John Horgan will meet with Comox Valley and Campbell River residents this weekend as he takes another crack at the leadership of the BC NDP Party.
The Juan de Fuca MLA was third in voting in the 2011 leadership race won by Adrian Dix. Veteran MLA Mike Farnworth — Horgan’s only competition to date — finished second.
Dix’s successor will be named Sept. 28.
Horgan is holding outreach meetings throughout the province to discuss escalating costs of living, ferry rates and hydroelectric prices, among other topics.
He notes a nine-per-cent hydro rate increase effective this week, and a 28-per-cent increase over the next five years.
“And that’s on top of significant rate increases since 2001,” Horgan said. “The average bill has gone from about $700 to $1,200. That’s a significant impact on people’s pocketbooks.”
Last week, he introduced a Private Members’ Bill to allow the Utilities Commission to set a discount rate for seniors and people on fixed incomes. He considers the idea a practical solution for those who need to choose between buying groceries or keeping the house heated.
“That’s the type of opposition that I would want to lead, one that’s not just moaning from the corner but proposing practical solutions to the challenges we face,” Horgan said.
He recalls BC Liberal language in the past campaign that warned ‘The socialists are coming’ and ‘Only we can protect free enterprise.’
“Absolute nonsense — and most people don’t listen to that — but this notion that there’s a divine right of Liberals to rule I think is profoundly unhealthy. I feel strongly that we need to change governments in British Columbia. It’s good for our democracy. It’s unhealthy to have a perpetual government and a perpetual opposition.”
Horgan has been an MLA since 2005, and was opposition house leader for three years until he stepped down last month to focus on the leadership. He has also served as energy critic.
Several years ago, the 54-year-old survived a bout with bladder cancer — an experience that rejuvenated his excitement in politics.
“You’ve only got so much time on this globe. If you can make an impact that helps people after you’re gone, then that’s a good thing.”
Before taking a position on a proposed expansion of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, Horgan first wants to hear the results of an application and review process that is arm’s length from politicians. The proposed Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat is a different matter because the NDP officially intervened during the process.
“We made it quite clear we were opposed to that pipeline and the accompanying traffic,” said Horgan, who could not find a single Enbridge supporter during his travels up the B.C. Coast in 2012. “As much as they’re moving the same product to the same coast, it is a different dynamic as it pertains to me and the NDP.”
He is aware of “strongly held views” about the proposed Raven coal mine in Baynes Sound. Horgan has also toured the Quinsam Mine near Campbell River, which was approved for expansion.
“I think that’s probably the maximum amount of coal that people in the region would want to see extracted and exported.”
Horgan is at the Zocalo Café in Courtenay from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday.