BC NDP leader John Horgan: I believe that people want change

May 1 2017, 6:02 am

Ahead of the BC election, the Daily Hive editorial team has interviewed all three party leaders, to find out who they are, discuss the issues you care about most, and put your questions to them.

Our first interview was with John Horgan, BC NDP leader, who spent an hour with us, discussing everything from the minimum wage to Game of Thrones. Yes, you read that right.

Who is John Horgan?

Horgan was born in Victoria, but his father passed away when he was 18 months old, leaving his mother to raise him, his two brothers, and sister alone.

“She instilled in me a sense of fairness,” Horgan told Daily Hive. “If you see injustice, call it out – and that’s just how I grew up.”

Horgan got a Master’s degree in History and headed to Ottawa, where he says he fell into politics in a job “opening mail” on Parliament Hill. He’s been involved with the NDP ever since.

“It seemed to me that politics was a way to engage with people, to help people, and when you see injustice, stamp it out,” he said.

Now 57, Horgan has been MLA for Juan de Fuca on Vancouver Island since 2005, and leader of the BC NDP since 2014.

After 16 years out of power, Horgan describes the BC NDP as “a band of opposition members that throw rocks for a living,” a life Horgan says he found “pretty dull.”

But now in full campaign mode, Horgan says he’s having a blast.

“I’ve been waiting three years to do this,” Horgan said. “Now we’re in this proposition period where I can talk to people directly about the things I want to do and we can make BC better, and that’s exciting!”

Much of Horgan’s platform addresses two massive issues affecting many in Vancouver right now: housing and affordability.

Horgan’s renters’ rebate

Among their promises, the BC NDP are pledging an annual $400 rebate for renters.

Horgan says the rebate is designed to show renters they matter too, not just homeowners, who already receive homeowner grants.

“If the government can give free money to homeowners, who may well have mountains of equity, why can’t we give a few bucks to renters who desperately need it?” said Horgan.

BC NDP leader John Horgan at Daily Hive (BC NDP)

BC NDP leader John Horgan at Daily Hive (BC NDP)

Of course, $400 won’t get you very far. In Vancouver, it won’t even buy you are week’s rent. But Horgan says it’s the best he could do in BC’s $50 billion budget.

“The amount of money is infinitesimal, but it’s significant to many people,” said Horgan, who suggests anyone who thinks it should be spent elsewhere could donate it to a food bank.

“There are people out there who would be damn happy to have $400 and those are the people who are not being represented by the current government. I feel very strongly about this.”

Horgan, who is married and has two grown sons in their 20s, says he rejects the popular idea that the only goal in life is to acquire a home.

“Get real,” said Horgan. “Of course, people may well want to make that their life’s mission, to own real property, but most people want a place that is comfortable that they can call home.”

The living wage argument

And then there’s BC’s minimum hourly wage, which at $10.85, is the third lowest in Canada and only half the liveable hourly wage in Vancouver of $20.64.

The BC NDP would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. For some, that is too little, too late, but again Horgan says he’s doing what he can.

“We’ll achieve the $15 at the pace that we can and in the economy we can sustain, and then we’ll go higher than that,” he said.

“The living wage argument is one that I’m persuaded by,” said Horgan. But “in an election campaign, there’s limited span width for broad discussions about societal change.”

Horgan says “breaking out of that box” is something better left until he’s in government.

1990s NDP vs. today’s NDP

What that government could look like is on many people’s minds, as they hark back to the 1990s, and remember scandals and spending under successive BC NDP governments.

Horgan wasn’t in an elected position back then, but did work for multiple BC NDP premiers. He gives what happened in the past short shrift.

“I think the difference in today’s NDP to the NDP of the past is that I’m the leader and I have an optimistic view,” said Horgan.

“People who say, ‘I remember this from a long time ago,’ should get on, move on, get over it–and I can’t imagine that the past decade has been good for them either.”

BC NDP leader John Horgan at Daily Hive (BC NDP)

BC NDP leader John Horgan at Daily Hive (BC NDP)

What about the next decade? Horgan plans to boost the tech sector by investing $100 million and helping local startups to get government contracts.

The province’s low tax rates may bring companies to BC, he says, but if their employees can’t afford to live here, they will leave.

“If the tech companies want low marginal tax rates and pipelines into the Lower Mainland, then they should vote for the Liberals,” said Horgan.

“If they want someone who is working for them, then they should vote for me.”

Stopping Kinder Morgan

And what of those pipelines? The BC NDP say they will use “every tool” in their toolbox to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

“One of the first calls I make upon being elected will be to the Prime Minister to make it abundantly clear to him that that’s my position and the government has a four year mandate and we’re going to hold fast to that,” said Horgan.

Stopping George Massey Bridge

The BC NDP say they would also stop the $3.5 billion bridge being built to replace the congested George Massey Tunnel.

“It’s not the best way to go. It’s a big ton of money that could be put towards other improvements,” said Horgan. “The twinning of the tunnel, or the rejuvenating of the tunnel, is a more cost effective way to get a better result.”

Rideshare is coming

While we’re on the issue of transport, there’s the thorny issue of rideshare to discuss. The BC NDP have been less than enthusiastic in the past about companies like Uber and Lyft.

Horgan readily admits, “For those voters who do believe rideshare is the most important thing, I might not be their guy.”

But, he says, a BC NDP government would bring in rideshare, potentially as early as May 2018–once they’ve levelled the playing field for taxi drivers.

“Clearly there’s a need for the service, and we’ve been absolutely up front about that. It’s coming. Let’s do it right.”

Nevertheless, he says, the taxi industry needs to adapt fast. “If it doesn’t, then it won’t exist anymore,” said Horgan.

Game of Thrones

BC NDP leader John Horgan at Daily Hive (BC NDP)

BC NDP leader John Horgan at Daily Hive (BC NDP)

It’s while we’re discussing rideshare that Game of Thrones comes up, as Horgan describes his previous attempts to warn the BC government rideshare was coming.

“Change is coming. Winter is coming. You know, let’s be ready for it.”

Winter is coming? Horgan says he doesn’t want to link that to his rideshare policy. Fair enough. Being able to get an Uber really isn’t the same as being invaded by whitewalkers.

But is he really a Game of Thrones fan?

“Yes I am! I’ve been actively looking at spoilers all over the place. I can’t wait,” said Horgan, eagerly anticipating the next season of GoT in June.

“I’ve only read two of the books–I just don’t have time–and I can’t wait for June.”

Who knew? Now, back to the real-life game of thrones playing out on the BC stage right now. Does Horgan stand a chance?

“I believe that people want a government and that they want change,” said Horgan.

“They’re tired of someone who’s making life harder for them, not easier. And saying everything is great, when it’s not. They know it’s not.”

“We have laid out the plan, we are going to stick to the plan and it’s costed, it’s affordable and it’s a start. But is this the end? I don’t think so.

“I see infinite possibilities for people, I see infinite possibilities for British Columbia and we need a government that’s engaged with people to have those types of discussions.”

Daily Hive is your home for BC Election coverage throughout the campaign period. To access our full BC Election coverage click here: Battleground BC.

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