gender within the context of reconciliation.

While Metro Vancouver often dominates the conversations of housing affordability in the province, communities like Sun Peaks, Duncan, Victoria and Pemberton face their housing affordability challenges similar to those in Metro Vancouver. Winning the 2020 election will only be the beginning for the NDP as it tries to guide the province to a distant spring.

Andy Yan is the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University.

Mazdak Gharibnavaz: For renters, ‘the fight starts tomorrow.’

Renters are demanding bold, systemic changes. Since that wasn’t on the menu this election, we understood that voting was about picking the opponent we wanted to fight for the next four years. Unless they are in conjunction with other policies, the current BC NDP commitments will not get us through this crisis.

Renters need the ban on evictions to be reinstated so they can keep their first line of defence against the shockingly rising numbers in this pandemic. We need a forgiveness of rent debt for the 15 per cent of rental households who couldn’t make full rent in the last several months and are underwater. We need to finally end the financial incentive of evictions for landlords by introducing real rent controls, prevent jacking up of rents in-between tenancies and tying the rent increases to the unit, not the tenancy.

And renters want a legal framework for collective bargaining rights so they can fight for their rights in solidarity with their neighbours. Will a labour-friendly BC NDP government recognize that workers deserve a union at home, as well as at work?

It will also speak volumes if Selina Robinson keeps her municipal affairs and housing this portfolio in cabinet. This minister presided over a slow implementation of the eviction ban compared to other jurisdictions in North America, ghosted tenant advocates, sent a meagre amount of subsidies directly into landlord pockets instead of supporting tenants with no income and gave into corporate landlord lobbyist demands of reinstating evictions during the pandemic and squeezing tenants with rent debt. If she continues in this role, renters will know that we face an uphill fight against corporate landlords, real estate developers and provincial government alike.

Renters are not going back to business as usual. We will not be invisible. We will fight for our human right to adequate housing and we will win. That fight starts tomorrow.

Mazdak Gharibnavaz is a spokesperson for the Vancouver Tenants Union.

Megan Dias: Americans might be envious.

It is impossible not to compare this election with the one happening at the same time down in the States. And, compared to that, our election process was remarkably not politicized. No one decried voting by mail, everyone trusted Elections BC and Bonnie Henry to make voting safe, and both Horgan and Wilkinson ended the night by saying we need to respect the process by waiting for all votes to be counted.

That's not to say it was perfect, though. Although a record number of British Columbians voted by mail and in advanced polls, we still don't know what turnout was for the province. Were voters engaged, even though this campaign lacked rallies and door-knocking? I spoke to several non-profits that do voter engagement work, who found it really difficult to mobilize around this election, given the nature of the pandemic and the fact that the election was called without warning. Either way, this election will give us a lot to think about in terms of how to vote and engage voters during a pandemic. 

For now, the NDP got exactly what they wanted, a large majority government. John Horgan is the first NDP leader in B.C. history to win two elections. And the NDP did well in areas they weren't expected to in parts of Metro Vancouver. It's unclear how much this represents a stable shift in B.C., though, or how much of this is due to the fact that voters were happy with the NDP's pandemic response, and the BC Liberals really didn't give them a compelling alternative. 

Megan Dias is working on a PhD in political science at the University of Texas in Austin and has an MA in political science from UBC.

Karen Ward: With your majority, NDP, ‘choose to be brave.’

British Columbians rejected the vicious politics of Wilkinson’s Liberals. They don't like it when you use people in trouble as a weapon to punish them further. I hope the message to the NDP is clear: Be brave. You’re the government.

COVID-19 has amplified and exposed the conditions that existed already. Those conditions are fatal. Those conditions are unacceptable, the voters said, and rejected them.

A few days before the writ dropped, Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a public health order to authorize nurses and psychiatric nurses to prescribe safer drugs to people who currently depend on the unregulated market to obtain them. This market is poisoned and it will continue to kill four — or more — British Columbians every day. 

The first actions the new government must take can change everything. It starts with amending the Health Professions Act, as Henry indicated, to allow for nurses to prescribe. It goes further by facilitating and encouraging what must be an extraordinary public health effort. This will require the same sort of government funding, commitment and dedication to address the overdose emergency that has been brought to the pandemic. 

You’re the government. You can raise the provincial assistance rates. You can raise the shelter rate. You can aggressively expand and build social housing. You can stop enabling the criminalization of poverty and mental illness. And you can choose to end overdoses. We voted for a majority government that can choose to be brave.

Karen Ward is a drug policy advisor for the City of Vancouver and a Downtown Eastside advocate.

Khelsilem: 'Horgan insisted all forests ultimately belong to First Nations.' Now walk the talk.

On the debate stage, Horgan insisted that all forests ultimately belong to First Nations. His government has stressed the importance of protecting forests in concert with Indigenous people. Forest Ministry staff have stated that new protections for old growth won’t move ahead without Indigenous sign-off.

This is all excellent, and it’s the standard that Horgan’s government should apply across the board, not just for conserving forests. Indigenous free, prior and informed consent must be required for logging too, but the permits and forestry plans under which non-renewable old growth is being logged now don’t meet this standard.

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Squamish Nation elected leader Khelsilem: ‘Indigenous free, prior and informed consent must be required for logging.’ Photo by Christopher Cheung.

The government must expedite engagement with Indigenous communities, proactively seek direction around protecting critical forests within their territories and commit funding to this process and the costs of setting forests aside and investing in alternative economic opportunities.

It must also reach out to forest sector unions and workers to ensure any workers who are impacted by halts to cutting and road-building permits in critical areas are protected. Transition plans for positions dependent on old growth must be developed alongside permanent forest protections.

Khelsilem is a Squamish-Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw elected leader for the Squamish Nation. These comments are drawn from a piece he published last week on The Tyee.

Alex Shiff: Key voters were pleased Horgan’s ‘was not the radical activist administration some predicted.’

While the BC Liberals needed to win back suburban Metro Vancouver swing ridings that they lost in 2017, the BC NDP was able to defend those ridings while pushing deeper into the Fraser Valley. The BC NDP was able to scoop up voters who decided that John Horgan’s first term as premier was not the radical activist administration that some had predicted, and a change in government in the middle of a pandemic was ultimately not what the doctor ordered.

The results represent an inflection point for the BC Liberals. The party needs to find a way to regain their appeal to suburban and urban ridings in Metro Vancouver, who, along with the party’s dominance in rural communities, were key to a pathway to the premier’s office. 

Alex Shiff is a senior consultant to the communications firm Navigator and has been a BC Liberal spokesperson.

Todd Hauptmann: Bye, bye to Liberal ‘safe districts.’

No one should be surprised by the large victory for the BC NDP yesterday, but all of us should be a little shocked at how much support the BC Liberals have lost this time. In the Fraser Valley, a Liberal stronghold traditionally, Liberals Mary Polak and John Martin lost their seats. In Metro Vancouver, the Liberals only grabbed two of eleven possible spots. Langley East, long held by former BC Liberal cabinet minister Rich Coleman, may still go to the NDP after mail-in ballots are counted.

The BC Liberals’ share of the provincewide vote was only 35 per cent. They should be scared for their future prospects, since so many of their safe districts are becoming more diversified — less conservative, less religious, less white — and could swing in any direction. I can't help but think that my resignation from Mary Polak's campaign in 2013 [over the party’s anti-LGBTQ+ stances] was one of a handful of warning signs of their challenges yet to come. 

Andrew Wilkinson and his team were unable to control the news cycle. Whether they were hosting a sexist Zoom meeting or fear mongering about tent cities and safe injection sites, the BC Liberals showed that they were completely out of step with the majority of British Columbians on social issues. 

The BC Greens are now a permanent political force and will be a necessary voice in our legislature. Climate change and global public health will likely be key issues for the years to come.

Todd Hauptman is a communicator in the university sector and political strategist. He was campaign manager for Langley MLA Mary Polak in the 2013 provincial election.

Mario Canseco: BC Libs face ‘a monumental dual task.’

The BC Liberals have a monumental dual task ahead: a need to reconnect with federal Liberal Party voters who did not feel uncomfortable voting for the BC NDP in this election, and ensuring that voters do not see the BC Conservatives as a more palatable option in 2024 or during any byelections that happen before then.

It was going to be a daunting task for any opposition party to erase the emotional edge that the handling of COVID-19 had bestowed upon the BC NDP. This is the first provincial election in this century where the incumbent premier had an approval rating higher than 60 per cent heading into election day. The BC Liberals certainly faced difficulties adapting to a campaign that minimized their natural strengths: the ability to fill rooms of supporters who wanted to hear the leader speak and an effective get-out-the-vote operation when more than half a million voters requested packages to vote by mail.

Mario Canseco is president of the B.C. political analysis and polling firm Research Co.

Chuka Ejeckam: A chance to shift ‘framing that has been the norm since Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney.’

The outcome represents a significant opportunity. Within the context of contending with the ongoing pandemic — which is itself atop the ongoing overdose crisis, the worsening impacts of climate change and persistent inequity — the government is in position to argue for and embark upon a transformative program of public investment and mobilization, and has enough time for those investments to begin producing very visible, material benefits for people before the next election.

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Chuka Ejeckham works for the BC Federation of Labour: ‘The NDP is in position to embark upon a transformative program of public investment and mobilization, and has enough time for those investments to begin producing very visible, material benefits for people before the next election.’ Photo: Chuka Ejeckham.

If there are people who voted for the NDP primarily because of the pandemic, or against Wilkinson, as opposed to because of the party's broader positions and record, that sort of transformative program could keep those voters in the party.

As well, I'd argue that the Liberals' foundational ideas and arguments can't contend with a program like that. The government can show that a transformative public investment, spending and works program can meet the gargantuan challenges of our age while eliminating inequity and inequality, improving everyone's lives and cementing in place systems which will make those improvements permanent — or as near as we can get to permanent. What would the Liberals say in the face of that? “Let’s go back to what wasn't working before?”

The Liberals benefit from decades of rhetorical framing of political, social and economic issues which suit their ideas and support their arguments — framing that has been the norm since Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney. If you can disprove that framing, and the presumptions baked into it, the landscape changes.

Chuka Ejeckam is the director of policy and research at the BC Federation of Labour and a research associate with the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. These views are his own.

Bill Tieleman: BC Liberals risk ‘a significant split into two factions.’

The results are clear — this is a transformational election because the NDP has now won seats in BC Liberal strongholds in the Fraser Valley. Key stalwarts of the previous administration have been summarily dispatched by voters. The BC Liberals will have to find not only a new leader but a new approach if they wish to govern again — and avoid a significant split into two factions: federal Liberals versus federal Conservatives or alternatively, fiscal conservatives vs. social conservatives.

If the results of this election are already clear, the consequences are not. This could be the beginning of an extended period of success for the BC NDP — or a short interregnum before a return to centre right hegemony — but the future, as always, is unwritten, particularly in unpredictable British Columbia.

Aside from ideology and policy, I believe the deciding factor in most elections is which party has the best team. Christy Clark had the best team for a while — and then not. In the 2017 and now especially in the 2020 election, John Horgan had the best team, first by a little and then by a lot. From cabinet to caucus to political staff but most importantly the populist premier himself, this was a much better team than the BC Liberals and Leader Andrew Wilkinson could field.

Bill Tieleman, a former columnist for The Tyee, is president of West Star Communications, a strategy and communications consulting firm, providing services for labour, business, non-profits and governments for the past 13 years.

Richard Johnston: BC was ‘the company province.’ Is it joining the ‘knowledge economies’ of the US Left Coast?

The NDP won more seats than I expected. Part of the story is Conservative candidates, despite their small numbers and the fact that they tended to run in strong Liberal ridings. Their entry may have been decisive in Boundary-Similkameen, Chilliwack and Langley-East. But the Greens may also be part of this story, as we have tended to underestimate their crossover appeal. 

The Liberals may start to show cracks in their own fabric. The party on the ground has evolved toward the base for old Social Credit. Can a party that tries to combine cultural inclusiveness with economic conservatism face down internal pressure from its increasingly social-conservative base? Or even keep that base inside the coalition?

Is the province as a whole shifting toward a new political economy? The big tent strategy of the Liberals — as of the Coalition in the 1940s and Social Credit for four decades — reflected B.C.’s historic status as the “company province,” with the trump card being the climate for investment in the resource economy. Is B.C. going in the same direction as the “knowledge economies” of the U.S. “Left Coast”? The NDP still has unions, of course, but the new rules on electoral finance may unsettle that relationship.

Richard Johnston is the Canada research chair in public opinion, elections and representation emeritus at the department of political science at UBC.

Meenakshi Mannoe: ‘BC’s approach to policing and criminalization is due for a major overhaul.’

The lead-up to election night 2020 saw a spate of anti-homeless and anti-substance use rhetoric, by various candidates. During repeat attacks on unsheltered communities (tent cities, for example), it became clear that these same MLA-hopefuls refused to engage with the complexities of poverty. They chose to decline opportunities to talk to directly-impacted people and hear their solutions. Although widely decried, the use of stigmatizing language was a clear reminder that widely-held biases remain a feature in some political circles.

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Pivot Legal Society’s Meenakshi Mannoe: Candidates who repeatedly attacked unsheltered communities ‘refused to engage with the complexities of poverty. They chose to decline opportunities to talk to directly-impacted people and hear their solutions.’ Photo: Pivot Legal Society.

We cannot forget the momentum to #DefundThePolice or ignore calls for policy change which predated election night. These included calls for de facto decriminalization and a moratorium on street stops. Furthermore, we cannot ignore the increasingly militarized response of RCMP to Indigenous land defenders, including actions authorized by Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

B.C.’s approach to policing and criminalization is due for a major overhaul and radical shift. Stigma and inequality scaffold law enforcement responses. Instead we need to shift to eradicate inequality and uplift community-led crisis intervention.

Meenakshi Mannoe is the criminalization and policing campaigner for Pivot Legal Society.

George Abbott: Liberals failed by ‘recycling themes from the past.’

The Liberal campaign struck me as largely tone deaf around the issue that dominates public concern: the pandemic. Just attacking Horgan for calling the election when he did was insufficient. Andrew Wilkinson needed to convince voters that planks in the Liberal platform could pull something positive out of pandemic-induced adversity.

The headline for the Liberal platform was a short-term elimination/reduction of provincial sales tax, consequently reducing provincial revenues by $10–11 billion. It promised a single scattergun shot. However, some businesses — like golf courses and e-merchandisers — have fared well through COVID-19 while others have suffered through no fault of their own. A targeted approach was needed for the latter.

If a BC Liberal government was prepared to offer up $10–11 billion in stimulus spending, a more imaginative platform might have embraced, for example, a billion dollar program for climate-proofing communities from wildfire and flood. The best stimulus programs deliver a “triple word score:” create or protect jobs, generate spin-off economic activity and enhance community safety and services.

Overall, the recycling of themes from the past like “ending the ICBC monopoly,” “fighting crime” and “putting more money in your pocket through tax cuts” fell flat in a time when public concerns lay elsewhere.

George Abbott is a former BC Liberal MLA and author of Big Promises, Small Government.

Sonia Theroux: ‘Hefty majorities tend to come with a lot of hubris.’

Many will be celebrating the results of this election as a shift to the left. But left of the BC Liberals is not necessarily ‘left,’ and governments with hefty majorities tend to come with a lot of hubris, little incentive to listen to outside input and a powerful pull to centrism and corporate capture.

A look at the past 3.5 years makes the case that the BC NDP, in 2017, campaigned left and proceeded to govern in the centre. From education to child care to CleanBC, the BC Greens pushed for legislation further to the left. This doesn’t bode well for a more progressive agenda many are hoping will materialize now that the NDP have been “liberated” from working with the Greens.

A social democratic party would be expected to embrace the socialization of elder and child care. When asked about for-profit long-term seniors’ care during the leaders' debate, John Horgan expressed a preference for retaining private care. The $10-a-day child care the BC NDP argued the Greens were against? The Greens were lobbying for universal public child care and were committed to ending for-profit seniors’ care.

On climate, the NDP expanded B.C.’s love affair with the fossil fuel industry by nearly $1 billion a year in subsidies and appointed a former Fraser Institute Director, Fazil Mihlar, as the top bureaucrat in the Energy Ministry.

All of this does not undo the good that the BC NDP did regarding the speculation tax, health care, MSP premiums and increased affordable child care spaces. Nor does the good they did undo ways in which they deeply disappointed on climate, education and Indigenous sovereignty.

The hope for a more transformational agenda of a Just Recovery or a Green New Deal that leftists are ready for lies with the people. It will be up to civil society organizations to push this government away from the temptation of centrism and status quo politics. It will require those traditionally close to the NDP to be willing to hold this government accountable when they fail on issues we care about.

Sonia Theroux is co-executive director of Leadnow.  [Tyee]

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