John Horgan on the record: is he walking his talk?

by Bruce Mason

Last March, when BC was awash in costly ads attacking John Horgan, describing him as “Say Anything,” “Flip Flop,” “Angry” and “Spineless,” Common Ground asked the then-opposition-leader to carefully lay out and explain his pre-election platform.

Sensing, correctly, that only the NDP could end 16 long years of neo-liberalism, we videotaped and posted the extensive interview as well as on our website. We also published and made available tens of thousands of free copies in print (April 2017), with the magazine’s headlines reading: Time For Change. Make BC Better. We were told by many NDP and Green insiders that it had made a difference; mercifully, Christy and Co. were shut down.

That was then, this is now, on the eve of the first full Horgan NDP budget. Post-election, Premier John Horgan grinned through the skin of his teeth, boasting, “The majority of British Columbians voted for change!” Fast forward six months and we now know, or should know, much more about the leader of the razor-thin minority government. To a growing number of voters, including former supporters, angry activists and sad and disenchanted citizens, his agenda is hidden, surprising and alarming.

Central to this undeniable and justifiable concern, and outrage, is the unfathomable, multi-billion dollar Site C “decision” to flood a 100km sacrifice zone in the irreplaceable Peace River Valley.

However, Horgan is also simply ruling out, or second-guessing, among other things: legislation to halt foreign housing ‘investment,’ returning BC Ferries to government and freezing Hydro rates, while, apparently, just tooling around Kinder Morgan, fudging on Reconciliation and a fair “last chance” transformation of our badly flawed and broken first-past-the-post voting system.

Meanwhile, NDP lobbyists like Bill Tieleman have joined forces with the Liberals, such as Susan Anton, to kill the urgent call for proportional representation. There are many questions, few answers and a discomforting, even infuriating silence, or mumbled rationalizations by cabinet ministers and back-benchers, who campaigned against what now appears to be new NDP policy.

“Wait,” we are told for the budget in February. In the meantime, the fundamental question: What did John Horgan say and mean? Really.

Below are highlights from the 2017 Common Ground video interview:

John Horgan on Site C:

I’m dedicated to do what I can, if fortunate to win the election, to make substantive changes and leave a planet that’s healthy… Interestingly, Dr. Harry Swain, chair of the federal-provincial joint review panel on environmental, economic, and First Nations impacts of largest public works, in his report on the Site C dam, said Hydro has a responsibility to look at geothermal.

Yet there hasn’t been a penny invested… And wind and solar power – other alternatives – to complement our sources, but the Liberals have been short-sighted in that regard.
 But as climate changes, we’re seeing different weather patterns, not as much snowfall… a thoughtful government would ask, ‘How can we supplement our water hydro-based system with technologies not dependent on water?’… We have more energy than we need, demand is declining. We used to export to the US at a handsome profit, playing the markets. Now, the US is awash in electricity.

So we’ve got nowhere to sell it and more than we need. The average price of electricity in 2006 was $35/megawatt hour. The average price today is the same. Yet we’ve been buying new supply at $100, $110, $120/mwh and building Site C at a conservatively estimated $90/mwh. You can’t buy high and sell low forever; it’s falling on us and on our families.

On housing affordability:

“Look at what’s happening around us. We see speculative investments and headlines: “Get Out of Gold and Get into Condominiums in Vancouver.”’ When housing stock becomes a commodity, you’ve got a problem. It’s a fundamental right, not a speculative investment, in my world anyway, and for the vast BC majority… People are being priced out of the market and the development community, building condos to sell, rather than units to rent.

On Reconciliation with First Nations:

‘Rights and title aren’t just theoretical. I’m excited about the certainty it gives us. To invest in BC, on a land base, talk to First Nations about how to do it.

On BC Ferries:

“Almost 800,000 people live in ferry-dependent coastal communities. I’ve forgotten more about this than the Liberals know. They don’t understand ferries, that’s why they do so poorly on Vancouver Island. The ferry system is an extension of our highway system. So, yes, we’re going to look at those three major Crowns – ICBC, BC Hydro and BC Ferries – with a magnifying glass and find a better way forward that has people at the centre.”

On agricultural land:

As climate change continues, our imported food sources, Mexico and California, become less viable. It will be more important than ever to protect our arable land and put it to good use, not just growing hay.

On electoral reform:

… in 2009, I voted in favour of STV. It was defeated, but perfection is the enemy of progress. Let’s make progress. Whatever this is, it has got to be better.

There you have it, on the record. Post-interview (on tape) Horgan noted, people were “devastated by Trudeau’s backing out on proportional representation,” for which he been “pretty categorical.” But the PM also deceived voters on climate action, transparency, corruption and pipelines, as well as electoral reform.

Horgan now seems only slightly better than Clark and a long way from what many in BC voted for. He is breaking fragile trust and authenticity. Lose that and it all goes – like some burst dam.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.

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