B.C. Premier John Horgan was greeted with cheers Saturday, kicking off the NDP’s annual convention with a spirited review of his two-year-old minority government’s accomplishments.
Among the loudest ovations was for Horgan’s references to increasing social assistance and provincial disability payments, and increases in the minimum wage.
The minimum wage will pass the long-time B.C. Federation of Labour target of $15 an hour by 2021, the year of the next scheduled election, Horgan told party members at the Victoria conference centre. And he promised that a re-elected NDP government would keep raising it after that.
Horgan reminded supporters that his government’s move to eliminate “contract flipping” in senior homes, where a change of ownership led to union contracts being eliminated.
“Now workers don’t have to reapply for their jobs if the ownership changes,” Horgan said, after the “the largest firing of women in North American history.”
After the speeches by Horgan and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the convention settles into policy discussions, some of which were targeted by protests outside the convention.
One of those groups, led by former NDP leadership candidate Dana Larsen, called on the B.C. and federal governments to provide legal, clean opioid drugs to addicts who are dying of overdoses from smuggled fentanyl and other uncontrolled products.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Horgan said his government is trying everything it can.
“We’ve seen a decline in overdose deaths, but it’s still not acceptable, and we’re going to look at new therapies, new ideas, new suggestions all the time,” Horgan said.
The convention opened with a tribute to former premier Dave Barrett, who died of Alzheimer’s disease in February 2018, at age 87.