Year in Review 2020: John Horgan, B.C. NDP seize pandemic power opportunity, get rewarded by the gods

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      There’s an old saying that goes, “Fortune favours the bold”.

      It means that those who take risks get rewarded.

      One might be tempted to say that this adage applies to both B.C. premier John Horgan and his New Brunswick counterpart, Blaine Higgs.

      They may not have much in common ideologically, but the two Canadian provincial politicians did a similar thing in the time of COVID-19.

      In the middle of a pandemic and amid harsh restrictions, Horgan, a New Democrat, and Higgs, a Conservative, called snap elections.

      Voters did not punish them for such audacity.

      Their gamble paid off: from leading minority governments, they both won majority mandates and are now at the head of powerful governments.

      For a look back at B.C. politics in 2020, the Straight sought the opinions of two people.

      One is Wayne Crookes, a Vancouver businessman and founder of IntegrityBC, a nonprofit that serves as a government watchdog. He donated to the federal and provincial NDP during the 1990s.

      The second is Raj Hundal, a lifelong New Democrat. He is also a former Vision Vancouver park board commissioner.

      According to Crookes, bold is not the correct word when one applies the old maxim in connection with Horgan and his move to call a snap election.

      “I hate to say it, but…the proverb in the case of these premiers might be, ‘Fortune favours the opportunistic,’ ” Crookes said in a phone interview. “Fortune favours people who, in these cases, violated the law [and] violated public trust.”

      On October 23, 2020, the eve of the B.C. election, IntegrityBC and Democracy Watch, a government-accountability watchdog, filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court questioning the legality of the election.

      The legal challenge was not meant to stop the October 24 election. The petition asked the court to declare that Horgan violated the fixed election laws in the province.

      According to Crookes, the matter is scheduled to be heard in court in early 2021.

      Also, Crookes financially supported a similar legal challenge filed on November 26 by Democracy Watch against the September 14, 2020, snap election in New Brunswick. The petition does not seek to overturn the results of the election; instead, it calls on the court to declare that Higgs violated the fixed election law in the province.

      “I think that they both share a lack of integrity in their decisions,” Crookes said of Horgan and Higgs. “I think they were both opportunistic in that they saw that the polling for them was good and that they would win an election.”

      That they called a snap election “for political advantage” while a pandemic was raging is “deplorable”, Crookes also said.

      Hundal was 15 years old when he joined Canada’s Young New Democrats, the youth wing of the federal NDP. That was during the 1990s, the decade when Crookes was still an NDP donor.

      At the time, the young Hundal and his family were active New Democrats in the provincial constituency of Vancouver-Kingsway, then represented in the legislative assembly by Glen Clark, who later became premier.

      Clark had a smart aide by the name of Adrian Dix, who would eventually lead the provincial party but did not become premier.

      As an adult organizer, Hundal served as a loyal lieutenant to Dix during the latter’s time as provincial New Democrat leader.

      Dix was Horgan’s health minister when the B.C. NDP called the snap election. Dix remains health minister in Horgan’s new cabinet.

      Hundal is now in his 40s, and works for a nonprofit that helps new immigrants succeed in Canada.

      “Ideologically,” Hundal said by phone in reference to Horgan and Higgs, “they might be polar opposites, but at the end of the day, the public recognized that the coronavirus doesn’t follow ideologies.”

      “For the coronavirus,” Hundal continued, “it doesn’t matter if you’re a left-handed or a right-handed person. It doesn’t matter if youre ideologically to the left or the right.”

      According to Hundal, Horgan and Higgs handled the COVID-19 crisis well, earned the trust of the people, and resoundingly won their respective elections as a result.

      Hundal noted that no snap election ever guarantees a victory.

      But he skirted the question of whether or not Horgan and Higgs can be regarded as bold and so were favoured with political fortune by the gods.

      “What I can say is that they recognized the pulse of the community,” Hundal said. “They recognized the pulse of society, and they’re well experienced.”