With a snap provincial election under COVID-19 conditions, parties will have to work to distinguish themselves with pandemic recovery plans, says a VIU poli-sci professor.
Alex Netherton, who teaches political studies at Vancouver Island University, said there are two things to consider when it comes to an election during COVID-19: the pandemic itself and how the previous minority government handled it. What the Greens and B.C. Liberals can do to differentiate from the NDP is hard to determine, he said.
“I think that’s going to be slow coming out,” said Netherton. “They’re miffed about having the election, but really, what they want to do differently is important and the NDP has, evidently, a well-supported program and what they’re seeking, of course, is a democratic legitimization of what they’re doing … The decisions they’ll have to make in this second wave are so important that they think they need a mandate for that.”
Netherton said the B.C. Liberals will have to distance themselves from previous party incarnations.
“The Liberals have got to do two things,” said Netherton. “They don’t simply have to have a program that’s different, but they have to convince the electorate that they’re not the same Liberals who governed for the majority of the millennium, that there’s something different. So that’s going to be a big challenge because is it back to the future? Do people want to go back to the Liberal government of Christy Clark?”
Putting forward a COVID-19 recovery plan isn’t as important for the Green Party, according to Netherton, as the party isn’t likely to form government.
“They have to be in a position to say what they would do differently, which ways they would influence government and I think there’s a lot of things that, in sort of Green thinking, that they can work from to do that,” said Netherton.
Premier John Horgan and the NDP have been criticized for calling an early election amid a pandemic and Netherton said the issue of timing is complicated. The government is in unprecedented times, spending unparalleled amounts of money, so from the NDP’s view, it needs stability in the near future to secure a mandate to deal with the pandemic, he said.
“Whether we think that we should not have an election during a pandemic, I think unfortunately that democracy is a necessity and if we think there’s cause for an election, we have to have one,” said Netherton.
“By the constitution we have to have them every five years anyways, so the pandemic is just something we’ll have to deal with. The government has done its research and said that there are many other jurisdictions in the world that are having elections and Elections B.C. has done all sorts of work to make sure that it can be as fair as possible.”
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