One of the final speeches of John Horgan’s political career saw the British Columbia premier extol the benefits of collaboration and togetherness to achieve results just before he took a parting shot at forest-policy critics he called do-gooders.
Horgan told municipal politicians at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention Friday that working together at all levels of government is the best way to approach and resolve B.C.’s most pressing issues, including health care, public safety and housing.
The premier announced his retirement earlier this year due to health reasons after battling cancer, saying he will leave the job when the New Democrats elect a new leader in December.
Horgan stressed he wasn’t at the convention to make splashy funding announcements, but rather to start or continue collaborative initiatives aimed at bringing results.
“UBCM has often been characterized as the place where lolly is handed out,” said Horgan, using a British slang term for money. “We wait until we get to UBCM to announce programs. Instead of coming to UBCM and saying, ‘something for you, something for you,’ we’ve come to say what can we do over the next year together.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix told convention delegates earlier this week the province has been in a health-care crisis since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but made no new announcements or commitments.
The mayors of Port McNeill and Clearwater followed the address by Dix, saying their communities are facing critical staffing shortages, hospital emergency room closures and dangerous conditions.
“We all know we are struggling in those areas,” said Horgan, mentioning health care, mental health and housing.
The premier acknowledged he was making his last of eight annual speeches to convention delegates, with three as leader of the New Democrat Opposition and five as premier.
The past five years in B.C., with droughts, floods, mudslides, wildfires, the heat dome, the opioid overdose crisis and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, have been challenging for the province and the government, said Horgan.
“The only way that we got through the past five years, the only way we were able to give confidence to the people we represent was by collaboration, by working together,” he said.
Horgan complimented the municipal politicians who are concluding their four-year terms next month when local elections are held.
“In dog years, the past time is really 28 years, not four,” he said.
While Horgan said he remains optimistic about being an elected official, at a later news conference he criticized old-growth logging opponents who continue to reject the government’s forest policies, including Indigenous-led forest-business initiatives.
“Some do-gooder comes in with a Tilley hat and says, ‘You’re all bad people. The government needs to do this, the government needs to do that,”’ Horgan said.
“People need to stand up and support each other, and to the critics I say put your name on a ballot and see how much support you have,” he said.