REPORTING · 11th March 2011
John Horgan was in Kitimat in the afternoon on Thursday, March 3rd. This makes him the 2nd NDP Candidate to Visit Kitimat during the leadership race. During their race, the Liberals only had one leader visit.
MLA Robin Austin introduced Horgan to those who were present. He explained he was elected in 2005 and again in 2009. He worked in government in the 1990s and worked on Parliament Hill starting in the mail room.
He explained that during this time, he learned the role of the NDP was to listen to the people and incorporate the stories they have learned into their function as a party.
“I like to weave the stories I hear as I travel around,” said Horgan.
He gave examples of how as MLA, he goes directly to his constituents. One such example is getting on the bus and talking to them on the 1 hour ride to work discussing solutions and taking the ideas into a positive outcome. He also traveled to Victoria in a ride share and engaged the people he was traveling with.
He stated if the NDP laid out a positive agenda in the next election, rather then tell people they are not the Liberals, they will come out ahead.
He opened the floor to questions and the first one was about his platform. He said he had four planks. The first being social justice and poverty in rural communities. He explained when poverty is brought up it’s described as being graphic and violent such as in Vancouver’s East side. He said they have to create sustainable jobs so they can address these issues.
The second was environment. “If we do not protect the bounty that we have today for future generations, our future as the lynch pin of the two economies of the Asia Pacific and the North American will be lost,” said Horgan.
He said some trees are more valuable standing than on the ground, stating they draw tourists from all over the world. Someone complained they passed five trucks filled with logs on the road between Kitimat and Cablecar on the way to the meeting. Horgan said they need equivalency taxes so raw logs are more expensive to export.
Education and skills training was the next plank as businesses will not want to come to BC unless a skilled workforce was available. The fourth plank he offered up is integrity in government.
On the topic of the HST, he replied he would organize a fair tax commission because there has been an ever increasing effort to grab revenue. However, he explained, costs have been downloaded from the Province to Municipalities. They need to look at their resource grants and capture more revenue without it hurting in the long run. He pointed out the tax cuts from the BC Liberals took 2 billion dollars out of the BC revenue every year for 10 years.
He pointed out these cuts did not stimulate economic growth as people with disposable income usually invest it where they can get the most return rather then into the communities where they live. He said economic activity is stimulated when people with low incomes have more income.
“Good public policy means that you do things in a systematic and methodical way and big swings back and forth, which is the BC way, has to end. I believe that my brand of politics is not ridged partisan politics. If someone wants to combat, I will be combative, if someone wants to consult, I will consult. If someone wants to cooperate, I will cooperate,” said Horgan.
On the topic of the HST, he said they would probably not be able to write a cheque to Ottawa. He doesn’t accept the “straw argument” that BC has to accept the HST because they have taken the “blood money”. He said the bigger question is what replaces the HST, the PST as it was, or something else.
He stated the HST removes BC’s ability to set tax policy and use it as an incentive for good behaviour or a disincentive for bad behaviour, troubles him. He also explained how people on low or fixed incomes, having the tax on additional products, adds up and even a few less dollars hurts people who are living on the edges.
On the topic of IPP’s, he was asked if anything could be done to prevent the money from Independent Power Producers from leaving the province. Horgan said he has been making the case for the last 5 years. He added the BC rail controversy is not over just yet, but the one they need to focus on are the Run of the River pirates.
He made a presentation to the BC Business Council in front of “captains of industry”. He explained to the Council how the BC Liberals Energy plan was to buy power at $120 a megawatt hour and sell it for $30. “I don’t know what world that makes sense in but it did in Gordon Campbell’s world,” said Horgan.
He proposed to open up all the contracts. He explained the BCUC looked at them but had to approve them due to the call for clean energy. BC is self sufficient and can play the market. While he refuses to rip up contracts, he reminded the room they have not seen the contracts because the BCUC looked at them and then closed them for confidentiality.
He also answered questions about the Prosperity Mine, wind power, hydro rates and healthcare.
On the question on privatisation, he said it is apparent the goal of the Liberal party is to diminish public confidence in public institutions, because the less funding the government puts into the public system, the more appealing the private systems become.
Regardless, after an hour and a half, it was time for Horgan to leave Kitimat. He wrapped up with a few questions from local residents before heading back to Terrace.