B.C. Liberal Party faces leadership questions after worst night in a generation

B.C. Liberal Party faces leadership questions after worst night in a generation

Andrew Wilkinson spent a lot of the election campaign compensating for physical distancing rules by standing on top of trucks at small rallies — only to get rolled over when the votes were counted. 

“As the results stand tonight, the NDP are clearly ahead and it appears they will have the opportunity to form government,” he said, the closest he got to a concession on an election night in which the B.C. Liberals were reduced to their lowest seat total since the 1991 election.

“We don’t know what the final seat count will be. We owe it to every voter … to await the final result.”

While it’s true that we don’t know whether the Liberals will finish with 29 seats, 30 seats, or 28 seats, Wilkinson’s time as leader can probably be measured in hours or days rather than weeks or months. 

In the middle of a pandemic in which voters were craving stability, and in a country where voters historically re-elect first term provincial governments 90 per cent of the time, he was always going to have a difficult task this election. 

But it’s safe to say he didn’t do himself any favours. 

WATCH | Andrew Wilkinson makes no mention of concession in election-night speech:

With his party projected to lose over a dozen seats, Andrew Wilkinson skipped a concession speech, saying he will wait until all mail-in ballot votes have been counted 1:25

Less than wacky election

The surface-level analysis of Wilkinson when he became leader of the B.C. Liberal Party in early 2018 was straightforward: He was an intelligent man who wouldn’t alienate any part of the “free-enterprise coalition,” but was also a slightly aloof and patrician figure who could have trouble personally connecting with voters who weren’t automatic Liberal supporters. 

And time and time again, Wilkinson showed exactly that. 

His comments on renting being a “wacky time of life” or describing domestic violence victims as “people who are in a tough marriage” resonated because they amplified the general impression many British Columbians already had of Wilkinson. 

His repeated invocation of having gay and lesbian family members to defend candidates with anti-LGBTQ+ stances reinforced the sense he lacked a common touch. 

His inability to immediately face the cameras for sexist comments made by candidate Jane Thornthwaite underlined the sense he couldn’t immediately tell when apologies were necessary.

And his past-the-11th-hour announcement that Laurie Throness had resigned as a Liberal member — after the Elections BC registration deadline, leaving Throness a Liberal on the ballot — left the feeling of a leader who didn’t have a clear sense of how he ultimately wanted to move his party forward. 

Yes, Wilkinson was able to get in shots against the governing NDP in question period.

But every time he had an opportunity to give people the sense that their first impression of him was misguided, he didn’t.

WATCH | Wilkinson accepts the resignation of Laurie Throness:

Leader Andrew Wilkinson says the views of the former Chilliwack-Kent MLA around contraception do not align with the party, and that he accepts his resignation. 0:53

Decisions to come

So what comes next for the B.C. Liberals? 

While they have their lowest seat count since 1991, they are still the official opposition party. The B.C. Conservative Party only got two per cent of the vote, and with electoral reform no longer on the table, the incentive for dissatisfied members to break away and create a more ideologically pure alternative will be diminished.  

But the road ahead will be tough. Younger, urban supporters of the party are publicly demanding it renounce candidates and policies not seen as inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community. Others want the party to embrace an explicitly populist and conservative viewpoint, as other western centre-right parties have done to success in the last decade. 

 

And now the party’s caucus has been significantly reduced, and is more white and male and featuring veterans of the Campbell and Clark administrations than was originally intended. 

In other words, after a 2017 election in which they were a recount away in Courtenay-Comox from having a fifth straight term in government, the B.C. Liberals now have to give an honest assessment of what went wrong. 

The only thing that seems certain is they will have four years to figure it out, with or without Andrew Wilkinson as leader. 

B.C. NDP will form decisive majority government, CBC News projects

B.C. NDP will form decisive majority government, CBC News projects

The NDP will form a majority government in British Columbia for the first time in more than 20 years, CBC News projects, as voters opted to stay the course in a tumultuous year and send leader John Horgan back to the legislature as the only consecutive two-term premier in his party’s history. 

As of 9:30 p.m. PT, Horgan and the NDP are projected to take 55 of 87 seats in the B.C. Legislature. It will be the first NDP majority since 1996.

The Liberals are projected to hold 29 seats, while the Greens have three.

CBC News is also projecting the three main party leaders — Horgan, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau — will hold their seats in Langford-Juan de Fuca, Vancouver-Quilchena and Cowichan Valley, respectively.

Just 50 seats would constitute a decisive victory in any B.C. election, as it only takes 44 to form government. Fifty-three seats for the NDP would break the previous party record of 51 seats in 1979.

Adrian Dix, who helped lead B.C. through the first nine months of the pandemic as provincial health minister, is projected to hold his seat in Vancouver Kingsway.

The projected results show the gamble of calling an election in the middle of a pandemic paid off handsomely for Horgan, who stayed comfortably high in the polls throughout the campaign.

In contrast, it is a bleak night for the B.C. Liberals and Greens. Both parties had hoped Horgan’s snap election risk would backfire and create the opportunity for a legislative takeover after three-and-a-half years of a minority NDP government.

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan announces his party’s election platform in Vancouver on Oct. 6, 2020. Horgan is projected to become the first two-term NDP premier in the history of the province. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Unique election

The end of election day marked the conclusion of a campaign unlike any other in the province’s history with the aim of choosing who will lead the population through its next wave of COVID-19 and, eventually, its recovery.

The beginnings of election day were business as usual for roughly a third of voters in the province, as more than a million of B.C.’s 3.5 million registered voters cast their ballots in advance or by mail-in ballot before general voting day. 

“Never before have so many voters voted before election day in British Columbia electoral history,” Elections BC’s chief electoral officer Anton Boegman told reporters on Friday.

Furstenau cast her ballot early Saturday at a community centre in the Vancouver Island community of Shawnigan Lake. Wilkinson voted at a Greek community centre in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood.

Horgan was among just over 681,000 people who cast their ballots during the week-long advance voting period this past week, voting Monday at Luxton Hall in Langford, B.C.

The NDP leader called the snap election on Sept. 21, citing a need for stability and certainty in the legislature during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic-era election — the first to be held in B.C. during a provincial state of emergency since the Second World War — saw its battles waged mostly online. Rallies were replaced by virtual debates and townhalls, hand-shaking by distant waving and smiles by cloth masks.

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats. Two seats were held by Independents and one seat was empty.

The NDP campaign was often more defensive than offensive, striking a stay-the-course tone with policy re-announcements and the hope of capitalizing on a widely acclaimed public health response to COVID-19. (Though it should be noted all candidates endorsed B.C.’s highly regarded, non-partisan Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry during the campaign.)

NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and members of his election team watch the returns come in for the British Columbia provincial election at a hotel in Vancouver on Saturday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Both the Liberals and Greens attacked Horgan continuously over the course of the 32-day campaign, his chief opponents and former allies questioning how the public could trust a “selfish” leader who betrayed his confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party in order to call what they saw as an opportunistic snap election.

Horgan’s task was convincing voters the election was undertaken for their benefit, providing them an opportunity to replace a shaky, bygone NDP-Green agreement with a fresh, stable government — regardless of party — that could definitively see them through the rest of the pandemic.

Mail-in ballots

The precise outcome of the election itself might be uncertain after Saturday night, if the races are close.

More than 720,000 mail-in ballots were requested during the campaign and nearly 498,000 had been returned as of Friday. Vote-by-mail packages are collected centrally and cannot be counted for at least 13 days after general voting day, according to decades-old legislation. 

If a riding is neck-and-neck by the end of the night, it could be too close to call without including the mail-in ballots. If ridings are won by landslide, it’s unlikely the mail-in ballots will change the preliminary results released Saturday.

Elections in B.C. have been, historically, declared by wide margins, though that was far from the case in the last two provincial elections in 2013 and 2017.

Officials with Elections BC hope to deliver the final results by Nov. 16, but the date isn’t set in stone as it’s unclear how much time will be needed to count the mail-in ballots — which are counted by hand, one at a time.

B.C. NDP will form government, CBC News projects

B.C. NDP will form government, CBC News projects

The NDP will form the next government in British Columbia, CBC News projects, as voters opted to stay the course in an otherwise tumultuous year and send leader John Horgan back to the legislature as the only consecutive two-term premier in his party’s history. 

It is still too early to determine whether the NDP government will be a majority or minority. CBC News is also projecting NDP Leader John Horgan will hold his seat in the riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca.

This is a breaking news update. An earlier story is below.


Polls have closed in British Columbia’s 42nd provincial election, marking the end of a campaign unlike any other in the province’s history with the aim of choosing who will lead the population through its next wave of COVID-19 and, eventually, its recovery.

Very early results show a strong start for the NDP. With 84 of B.C.’s 87 ridings now reporting results from a portion of polling stations, there are 47 seats for the NDP, 33 for the Liberals and four for the Greens.

It takes 44 seats to form government in B.C.

The first results began trickling in around 8:20 p.m. PT.

The final results will also show whether NDP Leader John Horgan’s snap election gamble paid off, growing a three-year-old minority government into a majority and making Horgan the NDP first premier in B.C. history to be re-elected to a consecutive second term — or, as the B.C. Liberals and Greens are hoping, the gambit backfiring and creating the opportunity for a legislative takeover.

The beginnings of election day were business as usual for roughly a third of voters in the province, as more than a million of B.C.’s 3.5 million registered voters cast their ballots in advance or by mail-in ballot before general voting day. 

“Never before have so many voters voted before election day in British Columbia electoral history,” Elections BC’s chief electoral officer Anton Boegman told reporters on Friday.

Unique election

Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau cast her ballot early Saturday at a community centre in the Vancouver Island community of Shawnigan Lake. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson voted at a Greek community centre in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood.

Horgan was among just over 681,000 people who cast their ballots during the week-long advance voting period this past week, voting Monday at Luxton Hall in Langford, B.C.

The NDP leader called the snap election on Sept. 21, citing a need for stability and certainty in the legislature during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic-era election — the first to be held in B.C. during a provincial state of emergency since the Second World War — saw its battles waged mostly online. Rallies were replaced by virtual debates and townhalls, hand-shaking by distant waving and smiles by cloth masks.

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats. Two seats were held by Independents and one seat was empty.

The NDP campaign was often more defensive than offensive, striking a stay-the-course tone with policy re-announcements and the hope of capitalizing on a widely acclaimed public health response to COVID-19. (Though it should be noted all candidates endorsed B.C.’s highly regarded, non-partisan Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry during the campaign.)

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan announces his party’s election platform in Vancouver, British Columbia on Tuesday Oct. 6, 2020. CBC predicts he will keep his job as B.C. premier. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Both the Liberals and Greens attacked Horgan continuously over the course of the 32-day campaign, his chief opponents and former allies questioning how the public could trust a “selfish” leader who betrayed his confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party in order to call what they saw as an opportunistic snap election.

Horgan’s task was convincing voters the election was undertaken for their benefit, providing them an opportunity to replace a shaky, bygone NDP-Green agreement with a fresh, stable government — regardless of party — that could definitively see them through the rest of the pandemic.

Final results could take days

The outcome of the election itself might be uncertain after Saturday night, if the races are close.

More than 720,000 mail-in ballots were requested during the campaign and nearly 498,000 had been returned as of Friday. Vote-by-mail packages are collected centrally and cannot be counted for at least 13 days after general voting day, according to decades-old legislation. 

If a riding is neck-and-neck by the end of the night, it could be too close to call without including the mail-in ballots. If ridings are won by landslide, it’s unlikely the mail-in ballots will change the preliminary results released Saturday.

Elections in B.C. have been, historically, declared by wide margins, though that was far from the case in the last two provincial elections in 2013 and 2017.

Officials with Elections BC hope to deliver the final results by Nov. 16, but the date isn’t set in stone as it’s unclear how much time will be needed to count the mail-in ballots — which are counted by hand, one at a time.

British Columbia confirms record-high 139 cases of COVID-19 in one day

British Columbia confirms record-high 139 cases of COVID-19 in one day

British Columbia has hit a new record for the number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in one day in the province, posting 139 on Thursday.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said these new cases bring the number of active cases of infection to a new high of 1,412 out of 6,830 confirmed since the pandemic began.

The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 has risen to 42, an increase of 10 since Tuesday and the highest number in B.C. since May 21. There are currently 14 people in intensive care.

Thursday marked the gradual return to school for many B.C. children, and Henry tried to reassure families who might be feeling anxious, saying that schools have made it through measles and meningitis outbreaks, and they will make it through COVID-19 as well.

“I think it is important to recognize all the work done by educators, principals, parents to get schools ready this year,” she said. “We will all be learning over the next few weeks.”

However, acknowledging there will be transmission in schools, Henry said local health officials will make sure that everyone affected is notified.

It’s possible that some learning cohorts will have to be sent home and some individual schools might be closed, but Henry said she doesn’t expect a system-wide shutdown.

There have been no new deaths from the novel coronavirus in B.C., leaving the total deaths to date at 213.

There are currently 13 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted-living facilities and three in acute-care units of hospitals.

‘Everybody’s tired of COVID-19’

As the COVID-19 caseload continues to rise with no signs of the curve of infection flattening, Henry urged everyone to play it safe and stick to reliable sources for information about the virus, such as the BC Centre for Disease Control.

“Let’s all make those right choices that will help keep cases low and continue to allow us to engage in important social and economic activities that we need,” she said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix echoed that advice, saying that while everyone is tired of restrictions related to the pandemic, large gatherings need to stop.

“We’re tired, everybody’s tired of COVID-19. We’re already tired and there’s a long way to go,” he said.

The rule of thumb should be to “stick to six” — the same six people — for any get-together, especially when it’s taking place inside, Dix said.

“Each one of us probably has a list of things we can’t do that we’d like to do again. It’s not forever, even if it feels like it — it’s for now,” he said.

As Sept. 21 approaches, and Canadian and U.S. officials consider whether to extend the border closure for non-essential travellers, Henry said she would like to see more flexibility for families who need to travel between the two countries to see loved ones.

But she said she would not support a complete reopening of the Canada-U.S. border.

“We still believe that visiting for recreational reasons is very risky right now and would advocate to keep the border closed,” she said.

Meanwhile, Henry said that health officials around the world are still learning about the long-term health effects of COVID-19.

She said there has been an increase in cases in younger people, who tend to have mild symptoms, but later there can be an impact on the heart, blood vessels and lungs, as well as profound fatigue that can last for many months.

It’s been “extremely challenging” for some people who fell ill in March and still haven’t been able to return to normal activity, Henry said.

Doctors aren’t able to say whether these effects will last or if they will gradually improve.

Record high 139 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in B.C.

Record high 139 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in B.C.

B.C. has hit a new record for the number of new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in one day with 139 on Thursday.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said these new cases bring the number of active cases of infection to a new high of 1,412 out of 6,830 confirmed since the pandemic began.

The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 has risen to 42, an increase of 10 since Tuesday and the highest number since May 21. There are currently 14 people in intensive care.

Thursday marked the gradual return to school for many British Columbia children, and Henry reassured families who might be feeling anxious, saying that B.C. schools have made it through measles and meningitis outbreaks and they will make it through COVID-19 as well.

“I think it is important to recognize all the work done by educators, principals, parents to get schools ready this year,” she said. “We will all be learning over the next few weeks.”

However, she also acknowledged there will be transmission in schools, and local health officials will make sure that everyone affected is notified.

It’s possible some learning cohorts will be sent home as a result and some individual schools might be closed, but Henry said she doesn’t expect a system-wide shutdown.

There have been no new deaths from the novel coronavirus, leaving the total deaths to date at 213.

Right now, there are 13 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and three in acute care units of hospitals.

‘Everybody’s tired of COVID-19’

As the COVID-19 caseload continues to rise with no signs of the curve of infection flattening, Henry urged everyone to play it safe and stick to reliable sources like the B.C. Centre for Disease Control when it comes to information about the virus.

“Let’s all make those right choices that will help keep cases low and continue to allow us to engage in important social and economic activities that we need,” she said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix echoed that advice, saying that while everyone is tired of restrictions related to the pandemic, large gatherings need to stop.

“We’re tired, everybody’s tired of COVID-19. We’re already tired and there’s a long way to go,” he said.

He said the rule of thumb should be to “stick to six” — the same six people — for any get-together, especially when it’s happening inside.

“Each one of us probably has a list of things we can’t do that we’d like to do again. It’s not forever even if it feels like it — it’s for now,” Dix said.

As Sept. 21 approaches and Canadian and American officials consider whether to extend the border closure for non-essential travellers, Henry said she would like to see more flexibility for families who need to travel between the two countries to see loved ones.

But she added that she would not support a complete reopening.

“We still believe that visiting for recreational reasons is very risky right now and would advocate to keep the border closed,” she said.

Meanwhile, Henry said that health officials around the world are still learning about the long-term health effects of COVID-19.

She said there has been an increase in younger people who have mostly mild symptoms, but later there are effects on the heart, blood vessels and lungs, plus profound fatigue that can last for many months. It’s been “extremely challenging” for some who fell ill in March and still haven’t been able to return to normal activity, she said.

Doctors aren’t able to say whether these effects will last or if they will gradually improve.

B.C. closes nightclubs, banquet halls after confirming 429 new COVID-19 cases over long weekend

B.C. closes nightclubs, banquet halls after confirming 429 new COVID-19 cases over long weekend

B.C. is ordering nightclubs and stand-alone banquet halls closed, ending the sale of liquor at restaurants past 10 p.m. and telling venues to reduce the volume from music or other sources to conversational levels, as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in the province.

Bars and restaurants must close by 11 p.m., unless they are serving food.

The amendments to public health orders come as the province reported 429 new cases of COVID-19 over a four-day period, bringing the total to 6,591. Two more people, both in long-term care, have died of the virus.

The new numbers represent four reporting periods over the long weekend. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 123 of the cases were recorded between Friday and Saturday, 116 were reported between Saturday and Sunday, 107 between Sunday and Monday, and 83 new cases were confirmed between Monday and Tuesday.

There are three new health-care associated outbreaks, at Burnaby Hospital, Rideau Retirement Centre and Holy Family Hospital. There are no new community outbreaks, though there have been several exposure events in the Lower Mainland. Hospitalizations in B.C. remain relatively stable, with 32 people in hospital and 12 in intensive care. 

Watch | Dr. Bonnie Henry lays out amendments to the province’s public health orders:

“It became apparent that some venues were really high-risk environments,” says Dr. Bonnie Henry. 3:18

Henry said the amended orders were issued as “a last resort.”

“We recognize that these venues have tried. We’ve made adjustments but there are still exposures happening,” she said.

“Going to a nightclub, going to a bar, going to somebody’s home — close spaces with face-to-face encounters with people we don’t know … that’s a risk.”

Reduce personal contacts

Henry also reiterated that B.C. residents should be easing up on social interactions as the fall approaches, reining in bubbles to five or six people.

She said the province’s philosophical approach to the pandemic has been to issue minimal mandatory restrictions — but that exposures in venues like nightclubs had become a “major source” of transmission, putting strain on public health resources.

“We want to do the least amount we can by order, and make sure we can support people to do the right things they need to do for their own individual situation,” she said.

Asked whether she fears that shuttering nightclubs will drive people to private parties, she said the province would continue issuing fines, especially to repeat offenders. But despite the spike in cases linked to private events and venues, Henry said B.C. is “lucky” that community transmission remains relatively low, and that the province is not considering delaying the return to school. 

“If we do not put our priority as a community back on [schools], we will have long-term generational downsides,” she said.

Henry said she felt restaurants remain safe — adding she “couldn’t survive without them” — especially as the industry has worked hard to implement individualized safety plans.

‘Second ripple’

Earlier Tuesday, Henry said B.C. was experiencing a “second ripple” of cases of COVID-19 and that she was looking at bringing in new measures to help curb the spread of the virus.

At the beginning of the pandemic, health officials and epidemiologists predicted a second wave, possibly connected to colder weather. Now, modelling predicts a pattern of cases more like ripples or “moguls,” as Henry has previously called them, that will spike upwards when enough people in a population become complacent around physical distancing measures.

“I think we’re probably in our second ripple,” said Henry, speaking to CBC’s The Early Edition on Tuesday morning.

“Partly, it’s because our testing has gone up and we’ve had contact with larger numbers in younger people. And I think people needed a bit of a release during the summer. It was very extreme measures that we took in March and April, and it was very concerning for people.”

On Tuesday, potential exposure was confirmed among staff and students at a private school in West Vancouver. In a letter to parents, the head of Mulgrave School, John Wray, wrote that the exposure occurred while Grade 9 students were away from campus for an off-site day camp experience.

Vancouver Coastal Health is now conducting contact tracing and those students and staff are self-isolating for two weeks. The students were all part of the same learning group, and the camp activities took place outdoors, with physical distancing measures in place.

“We have had such a successful start to the year. This event may feel like a setback, but such exposures are expected and we have faith in the system that Vancouver Coastal Health has put in place,” wrote Wray in the letter.

B.C.’s restrictions began to ease in mid-May, as public health orders were gradually lifted. B.C. entered Phase 3 of its pandemic response plan in late June, allowing for travel within the province.

By mid-July, cases had begun to climb steadily upwards, and B.C. recorded its highest single-day jump in new cases on Aug. 28. 

“We had a bit of a grace period in the summer, and allowed people to have that time,” said Henry. “We know we need to put our focus and attention on priority things like getting children back into school.”