05/20/2014 06:16 EDT | Updated 07/20/2014 05:59 EDT

John Horgan Pledges To Turn Northern B.C. Into NDP Territory

VICTORIA - Recently acclaimed New Democratic Party Leader John Horgan is touring northeastern British Columbia to drum up traditionally scarce votes in communities that haven't elected New Democrats since provincial ridings were created in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John in the 1950s.

Horgan said Tuesday from Fort St. John he's fully aware of the current political leanings of Peace River area voters, but he's got three years to change their minds before the next B.C. election in 2017.

"It's a comfortable place for me," said Horgan, who said he's visited the Peace numerous times as the Opposition's former energy critic.

He said he has friends in the region, but if he's going to be successful in the next election he will have to be present in local communities.

"The message in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Tumbler Ridge is they are full of working people and they deserve a government that puts their priorities ahead of the interests of a narrow few."

Northeast B.C. is destined to become one of B.C.'s economic and environmental focal points in the near future.

Massive oil-and-gas finds in the area are part of B.C.'s plans to export liquefied natural gas to Asia. The proposed $8-billion Site C hydroelectric project near Fort St. John is also stirring economic and environmental interests.

Horgan said he recognizes Dawson Creek and Fort St. John have been represented provincially by members from the Liberals, Social Credit, Conservative and Reform parties and several Independents since the 1950s, but not a single New Democrat.

In the last two provincial election campaigns — 2013 and 2009 — former NDP leaders Carole James and Adrian Dix chose not to set foot in either community.

Horgan said he will visit Fort St. John and Dawson Creek during the 2017 campaign.

Pat Pimm, the current Peace River North Liberal MLA, won his Fort St. John riding with 43 per cent of the vote. The NDP candidate placed third with 14 per cent of the vote.

In Peace River South, current Liberal MLA Mike Bernier took the Dawson Creek area riding with more than 46 per cent of the popular vote. The NDP candidate placed third with 21 per cent.

Horgan met with members of the Steelworkers union in Dawson Creek who were recently laid off from Tumbler Ridge’s Wolverine coal mine. The company blamed falling coal prices for the layoffs.

Horgan is in Prince George Wednesday and plans to visit a sawmill and a brewery.

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