British Columbia·Video

B.C. Premier John Horgan to step down before next election

B.C. Premier John Horgan has announced he will step down before the next provincial election.

Premier will leave office after NDP holds leadership convention in the fall

John Horgan purses his lips. He is a white man with a white moustache.
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks to media on Tuesday to announce he will be stepping down as premier before the next provincial election, citing his health as a primary reason behind his decision. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. Premier John Horgan has announced his plans to step down before the next provincial election.

The two-term NDP premier made the announcement Tuesday, saying he had every intention to run for another term but decided he couldn't continue after undergoing "rigorous" treatment for throat cancer within the past several months.

"My health is good, but my energy flags as the days go by," Horgan, 62, told reporters gathered in Vancouver.

"We came to the conclusion that I'm not able to make another six-year commitment to this job."

Horgan, now cancer-free, said he will resign after his party holds a leadership convention in the fall. He will continue to serve as MLA for the riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca for the remainder of his term.

The resignation announcement comes after Horgan's cabinet gathered for a midterm retreat in Vancouver this week. He said it's "tradition" for the politicians to discuss their plans for the future during the summit, but he'd already made his decision after talking it over with his wife, Ellie, during a week-long trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island earlier this month.

Over the winter, the premier received 35 radiation treatments for throat cancer. The experience, he said, prompted him and his wife to reflect on how they'd like to spend the rest of their lives.

"The cancer diagnosis and treatment was rigorous ... I wish I had more energy to do more, but I just don't," he said.

"My spouse and I just felt it was time," he added, referring to Ellie as "the love of my life."

WATCH | B.C. premier explains why he is stepping down:

John Horgan to step down as B.C. premier this fall

11 months ago
Duration 0:41
Horgan says a leadership convention will take place in the fall to choose his successor.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement Tuesday thanking Horgan for his over 17 years of public service. 

"I have worked closely with Premier Horgan over the past five years to advance the issues that matter to British Columbians and all Canadians, including creating clean growth and good middle-class jobs," read the statement.

"He will be missed at the First Ministers' table. I wish him and his family the very best in the future."

Horgan leaves historic legacy with B.C. NDP

Horgan is the only two-term premier in the history of B.C.'s New Democratic party, having won his second term after calling a snap election during the first year of the pandemic in the fall of 2020.

The party's victory was remarkably decisive, capturing 57 of 87 seats in the legislature — the most the NDP had ever won in a provincial election and the first time the party had won a majority government since 1996.

The success built upon Horgan's first term, in which he ousted former longtime B.C. Liberal premier Christy Clark and struck a historic confidence-and-supply agreement with the B.C. Green Party to form a minority government.

In that first term, the NDP party enacted the majority of its campaign promises: eliminating MSP premiums and tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, increasing disability and shelter rates while raising taxes on the wealthiest as well as creating a speculation tax on second homes. 

B.C. Premier John Horgan makes his way to the podium in Vancouver on Tuesday. Horgan, 62, will be stepping down from office after the NDP holds a leadership review in the fall. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A second term has focused on a number of emergencies, from the pandemic to wildfire and flooding disasters. Despite an array of criticism on responses to those crises, polls found Horgan more or less remained one of the most well-liked politicians in the country. He also retained the full confidence of the NDP caucus.

Speculation around the possibility of a mid-term resignation began last summer. His bout with throat cancer was his second with the disease, having survived bladder cancer in his 40s. 

With his decision, Horgan has become the first B.C. premier to leave office without being pushed out by election defeat, public scandal or pressure from their own party since former premier Bill Bennett resigned in 1986.

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves Government House in Victoria after being sworn-in for his first term as premier on July 18, 2017. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

The timing of Tuesday's announcement gives the NDP ample time to choose its next leader carefully before the next election, which is scheduled for 2024. A long leadership race also gives the successor space to build a relationship with the public before votes are cast.

Horgan began his career in politics as a legislative assistant in the 1990s, working in a number of policy roles across several ministries before winning his first term as an MLA in what was then known as the riding of Malahat-Juan de Fuca in 2005. 

He served as Leader of the Opposition for three years, from 2014 to 2017.

With files from Justin McElroy