Sunday September 27, 2020 | COWICHAN VALLEY / DUNCAN
by Mary P Brooke, editor | Island Social Trends
On this Sunday morning, NDP Leader John Horgan was on the provincial campaign trail in the Cowichan Valley.
The 11 am announcement included that a business plan is underway for a new state-of-the- art hospital in the Cowichan Valley. The new hospital will be almost three times the size of the current one, with construction to begin next year, said Horgan. The valley’s population has more than doubled since the old hospital was built in 1967.
“After years of BC Liberal neglect, we are closer than ever to getting the new hospital we need. We can’t afford to put that progress at risk by going back to a government that puts those at the top before investing in our community,” said the NDP candidate for Cowichan Valley, Rob Douglas.
NDP platform almost ready:
Batting for his second term as Premier in a snap election (one year ahead of the scheduled October 2021 date), Horgan today said that the BC-NDP Party’s full platform will be ready and released “in a week or so”.
General election day is October 24, with seven advance voting opportunities in October and mail-in ballots available now through Elections BC.
Food security on Vancouver Island:
In responding to a question about food security on Vancouver Island as posed by Island Social Trends today, the NDP Leader said his government over the past three and a half years has developed food hubs under the enthusiastic leadership of Lana Popham as agriculture minister. Food security has been “top of mind” in the Horgan government, he said.
During COVID, both consumers and the grocery stores have seen that the supply chain for food delivery to people in their communities has vulnerabilities. Horgan said that food growing on Vancouver Island is part of the bread basket for BC.
“We have a lot of agricultural land in BC,” said Horgan. He credits the foresight of the NDP in 1970 to create the Agricultural Land Reserve, developed under then-Premier the late Dave Barrett. “Now more than ever that looks visionary,” said Horgan in his response in today’s live media tele-session.
Horgan says he’s glad that land preserved for agriculture has not been covered by “condos or golf courses”.
John Horgan says that the previous government under the BC Liberals (2001-2017) focused on developers, but that in the 3.5 years in his first term as BC Premier (2017-2020) that the focus on development has been about purpose-built housing for people (including rental stock and affordable housing), not as a tool for investment. “That’s been our strategy and we’re going to stick with it,” said Horgan.
Horgan’s government released a 30-point housing plan for roll-out over 10 years. Part of that is supported by a property tax on ‘second homes’ (residential properties in addition to a person’s primary residence), called the speculation tax.
The BC Liberals are saying they will eliminate the speculation tax and the additional school property tax if they form government after the October 24 election. In the past, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has described renting as “a wacky time of life” that is part of “growing up and getting better.” The BC NDP claim that to be a view that is out of touch with today’s realities.
Some things (well, many things) are different during a mid-pandemic campaign compared to pre-COVID. Usually there are large rallies, lots of door-knocking, and plenty of signage around communities.
Movement around to various communities is probably even more carefully planned than before, to assure adherence to the range of public health protocols that are necessary for containing spread of the COVID-19 virus between people.
Due to the physical and social distancing required during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot more campaign messaging is being done online — mostly through social media. Not just ads, but Zoom calls and Twitter discussions with anyone who wishes to chime in.
Teleconferences with professional media (while of course in place for decades for the legislature-based press gallery) have become more broadly available to media from a wider variety of media outlets. The frequent tele-sessions can be ‘attended’ by the general public through social media.
Horgan says that without large rallies where the media, he says, tends to focus on campaign momentum and judge things by the size of audiences, media interaction can be about questions with more substance. People may pay subsequently pay more attention to politics if the public debate is substantive.
Campaigning during COVID-19 is “an opportunity to go outward and hear directly” from people, said Horgan today, adding: “That’s what politics is all about.”
The Cowichan Valley is a hotbed of political leadership, including the NDP MP for the region (Alistair MacGregor – Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) and the BC Green Party Leader (Sonia Furstenau, who has served one term as MLA 2017-2020 in the BC Legislature).