Premier John Horgan announced Tuesday (June 28) he will not be running in B.C.’s 2024 election. (Jane Skrypnek/Black Press Media)

Premier John Horgan announced Tuesday (June 28) he will not be running in B.C.’s 2024 election. (Jane Skrypnek/Black Press Media)

Horgan retirement levels playing field, leaves door open for early election: Kootenay East MLA

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka said Horgan’s government had benefited from his personal popularity

B.C. premier John Horgan’s impending retirement could give the B.C. Liberal Party the opportunity to make up ground according to Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka.

“It definitely levels the playing field,” said Shypitka.

John Horgan has been premier of B.C. since 2017, and announced on June 28 2022 that he would not lead the BC NDP to the next provincial election, triggering a leadership race within the government to replace him.

“Certainly the incumbent has a lot more branding and name recognition,” said Shypitka. “The premier has ridden a nice wave of popularity over the majority of his leadership

Shypitka said that Horgan had likely come to the end of the line for his popularity, so was stepping away from the job at a good time for him personally. “(Horgan’s popularity) has been declining here fairly rapidly in the last four-five months. I think the chickens are coming home to roost, and some of their failed policies are becoming more and more apparent.”

Horgan lead the BC NDP to a thumping majority at the 2020 provincial election, securing 57 seats (of 87) in the Legislative Assembly, and making him the most successful BC NDP leader in history, and reducing the BC Liberals to 28 – their lowest seat count in seven elections. Only in 1991 did the NDP come as close to winning as many seats (51 out of 75).

Shypitka said that the change in leadership (and premiership) for the BC NDP and British Columbia meant that they were now on notice for a possible early election.

“It makes us sharpen the tools in our toolbox here because we don’t know if that election in 2024 will see its maturity date. It could be something before that,” he said.

The 2020 election was called early – almost eight months ahead of schedule – as Horgan sought to capitalize on high polling numbers in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the province largely supporting the provincial governments response to the public health crisis.

An election could happen as early as fall 2023, according to Shypitka, who speculated it would happen after the electoral boundaries commission completed its review of electoral boundaries. It is currently undergoing public consultation to create a preliminary report due by October 21, 2022. More consultation will follow, before a final report and new boundaries are locked in.

While Shypitka paid credit to Horgan’s work as a politician and leader, and wished him good health in light of the premier’s ongoing cancer treatment and desire to be with his family, he said that the opposition would need to step up as a leadership change took place in the governing party.

“In the coming days we have to become more critical as the opposition. There’s a lot of promises that were made by the premier and (Horgan’s) party in the last couple of elections that haven’t come to fruition.”

READ MORE: Kootenay East MLA backs BC Liberal name change
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