Home Government Government of BC Four years ago: the night John Horgan took the reins

Four years ago: the night John Horgan took the reins

It sometimes does come down to the power of one.

Tuesday July 6, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC


EDITORIAL by Mary P Brooke | *First published* on June 30, 2017 on page 1 of the WEST SHORE VOICE NEWS (now Island Social Trends) | Republished here four years later, for a matter of comparison. | Become an Island Social Trends Premium subscriber in order to receive this sort of editorial analysis direct to your email in-box.


The power of politics – He stuck to it, and it worked, with the support of thousands.

Like a short made-for-TV movie, the plot was laid out but excitement built quickly with some unexpected twists and turns.

By 5:30 pm Thursday June 29 the BC Legislature under the BC Liberals had collapsed. Sixteen years led first by Premier Gordon Campbell and then Premier Christy Clark ended swiftly with a 44-to-42 vote: BC NDP and Greens ganged up on the BC Liberals and it was over… quietly at first until the Liberal MLAs had left the chamber, then with an outburst of celebration among the BC NDPs and Greens.

By 6 pm Christy Clark had made her way through a hallway funnel of an applauding crowd as she exited the Parliament Building and was — not too far away, on Rockland Avenue — walking up the steps at Government House to meet with Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon. The meeting lasted over an hour, for as it turns out, Clark was attempting to persuade Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to dissolve the house and call another general election (something she said she wouldn’t do).

So much weight on Guichon’s shoulders. The vice-regal position is not often tasked with making a decision that is essentially the outcome of an election in which almost two million people voted. Now we see it sometimes does come down to the power of one.

Guichon essentially sent Clark packing. Speaking briefly to the media around 7:30 pm outside Government House, Clark was skillful in her choice of words but her usual full-on energy was not quite there. She said the Lieutenant Governor had “retired to make her decision”. But it was learned later that Clark had already been asked to resign.

judith guichon, lt gov
BC Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon on the steps of the BC Legislature on June 30, 2017.

That could not have been easy for Guichon, who has donated to the BC Liberals and was happy enough as a rancher to have the Trans Mountain pipeline run through her property.

In a sense, Guichon had been put on the spot by Christy Clark’s strategy of recent weeks. BC had essentially been left without a robust operating government for over seven weeks since the May 9 election. And then a flip-flop to what sounded like an NDP Throne Speech (written by BC Liberals) was asked of the Lieutenant Governor. On June 22 Guichon delivered a long speech that was clearly not of BC Liberal content or philosophy.

Maybe it was in fact the language required by parliamentary convention for the LG to say on the morning of June 22 in the legislature that she found the assembly “unfit” and that a Speaker needed to be appointed before she could read the Throne Speech. But the tone and style of delivery seemed to surprise Clark and others. Guichon may have just been getting warmed up to the June 29 outcome.

Anyhow, there was the BC NDP Leader (Official Opposition Leader) waiting in the wings. Not just on June 29 as the chips were falling, not just in the last week or so in the legislature, and not just for seven weeks since the May 9 outcome. Becoming premier has been a taste in Horgan’s mouth for decades. He has by now built a couple of decades of his life around what came to pass around 8:15 last night [i.e. June 29, 2017].

judith guichon, lt gov
BC Premier John Horgan and BC Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon during the swearing-in ceremony at Government House on July 18, 2017 [West Shore Voice News photo]

And so with a ‘we’ve got this’ sort of Tweet that pre-empted his exit from Government House around 8:20 pm that evening, Horgan then emerged into the summer evening sunlight with a new dawn ahead of him. He thanked his supporters and promised to do his level-best. It was not a wild election night speech, or even a staunch declaration of how the earth had moved. Everyone was tired after a long day and a rapid-fire post-election period. Horgan even joked about how he was hungry and preoccupied with getting something to eat.

It was a sublime moment. Apart from applause and some high-fives, the festivities were brief. Where the big shift happens is in the next few and many days that follow. A new permission, if you will, to see and do things differently in BC — for a wider range of people in a more pro-active and caring way.

Clark said in one of her media followups that the NDP have been left with well-balanced books and a good economy. Well, that is the job of government under any leader’s watch. Citizens certainly hope that good financial management will continue and be undertaken by any government. But the tone and vision had to change. That was certainly evident from the chaotic result produced by voters on May 9.

True leadership for the people is something you just can’t fake. It takes hard work, patience, rolling with some nasty punches, and carrying on for the long haul. In that, Horgan has already shown the he’s in it for the people. Now he has a chance to show what effective change and growth does look like for everyone along the spectrum. That’s the dream. One day long ago he dreamed of becoming Premier. Let’s now see the dream unfold in some wonderful ways for beautiful BC.

judith guichon, premier, john horgan
BC Premier John Horgan accepts a handshake from BC Lt Gov Judith Guichon after she read his government’s Throne Speech, September 8, 2017 [livestream screenshot]

But it will be tricky, like for a preemie that may have to fight for its life for a while before stabilizing. A coalition-style government like the one now operating in BC is workable, but inherently fragile. Its continuation will require on-going good will and agreement between the deal makers. In this case the BC NDP and BC Greens wrote up an accord that they both say they intend to operate by.

In BC now there are 43 Liberal MLAs and effectively 43 NDP-Green votes in the legislature (after a Speaker is appointed from the governing side of the house). Any number of things can set it toward demise, not the least of which would be simple absence of one or more MLAs from any given vote.

Horgan is fortunate to have in BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver — with whom he must now walk step-by-step — an articulate thinker who is so far maintaining if not stewarding the principles of progressive governance. Weaver’s default role seems to be that of being the rudder on the ship.

While ‘who made him king’ rears up for some (about Weaver), it’s really a big responsibility and a thankless task to be the linchpin between two heavy duty players. Weaver seems by temperament and intellect to be well-suited for it. Today he said he is thrilled with the level of collaboration.

The Greens need the NDP as much as the NDP need them. It’s actually better than one party’s number of seats so greatly outnumbers the other; it they were in the same heavy-weight class, a rough and tumble for supremacy would likely soon ensue.

The Greens can achieve a lot of their agenda under the mighty wing of the 41-seat NDP, and the NDP need the Greens’ three seats to stay in power. Horgan and Weaver both seem level-headed enough to realize that upsetting their peachy apple cart shouldn’t happen any time soon. Their agreement has a “no surprises” clause.

Andrew Weaver, Adam Olsen, July 2017
BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver (right) and Green MLA Adam Olsen (Saanich North and the Islands) at Government House, July 18, 2017 [West Shore Voice News file photo by Mary Brooke]

Bottom line, British Columbia is now far better set for a path to a wholesome future than before May 9. There is a vision, energy, and fresh desire for a cooperative type of governance. Fingers crossed that BC benefits soon in many areas, such as housing, social programs, jobs, health care improvements, MSP program overhaul, tech economy boost, and more.

British Columbians can give themselves a high-five for, ultimately, electing a plan that could work very well for the people. The Legislature is expect to be back in action by September.

Mary Brooke, editor, West Shore Voice News
Mary P Brooke, Editor and Publisher, Island Social Trends.

This political analysis by Mary P Brooke was first published on page 1 in the June 30, 2017 print-PDF edition of West Shore Voice News. The publication that was in print and PDF format during 2011-2020 changed to fully digital in March 2020 and the name of the publication was changed to Island Social Trends in August 2020 — now presented in this news portal at www.islandsocialtrends.ca .

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