Heading into busy fall legislative session, Premier John Horgan sets sights on housing, economic growth
It has been a busy 14 months for B.C. Premier John Horgan. His government has set its sights on public education funding, opportunities for children aging out of foster care, major energy projects and addressing the lack of affordable child care options.
Now, Horgan is looking to the next phase of the government, one where the priorities are on keeping the momentum going.
The NDP inherited the strongest economy in the country from the B.C. Liberals and have been able to maintain that during the first year in office. But national and global economic factors seem to be indicating that things could soon take a turn.
WATCH HERE: B.C. Premier John Horgan on the biggest hits and misses of his first year
“We want to keep the economy growing. It has been leading the country the past number of years and it has continued in our first year in office. There is going to be a bit of a slow down, economists have predicted,” said Horgan.
“We want to continue that people are working, not just in our big cities, but also in rural communities.”
When he recently sat down with Global News, Horgan mentioned the ongoing fire season. Horgan has been forced to call provincial states of emergency in both of his summers in office. He says that there will be work opportunities for not just getting burnt wood of the forest, but in replanting as well.
WATCH HERE: B.C. Premier John Horgan on his relationship with Justin Trudeau
The B.C. premier received his most significant national attention so far as part of the ongoing battle over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Horgan was called to Ottawa to meet with both Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in April.
The Federal Court of Appeal ruled last week that the federal government needed to do more consultation with Indigenous people as well as take potential environmental issues into account. Both are issues Horgan has been raising for years about why the Trans Mountain expansion is problematic for British Columbia.
WATCH HERE: B.C. Premier John Horgan on his plans for the coming year
“On the Kinder Morgan issue is that I made it pretty clear during the election campaign if I was to be successful and form a government,” said Horgan.
“We have done that. We are trying to protect the coast and those things that are important to our coast and to our economy.”
There are some major challenges that the B.C. government will face this fall aside from a potential economic slowdown. The government is expected to put forward legislation on what the speculation tax looks like. The new tax has been widely criticized since it was unveiled in the budget 2018 and Finance Minister Carole James was forced to make changes on who will pay the tax.
WATCH HERE: B.C. Premier John Horgan on the future of the speculation tax
“On implementation, we did a bad job of it, there is no question about that. But we are not done yet. When we are done with the package, that will be clear to understand. We needed to slow the demand side. That was key to the strategy,” said Horgan.
The overall issue of housing has been a struggle as well. Housing prices have been going down in Metro Vancouver, but the government is still seeing companies having a hard time recruiting new employees to B.C. because of the price of housing.
WATCH HERE: B.C. Premier John Horgan on how his government is fixing ICBC and BC Hydro
“I would say my biggest disappointment is that we haven’t been able to move quickly on some of the issues that are important to people and the economy, housing costs, for example. Housing affordability has been a very difficult file. I regret not being able to make more progress,” said Horgan.
For those that are already in a home in the province, the cost of living just keeps going up and up. That is felt most acutely for those paying ICBC rates or BC Hydro bills. Horgan would not put a number on how much those bills may go up.
The expectation is that with $1.3 billion in losses at the public auto insurer and problems at BC Hydro, it will mean no matter what government does now, rates will be going up this year.
“We are revitalizing the B.C. Utilities Commission, the independent watchdog that oversees not just Hydro but ICBC. We are trying to enable that independent group to give us the best advice possible on what are reasonable rates going forward on both auto insurance and electricity,” said Horgan. “We had not anticipated a $1 billion-plus deficit at ICBC.”
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