British Columbia’s COVID-19 election was one for the history books. It was the first time the province held an election during a pandemic, the first time an NDP premier was re-elected and the first time the NDP won a riding in Langley.
Although a final vote count isn’t expected before November 13, John Horgan and the BC NDP had a record night - gaining 14 seats and holding the greatest number of seats in the provincial legislature in the party’s history. As a result, the NDP will be forming a majority government for the first time since the Grizzlies NBA team played in Vancouver.
The NDP was able to secure its victory by making inroads in Lower Mainland ridings once considered to be safe Liberal strongholds. The party won (or is leading in) three of the four Richmond seats, a city that hadn’t been represented by the NDP since the ’70s. The NDP also won seats in Langley for the first time in the province’s history.
Polling suggests that more BC NDP voters were expecting to use mail-in-voting than the BC Liberals and BC Greens. If the polling is right, it could mean that the NDP may flip a few more ridings once considered to be safe for the B.C. Liberals. The initial count has the NDP less than 700 votes behind in B.C. Liberal leadership runner-up Mike Lee’s riding (Vancouver-Langara) and less than 200 votes behind in Abbottsford-Mission.
“It would be definitely surprising if the level of support for the Liberals grew with the mail-in ballots at a level that is higher than what they had [on election night],” said Mario Canseco, president of polling group Research Co.
Although polling suggests more of the mail-in vote will be for the NDP, Canseco said that the mail-in vote could also favour incumbents - since the people who mailed in the vote during the campaign are usually party loyalists who aren’t voting based on the developments of the campaign.
After losing key seats in Metro Vancouver and being shunted from Vancouver Island, the BC Liberals will be left searching for a new identity as voters relegated them to a rural party. With a tenuous coalition of federal Conservative voters with right-leaning federal Liberal voters and the threat of a political party to its right, some wonder if the party’s days are numbered. However, four of the five candidates who ran in the BC Liberal Party leader race retained their seats in the 2020 provincial election, and party members seemed hopeful about some of the fresh faces they were able to nominate for the 2020 election.
The Green party didn’t gain any seats Saturday night but had some positive outcomes. While the Greens lost its stronghold and former leader’s riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head, the party won a seat on the mainland for the first time in the party’s history. The party is currently up more than 600 votes in West Vancouver-Sea-to-Sky above the Liberal candidate, who could pull ahead with the final count.
Horgan will not pick his cabinet until the results are finalized, likely on or after November 13. However, with seven high-profile NDP MLAs retiring from the party’s old guard - including former finance minister Carole James - there will definitely be cabinet positions for the party’s rising stars (such as North Vancouver-Lonsdale's Bowinn Ma) left out of the minority government’s cabinet.
Canseco said that Fin Donnelly, a former MP who was recruited by the BC NDP and successfully flipped the Coquitlam-Burke riding, will likely be a top choice for Horgan’s new cabinet. Canseco also said that some people will be considered for promotions, including Ravi Kahlon from Delta North (who has worked on the provincial human rights commission and forestry file in the past).