Nearly five years after forming a government in British Columbia, John Horgan announced Tuesday that he will step down as premier.
Horgan will remain on until a new leader is chosen. He has asked the NDP executive to start the process of a leadership race for the fall.
“I have come to the conclusion I could not give six more years. This has been the thrill of my life to be the Premier of British Columbia,” Horgan told a news conference.
He went on to say he came to the decision after walking on the beach with his wife, Ellie, as political observers had been speculating for weeks about his health and political future.
Reaching the mid-point of a second term made it clear there needed to a leader focused on the next two years and beyond, he said.
“I am proud to say I’m cancer-free. While I have a lot of energy, I must acknowledge this may not be the case two years from now,” Horgan said.
“I will continue to do my level best to make politics work for people. This includes pushing the federal government to fund their fair share of health-care costs so we can make our public health-care system work better for everyone.”
The 62-year-old was officially sworn in as premier on July 18, 2017, following a confidence vote in the legislature.
The BC NDP and the BC Greens had voted together to defeat then-premier Christy Clark following a close general election, after Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon asked Horgan to govern with the support of the Greens.
The new premier will serve until the next provincial election, currently scheduled for the fall of 2024.
Horgan came into office with a focus on addressing affordability.
The NDP immediately dropped tolls on the Port Mann Bridge and the Golden Ears Bridge and created a multi-point plan to address the high cost of housing.
His government has overhauled ICBC, pushed forward with both liquefied natural gas and the Site C dam, and increased payments for people on disability assistance.
He also was summoned to Ottawa in 2018 over his government’s opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline, with B.C.’s position ultimately leading to Ottawa buying the pipeline from Kinder Morgan.
Horgan won re-election in 2020 in the largest electoral victory for an NDP premier, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent months, his political future has been a focus of chatter in political circles.
In November, he announced he had throat cancer and went on to receive dozens of radiation treatments.
Just last week, he spoke about being cancer-free.
He has also faced some political controversy of late, announcing he will scrap the $789-million Royal BC Museum redevelopment and taking responsibility for pushing ahead the controversial and expensive project without public consultation.