British Columbia

Former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt on the challenges and next steps for John Horgan

Sixteen years of B.C. Liberal rule have come to an end and premier-designate John Horgan now has the task of implementing his party’s policies with a minority government, in a province used to having a Liberal premier.

Harcourt faced a similar situation as Horgan when he was elected in 1991

Mike Harcourt served as the premier of British Columbia from 1991 to 1996. (CBC)

Sixteen years of B.C. Liberal rule have come to an end and premier-designate John Horgan now has the task of implementing his party's policies with a minority government, in a province used to having a Liberal premier.

But he's not the only one in B.C. politics to have faced such a situation. Back in 1991, Mike Harcourt's NDP government was elected after 16 years of Social Credit Party rule.

Harcourt spoke with CBC's On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko about the challenges Horgan will face and what his next moves should be, as someone who has been in a similar position in the past.

The throne speech and alliance with the Green Party are signs of a government that can learn to agree and work together, he said.

"[Horgan] is hopefully going to face tri-party agreement on all those major issues which are part of the New Democrat government platform," Harcourt said.

He knows there won't be unanimous votes on all issues, he said, but hopes that the sailing can still be smoother than expected.

"There is basic agreement on a huge number of things between the Greens and the New Democrats and, now, the Liberals under Christy Clark and their throne speech," he said. "I think there will be a lot of [tri-party agreement] but there will be some sharp elbows going up too and some curve balls."

In particular, Harcourt is hopeful about the alliance between the NDP and the Green Party which he described as "sturdy."

To listen to the full interview with Harcourt, click on the audio link below:

Site C, Crown corporations and appointments  

Horgan worked for Harcourt as a staffer when he was premier and Harcourt said he considers him a friend.

"I have great respect for him," Harcourt said. "He's a very experienced hand. He understands the urban areas and he has a real feel and passion for the natural resource communities."

This means, Harcourt said, that he wants to see Horgan pull out of the Site C dam.

"I hope he mothballs it, because it's going to become a $15- to-$17 billion dollar financial white elephant nightmare," he said. "Site C has so many problems."

A lot of the province's Crown corporations, such as B.C. Hydro and ICBC have boards appointed by the B.C. Liberals, but Harcourt said that should not be a factor when it comes to dealing with the new government in power.

The bigger challenge is reworking them to be more efficient.

"Putting them on a solid financial footing is the first thing," he said. "Secondly, a change in direction for B.C. Hydro is necessary, and I think ICBC being drained of its reserves is very imprudent and B.C. Ferries has got some work to do."

The next few months will be a transitory period as the new government is briefed and finds its footing, Harcourt said. One of the decisions he most anticipates is who will be appointed to the various ministerial positions.

With files from On The Coast

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