BC NDP leader John Horgan with Doug Singer, president of United Steelworkers Local 1-405, at the Galloway Lumber Company in Jaffray on Monday. Ezra Black/The Free Press

Last-minute promises will not save Liberals, says Horgan

One of NDP leader John Horgan’s first jobs was working in a pulp and paper mill. On Monday, he was back at another mill, laying the groundwork for what could be his next job: premier of British Columbia.

“We hope to defeat the government next week,” he said after a tour of the Galloway Lumber Company in Jaffray on Monday.

The retirement of straight-talking former energy minister Bill Bennett didn’t stop the B.C. Liberals from holding their only seat in the Kootenay region — with Liberal candidate Tom Shypitka beating the NDP’s Randal Macnair, a former mayor of Fernie.

The Liberals have held the riding in the far southeast corner of the province for over 16 years but Horgan said he would still represent the riding in the event he becomes premier.

“I wanted to make sure that workers here in Kootenay East know that they will have access to the new government.”

The BC Liberals failed to win a majority of seats in the May 9 provincial election. Premier Christy Clark has recalled the legislature for June 22 to test the confidence of the house in her government.

Multiple sources are reporting the BC Liberals will promise a $100 monthly increase to the welfare rate in Thursday’s throne speech, as well as a ban on political donations from corporations and unions.

The Liberals are also expected to promise an increase to disability rates and to propose a new program to help low-income single working parents access skills training.

Horgan said he expects the NDP-Green alliance to vote down the Liberals, despite the new promises.

“We’re going to defeat them and hopefully be asked to form a government,” he said. “When that happens we’ll be working for people. We’ll be present in the East Kootenay.

“I’ve come through the Kootenay East a lot in my time as leader and I intend to do that as premier as well,” he added.

Horgan pointed out that his party has long called for increases to welfare rates, which have been frozen for nearly a decade under the Liberals. He also noted that the B.C. NDP have proposed legislation that would have led to the ban of union and corporate political donations in British Columbia on six occasions.

Horgan questioned why Clark had not recalled the legislature earlier.

“I’m surprised it’s taken so long. I think people voted in this election largely against the government. When you combine the Green vote and the NDP vote, 57 per cent of those who cast ballots, cast them against the BC Liberals.”

The Liberals have 43 seats in the legislature to 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens. The NDP-Green pact gives the parties 44 seats.

“That’s a majority wherever I’ve gone to school,” he said. “And I think that the Liberals should have recognized that a month ago.”

Under the deal between the NDP and Greens, the Greens have agreed to support the NDP to create a minority government, which would run the province for four years.

The 10-page Confidence and Supply Agreement states that the two caucuses will refer the Site C Dam, which is under construction on the Peace River, to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review of its economic viability.

They also promise to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and to increase the carbon tax by $5 per tonne per year, starting April 1, 2018 and expand the tax to “fugitive emissions and to slash-pile burning.”

The agreement also sets the goal of establishing a $15 minimum wage and the creation of a Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction Strategy. The two caucuses also promised to eliminate Medical Services Plan premiums and to ban corporate and union political donations, limit individual donations and eliminate “any other means by which individuals or entities may wield undue influence over government.”