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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Local Politics

Heralding Horgan

BC NDP leadership candidate visits Chilliwack

Staff/Voice photo


NDP leadership candidate MLA John Horgan had lunch with Gwen O'Mahony (L), Patti MacAhonic and supporters at Coffee Plus on Yale Rd. Tuesday.


ith no one standing between him and the leadership of the BC NDP, it's expected that on May 1, Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan will be acclaimed the party's new head.


On Tuesday, the Chilliwack NDP membership held a campaign fundraiser lunch for Horgan at Coffee Plus on Yale Rd.


Judging from the enthusiastic reception, Horgan has plenty of support in Chilliwack.


After lunch, Horgan, along with former Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O'Mahony, and former Chilliwack candidate Patti MacAhonic, met with local reporters.


When asked if she planned to run in the 2017 election, MacAhonic wouldn't say, however she indicated it could be a possibility with Horgan as leader.

"With John, it makes it a lot more attractive, I'll tell you that," she said.

"With all the changes to BC Hydro and everything that was happening at the time, for most people, they don't understand the complexity of actually what was happening and John spoke very well to that and I was really up on the file because of my position," said MacAhonic. "I think John is perfect. He's a fighter. He knows the issues. He's a smart guy and he has integrity, and he's not afraid to hold feet to the fire and ask the right questions, which need to be asked of the Liberals, and stand up to the record which is what's needed. I couldn't be more pleased."

O'Mahony was equally illusive about running.

"You never know what's going to happen. It's a long way off. But you know what they say; the minute an election ends, a new one begins. And I think it's no surprise that I've been quite active in the community and will continue to do so and I want to echo Patti's endorsement of John," explained O'Mahony. "I mean, this is really exciting and as I mentioned earlier to the crowd that's gathered here, John is a highly respected member and he's done well in the portfolios that he's taken, and I think he's bang on when he says the party needs to unify and he's the man to do it."

"I don't think anyone speaks ill of John. People adore John," she added.



Note: The following is reporters questions and answers Tuesday with John Horgan. There wasn't enough time then, so the Voice submitted the rest of our questions via e-mail to which Mr. Horgan indicated he would try to find time this weekend to get to them. Watch the Voice for more on this later.


StarFM: It could be seen as a good thing that you have been acclaimed, or you will be in May, um, in that it unified the party, could it also be seen as a bad thing though that you don't get your party in the spotlight having a leadership convention?

Horgan: I think that it's a mixed blessing. There are those who are making the case that a leadership race is robust, brings forward new ideas and there's a debate and people come to different candidates because they're excited about change.

I think there's also the downside when you have two people like myself and Mike Farnworth, who have been friends for 20-years, who would sit down and agree on our similarities more than we would find differences of opinion on policies.

The NDP is also a party of grassroots policy, not leader-down policy.

In the last leadership race in 2011, Adrian (Dix), myself, Mike Farnworth, Dana Larson and Nick Simon, travelled around the province, five of us, trying to make connections with people leading into an election. Adrian was successful. We lost the election. Now I think what the party needs, and basically what I've seen over the past eight months is a consensus candidacy in me, where people from every corner of the province, every level of municipal politicians, former candidates, current MLAs, members of Parliament, have come to my team as the "Unity Team", that we will build around my leadership by demonstrating that we have depth, and in the leadership campaign becomes the culpable personality. What I want is to demonstrate the strength that we have in every region at the grassroots level and that's the quest for me for the next three years, is to build on the strengths that we have in communities, rather than highlighting any strengths that I have as the 'front guy' for the NDP.

The Voice: How important is Mike Harcourt's support right now?

Horgan: Mike, in my opinion, laid out the road map for success. Mike was a mentor of mine as I was growing up in politics. I've talked with him several times. I haven't since he made his announcement (no longer a party member), but I did just prior to it and I knew that he was frustrated with the party, frustrated with our loss of the importance of balance between the environment and the economy. We are no longer telling a story that speaks to sustainability, which was his mantra as premier, nor do we speak about the importance of extracting the most value from our resources.

So my job, as leader of the opposition, and leader of the NDP, is to make sure that balanced message breaks through with people in every corner of the province.

The Times: What was the biggest mistake made in last election?

Horgan: Not holding the government to account for their record. Twelve-years in power, disarray in every possible sector. Jobs lost in forestry, a slow-down in mining. You look at look at the press releases that the government, the public affairs bureau pushes out, several hundreds of people that corral you poor journalists and bombard you daily with news of things that may come to pass in the future, rather than giving you the information about what's actually happening; child poverty rates, the inequality that's growing in every community, the lack of silviculture, the forest sector is in steep, steep decline as we continue to export more and more raw logs. Those are the realities of the economy of today. That's not the realities that the liberals portray. In the last campaign, we didn't tell that story effectively, and we lost.

The Times: Was it comparatively that idea of staying positive?

Horgan: I'm absolutely supportive of being positive. I need to tell our story. we need to tell people why they should support us. But we have to have a counterpoint to that, and that's the essence of a political debate. This is my point of view. This is what Patti and I stand for. But this is what the other guy's have done. Public, you have an opportunity and choice here and what we're hoping to deliver to you and what they have been doing to you.

We didn't do the what-did-they-do-to-you part at all, and the public in many parts of the province decided to stay with the government that they knew, rather than the government that they didn't know.

But again, if you look at the map, look at the coast, we have 7 seats in Vancouver, all of Burnaby, New Westminster. We lose seats in the Fraser Canyon and in the North, and that's where now we have to focus all of our attention. Kamloops, Prince George, here in Chilliwack.

StarFM: Some people say that it was Adrian's faux pas stance on the pipeline that may have done the NDP in. What are your thoughts on Kinder Morgan and Enbridge and will you keep that message consistent?

Horgan: Well certainly the message on Enbridge is consistent. We as a caucus intervened in the National Energy Board hearing. I'm the energy critic. I led that campaign and I don't believe that a Northern Gateway Pipeline is in the best interest of our province and the best interest of our economy. Certainly the people in the region feel that way. As recently as this weekend, that the people of Kitimat voted resoundingly against it.

It's interesting that a 59-41 vote is "close" in British Columbia and it's a resounding victory in any other part of the country. But the people in Kitimat said 'no', unequivocally. First Nations have been saying no to Enbridge.

When it comes to Kinder Morgan, my view before the election, and even during the election, was that they should be entitled to make their case to the regulator and that's what Mike Harcourt said.

Mike Harcourt doesn't support a pipeline into the Lower Mainland. What he supports is a rigorous environmental assessment process that allows investments to make their case. The media, and Adrian, left the public with the impression that he wasn't prepared to allow them to make their case.


What he said was, he didn't think that the people in the Lower Mainland wanted Vancouver and Burrard Inlet to become a Super Export Port for Alberta Oil. That's what he said, which became; 'Oh, that means you're against it.'

What he was doing in my opinion, was speaking the reality of our community.

Derrik Corrigan, the very successful, multiple-term mayor of Burnaby declared he'll lie down in front of bulldozers. The various Nations around the Burrard Inlet will be in war canoes if there's the prospect of increased tanker traffic.

The mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, says he's opposed as well.

So, I think Adrian was speaking the political realities of our time and what Harcourt responded to and what I believe I support Mike in, is that if we're going to attract investment to BC which we must do, we need to make sure our processes are robust, and transparent, and everyone should be allowed to make their case.

There are good projects and there are bad projects and we should depend on science and rigorous examinations to make those conclusions.

The Times: How will you balance that if you end up becoming premier in 2017, and I'm going to say that we're going to get the green light, I can see no way that they not approve it, how will you balance that, like in 2017, they'll be digging ground?

Horgan: Well, if they're digging ground, then we'll inherit a battle in communities and we'll have to deal with that. But my views today as a prospective candidate, and two weeks from today if you asked me the same question, it would be that Kinder Morgan has every opportunity to make their case to the public and BC through our environmental assessment process and that's what they're doing. We'll see how the chips fall from there, but science should decide our thinking on these matters. As you say that it's a Brownfield opportunity. There is a couple of loops, if you look at the math, that are not consistent with current right-of-way or the existing right-of-way, and I think that's where those who are vigorously opposed to this project can put their flag down and make their case against the project.

But, it's my view that I'm a political representative for the constituency of Juan de Fuca, n the west coast of Vancouver Island which does not want to see a nine-fold increase in tanker traffic. That's the view of my constituents, so I'll be guided by that and by the science, when I make a decision, if I have to make a decision.

The Voice: You say on your website that you have measures in place to mitigate the BC Hydro rate increases, can you elaborate on that?

Horgan: I brought forward a private members Bill called the Hydro Affordability Act. You can go to the (Legislative) Assembly web site and you can download the Bill. It's a simple amendment to the Utilities Commission Act that would allow the Commission to set what is called a 'lifeline rate'. Which would be in essence a means test; individuals, homeowners, hydro users, ratepayers can make their case to the regulator that they're is sufficiently low that it would be arduous for them to pay the 28 per cent over five years that Hydro is contemplating.

Other jurisdictions, California most notably, have lifeline rates for many of their utilities, so that people on fixed income, seniors and those on disability benefits, are not forced to pay the market rate for power because of this low income threshold. So it's a simple solution for those who absolutely cannot afford to pay 9 per cent more this month than they did last month, and over the term of the 5-year plan, 28 per cent is enormous.

That's going to have a drag on the economy. That's certainly going to have a significant impact on families. It's a simple amendment. I proposed it in 2008, when the Utilities Act was being amended so that they didn't look at anything like capital projects, rate carryings that had been cancelled. Hydro is in disarray. The Liberals have no plan. This is a modest solution to the problems that they've been creating.

For more about John Horgan, visit his web site at: www.johnhorgan.com



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