03/17/2014 09:26 EDT | Updated 05/17/2014 05:59 EDT

John Horgan Joins B.C. NDP Leadership Race


LANGFORD, B.C. - Vancouver Island New Democrat John Horgan has officially entered the race to replace Adrian Dix as the leader of British Columbia's New Democratic Party.

Horgan announced last October that he was not going to run to allow a new generation of New Democrats to pursue the party leadership. But he said on Monday that many of those potential new breed of NDP leaders were the ones who convinced him to run.

"I wanted to make sure as many people as possible would stand up and take a shot at it, and that hasn't worked out the way I had anticipated," he said. "Instead, the people I had hoped would step up were approaching me."

Horgan announced his leadership bid in his home community of Langford, located on Greater Victoria's west shore and encompassing the riding of Juan de Fuca.

Horgan was first elected to the B.C. legislature in 2005. He joins veteran Vancouver-area New Democrat Mike Farnworth as the only two declared candidates to replace leader Adrian Dix. Dix announced last fall he was stepping down after the NDP's devastating defeat in the May 2013 provincial election.

So far, the only headlines generated from the leadership race revolve around the several candidates who announced they weren't prepared to enter the contest.

Federal B.C. New Democrats Nathan Cullen and Peter Julian, as well as B.C. New Democrats George Heyman and David Eby, were among the potential candidates who considered running and then decided against it.

Victoria New Democrat Rob Fleming is believed to be considering entering the Horgan-Farnworth race.

Horgan, 54, said he believes he has the right amount of passion, integrity and experience to appeal to voters' appetites for the NDP and keep the heat on Premier Christy Clark's Liberal government.

"I believe I can communicate a message that will generate excitement about changing the government," he said. "I believe I bring a set of skills to the political discourse to knock these people off."

The long-time energy critic and opposition New Democrats house leader said he represents the views of most British Columbians when it comes to considering resource projects and environmental protection.

Horgan said he does not support the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project to export Alberta oil products from northern B.C. ports because he's not convinced the coast will be protected from a potential spill. But he said he will consider other projects that include mines and smelters if they can win social licence through public examinations and review processes.

During the two New Democrat governments in the 1990s, thousands of people left to find jobs elsewhere and the province dropped to a have-not status, receiving federal payments.

Horgan said he believes he can successfully beat back the consistent Liberal challenges of the NDP's economic record during the 1990s, when the party governed.

"It's a mythology," he said. "You look at the data in terms of economic growth, the numbers are comparable from decade to decade. The notion that change in government is catastrophic just isn't true, and I believe I can carry that message."

Horgan, who was introduced by former NDP leader Carole James, placed a strong third in the 2011 NDP leadership race that saw Dix elected leader. He said he will announce more of his team this week.

The party's new leader will be announced in Vancouver on Sept. 28.

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