John Horgan, the Leader of the provincial New Democrats and Official Opposition, was in Osoyoos Saturday, wrapping up a four-day visit to the Okanagan. As part of his visit, he sat down with a group of Osoyoos residents for a free-ranging discussion on a number of topics.
The discussion provided a good look at where the man who hopes to be the next Premier of British Columbia stands on various issues. But it also offered glimpses of who he is as a person.
Here are some of the responses Mr. Horgan provided to questions posed to him by the group.
The economy is not as advertised by the Liberals. It’s something quite different.
The government missed on natural resource revenue (projections) by 42 percent. It’s enormous. That means forestry, mining, natural gas — all the things that Christy said we’re going to be just great all over the world, weren’t great here. How did they balance the budget? A 45-percent increase in property transfer taxes. There was so much money made in the Lower Mainland selling real estate they were able to balance the budget.
On recent spending decisions by the Liberal government:
I call it random acts of funding — or drive-by funding. We’ll just throw some change at people and hopefully they’ll forget what we’ve put them through. They believe after the election they can spend three years of destruction of services to people and then in the last 12 months sprinkle change — fairy dust.
On public education funding:
The heart of the community is the public schools. Public education is the great equalizer in our society and we have become increasing unequal. We’ve been driving people to private education because we’ve been starving public education.
(The Liberal) formula of per-pupil funding is distorting how we invest in rural communities. And in urban centres it’s driving parents to private schools — because the funding follows your child. As you starve the public system, the private system becomes more appealing.
We need to completely restructure the funding formula we use in British Columbia. Rather than attaching it specifically to students on a per-head basis, we need to take into consideration those intangibles like the importance of, in rural communities particularly, the school as the centre of activity.
You have to take into consideration the value of the building and the consequence of decommissioning a school. And (a school closing) should be done as the last option, not as the first option.
What happened in this community was absolutely extraordinary. I want to commend you. You just rose up and said, no, that’s not going to happen here. So, good on you all.
On the high cost of post-secondary education
When I graduated with my Masters degree in the 1980s, I rolled my Masters student loan into my first mortgage. Young students coming out today can’t even think about getting a mortgage — You’re carrying what was historically a mortgage with your student loan debt.
You’re helping reduce the deficit, because you’re paying three percent more than you should. Whatever the borrowing rate is for the government — that should be the rate that students should have to pay.
In the Lower Mainland, (the Liberals) ignored housing costs for two years and then did this massive backflip somersault just before the Olympics. I think if they had waited a couple of weeks they would have been given a gold medal for that backflip.
They said literally in May, there’s no problem here. And then in July, the dead of summer: serious problem here. Look at us, we fixed it and they didn’t. They’ve created unintended consequences and it’s not going to make anything more affordable at all in Vancouver.
On an expected spate of government advertising expected over the next 10 months:
The whole point of having government collect taxes is to give back to the community, not to hoard them and do self-aggrandizing advertising. You’re going to get swamped by ads between now and the election campaign from the Liberals, as well as from the Government of B.C. Your tax dollars will be telling you how great they were to you.
On MLA Linda Larsen
You elected Linda not to be a toady to the premier, but to be your representative. I’ll leave it for you to decide how she has performed.
On expected election issues:
Environment and the economy — they’re inseparable. Education — it’s critical to our success economically and to just ensure we can address inequality. And the last “E” — ethics. The ethics of this government are absolutely in question as well.
The very well-to-do are getting better off by the day, the middle (class) is shrinking . . . and we continue to have this divergence of wealth to the very top and little to the very bottom.
On values and ethics:
My values are mainstream values and they involve basic things: being fair, resisting injustice when you see it and giving people opportunity.
What keeps me grounded is I’ve got a drywaller on one side (of my home), I’ve got a nurse at the bottom of the driveway and a faller who gets work sometimes but he really would prefer to be working more than he is. All of my neighbours keep me grounded and they’re quick to tell me if I get too uppity about myself.
I was digging out our ditch in February because there were some heavy rains and the guy down the road came and was taking pictures of me, saying there’s the future premier in his rubber boots digging out his ditch and asking, don’t you have people to do that?
As Leader of the Opposition I can’t tell you how happy I am with how bad (the Liberals) are.
On the role of government:
What people can and should expect from their governments is you’re going to provide opportunity for your citizens, not going to be discriminatory of that, you’re going to make it as even as possible.
What I believe we need to do with our governments, all of them — federal, provincial and municipal, which includes school districts — is be responsive to what people want in their community.
On municipal government decisions concerning cannabis dispensaries
This is an example of the public being light years ahead of the politicians.
Who’s taking the action? Who’s being forced to deal with it? The municipal governments — because there’s inaction at the top. It’s falling to people who are required by their responsibilities as municipal officials to deal with the licensing of the commercial application, but there are so many other layers involved. If all three layers of our governments aren’t working together, you get chaos, you get rebels who say I’m going to take action because someone else is not.
On visiting the South Okanagan:
The South Okanagan is holiday-land. I know that people who live in Osoyoos and the South Okanagan live and work and have daily lives, but for me as an Islander it’s always holidays when you’re in the Okanagan. People are always coming with smiles on their faces, with sunny weather and cool water as well.
On Hillary Clinton and U.S. politics
I’m hopeful she will be the next president of the United States — unless Bernie comes back somehow.