B.C. Premier John Horgan is sending British Columbians to the polls in the country’s second COVID-19 election, trying to secure the majority that he fell just short of capturing in 2017.
After the closest election in the province’s history, the Green Party’s three seats made them the kingmaker, choosing to align with Horgan’s New Democratic Party rather than then-Premier Christy Clark and the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party actually won more seats (43) than the NDP (41), but the Green’s three seats were enough to topple the Liberals opportunity to govern once again.
Since then, two of the three party leaders have changed hands. While Horgan has sat as Premier since the election three years ago, Andrew Wilkinson has taken over as Liberal leader from Clark. Wilkinson has served in multiple cabinet portfolios from 2013 to 2017. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver resigned in January 2020 due to a personal health issue. He was replaced by Sonia Furstenau in September 2020.
In the past three years, the Horgan-led coalition has made significant investments in infrastructure, both in projects announced by the previous government and by his government. The province has seen significant investments in health care assets with projects like the Kamloops-based Royal Inland Hospital and the Burnaby General Hospital Redevelopment underway to name a few. There has been support for transit priorities including the Broadway Subway Extension and Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Project (formerly the Surrey LRT). In the transportation sector, work on the Pattullo Bridge Replacement is underway and continued progress on the Highway 1 upgrades from Kamloops to the Alberta border.
Prior to the call of the election, six cabinet ministers announced that they would not seek re-election in the upcoming campaign, including Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena and Finance Minister Carole James.
Infrastructure a battleground issue
In the first few weeks of the campaign, promises related to infrastructure made headlines on multiple occasions.
The Liberals have promised to again proceed with the construction of a bridge to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel between Richmond and Delta. The former Liberal government was in the Request for Proposals stage of the project’s procurement when they lost the election. The NDP-Green government quickly sent the discussion back to the drawing board, having to compensate those consortiums millions of dollars for work already done to prepare their bids, and then deciding that a new tunnel was the better replacement project to proceed with.
A few days later, Horgan announced that a NDP government would provide an additional $1.5 billion for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Project, which would provide the additional financing needed to allow the project to extend to its original final stop based on the light rail transit plans that were scrapped by Doug McCallum when he was elected as Surrey’s mayor in 2018.
Both the Liberals and NDP have stated that they would continue with construction of the Site C Clean Energy Project despite a growing numbers of potential challenges faced during project construction. The Green Party has stated that they would halt the project despite the multi-billion-dollar investment that has already occurred.
British Columbia heads to the polls on Saturday, October 24th.