Recently John Horgan -- leader of the B.C. NDP -- came to Nanaimo and held a town hall meeting with a Q&A, and afterwards my friend and I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with him. Watching him talk to and interact with the crowd I was struck by how comfortable and fluid he was. He didn't hesitate in the slightest while answering questions about everything -- from funding for public education, to WorkSafeBC problems, to BC Hydro nearing the point of bankruptcy -- and often had a personal story that related to the topic.
B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan. (Photo: B.C. NDP/Flickr)
After I got home that night I was reflecting back on the evening and it struck me how different it had been compared to many other political events I had been to, and I think it's because John Horgan is not your average politician -- or at least what we have come to see as average here in B.C. He's one of the most passionate, down-to-earth and funny politicians I have ever met. In fact, I would take it a step further and say that he is pretty much the polar opposite of our current leader Christy Clark.
For example, when I asked him how he felt about the fact that one in two children in single-parent homes in B.C. live below the poverty line, he spoke about his own experience being raised by a single mom. He passionately spoke about the struggles he watched his mom go through -- financially, in particular -- and how important this issue is to him, having grown up in poverty himself. In other words, not only does he recognize that poverty is a problem, but he understands it firsthand.
That's a far cry from our current premier who has completely ignored multiple calls -- some from her own government -- to implement a poverty reduction plan or even speak about the increasing rate of poverty in B.C. Clark seems completely content running a province with the second-highest child poverty rate in the country and being the only province without a poverty reduction plan.
One represents more of the same, and the other represents the positive change that we desperately need.
Another common theme from that night was public education and the need for better funding and a change in the funding formula. Horgan spoke about the importance of public education and how it is our best tool for fighting the growing inequality in our province. Drawing from another personal story he talked about his teenage years where he began to drift off course and started getting into trouble. He credited teachers for not only helping him get back on track but for helping him become what he is today because "they saw something in me that I couldn't see in myself." You could sense the sadness in his tone when he then compared the resources and supports available to him then to what is currently available to our children.
Again a stark contrast to our current premier who, as education minister, illegally stripped teachers contracts and then spent the past 14 years battling them in court for class size and composition -- two big things that factor into our children's overall learning environment (a battle they thankfully lost recently). A party that has spent millions of tax dollars in court appeals, attack ads on teachers and parent bribes during the strike, they are quite literally spending our own money fighting against our children's best interest while simultaneously starving the public education system with funding cuts and downloaded costs.
Another point Horgan touched on was the NDP's Power BC -- a refreshingly progressive plan that focuses on protecting the environment, creating jobs across the province, curbing out of control hydro bills while helping to begin our transition into more sustainable energy sources. You can hear the excitement in his voice as he talks about Power BC and he's far from the only one -- the plan has won praise from experts and environmentalists across this province.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark. (Photo: CP)
In contrast, we have our current premier who for years has been narrowly focused on LNG -- which many might call a dying industry -- promoting it as the best and only option for B.C. However, despite years of focus we have yet to see any of the huge profits and massive job creation that the B.C. Liberals have promised for close to a decade. Point in case: the "prosperity fund" which by now was supposed to be filled with millions of dollars in profits from LNG, but is instead being filled with hundreds of millions that come from general revenue which is made up of -- in part -- of billions in tax payer funds that have been siphoned from MSP, Hydro and ICBC.
The big difference between Christy Clark and John Horgan is one represents more of the same, and the other represents the positive change that we desperately need.
Listening to John speak and thoughtfully answering questions, you really did get a sense that he is just a regular guy who comes from humble beginnings, who at some point in his life -- which he pinpoints as the time he heard Tommy Douglas speak at a local university -- he decided that he wanted to make a positive difference. I for one am more then willing to give him that chance.
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