B.C.’s outgoing premier makes pitch to provinces, PM to end health gridlock

Outgoing B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves the stage after a question and answer session at a B.C. Chamber of Commerce luncheon on his last full day as premier of the province, in Vancouver, on Thursday, November 17, 2022. Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

British Columbia’s outgoing premier says he has offered a helping hand in resolving the gridlock over health care funding between provincial and territorial leaders and the federal government.

John Horgan, who will pass the premiership to NDP Leader David Eby on Friday, said he sent a group text message to his counterparts, saying he’d be happy to help any way he can and has indicated the same to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I wasn’t looking for work, I was saying I know the file, I’m passionate about it,” he told reporters on Thursday in Vancouver.

Read more: B.C. First Nations leaders thank John Horgan for leadership on premier’s last full day

“It was a sincere offer to people who I’ve been working with that if there’s anything more I can do to continue to move this down the field, I want to do it.”

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Horgan said he believes he has the confidence of leaders across the political spectrum to help them solve the issue.

However, he noted his relationship isn’t as strong with federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, whom he accused of “ghosting” provincial leaders who gathered in Victoria in July and were hoping to see a commitment of larger federal health transfers.

Horgan made the comments after an event hosted by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, where he reflected on his legacy.

He said he chose to leave politics after his second battle with cancer and believes he’s one of the few examples of leaders who get to leave on their own terms.

Click to play video: 'The legacy Premier John Horgan will leave behind as he steps down'
The legacy Premier John Horgan will leave behind as he steps down

“Despite this being the best job in the universe, I just felt it was time to go,” he said.

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“And the good news is that there’s a whole bunch of young people in my caucus that are ready to take on the challenges and I leave confident that we’re in good hands as a province.”

Horgan said he’s leaving the province in good hands with Eby, who served as the province’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing before becoming New Democrat Party leader and premier-designate.

“I’ve given him all of the tough files — all of them — and he’s managed them. I think you can have great confidence that you’re not going to find anyone who will work harder than David,” Horgan said.

Click to play video: 'Focus BC:  Farewell to Premier John Horgan'
Focus BC: Farewell to Premier John Horgan

Ahead of the event, an organization of British Columbia Indigenous leaders thanked Horgan in a statement for his work on passing legislation affirming Indigenous rights and called on Eby to continue efforts toward reconciliation.

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Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said passage of the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in 2019 would not have been possible without Horgan’s leadership.

Phillip said he and other Indigenous leaders “enjoyed and fully supported” Horgan as premier, and “appreciated his ability to bring people together” and connect with First Nations.

Despite a lack of agreement on some issues, such as expansion of the liquefied natural gas industry and conservation of old-growth forests, the union “remains proud of the joint work” that was accomplished, the statement said.

Read more: ‘He will be missed’: No one enjoyed being B.C. premier more than John Horgan

Horgan singled out the adoption of the declaration as one of his proudest achievements.

Despite having two history degrees, he said he didn’t know what a residential school was until he was in a gymnasium full of survivors during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.

He said he’s hopeful the declaration will help transform “unspeakable poverty” on many reservations formed through the Indian Act.

Horgan was first elected to the legislature in 2005, was acclaimed leader of the B.C. New Democrats in 2014, became premier in 2017 and won re-election in 2020.

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He successfully battled a second cancer diagnosis the following year and announced in June that he would step down as premier and leader but would stay on as the member of the legislature for Langford-Juan de Fuca.

Click to play video: 'David Eby to be sworn in as premier Friday, what’s next for John Horgan'
David Eby to be sworn in as premier Friday, what’s next for John Horgan

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