As provincial NDP leadership hopefuls prepare for the final weeks of the campaign to replace Carole James, John Horgan made a swing through the Okanagan to rally support for himself.
The leadership contender already has some strong supporters in his camp, with eight MLAs backing him so far, including Fraser Nicola MLA Harry Lali, who also dropped by Smith and Company in Penticton Saturday.
Lali, who dropped out of the leadership race last month, said he spoke to all five candidates about what their plans and platform would be before naming Horgan as his number one choice.
“He speaks the same language I do. He is a family man like myself, he is passionate about his family, about the province and he is also very passionate about his politics,” said Lali, who added that Horgan likes to play the game of politics the same way he does, and, as the NDP’s energy critic, likes to hold the Liberals’ feet to the fire in the Legislature. “He’s got a lot of fire and brimstone as well, and goes after the Liberals.”
For his part, Horgan has some simple reasons why he would be the best choice as the next leader of the provincial NDP.
“I am taller than Adrian (Dix) and I am faster than Mike (Farnsworth),” he joked, before talking about seeing a need for the NDP to recreate themselves and positioning himself as “fairly moderate, practical, experienced in government and having the common touch with people.”
He has one more attribute, he added, that is vital for a politician.
“I am an Irish descendant, I can talk all day long,” he said, adding that taking a moderate road will help bring voters back to the NDP.
“I don’t believe we are going to get there by digging a deeper partisan trench, I think we will get there by demonstrating that the values of the New Democrats are really mainstream values,” he said. “Our opponents have constantly tried to marginalize us by saying that we have marginal views. I am an able spokesperson to make the case that an NDP government is in the interests of people.”
While the Liberals are also reshaping their party in the wake of Gordon Campbell’s resignation, he said Christy Clark is facing a big challenge.
“Although there is a new face on the ship of state, it may not be any substantive change. I think people are looking for something different,” he said. “The notion that Ms. Clark can suddenly change the behaviour of a cabinet that had been serving the interests of the corporate elite and not the public will be a big challenge for her.”
Before running for office and being elected to the B.C. Legislature in 2005, Horgan spent many years as a bureaucrat with the NDP, first working in Ottawa as a legislative assistant before coming back to B.C. to work in Mike Harcourt’s government where he served in a variety of political and public service positions culminating in his service as chief of staff to interim premier Dan Miller.
It was during the Harcourt years that Horgan helped develop the Columbia River Treaty with the U.S., and the work he did gathering public opinion throughout southern B.C. has given him a special understanding of the province outside the Lower Mainland, according to Lali.
“He has a very deep understanding of the economy and of rural British Columbia, and for me that is tops on the list, given that the Liberals have abandoned the rural areas,” said Lali.