The Royal museum, COVID and a Liberal name change: B.C.’s top political stories of 2022

Premier John Horgan is joined by David Eby during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Officials in Penticton, B.C., are appealing to Premier John Horgan in the latest twist related to a bitter dispute over a temporary shelter in the Okanagan city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito. CAH

It caught British Columbians by surprise.

Months after declaring he was cancer free and returning to travel the province, John Horgan announced he was stepping down as premier.

His decision and the aftermath dominated many of the top political stories in British Columbia in 2022.

John Horgan resigns

The cycle of politics in any province is built around the actions of the premier.

When Horgan announced in June he would be stepping down as premier as soon as the party found his replacement it sent shockwaves through the political eco-system.

Read more: John Horgan to step down as B.C. premier, asks party to hold fall leadership race

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The decision ultimately came down to Horgan’s health, even though he was cancer free he struggled to get through the demanding schedule.

“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 reporters in June.

Horgan ultimately made the decision after walking on the beach with his wife, Ellie.

Reaching the mid-point of a second term made it clear there needed to be a leader focused on the next two years and beyond.

“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.”

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

David Eby becomes British Columbia’s next premier

There is clearly some backstory to unpack here between Horgan’s decision to step down and Eby being sworn in but we will fill those gaps a little further down.

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In November, Eby was sworn in as B.C.’s 37th premier and launched the next chapter of this NDP government’s first election in 2017.

The former Attorney General and housing minister used his opening speech as premier to chart a course prioritizing affordability, housing, public safety and the province’s health-care system.

“I feel the values of the community I was raised in. You need to give back. That you need to look after those who need extra support. You need to celebrate together victories. You are part of a team and fairness is critical,” Eby said.

Read more: David Eby sworn in as British Columbia’s 37th premier

The official ceremony at the Musqueam First Nation marked the first time a premier in the province was formally introduced as premier on First Nations territory.

Unlike many premiers, Eby inherited a government scandal free and still popular with the public.

“I will let you in on a secret. I am not as tall as I look because I am standing on the shoulders of John Horgan,” Eby said holding back tears.

Click to play video: 'David Eby sworn in as 37th B.C. premier'
David Eby sworn in as 37th B.C. premier

Controversial NDP leadership race

As perceived front runner after perceived front runner dropped out of the B.C. NDP leadership race it was shaping up to be a coronation for Eby.

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First, it was Ravi Kahlon announcing he wasn’t running and would support Eby. Bowinn Ma, Josie Osborne, Adrian Dix and many others soon followed.

By the time Eby announced he was running, nearly 50 NDP MLAs has pledged to support him.

But while the establishment had chosen their candidate, environmental activists were planning their own course to the premier’s office.

Read more: BC NDP chief electoral officer recommends disqualifying Anjali Appadurai from leadership race

Anjali Appadurai, a former NDP federal candidate, was chosen to run and worked closely with organizations like Dogwood BC to recruit and sign up members.

Soon after the party’s cut-off for memberships, it was revealed by the BC NDP and Elections BC that Appadurai was under investigation for the way her memberships were sold.

The party ultimately determined internal rules had been broken in numerous cases, and Appadurai was disqualified leaving Eby as the only leadership candidate.

Click to play video: 'Anjeli Appadurai disqualified, David Eby will become next B.C. premier'
Anjeli Appadurai disqualified, David Eby will become next B.C. premier

Kevin Falcon wins leadership

The BC NDP was not the only party in the province with a new leader in 2022.

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In February, the BC Liberal membership chose Kevin Falcon to lead the party. Falcon entered the race in 2021 as the perceived front-runner and cruised to victory.

Falcon’s victory marked the beginning of this political comeback story.

The former finance, transportation and health minister quit politics in 2012 after losing the 2011 BC Liberal leadership race to Christy Clark.

Read more: Kevin Falcon wins B.C. Liberal leadership in landslide

Falcon returned to the public sector, working as a housing developer while starting a family. When he won the leadership he was joined on stage by his wife and two daughters.

He was sworn in as the MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena in May after winning a by-election in the riding.

Click to play video: 'Focus BC: BC Liberals elect Kevin Falcon as new party leader'
Focus BC: BC Liberals elect Kevin Falcon as new party leader

BC Liberal name change

One of Kevin Falcon’s promises during the BC Liberal leadership campaign was to allow members to vote on a name change.

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In November the party announced 80 per cent of members who voted favoured a switch to BC United.

The BC United name was chosen after the party was told other possible options like the BC Party were off limits due to Elections BC rules.

The party has not decided when to put the new name into play, not ruling out the switch in branding before the next provincial election.

Click to play video: 'BC Liberal Party changing name to BC United'
BC Liberal Party changing name to BC United

Overhaul for family doctors amid health care crisis

The pandemic exposed significant holes in British Columbia’s health-care system including chronic understaffing and an outdated payment model for family doctors.

In October the province announced an overhauling of the payment model in an attempt to retain family doctors and attract new ones.

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The new model, co-developed by Doctors of BC, BC Family Doctors and the provincial government, will be available as of February 2023.

Click to play video: 'New compensation model announced for B.C. doctors'
New compensation model announced for B.C. doctors

Family physicians can choose to continue with the current model or opt in to the new one.

The new system moves away from the fee-for-service model and takes into account factors including the time a doctor spends with a patient, the number of patients a doctor sees in a day, and the number of total patients a doctor supports through their office.

Based on prescribed targets, doctors will earn $385,000, up from an average of $250,000.

“I am pleased that we have come up with a new payment model that makes B.C. a province that attracts, retains and supports family doctors, and ensures they can focus on what matters most, providing care to patients when they need it,” Horgan said at the time.

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Read more: B.C. makes seismic shift in funding model to retain, attract more family doctors

Record gas price

It is a record B.C. drivers wish had stayed unbroken.

In September, gas prices at the pump hit a new milestone with a new North American all-time high at $2.419 for a litre of regular gas.

There were numerous times in the year when Vancouver broke North American records for gas prices, largely driven by the war in Ukraine.

Click to play video: 'Metro Vancouver breaks gas price record'
Metro Vancouver breaks gas price record

When gas prices started to skyrocket in February and March, the province announced financial support to drivers in the form of a rebate of $110 through ICBC, while commercial drivers got $165.

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Even Horgan acknowledged the rebate wasn’t going to do enough to cover all of the surging costs.

“But right now I encourage people to think before you hop in the car. Do you need to make that trip? Can you do it with a neighbour or someone going by?,” Horgan quipped in May.

Lifting of COVID-19 measures

As the Omicron wave started to subside, the province followed suit with other jurisdictions and lifted key COVID-19 measures.

First came the dropping of the mask mandate, as of March there was no longer a requirement to mask up in public, indoor spaces.

Then by April, the province dropped the vaccine card, no longer requiring businesses to check to see if someone was vaccinated against COVID-19.

Read more: Vaccine card: B.C.’s last major COVID-19 measure lifted

“We believe we can remove some of the restrictions weighing the risk. We know some businesses will still decide to use the vaccine card based on their clientele,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in April.

Almost all businesses dropped the vaccine requirement, although some have kept mask requirements in place.

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The lifting of the vaccine measures coincided with a campaign in the province to get everyone a COVID-19 booster shot.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Vaccine card no longer in place in B.C.'
COVID-19: Vaccine card no longer in place in B.C.

Delay of the start of the school year due to Omicron

The easing of the physical COVID-19 restrictions made it easier for the public to put the virus in the rearview mirror.

But it was not that long ago, back in January, when the start of the school semester was pushed back a week due to concerns around COVID spread.

Read more: B.C. delaying start of school until Jan. 10 for most K to 12 students


Children with special needs and children of health care workers went back to school on Jan. 3 or 4 as planned, but everyone else went back on Jan. 10 — one week later than initially scheduled.

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“As we know the pandemic is changing but the education system is nimble and strong. Our efforts are truly focused on minimizing disruption and absenteeism,” said B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said at the time.

Click to play video: 'Omicron concerns: Rising anxiety about return to class in B.C.'
Omicron concerns: Rising anxiety about return to class in B.C.

Craig James found guilty

Describing the B.C. legislature’s clerk scandal as a difficult time, Horgan told reporters he was “grateful that a very sad chapter in this institution’s history has now been put to rest.”

After a dark cloud hung over the legislature for years, in May former clerk Craig James was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust.

James pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer based on allegations of misspending stemming from his time serving as clerk between 2011 and 2018.

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Read more: Craig James, former B.C. legislature clerk, guilty of fraud, breach of trust

The judge found him not guilty of all other similar charges related to a $258,000 retirement fund and the use of a wood splitter.

The sage involving James started in 2018 when the previous speaker Darryl Plecas presented evidence to the Legislature’s management committee accusing James of wrongdoing.

Click to play video: 'Former clerk of the legislature receives conditional sentence'
Former clerk of the legislature receives conditional sentence

BCGEU goes on strike, public sector unions reach deals

It was a rough start to labour negotiations between the province and the big public sector unions.

Starting over the negotiations, the BC General Employees Union and with little ground gained around the negotiation table, a strike was called.

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It started with pickets around the Liquor Distribution centres, leading to a lack of products at restaurants, bars and on liquor store shelves.

Read more: Alcohol running dry for restaurant industry as BCGEU goes on strike

The strike carried over to law courts and service centres.

Eventually, a deal was struck, and ratified, paving the way for other public sector unions. The only major union without a deal is the BC nurses.

Click to play video: 'Liquor stores still struggling with supply weeks after BCGEU strike ended'
Liquor stores still struggling with supply weeks after BCGEU strike ended

Royal BC Museum fiasco

It was a mammoth mistake.

The B.C. government forged ahead with a brand new $789-million Royal BC Museum in Victoria as British Columbians grappled with the cost of living increases.

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A poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute found 69 per cent of British Columbians were opposed to the project.

Eventually, Horgan backed down, cancelling the project and leaving the current facility in a state of flux with two major galleries currently closed.

Read more: Almost 70% of British Columbians oppose new Royal BC Museum: poll

“We made choices based on the best information at hand and we thought we had it right. Clearly, we did not,” Horgan said in June.

“I’ve heard the people of British Columbia quite clearly that we were making the wrong decision at the wrong time.

Click to play video: 'B.C. government puts Royal BC Museum rebuild on hold'
B.C. government puts Royal BC Museum rebuild on hold

No federal deal on health care

Horgan was hoping his final act as B.C. premier would be as lead negotiator on a new deal between the federal government and the provinces on health care.

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But after multiple attempts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not even come to the table to meet with Canada’s premiers.

Click to play video: 'Canada’s premiers put pressure on federal government for more health care funding'
Canada’s premiers put pressure on federal government for more health care funding

The premiers met together in Victoria to discuss a deal to increase health transfers but a federal representative didn’t even show up in person.

A subsequent meeting in Vancouver including all of the provincial health ministers and the federal minister ended with a separate press conference and no deal as well.

“I have been waiting and waiting, and waiting for significant response from the federal government and frankly it has been absent,” Horgan said in July.

Money laundering public inquiry finds no political corruption

After a three-year investigation into money laundering in B.C. casinos and the housing market, Commissioner Austin Cullen found no links to political corruption.

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But did conclude money laundering in the province’s casinos persisted over the tenures of multiple ministers responsible for gaming including former BC Liberal MLA Rich Coleman and current BC Liberal MLA Mike de Jong.

Click to play video: 'Report says B.C. politicians may have been complicit in money laundering but were not corrupt'
Report says B.C. politicians may have been complicit in money laundering but were not corrupt

In a more than 1,800-page report, the Cullen Commission team outlined that elected officials in the province were aware of suspicious funds entering the provincial revenue stream through the gaming industry and could have done more to stop it.

“Despite the failure of these elected officials to take steps sufficient to resolve the extensive money laundering occurring in the industry for which they were responsible, there is no basis to conclude that any engaged in any form of corruption related to the gaming industry or to the Commissioner’s mandate for generally,” Cullen writes.

Read more: Money laundering public inquiry finds ‘no evidence’ of political corruption in B.C.

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Autism funding reversal

After months of advocacy from concerned parents, the B.C. government announced in November it was changing how it plans to fund support for people with autism.

After meeting with Indigenous leaders, the children’s rights watchdog, and members of AutismBC, Eby announced the province will maintain the individualized funding model for children with an autism diagnosis instead of phasing it out in 2025.

Click to play video: 'A big win for B.C. families with autistic children'
A big win for B.C. families with autistic children

The province was planning a move, like other provinces, to a hub model where service delivery is centralized.

“Every child in B.C. should have the supports they need to thrive,” Eby said.

“We are focused on listening to families of children and youth with support needs. We will work collaboratively with all partners to make sure our services work for every child.”

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Read more: Following backlash, B.C. to maintain current model to fund autism support

BC Place playing host to the World Cup

Game on.

After originally showing FIFA a red card, the B.C. government scored a goal with fans in the province by joining the game late to host games in the FIFA 2026 World Cup hosted in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver is officially a host city of the 2026 World Cup games'
Vancouver is officially a host city of the 2026 World Cup games

The province raised concerns about writing FIFA a ‘blank cheque’ on covering costs for BC Place, security and potential overruns.

Those concerns were dealt with behind closed doors before B.C. formally became a potential host city and eventually was chosen, along with Toronto, to host the ten World Cup games scheduled for Canada.

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“We’re not hosting the largest ever World Cup just for kicks. British Columbians will enjoy an economic boost to the tourism and hospitality sectors that will be felt for years to come. We look forward to welcoming the global soccer community to our province,” Horgan said at the time.

Read more: Vancouver chosen to host FIFA World Cup 2026 games as part of North American bid

Lepard-Butler report

Back in May, the B.C. government hired Doug LePard and Amanda Butler to investigate a surge in crime in multiple areas of B.C. connected to prolific offenders.

The pair was tasked with providing recommendations to the province following the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus issuing an open letter calling for stronger bail conditions, stricter consequences for breaching those conditions, and stronger consideration for “maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice”.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver’s former deputy police chief says he’s gotten push back from Crown over calls to keep chronic offenders in custody'
Vancouver’s former deputy police chief says he’s gotten push back from Crown over calls to keep chronic offenders in custody

The letter detailed the amount of time the province took to review files it receives from police shot up 118 per cent since 2017, while the rate at which the BC Prosecution Service chooses to not charge suspects based on police evidence has risen by 75 per cent.

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Ultimately increasing mental health crisis response teams, diverting accused people with serious mental disorders from the criminal system, and creating secure housing units for clients with complex mental health were the key recommendations from LePard and Butler.

Read more: B.C. report on prolific offenders delayed due to ‘complexity’ of issues

Calls from the committee for regional policing

In April, an all-party committee of B.C. MLAs called on the province to get rid of the RCMP in the province and replace it with a provincial police force.

The report also called for regional police forces in Metro Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island, to move away from a fractured municipal policing model.

Click to play video: 'Questions about police moving toward regional force instead of municipal force in B.C.'
Questions about police moving toward regional force instead of municipal force in B.C.

In the report, the committee emphasized that transitioning to a provincial police service is not a reflection on the work of individual RCMP officers.

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The report also focuses on ensuring all policing is responsive to and informed by the community as well as building trust by shifting the culture and structure of police services.

“The committee’s vision for policing and public safety includes: ensuring equitable access to police and public safety services with consistent oversight, governance, training, and policies,” the report reads.

Read more: All-party committee calls on B.C. to replace RCMP with provincial police force

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