British Columbia

Premier preaches resilience, unity amid forestry and climate crises in closing UBCM address

B.C. Premier John Horgan addresses delegates on the final day of the 116th annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, followed by a media availability.

Horgan spoke to hundreds of provincial politicians on convention’s final day Friday

B.C. Premier John Horgan addresses the UBCM in Vancouver on Friday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The B.C. premier's closing speech on the final day of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention is traditionally an opportunity to draw attention to political accomplishments or to make key funding announcements to address timely issues during politicians' time in office.

"We're not doing that this year," John Horgan told this year's convention to begin his remarks at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Friday morning.

Addressing hundreds of local politicians from across the province, Horgan came back to a theme of togetherness and optimism in working toward common goals across political lines throughout his address.

The speech was punctuated by mention of current issues top of mind for British Columbians, including the crisis crippling the province's forestry industry.

Thousands of mill workers and contractors have lost their jobs as mills are curtailed partially or entirely with little notice.

A convoy of truck drivers from across B.C. rolled through downtown Vancouver earlier this week, making a point of driving past the downtown convention centre during the convention in an effort to draw leaders' attention to the plight of workers and contractors left unemployed.

Horgan said he held meetings with forestry leaders during the convention, which was themed "resiliency and change," including representatives from major companies which have announced curtailments.

"It's hard for me to listen to companies say they're in distress when they're making multi-million-dollar investments in Europe and around the world," Horgan said to applause in the room, adding the industry "needs to transform" to adapt to the modern market conditions.

Climate crisis 'a human issue'

The premier's final address also coincided with Friday's global climate strike.

Thousands of students and workers in cities and towns across the world are abandoning schools and offices throughout the day to march in the streets and demand global leaders do more to combat climate change. A demonstration in Vancouver was set to begin at 1 p.m. PT.

The strikes, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, also coincide with the final day of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

"This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue," the premier said of the climate crisis during his address.

"If you find yourself arguing with a 16-year-old Swede," he added, referring to Thunberg, "I'm fairly confident you're on the wrong side of the argument. You need to wake up and smell the coffee."

"If we're going to be successful, we have to take our differences and park them," Horgan said in finishing his speech.

"Differences can be overcome when values shine through. The values in this room are reflected in the fact that you stepped up … I want to thank you for the work we're going to have to do together to address the challenges we're facing."

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