Last week, John Horgan, leader of the British Columbia New Democratic Party, took a tour of Teck’s Elkview and Coal Mountain mine sites as part of his promotional tour across the province.
“I’ve been the leader of the NDP for five months and I’m trying to get to every corner of the province before the year’s end,” said Horgan. “I need to get around and talk to people and reacquaint them with the NDP.”
The NDP have not held a seat in the Elk Valley or East Kootenay region for 12 years, a concern that Horgan is aware of.
“I’m here to get some marching orders from residents so I know what we can do as a political party to make sure we’re relevant in the next election,” he said.
Horgan noted that part of the reason for the tour through the Kootenays is to dispel the notion that the NDP is anti-mine, as asserted by past Liberal campaigning according to Horgan.
“One of the challenges, for me,” explained Horgan, “is the Liberals like to paint New Democrats as opposed to industrial activity. I grew up working in the forest sector on Vancouver Island and it helped me pay for my education. I have a direct connection to the land with everything I’ve been able to do with my life as a result of resources.”
Troy Cook, grievance and WCB Chairman with United Steelworkers 9346, agreed.
“A real misconception in the last election was people running around here saying, ‘Don’t vote for the NDP. They’re going to close the mines.’… That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard,” said Cook.
In order to open more mines in the area, Horgan argued more regulatory framework that the public can have confidence in is needed.
“I don’t blame the company, I blame the government,” he said. “We have a responsibility as government to make sure our regulation is easy to follow.”
Horgan cited the Mount Polley disaster as an example of regulations that weren’t properly enforced.
Alex Hanson, president of USW 9346, added, “You look at Mount Polley and there are a bunch of steelworkers up there out of jobs because the regulations weren’t followed, they weren’t enforced. It’s like airline regulation, if you don’t regulate airlines, people won’t fly because planes keep crashing.”