Premier John Horgan says his majority New Democrat government is open to exploring new ideas that can help shape British Columbia regardless of their political or geographic origins.
B.C. followed New Brunswick on Saturday, becoming the second province to hold an election during the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters in Saskatchewan go to the polls on Monday.
The NDP's election win in B.C. will see a government guided by strong ideas, not politics, Horgan said Sunday.
“I'll be influenced by good ideas wherever they come from,” said Horgan at his first news conference following the election result. “I don't care where an idea comes from, if it makes sense we're going to implement it. That's how I will approach working with all members of the legislature.”
More than 500,000 mail-in ballots and 75,000 absentee ballots must still to be counted. But the results on election night gave the NDP 53 seats, the B.C. Liberals 27, and the Greens three. Four ridings remain undecided.
Neither Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson nor the Greens Sonia Furstenau held news conferences on Sunday. Wilkinson did not take questions on Saturday night after making a statement that didn't concede defeat and urged people to be patient in waiting for the final vote count.
On Sunday, Wilkinson sent out a statement on Twitter saying he had spoken to Horgan on the telephone and “congratulated him on his win. The people of B.C. have spoken.”
The results show a geographically divided province with Liberal victories in many rural ridings and the NDP winning primarily in urban areas, a division that Horgan acknowledged.
Horgan said now that there is a majority government he plans to spend more time outside of the legislature meeting people across B.C.
“I would have liked to have seen better results in rural B.C.,” he said. “I'm going to have to do some more work, clearly, to get to those communities. Clearly, having a majority government will allow me to get out of Victoria.”
Horgan credited the NDP win with the party's political vision, saying that mainstream values are New Democrat values.
“People don't think of the world as left and right,” he said. “They think of the needs of their family, the needs of their community and I think that's how you build big-tent politics by responding to the needs of people.”
But political experts said Horgan's election win was more about the government's handling of the pandemic, which largely involved leaving critical health decisions to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“I'm not surprised that they got the incumbent COVID-19 bump,” said Prof. Kim Speers, a Canadian politics expert at the University of Victoria. “People are tending to vote for the incumbent government if they have done well handling the pandemic.”
She said the election result appears to forecast brighter days ahead for the Green party despite winning just three seats, but a period of turmoil and introspection for the Liberals, who lost more than a dozen seats.
“They have four years to figure out who they are, who they want to be,” said Speers, who expects Wilkinson to resign or face pressure to quit.
Prof. Sanjay Jeram, who teaches political science at Simon Fraser University, said the Liberals have a leader in Wilkinson who carries too much political baggage from past Liberal governments.
“He brought with him a legacy of the past and that really hurt them,” he said. “They really need to rebrand. The rebrand may start with the leader.”
He said the Green party, which increased its seat total by one with a win in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, has given itself four years to build its base after posting similar results to the 2017 election.
Adam Olsen, re-elected as the Green member for Saanich North and the Islands, said the party presented itself as a viable alternative to the traditional parties.
He said the Greens worked with the NDP minority government in the last legislature and will likely do so again, but now it will be different for Horgan and the NDP.
“For the first time in his premiership he's going to have to take responsibility for the decisions that they make and not try to shuffle all the ones that are more difficult onto us,” Olsen said. “That's going to be a new world for him as well.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Horgan on the victory, saying he is looking forward to working with the premier on the response to the global pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.