B.C. Premier John Horgan brought his cabinet and caucus to Osoyoos Sunday — and with them a few funding announcements.
But, in the midst of a two-day retreat for 40 members of his team, the most important commodity the Premier brought to town was hope.
Monday night he shared that hope with members of the provincial New Democratic Party’s Boundary-Similkameen constituency who gathered at the Walnut Beach Resort invigorated and relishing a scheduled 2021 election call.
“People divide on issues, families divide on issues, party members divide on issues,” Premier Horgan told a full house.
“(But) if you’re focused on the things that matter to people, if you’re focused on the values that brought all of you into this room tonight, you’re going to win every single time.”
The premier — after a rousing introduction by MP Richard Cannings — detailed the values he has championed through the 23 months his government has led the province and the transformation that has wrought on BC.
“Have we been making decisions? I can’t keep track of it all,” he said to applause.
He made a quick list of some of those changes to provincial programming, noting they “don’t just benefit individuals, it benefits all of us.
“Those were dead-simple decisions that we made on the first week of the job and we’ve been going at a breakneck pace ever since then.”
He called his caucus — the last bastion of New Democratic government in Canada — “representative” of the province.
“When Sheila (Malcomson) joined our caucus, I became the first leader in Canadian history to say that half of my caucus were men and half of my caucus were women,” the premier said.
“There is equality in gender. There are gays, there are lesbians, there are Indo-Canadians, Chinese-Canadians, Filipino-Canadians, Metis Canadians, Indigenous Canadians. The face of British Columbia sits in my government and I’m so fortunate to have that.”
But, he added, that representation doesn’t include the Boundary-Similkameen riding, currently represented by Liberal Linda Larson, who recently announced she wouldn’t be running in the next provincial election.
“We could use a little bit of help in the South Okanagan area — having more representation in our government here — and we’ll be working on that in the months ahead,” he said.
With what was likely expected to be warm sunny late-June weather, Osoyoos was an easy pick for a retreat location, but Premier Horgan suggested another motive.
“It’s an area that I spent quite a bit of time in as Leader of the Opposition and an area that I felt we had real opportunities to break down the ideological barriers of BC Liberal versus BC NDP and just talk directly to people,” he explained.
“I think it’s an area that has regular folk that are going to be OK voting for the NDP when they start looking at the body of work that we’ve done in government. And that’s not just focusing on social issues, which is how we get stereotyped, but on economic issues as well.”
The visit has also included numerous funding announcements across the Boundary-Similkameen riding:
- A $4.1 million affordable housing development in Keremeos;
- Funding for new childcare spaces at the Osoyoos Childcare Centre;
- Emergency Management BC funding for Grand Forks;
- High-speed internet for rural Oliver and Osoyoos; and,
- An infrastructure improvement that will help complete a popular Osoyoos multi-use pathway.
Premier Horgan also said he talked local issues with supporters and did hear concerns.
“I had a lot of people talk to me about a whole bunch of different things tonight — not always in a fawning way,” he said after the meeting. “There were a lot of happy people to be sure, but there were also people who have frustrations and concerns and I heard them.”
The retreat is scheduled to wrap up today. Premier Horgan will head back to Victoria to prepare for scheduled meetings with Western Canadian premiers next week and Canadian premiers later in July.