When the final mail-in ballots are counted by mid-November B.C. NDP leader John Horgan will likely have his majority government. His gamble calling a snap election in the midst of a global pandemic paid off. But did he do it legally?
Former BC NDP candidate Bryce Casavant doesn’t think so.
Casavant, who earned his doctorate in social sciences from Royal Roads University in 2020, sent a letter of complaint in early October to British Columbia’s chief electoral officer, alleging the election process was flawed. Casavant, a policy analyst, asserted the chief electoral officer, Anton Boegman, incorrectly exercised his emergency powers under the Election Act—fundamentally altering the “protective purpose and intent” of the Election Act.
Casavant has observed the use of emergency powers is becoming commonplace around the world. “It is quite alarming from a social science and politicial point of view,” he said. Once precedent is set, the broader view is that of totalitarian rule. He fears we’re moving closer to it with moves such as B.C. premier John Horgan’s snap election.
“We have an obligation as citizens to pay attention and wake up when this style…of power is being used. We need to ask critical questions and have critical minds as to how this process is unfolding.”
Boegman replied to Casavant’s letter on Oct. 15, saying he disagreed with the analyst’s submissions, and that while his officers administer elections in the province, they have no control over the timing—that is up to the premier and lieutenant governor.
Although Casavant received his answer too late to be effective in the 2020 snap election, he said the argument is gaining ground with other watchdog organizations. National advocacy group Democracy Watch wants to go to court over the matter, claiming B.C. premier John Horgan called the snap election out of “self-interest.”
Although the Ontario-based non-profit group was hoping the snap election would be called illegal, it would be surprising if any court overturned the results now.
Casavant said there was nothing to be done after he received his answer from the chief electoral officer a scant nine days prior to the election. However, we have four more years to discuss the issue now—assuming Horgan doesn’t call another snap election before the next fixed election date.
— Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor.