BALDREY: Horgan gambles NDP popularity will prevail over snap election anger

Will the apparent resentment towards the snap election come back to bite the man who caused it?

That seems to be the biggest risk to NDP leader John Horgan’s bold and potentially reckless bid to form a majority government.

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Calling an election when he did not need to in the middle of a pandemic no doubt strikes many people as opportunistic and self-serving.

However, will that sentiment mean enough people will turn against him and his party when it comes to casting ballots for the Oct. 24 election, thus denying them a victory?

Horgan and his team of advisors clearly think that will not be the case and there are a number of reasons that likely go into their line of thinking.

First, various opinion polls clearly show the NDP is significantly more popular than any other political party.

The public is clearly supportive of and impressed by Horgan’s performance in leading B.C. through this pandemic. He has been helped in no small part by the performances of Health Minister Adrian Dix and, in particular, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Second, the alternative choices to the NDP do not appear to be particularly organized or energized right now. Neither the B.C. Liberals nor the B.C. Greens wanted this election and for good reason.

The NDP is significantly ahead of the other parties when it comes to fundraising, candidate recruitment and organization.

It has been able to attract star candidates into the fold and is running them in seats critical to any chance of winning a majority (ex-NDP MPs Murray Rankin in Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Fin Donnelly in Coquitlam-Burke Mtn.).

Third, the nature of the election campaign itself puts B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson at a distinct disadvantage since it will be hard for him to elevate his public profile, which right now is quite low.

There will be no campaign “events” of the traditional sort. No big rallies or crowds of any size and no leader’s tour of any significance will make it hard to make a dent in the media, particularly television.

Zoom chats, Skype calls and Facebook Live can only take a candidate so far with the voters.

Now, not all things are in the NDP’s favor as they head into the campaign.

Most notably, the daily COVID-19 case numbers continue to escalate. We have gone from an average of just under 80 a day last month to the current average of more than 120 a day.

As the case numbers increase – and the deaths and hospitalizations do as well – the decision to call an election may indeed be the main issue for voters who are alarmed at what they are witnessing.

However, Horgan and his team are gambling that any misgivings over holding an election will be replaced by those more impressed with his leadership during this pandemic.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

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