We’re almost two weeks into a provincial election campaign, and there is one question top of the mind for B.C. voters: “If No Time To Die is Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond, who will be cast as the next 007?”
I jest. With Elections BC warning that an explosion in mail-in votes could mean a significant delay in announcing the final results, the question voters will be asking themselves is “When will this needless election finally be over?”
These things used to be predictable. Whatever time the polls closed, the result was usually in no doubt within a couple of hours, bar the odd closely contested riding. The 2017 election, however, dragged on for what seemed like an eternity, and 2020 could be a repeat. I know, I know. Try to control your excitement.
It’s not just frustrating from the “When will this nightmare end?” perspective. The fact is that once the writ dropped on Sept. 21, B.C. was left with what’s known as a caretaker government. John Horgan became the leader of the BC NDP Party. Adrian Dix — to pick one cabinet example — was Health Minister in name only, as evidenced in two provincial press releases sent out on Sept. 21. The first one came out at 6:41 a.m., and stated “Media are invited to join Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, for an update on novel coronavirus.” A follow-up, released at 12:56 p.m., noted tersely that “Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, will not participate in this teleconference.”
That’s thanks to the snap election call, which automatically distanced MLAs from their portfolios, and put an end to The Bonnie and Adrian Show, amongst other things. It also probably left a lot of local governments wondering if their meetings with provincial ministers, which took place the week before, were all a complete waste of time.
How many elected officials from around B.C. sat down with (for example) then-Transportation Minister Claire Trevenna, to discuss issues and challenges affecting their residents, only to find just over a week later that not only is she no longer the Transportation Minister, she isn’t even running for re-election?
The time probably wasn’t wasted, because while the Minister of Transportation is the person in charge, the real day-to-day work of the ministry is carried on by staffers, who remain in their positions. When, for example, Ashcroft council met with Trevenna in 2019, to discuss making the junction of Highway 1 and Cornwall Road near the Travel Centre safer, she was not familiar with the situation because, as the person in charge, she has all the facts about every highway challenge in B.C. at her fingertips. No, she was familiar with the situation because Ashcroft staff sent a detailed briefing note to her staff in advance of the meeting, and these staffers then researched the matter and drew up notes for Trevenna, so that she was able to talk knowledgeably about the subject, rather than saying “Hmm, Highway 1 at Cornwall Road, just let me pull up Google Maps so I can see where that is.”
So the lights are still on at the Legislature in Victoria, but the concern about a caretaker government is that it might not be able to react as nimbly as usual to a crisis, and if the last six months have taught us anything it’s that situations can change rapidly, with crisis potentially just around the corner. Having a caretaker government through Oct. 24 is one thing; the prospect of it dragging on for what could be several weeks after that is quite another.
Ah well, we can always distract ourselves with speculating about who the next “Bond … James Bond” will be. Henry Golding? Idris Elba? Richard Madden? Send an email and let me know who leaves you shaken and stirred.