I knew there was going to be a snap provincial election called more than 24 hours before the Premier announced it on Monday, Sept. 21.
When I say “knew”, I mean that literally. It wasn’t a hunch, or a gut feeling; I knew it, as surely as I know that the sun rises in the east, the Earth is round, and Sean Connery is the best James Bond. And much as I would like to claim that this knowledge was the result of a hot tip, or because I ripped open a chicken and studied its entrails, the answer is much more mundane and not nearly as messy. I simply looked at my editorial email inbox on Sunday, Sept. 20, and the new messages from the sender “email@example.com”.
This is the email address from which I — and every other newsroom in the province — receive press releases from the provincial government. The releases are mostly purely informational: they announce new programs, new grants or funding, projects large and small, or recipients of awards and honours, such as the Medal of Good Citizenship. There are also media advisories about live events, the Premier’s statements marking religious festivals, holidays, and days of recognition, and other fairly business-like matters (state of emergency extended, latest COVID-19 numbers, etc.).
On a given weekday I’ll get between three and six of these releases, but they usually slow to a trickle on weekends. Some Sundays there are none, and any that I do get on the Sabbath are almost always of the media advisory/premier’s statement variety.
Last week, as chatter about a snap election reached fever pitch, I noticed that the number of these releases was beginning to increase fairly significantly. On Wednesday, Sept. 16 there were eight; on Thursday there were 11; and on Friday, Sept. 18 a whopping 17 hit my inbox.
I hadn’t seen numbers like that from the Province since the run-up to the last election, when the Liberals were sending out press releases like someone drunk-texting their ex-girlfriend at 2 a.m. In the four days prior to the writ dropping in April 2017, I received a total of 46 provincial press releases, with 18 on April 7 alone.
So the numbers last week made me realize something (read: an election call) was probably up, but I knew it for a fact on Sunday, Sept. 20, when I got 11 press releases, all of them about fairly substantive programs and funding announcements. It’s a truism that governments bury bad news by releasing it late on a Friday afternoon. It’s also a truism that they don’t release good news on a Sunday, and certainly not 11 times. It could only mean one thing: someone was clearing the decks for a Very Big Announcement the next day, and you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes — or even Insp. Clouseau — to figure out what that was.
So you can colour me “unsurprised” when the announcement came on Monday morning; I was already sorting out mugshots of the various candidates in Fraser-Nicola. I was also mentally saying goodbye to the week of holidays I’d booked starting on Sept. 23, because journalists — especially those in one-person newsrooms — don’t go on holiday during an election campaign. Thanks, Mr. Horgan.
Following the flurry of releases on April 7, 2017 there was a blessed silence, like the peace of God which passeth all understanding. Between then and July 19, when the new NDP government took office, I received a total of 21 provincial press releases, or less than one every four days. Of course, when God closes a door (no provincial press releases) He opens a window (I’m already receiving a flood of emails from the provincial NDP, Liberal, and Green Parties, and let me tell you, none of them are at all happy about their rivals’ plans for B.C.). Fasten your seatbelts: we’re in for a bumpy ride.