'I'm not looking for an election': Premier optimistic heading into 2019
John Horgan says leading a minority government has been 'challenging' but 'invigorating'
Premier John Horgan insists B.C. has a stable government, pointing to a strong economy, a new climate plan and long-awaited ride-hailing legislation.
But what about the legislature suspensions scandal that saw Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz and Clerk of the House Craig James placed on administrative leave pending a police probe?
And how would the NDP would fare in a snap election?
Horgan sat down with CBC reporter Tanya Fletcher for a year-end interview recorded Dec. 4.
The interview was conducted before the results of B.C.'s referendum on electoral reform were released.
Strong economy vs. affordability crisis
British Columbians hear your government raving about the great state of B.C.'s economy, yet many parts of the province are still plagued by an affordability crisis — how do you reconcile that disparity?
That was what people were hearing from the previous government — that everything was grand — but they weren't feeling that. So what we've done since we formed government is taken tangible steps to reduce costs for people.
We eliminated tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges. B.C. was the last province that had Medical Services Premiums — or MSP premiums — so we're going to be eliminating that completely by the end of next year.
We've brought in a speculation and vacancy tax, which a handful of people have made a lot of noise about, but a whole bunch of people are really happy about because it's dampened down the cost of housing, which has allowed us to build more supply.
Also child care; we have seen transformative changes for families and the cost of caring for children.
Watch the full interview here:
What do you say to critics who blame your government for bowing to a powerful taxi lobby by dragging your feet on ride-hailing?
I say to those critics that the BC Liberals had five years to introduce ride-hailing and didn't. Yet in 16 months, we have brought in legislation to enable ride-hailing to come next year. People can quibble about timing, people can quibble about regulations.
But I think the public wants to know that when they get in a vehicle — whether it's a taxi or a ride-hail vehicle — the driver has been trained properly, has an appropriate licence to carry passengers, and has had a criminal record check.
So I appreciate that critics want to be critical, but I am proud that we were able to get something done that the previous government couldn't do in half a decade.
Since the Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms were suspended, there has been a chorus of "we can't comment" at the legislature; do you think that's perceived by the public as an over-simplified answer?
It's not just a go-to answer, you don't want to corrupt the integrity of the investigation.
It's a matter of appropriate behaviour for political representatives to not interfere or intervene in a criminal investigation - and that's what's underway right now.
I don't know the details, I haven't asked. Even if I did ask, I wouldn't be told. I'm hopeful this can be addressed quickly and we can get back to business as usual. So I don't see that as a crutch answer, I see that as an imperative.
Balance of power
Has the NDP / Green alliance been more difficult than you expected?
It's very challenging, absolutely. Not from a personality perspective, but when you have differences of opinion and you have to work through to a conclusion, that takes time and emotional energy.
So that's been a challenge, no question. But it's also invigorating because you find solutions by working cooperatively. Mr. Weaver and I have been able to demonstrate that although we disagree on several things, we've found more things that we do agree on.
That's led to, I think, a pretty stable government that's had positive outcomes for people.
If there were a snap election, how confident are you that your government could win a majority?
I'm certainly not looking for an election and I don't think the public of B.C. is looking for an election either.
The Liberals are unhappy and that's fine; the New Democrats were unhappy when the Liberals were in power — that's the nature of partisanship. But I'm finding it quite exhilarating to work with people across party lines on issues that we can agree on.
There are the Liberals who support LNG, so I'm finding an opportunity to work with them on some economic issues where I can't work with the Greens.
So I think that, for me, being in a minority government means that I have to work harder and find alliances that exist.
This interview has been edited for clarity and structure.