Written by Danielle Dalzell.
When Premier Horgan announced he is resigning as leader it was on his own terms and his own timing. He was clear and resolved with his decision, unusual for a person in his office, the highest of this province. And again unusually, the announcement was met with laments for his departure and praise for his leadership from both traditional friends and unlikely would-be foes. It’s a unique moment in politics.
It is a job wherein you will absolutely never please everyone, but as his steadily high approval ratings showed, Horgan did better than most. A popularity he credits to a unified cabinet and government that listens to and responds to people, and focuses on delivering what people need.
Casting back to 2017, this was a government formed with a transformative change in approach through a cooperative Confidence and Supply Agreement. And it shot out of the gate like a rocket, not in any small part due to real fears that it could fall apart at any minute. By the two-year mark, the government had accomplished or made significant progress on 90 of 122 of its election platform commitments. The policy changes are significant in numbers alone, but the transformative nature of that change that will be Horgan’s legacy.
Banning big money was one of the first commitments fulfilled. It seems so long ago, it’s easy to forget that political financing in B.C was so unregulated it was called the “Wild West of Political Cash” by The New York Times. Literally any individual or corporation in the world could donate unlimited amounts to political parties.
It was an archaic system left unchecked by successive previous governments that inherently undermined the democratic process, and 3 months into government, the B.C. NDP introduced legislation to end it. And likely forever, as a world of pain would rain down on any future government who attempted to undo that legislation.
Other cornerstone policies include the passing of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples into law, and the corresponding Declaration Act Action Plan to implement it. CleanBC, a collection of climate action policies to grow, shape and incentivise B.C.’s transition to a sustainable and innovative low-carbon economy. Substantial investments in housing, critical infrastructure, hospitals and schools. And all while weathering a global pandemic, an overdose crisis, and catastrophic wildfires and floods.
Opponents who lean to the right will say there is too much regulation and policy intervention in the market, and it is stifling economic activity, but B.C.’s consistently strong economic performance belies those claims.
On the other end of the political spectrum, Site C, LNG expansion and perceived failures to take enough action on housing, overdose deaths and reconciliation are repeated by critics, but many of those issues are as complex as they are immense.
Over the next few months, as leadership race unfolds and contenders throw their hats in the race, we’ll have a chance to see their visions for the future. Premier Horgan’s personal likeability and uniquely exuberant and direct communicative style are something his fans will miss, even some of the reluctant ones. But largely the progressive policies and change implemented under Horgan’s leadership are reflective of core values, are shared and supported by most New Democrats and will likely continue on.
Change is inevitable, but transformative, progressive policy change is generational. And on that front and others, Horgan leaves big shoes to fill.
Danielle Dalzell served as speechwriter to B.C. Premier John Horgan and Strategic Communications Director in the B.C. Government.