With nominations closed, Elections BC has published the final list of candidates for the Oct. 24 snap election and there are some surprises in the list of 332 people – one of whom stepped down just hours later.
Both the BC NDP and the BC Liberals are running full slates with candidates in every riding. The BC Greens had fielded 74 candidates, but one stepped down on Saturday to throw his support behind an independent candidate. Also of interest is a pair of separatist Wexit candidates on the list for the first time ever, and the number of independents (24) and Libertarians (25) far outstrip the BC Conservative slate (19).
Jeff Hammersmark had been running for the Greens in Chilliwack-Kent but took to Twitter on Saturday to announce that he was suspending his campaign, although the tweet was deleted hours later. In the tweet he had written that the party had not vetted his resignation comments.
“I decided to run for MLA in our district to ensure (Liberal MLA) Laurie Throness would no longer be given a voice in the legislature. His views on conversion therapy and LBGTQ issues in general are not acceptable for a person in elected office,” he wrote in a statement.
Hammersmark explained in the since-deleted tweet that the last-minute confirmation of the three-term city councilor Jason Lum, as an independent candidate, is what made him change his mind.
“Jason is a well-respected member of our city council and our community … We believe in the same things, and I believe he is a good man. And I believe that he now has the best chance of doing what Mr. Wilkinson should have done.”
Hammersmark did not respond to CTV News Vancouver’s request for an interview. CTV News has also contacted the BC Green Party for clarification of where Hammersmark stands as a candidate.
The leader of the Greens, Sonia Furstenau, had wrapped up a press conference just minutes before Hammersmark made the announcement. So far, she has not commented on her candidate’s resignation statements.
During the press conference, CTV News asked Furstenau about the 74 candidates who’d been listed on the Elections BC’s slate. Fursteneau expressed frustration that the party didn’t have as many candidates as it ran in the last election. She blamed John Horgan and suggested the NDP took advantage of its position in government.
“We did not have the head start that the NDP had, we did not have incumbents beyond Adam (Olsen) and me and it is an extraordinary achievement and I'm very proud of it," said Furstenau.
“On September 14th, when we were blindsided by this unnecessary election call, we had exactly zero candidates nominated because we believed the Confidence and Supply Agreement and the legislation that ensures we were supposed to have an election on a fixed election date in October of 2021 -- we believed that the NDP government would abide by their agreement and by the law. They didn't."
Furstenau did not acknowledge there had been speculation for weeks that Horgan’s high approval numbers would lead to a snap election.
NDP leader Horgan was campaigning in Nelson and Revelstoke, while the Liberals’ Andrew Wilkinson didn’t have any public events, opting to work the phones instead, according to his staff.
Shifting political landscape and room for an independent
Veteran political analyst and pollster Mario Canseco says it’s too soon to read anything in the tea leaves looking at the candidates so far, but says Lum has an excellent chance at being a rare candidate to be elected as an independent.
"We haven't had an independent since Vicky Huntingdon, but Lum was the top vote-getter for Chilliwack council in the last election, an immensely popular guy and somebody that has a chance in a riding that is already at play because of all the comments related to Laurie Throness of the Liberals," said the Research Co. president.
He also said that while the Conservatives have twice as many candidates as 2017, they’re struggling since reaching their peak nearly a decade ago.
"In 2013, when Christy Clark wasn't doing very well, they'd become more of a force and they definitely did well in the middle of that period and better than four years ago when they only ran about nine or 10 candidates,” Canseco noted. “You could look at it as they're doubling the number of candidates they have available, but it's still fewer than the Libertarian Party and one of the problems for the Conservatives is there's a fight for relevance and they have a lot of people who maybe thought about running and couldn’t find the time. They want to be included in the debate. Should you include a party that only has 19 people running? Probably not."
Canseco also pointed out the BC Greens are still running candidates in the vast majority of ridings and are maintaining a high profile, which Greens in other provinces haven’t been able to achieve.
Fringe parties and candidates
It’s been months since the Wexit BC website and Facebook pages were updated, but their “core principles” outline the party’s desire to peacefully secede from Canada and to join with other western provinces. They believe that “the future prosperity and liberty of British Columbia is best realized through unification into a sovereign nation composed of the presently sub-sovereign entities of western Canada.”
The leader of the BC Conservative Party, Trevor Bolin, is running in Peace River North, with the party’s key pillars being a commitment to supporting “the family,” responsible resource development in rural communities and fiscal responsibility. The party has only been able to field 18 other candidates, leaving them far outstripped by the Libertarians.
For its part, the BC Libertarian Party says it’s advocating for “individual liberty, lower taxes, free markets, and social tolerance,” according to its website. “Every British Columbian should be free to pursue their vision of a better life, as long as they never harm another person while doing so,” it continues.
The Christian Heritage Party, which touts itself as “Canada’s only pro life political party,” is fielding five candidates, the same number as the Communist Party of BC, while BC Vision – which believes in “3 Generations connections [sic] while using technology”-- is running three candidates.
Finally, a party called Rural B.C. has a single candidate, and it is wholly committed to “advocating for a new ministry dedicated to rural development.”
These parties are often dismissed or even ridiculed during elections, but Canseco points out they have the ability to siphon votes from the mainstream parties, which won some seats by the slimmest of margins – sometimes fewer than 1,000 votes – in 2017.
"Someone can say ‘I'm voting for them because I'm upset with everyone else. I don't like the NDP, I don't like the Liberals, I hate the planet so I'm not voting or the Greens,’ so many combinations of things that could happen,” he said. “I think it's a combination of factors and you definitely have a little bit of that situation where you see a candidate who doesn't represent one of the well-known parties, you might go for them just to spite everybody."