Editorial: As we wait for the count, it's time to get back to work

Keep calm and carry on. That might be the best advice for everyone in the wake of Saturday’s provincial election.

While the campaigning is over, the counting is far from finished. One-third of the ballots are still to be tallied, and when they are counted in a couple of weeks, a few close races will be decided. Until then, all we can do is wait.

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It would be hard to imagine the overall result – a strong majority for John Horgan’s New Democrats – changing in the final count. The NDP has a commanding lead in the official voting, just as it had in every public opinion poll conducted in the past month.

Even Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, who resigned on Monday, concedes that it will be an NDP majority.

Of course, it’s not over until it’s over. Let’s show respect for the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who asked for mail-in ballots, and whose ballots are yet to be counted. Their opinions matter; acting as if they don’t would be an insult to the voters and the process.

Let’s hope that if mail-in ballots are still in such high demand in the next election, a better system of counting will be in place. Holding one-third of the ballots for counting a few weeks after the rest are counted is simply not good enough.

Horgan was called opportunistic for calling the election a year early, but clearly, voters were fine with his decision.

But there is another side to that early call – the voters themselves. Horgan only stood to gain more power because many voters no longer wanted to have B.C. Liberals represent them. In a dozen electoral districts, voters have cause to thank Horgan for giving them a chance to choose.

The election should be a wake-up call for the Liberals; their problems go beyond Wilkinson’s uninspired leadership.

Liberals cannot deny that something is wrong, not when so many British Columbians have turned away from them. The Liberal share of the vote has been dropping for years.

The party picked up 46 per cent of the votes in 2009. With the ballots counted so far this time, they have 35 per cent.

Basic math says you cannot form a government when 65 per cent of the voters do not support you.

That does not mean the Liberals should be written off; in 2001, with just two members elected, the New Democrats were in a much deeper hole and nobody prepared a eulogy.

The Liberals can come back if they can present themselves as a viable alternative, with fresh ideas that go beyond what we saw in the Gordon Campbell or Christy Clark years.

They will also need to be more responsive. In the campaign just ended, the party proved incapable of dealing quickly with problems within – Jane Thorthwaite and Laurie Throness, for example – and without.

The Liberals left unchallenged most NDP allegations, no matter how ridiculous those claims were. As a result, those claims – such as “yachts for the wealthy!” – stuck in the minds of voters.

But let’s be fair; the Liberals lost the election before it was even called. The pandemic gives the incumbent party a natural edge in an election. When everyone is living with uncertainty, the natural instinct is to stick with what is known, and not take a chance on something new.

Horgan gave voters little reason to vote him out. He and Adrian Dix, his health minister, have calmly helped to guide the province through the pandemic, and have earned the trust of many, including their political opponents.

The toughest work is yet to come. The second wave of COVID-19 hit during the election campaign, and it could be a bad, bad winter for individuals and small businesses.

The government needs to get us through the pandemic, and that could include tougher restrictions than we might want. There also needs to be a viable plan for stabilizing the economy, and a commitment to make it work.

We are still waiting for that plan; not one of the parties had anything workable to offer during the campaign. The new finance minister – Bruce Ralston, perhaps? – will be expected to bring some fresh ideas.

Let’s hope Horgan’s team is working on this while we wait for the final count to be announced. There is much to be done, and no time to waste.

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