VANCOUVER — British Columbia's Liberals and New Democrats were jockeying for a lead in early provincial election results.
With just over 500 polls reporting, the NDP edged out a slight lead in 45 ridings to the Liberals 28. The Greens were leading in six.
Whether a winner can be declared Saturday night is up in the air because of an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots.
NDP Leader John Horgan dissolved his minority government a year before the province's fixed voting date and his decision to call a snap election emerged as a key issue in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mail-in-ballot requests surged during the pandemic, with the latest figures from Elections BC showing more than 720,000 were sent out and nearly 498,000 returned.
Elections BC says it hopes to deliver the final results by Nov. 16, but the date isn't firm as it's unclear how much time will be needed to count the mail-in ballots.
Close to two million people voted in the 2017 election.
Calling the election was a gamble for Horgan, who was branded a political opportunist by B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and the Greens Sonia Furstenau for risking an election when they said people need stability.
But Horgan said he called the election to give the province a chance at the certainty of a majority government in uncertain times.
At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats, there were two Independents and one seat was vacant.
The campaign featured promises for more affordable daycare and improvements to long-term care, as well as different ideas on ways to spur the economy after the pandemic subsides.
The pandemic meant the election was mostly fought online. Gone were rallies, replaced by virtual town halls. Handshakes turned into elbow bumps.
The NDP platform was largely built on the party's record and promises to continue what it started, including expanding $10-a-day child care and implementing a rent freeze until the end of next year. There was also a promise to provide a $1,000 recovery benefit for families with annual household incomes under $125,000.
The Liberals want to cancel the provincial sales tax for one year at a cost of $7 billion and eliminate the small business income tax to help with the economic recovery from COVID-19.
Furstenau argued for another minority government, telling voters not to give all the power to one party. She campaigned on the influence the Greens have had on policy, particularly on the government's transition to renewable energy in its Clean BC plan.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2020.
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press