Premier John Horgan announces there will be a fall election as he speaks during a press conference in Langford, B.C., on Monday September 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Premier John Horgan announces there will be a fall election as he speaks during a press conference in Langford, B.C., on Monday September 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Cariboo North MLA ‘deeply disappointed’ in early election call

Coralee Oakes says there has been unprecedented co-operation in Victoria during the pandemic

  • Sep. 22, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes wasn’t happy to hear NDP leader’s John Horgan’s call for an election for Oct. 24.

At a news conference in his home community of Langford Monday, Sept. 21, Horgan said he has “struggled mightily” with the decision to call an early vote, but the long duration of the pandemic requires stability. That stability is eroded three and a half years into his term with former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver sitting as an independent and preparing to retire, he said.

Horgan is currently leading a minority government under a “confidence and supply agreement” signed in 2017 with the B.C. Green Party.

“To be clear, we have stability in our government, as all parties, up ’till now, have put the health of our citizens ahead of partisan politics,” Oakes said in a telephone interview following Horgan’s announcement. “We came together on March 23 and passed unanimously $5 billion to support our citizens, and we have been working collaboratively to ensure the support of British Columbians. We had unprecedented co-operation and collaboration at the Legislature. We’ve all continued our important roles of raising the concerns of our constituents and asking questions to ensure accountability of government, but for John Horgan to suggest that us asking these types of questions was just bickering and was a need for us to go to the polls is disingenuous and disrespectful to the constituents that we represent.”

The law currently specifies the next election in the fall of 2021 but permits the province’s lieutenant governor to accept a recommendation for an earlier vote.

READ MORE: Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

Provincial governments go into “caretaker mode” during elections, with the public service managing existing programs only.

Finance Minister Carole James, who announced in March that she would not be seeking re-election after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, will manage the government while the election campaign unfolds, Horgan said during his announcement.

With B.C. currently having the most cases of COVID-19 per capita in Canada (as of Monday, Sept. 21), Oakes feels British Columbians need a 24/7 government working now.

“We need a Cabinet, we need a minister of education, we need a minister of health, we need a premier advocating to the federal government why we need increased supports, ” she said. “A significant amount of federal supports are going to change at the end of the month, and for families that are worried about their job, about their employment, about access to programs, now is not the time for the premier to abandon his responsibilities. Now is his time to demonstrate leadership.”

As for the next steps for Oakes, she says she hopes to be able to hopefully announce her candidacy for the BC Liberals next week after an Elections BC office has opened and she has gotten the required 100 signatures and completed her nomination papers.

“My absolute commitment to all of the citizens of Cariboo North is that I will continue to provide accurate, up-to-date information,” she said. “I will be focusing my attention on making sure that people in our riding are safe and are able to vote.”

Oakes has represented Cariboo North in Victoria since 2013.

In the last provincial election in 2017, Oakes won with 6,359 votes. Running for the NDP, Scott Elliott was second with 4,430 votes. Richard Edward Jacques was third for the Green Party with 919 votes, and Tony Goulet was fourth for the Conservative Party with 747 votes.

— with files from Ashley Wadhwani and Tom Fletcher

Quesnel Cariboo Observer