John Horgan speaking at a press conference
British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks at a press conference in February of 2019 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The word on John Hor­gan used to be that he was too impa­tient and blus­tery to lead the left-lean­ing New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in the British Colum­bia Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly, and Hor­gan became leader as the par­ty was six­teen years in oppo­si­tion and despair­ing of its come-from-ahead defeat in the 2013 provin­cial election.

The pun­dits under­es­ti­mat­ed the one­time lacrosse play­er, who rep­re­sents a rid­ing (dis­trict) along the Strait of Juan de Fuca west of Victoria.

Hor­gan, six­ty-two, brought the NDP back to forty-one (of eighty-sev­en) seats in the 2017 elec­tion and forged a bare­bones gov­ern­ing alliance with three leg­is­la­tors from the Green Par­ty. The alliance made him premier.

Hor­gan effec­tive­ly gov­erned for three years before jet­ti­son­ing pow­er shar­ing with the Greens and call­ing a snap elec­tion in the fall of 2020.

The elec­tion gave New Democ­rats a major­i­ty in the Leg­is­la­ture and break­throughs in areas, e.g. Fras­er Valley/Langley and Rich­mond, long dom­i­nat­ed by the (not-very-lib­er­al) Lib­er­al Party.

The NDP’s record han­dling the coro­n­avirus, with dai­ly lay-it-out brief­in­gs by provin­cial health offi­cer Dr. Bon­nie Hen­ry and Health Min­is­ter Adri­an Dix, helped it to vic­to­ry. The Lib­er­als have lost ground in urban and sub­ur­ban regions of the province, and are now large­ly a par­ty of rur­al and inte­ri­or British Columbia.

The past week saw Hor­gan mark four years and 109 days in the premier’s office, a record for NDP premiers.

He is the lone par­ty leader who’s been able to twice take the New Democ­rats to pow­er, with the par­ty cap­tur­ing a record 47.7% of the vote in 2020.

But the best of times can be painful times.

As the anniver­sary arrived, Hor­gan informed the province – in a man­ner “char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly direct” in words of Van­cou­ver Sun colum­nist Vaughn Palmer – that he was going under the knife to have a growth in his throat removed.

A day lat­er, a sec­ond direct mes­sage: “The pathol­o­gy con­firmed that the growth in my throat was can­cer­ous,” said Horgan.

“My prog­no­sis is good and I expect to make a full recov­ery. In the next cou­ple of weeks, I will need to start radi­a­tion treat­ment, which will con­clude toward the end of Decem­ber. I will con­tin­ue to par­tic­i­pate vir­tu­al­ly in brief­in­gs, cab­i­net and oth­er impor­tant meet­ings. If in-per­son events, min­is­ter Mike Farn­worth and oth­er cab­i­net min­is­ters may attend in my place.”

Insults fly across the floor of the B.C. Leg­is­la­ture dur­ing debate.

Hor­gan is known for pound­ing the Lib­er­als on their (many) mis­deeds while run­ning the province for six­teen years. Yet, across the spec­trum, Hogan’s ill­ness has pro­duced warm wish­es for recovery.

“We will be think­ing of him in the weeks and months ahead, and I cer­tain­ly look for­ward to a time when he will return, in good health, to the Leg­is­la­ture so we can return to the vig­or­ous debate that he and I usu­al­ly engage in,” inter­im Lib­er­al Par­ty leader Shirley Bond told a scrum of reporters in Victoria.

A promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive in Cana­di­an pol­i­tics, Ontario Pre­mier John Ford, intoned: “John, you are a fight­er. We’re cheer­ing you on here in Ontario.”

Hor­gan sur­vived blad­der can­cer more than a decade ago, describ­ing the ini­tial diag­no­sis to the Globe and Mail as lie “get­ting hit by a big, huge base­ball bat.”

The New Democ­rats embrace con­flict­ing con­stituen­cies, e.g. envi­ron­men­tal­ists and tim­ber unions. Unlike America’s divid­ed Democ­rats, they have demon­strat­ed remark­able dis­ci­pline while gov­ern­ing. The par­ty has field­ed able Cab­i­net min­is­ters, such as Dix, who are respon­si­ble for pre­sent­ing their own bud­gets and defend­ing their depart­ments on the floor of the Legislature.

Even con­tro­ver­sial deci­sions, such as COVID-19 caused trav­el restric­tions with­in the province (now end­ed) have gen­er­at­ed lit­tle protest.

The Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly is cur­rent­ly meet­ing in Victoria.

With resump­tion of ser­vice on the M.V. Coho, you can sail over from Port Ange­les and watch a dis­ci­plined gov­ern­ment mov­ing ahead with its agenda.

As Hor­gan pre­pared for surgery, the B.C. gov­ern­ment announced major defer­rals of log­ging old-growth forests across the province. The reform of for­est pol­i­cy will involve exten­sive con­sul­ta­tions with Abo­rig­i­nal First Nations.

The gov­ern­ment is tabling con­sumer pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion aimed at cre­at­ing safe­guards for those pur­chas­ing new and resold hous­ing in B.C.’s ever-hot real estate mar­ket. Before “the Leg” goes home in Decem­ber, it is expect­ed to cre­ate buffer zones around schools and health care facil­i­ties to pre­vent harass­ment by anti-vac­cine protests.

“I look for­ward to being back in the Leg­is­la­ture and trav­el­ing in the new year,” Hor­gan said in his announce­ment.

The trav­el will like­ly take Hor­gan south to “the States” where Hor­gan and Wash­ing­ton State Jay Inslee are pro­mot­ing improved Amtrak ser­vice and pos­si­bly even ultra high-speed rail between B.C.‘s Van­cou­ver and Eugene, Oregon.

Wrote Palmer:

“He’s beat­en the odds before and has every rea­son to think he can do so again.”

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Adjacent posts