JDF MLA John Horgan is crisscrossing the province to build support for his bid to lead the NDP.

Horgan building Mainland base of support

Juan de Fuca MLA logs long miles in search of NDP leadership

In politics, a key issue is usually the economy – a message that has hit home for John Horgan as he crisscrosses the province on the B.C. NDP campaign trail.

Now two months into his campaign to lead the NDP and ultimately become premier, the Juan de Fuca MLA and Langford resident said he has a new appreciation for the economic woes of northern B.C.

It’s territory he’s covered as energy critic, but looking deeper at the struggling resource economy, such as the transfer of lumber mills to China and contraction of commercial fishing, is unsettling.

“The economy in northwest B.C. is in desperate condition, the depopulation of Prince Rupert and Terrace is stark,” Horgan said in a phone interview from Terrace.

“That kind of poverty is something people in Victoria and Vancouver don’t have a full appreciation of. The rural community poverty is hidden. They have homes that aren’t heated, the fridge is empty. It’s the kind of poverty you don’t hear about.”

Horgan said northern residents are receptive to the NDP message, or at least his message of welcoming and supporting private sector growth, as long as it respects the environment and pays its fair share of taxes.

“That gets a lot of head nods in the crowd,” Horgan said.

At a B.C. Chamber of Commerce meeting in Vancouver, he acknowledged the problems of industry and the uncertainty created by the B.C. Liberal’s introduction of the HST.

“Not everybody is enthusiastic for the B.C. Liberals at this point,” Horgan said. “My message is of certainty. We want a prosperous private sector, but not at the expense of social development.”

In February, Horgan backtracked on his opposition to the carbon tax on fossil fuels, and released an environmental platform that pledged a moratorium on new run-of-river power projects and “transitioning away” from open-pen fish farms off the B.C. coast.

Horgan said the carbon tax must be expanded to cover large industrial emitters that have certain exemption, such as in the oil and gas sector, and cement producers. He would direct that extra carbon tax to projects such as light rapid transit or commuter rail in Greater Victoria, projects that Horgan have gained little traction within the Liberal government.

“The ‘axe the tax’ slogan was wrong. A better approach is fix the tax,” Horgan said. “I’d like to expand the tax, and not at the gas pump. We want to include large industrial emitters.”

Horgan has spent time trying to build support in the Kootenays, where he ended up catching a lift to the coast with three 20-something snowboarders. Hanging out with a politician wasn’t in their day to day experience, and it gave Horgan direct insight in what younger people view as problems.

“I had my own snowboarder focus group for nine hours,” said Horgan, who at 51 is a prolific Tweeter. “They were very interested in issues of today, but they didn’t relate the issues to politics. It was just issues, it was just their lives.”

Upcoming weeks will be filled with NDP leadership all-candidate meetings across Metro Vancouver and Interior, where Horgan said he needs to build up bases of support. “I’m not ignoring the Island, but I need to make an impact on the Lower Mainland.”

Despite pundits suggesting otherwise, Horgan said new B.C. Liberal leader and Premier Christy Clark isn’t a huge threat to the Opposition. “All Christy Clark has changed is the slogan,” he said. “The Liberal brand is tired and the public isn’t in a position to trust the Liberals.”

Horgan also remarked that “the guy from the Island” is a better candidate than his two main rivals – MLAs Adrian Dix and Mike Farnworth – due to their connections with previous NDP governments.

“I represent change better than my two colleagues,” he said. “I speak the truth and ask for confidence from the public to improve the lot of B.C. families.”

B.C. NDP members will vote for a new leader April 17.

— with files from Tom Fletcher

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pandemic spurs egg-citement for backyard chickens in Greater Victoria

Fowl surge in popularity during COVID-19 pandemic

Pandemic profiles: Passion at the heart of community businesses

Businesses rely on community support to stay open

Saanich looks at allowing alcohol in parks after North Vancouver gives the green light

Bylaw allowing liquor in parks ‘a very positive idea,’ mayor says

Organizer, Victoria councillor, VicPD talk about upcoming rally for Black lives

‘It’s a simple ask’: Peace rally for Black lives organizer asks people to listen

PHOTOS: Dozens show up to rebuild vandalized Victoria people-less protest

Chalk messages of support surround the fountain in Centennial Square

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Most Read