NDP leader John Horgan says he’ll focus on people

B.C. NDP leader visits Sidney during series of Island stops.

BC NDP Leader John Horgan made a stop in Sidney Friday

BC NDP Leader John Horgan made a stop in Sidney Friday

BC NDP Leader John Horgan ended a whistle-stop tour of Vancouver Island with a stop in Sidney recently.

Horgan and Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman dropped into Beacon Avenue businesses March 10, including Woodshed Pizza, and spoke with a few residents and members of Sidney town council. Horgan says the tour — which began in Campbell River and hit municipalities across the Island — was a chance to meet people and to talk about changes in government.

“It’s 60 days to the election today (Fri., March 10),” he said. “We’re going to talk about policy and what people want to see in government.”

The Island, save for Parksville-Qualicum and Courtenay-Comox, is an NDP stronghold. Horgan said even in those pockets, his party plans to run good candidates — both current or former politicians from those communities. He said they are people who understand politics and understand their communities.

In Oak Bay-Gordon Head, the party has added high-profile candidate Bryce Casavant, the former B.C. conservation officer who wouldn’t shoot bear cubs.

“He’s a very articulate young man. He was an Afghan vet before he was a conservation officer. He’s doing his PhD on the interface between wildlife and human populations, so where better than Oak Bay?”

Oak Bay, like Mayne Island and Central Saanich, has issues with deer affecting homeowners and farmers.

Horgan said one of the main issues he’s trying to address as he travels around the Island, is how the economy of B.C. can work for everybody.

“Not everyone is benefiting from the current boom here in B.C.,” he said. “Resource communities are struggling. Our forest sector is shrinking, yet the volumes of logs being culled and then going offshore (is increasing).”

Horgan said that as a result, mills next door can’t access that wood. And that’s a result of tenure holders driving up the price of logs.

In Saanich North and the Islands, Horgan said current MLA and candidate Gary Holman has been working very hard. Holman has responsibility for the party’s files on BC Ferries, the environment and electoral reform. The latter category, Horgan said, was most appropriate for Holman — as he won the constituency three years ago with 34 per cent of the vote.

“He knows full well … that communities are not always majority communities. When you’ve got communities that are dynamic and diverse … you have an equal distribution of votes.

“I believe, and Gary believes, that it shouldn’t just be winner-take-all. It’s outdated.”

Enacting a proportional representation voting system has been difficult, at least federally Horgan said, because of one party’s (Liberal) stranglehold in Ottawa for most of the country’s history. Letting go of the system that has helped perpetuate that, he continued, might not be in the federal government’s best interests.

In B.C., Horgan said because of the melding of many interests into a few parties, more voters might be willing to vote differently. He said the province, under proportional representation will result in more minority governments. He favours that, to force more people within provincial political parties to work together.

Three years ago, the NDP appeared to lead in many polls as election day neared. The election result, however, was quite different. Asked what the party needs to do differently, Horgan said from his perspective, he needs to talk about issues that matter.

“Affordability … huge issue. People are struggling from pay cheque to pay cheque. Inequality in our society is becoming more apparent.”

He pointed to increased fees from government and a lack of adequate resources being funneled into health services such as seniors homes.

“Services for people have been reduced over time, and costs are going up.”

He added strong economic drivers, including manufacturing in North Saanich, need to be highlighted and supported through government services.

On pipelines, Horgan said he’s made his position clear.

“I believe there are a whole bunch of ways we can create new sources of energy, that create more jobs.”

The election in B.C. is May 9.