Introducing the opposition
It's been a busy three months for John Horgan.
On May 4, he was acclaimed the leader of the opposition in the legislature, the BC NDP.
While it's a big job, it's one he was ready for. The Juan de Fuca MLA had already ran in the 2011 leadership election against Adrian Dix. When Dix stepped down last year, Horgan was the only officially nominated candidate.
"My road to the leadership office was hastened because I had the broad support of the caucus and I'm wanting to build on that," he said.
Now that the legislature is closed for the summer break, he's been able to get out and learn more about the province he hopes to lead.
He toured Agassiz last Wednesday, with former NDP MLA Gwen O'Mahony as a tour guide along Pioneer Ave.
"Gwen and I popped in and out of businesses and talked to the film crew that were there," he said. "It was fun, we had a really good day.
They stopped by a farm on Seabird Island and talked about agriculture.
"I like to talk, and I like to listen," he said. "People are very much receptive to me."
This was not Horgan's first trip to Agassiz, and coming back brought fond memories of his youth to mind.
"When I was in high school we came to play a basketball game," he recalled. "We had a 7'2" centre on our team and we go there at about 4:30 p.mm. on a Friday afternoon and there was a massive crowd. I felt like a star but of course they wanted to see Jimmy wade through the crowd.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," he added. "And every time I come through Agassiz I remember that."
But fond memories aside, the politics of the day come to mind. One of the most pressing issues in the province today is the teacher's strike, and this interview was one day after the Liberal government announced a $40 a day kickback to parents of school-aged children 12 and under, for every school day schools are closed due to job action.
"I call it foolish," he said. "The foolish $40 fiasco… It strikes me that we're in August now and parents don't want a bribe. They want their kids in school. They don't want to enroll in a program and have a cheque sometime in October."
He said it's time put all the fighting aside and bring in a third party negotiator, to put the longer term questions of the court rulings from 2002 dealt with. The other issues should be sorted out over a longer period of time, he added, with the kids happily back in class.
The $40 a day plan wasn't too much of a shock, though, he admitted.
"I live in the Victoria region and the rumours started pretty quickly about this," he said, and it struck him as a waste of energy. "Why would (the government) put people to that task, of all the things you could be focusing on?"
He's a big believer in public education, having done well himself under the guidance of a single mother.
"Public education is the great equalizer in our society," he said. "It gives everyone a chance to succeed."
It's a long time yet before a provincial election (May 2017) so in the meantime, Horgan said he will be getting to know the province as much as possible, through meeting its residents. In Agassiz, he did that with the help of O'Mahony.
"She was such a breath of fresh air," he said, when she came into the political scene back in 2009. She won the 2012 by-election in Chilliwack-Hope, but lost the following year to Liberal Laurie Throness.
"It was a sad day when Gwen lost," he said. "I thought that Gwen had done an outstanding job in the short time she was MLA."
He believes that his party "better reflects the values of people in Chilliwack," he said. "I believe our values are their values."
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