A provincial election is looking more and more inevitable

But it will be a different kind of campaign during a pandemic

I wrote a few weeks ago that whispers of election are in the air both federally and provincially.

We’re going to have to wait federally, until the new throne speech is presented this fall, to see if new Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is ready to bring down the Liberals.

But here in B.C. all signs are pointing to an early election.

Premier John Horgan is not ruling it out.

“And I’ve said that between now and next fall we need to have an election. It’s mandated by next October. And so there’s an opportunity this fall, there’s an opportunity next spring, there’s an opportunity next summer. When that happens, is not necessarily clear to me today.”

He left a lot of doors open with that comment.

Check out the BC NDP media website.

Seven of the twelve releases on the front page are candidates declaring seeking re-election or seeking nomination in a riding. While the NDP have not announced candidates locally in either Kootenay East or Columbia River Revelstoke, BC Liberal Doug Clovechok (CRR) has announced he will run again.

So everyone is getting their ducks in a row, so to speak.

But the ducks are going to be walking a bit of a different row this time around.

Calling an election in the midst of a pandemic is tricky, and most experts believe there will be a COVID-19 surge this fall. How do you pull it off? How do people vote in person while maintaining proper physical distance? Relatively easy in Kimberley, relatively impossible in downtown Vancouver.

Do we scrap in person voting altogether and use mail only ballots? It worked for the last referendum, and Canada Post can handle it. Nobody in Canada or British Columbia has deliberately sabotaged the postal system so as to make mail-in voting difficult to impossible, I’m looking at you, President Donald Trump.

B.C.’s top doc, Bonnie Henry is working with Elections BC on how to pull off an election. She says that with minority governments both provincially and federally, as well as several municipal by-elections which were delayed by COVID, it stands to reason that an election will occur during some level of public health restrictions.

So far, adding more advance voting dates, increasing vote-by-mail and phone voting for those at risk and looking at proper cleaning and safe distancing at in person polling stations are all being studied and considered.

But what of the candidates themselves?

Door knocking is a time honoured tradition once the writ drops. Saying hello and having a direct conversation with a voter truly can make a difference. But can you go door to door during a pandemic? Probably not. Fundraisers will also be difficult because of the 50 person gathering restriction. Even debates will have be held without an audience. Candidates will have to do most of their communicating online and through traditional media. This may be a boon to candidates in geographically huge ridings such as Columbia River Revelstoke. No more breakfast in Revelstoke, lunch in Golden, dinner in Kimberley schedules. But it does take away a valuable tool for candidates.

And I think it’s going to be particularly difficult for new candidates. Incumbents, and those who have run before, will have the advantage of name recognition.

New candidates will have an uphill battle without being able to address local chambers of commerce, or put up a booth at a trade show, or yes, knock on doors.

Kimberley Bulletin