Home Election Tracker BC NDP John Horgan wraps up 18 years in BC elected politics

John Horgan wraps up 18 years in BC elected politics

End of an era for a widely respected BC political leader

john horgan, feb 2023
Former Premier John Horgan addressed the BC Legislative Assembly as MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, on Feb 9, 2023. [livestream]

Thursday February 9, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Last update: Feb 14, 2023]

[See pre-speech announcement & links to previous Horgan departure articles]

Editorial insights by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends [See social media comments at the end of this article]

“This was John Horgan’s last day in the BC Legislature. He has lived his politics in support of people, emerging as a unique leader who was shaped by his own story but who allowed himself to be gracefully refined by the needs of those he served.”

~ Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Former Premier John Horgan made his last speech in the BC Legislature today, Thursday February 9, 2023.  

After 18 years of elected public office based in the west shore of south Vancouver Island (2005-2023), this was Horgan’s last day in the BC Legislature. Now age 63, he has lived most of his mid-career years wedded to his people-inspired politics.

In support of the well-being of people across the province (and arguably beyond, during the pandemic), John Horgan emerged as a unique leader who was shaped by his own story but allowed himself to be gracefully refined by the needs of those he served.

john horgan

He softened a bit around his views on how people might ideally live their lives. But most of the chiseling away of this political leader into a finely sculpted statesman happened during the first year or two of the COVID-19 pandemic during which time there was an enormous load of crisis but an invaluable amount of collaboration. Today he acknowledged that collaboration to his political comrades on all sides of the legislative assembly.

From day one of his time as the 36th Premier (coming to office mid-July 2017) Horgan was the guide for British Columbians amidst a series of unprecedented challenges, notably starting in 2017 with managing the worst wildfires seen to that point, and through the unknowns of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Over five years as Premier:

john horgan, last speech, feb 2023
Former Premier John Horgan delivered his last speech in the BC Legislature on Feb 9, 2023. [livestream]

Through his five-plus years in the top job John Horgan as Premier arguably guided BC from being a hammered-down fractured society and lopsided economy that served the favoured few (in many ways due to the self-serving politics of the BC Liberals during 2001-2017) to a broadly more equitable society and economy. He did that by seeing that this Cabinet and government ‘put people first’. He had the first Cabinet that was 50 percent women. And in his speech today he remarked on the diversity of the BC caucus who surrounded him on this special last day, noting the range of people of colour, sexual orientation and gender.

BC now has some of the youngest MLA’s the province has ever seen, just one of the legacies of John Horgan who — around 2014 as he saw the premiership role coming — seemed to for the first time realize that the clock would be ticking for the time he would have as leader of the progressive movement that he had already devoted his adult life to.

Once or twice Horgan publicly mused about the biblical proportion of the challenges placed on the province under his leadership… one time quipping ‘next will it be locusts?’. And while that allowed the rest of us a glimpse of the leadership load and his own recognition of such, at the same time this man who chose Trinity College for his post-secondary education was probably spiritually quizzical about being the right person in the right place for these times.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan, chatting over lunch in Vancouver, summer 2021.
sooke, food chi, seedy saturday

Nearly to a person (including political opponents), everyone today has been thanking the departing MLA down at the Legislature and across social media.

Though for many in his political sphere this is the tail end of a well-crafted departure at the height of his popularity, with his beloved BC NDP party having had many a departure gathering for him since last fall.

Horgan has not yet revealed his future plans. But something federal might be in the offing, given how he traveled to Ottawa to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a few months ago after having announced his intention to step down (shortly after having hosted the Council of the Federation meeting of provincial and territorial premiers in Victoria in July 2022). Health care reform or climate change policy… both could use his expertise at the national level.

horgan, cof, july 12 2022
BC Premier John Horgan chairing the 2022 annual Council of the Federation meeting of Canada’s Premiers, July 12, 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Speech themes old and new:

Starting with the usual acknowledgements to people who’ve helped him along the way, Horgan’s speech today covered some of the ground he’s oft-repeated — raised by a widowed mother, challenges in school, meeting his wife on the first day of university, and his path as a young man into the world of civil service and then politics.

He had only so long to speak in the formal environment of the legislature, and while he mentioned his hero the late Premier Dave Barrett, he didn’t plug in how he was originally inspired by Tommy Douglas (the founding leader of universal health care in Canada).

john horgan, outgoing
Premier John Horgan clearly pleased at the applause from BC NDP Caucus at the Legislature on Oct 24, 2022 during a symbolic changing of the guard betwen himself and David Eby. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

He didn’t single out too many of his present colleagues, but did mentioned he’d been friends with Health Minister Adrian Dix for a couple of decades. At the end he got a soulful look and hug from Solicitor General Mike Farnworth who has been around the legislature for a very long time. Arguably, Horgan has had implicit unshakable faith in both those MLAs over the years; comrades in the trenches.

BC’s current Premier David Eby paid rapt attention to Horgan through his predecessor’s entire speech (and later in his own speech thanked Horgan for being a mentor, and joked ‘what would John Horgan and Andrew Weaver do’ as a guide for couples resolving conflict).

Horgan included a reminder that climate change is happening now. He certainly weathered the worst of the stark reminders about that in 2021, through the heat dome (over 500 deaths in just a few days) and floods (loss of farmland and agriculture capacity in the Fraser Valley, as well as the enormous costs of repairing highway infrastructure).

Keeping things on an up-note, Horgan did not mention BC Ferries or BC Hydro, two massive crown corporations that brought him angst over the years. He touched on public education not at all.



Horgan says he is cancer-free now, after going through surgery in late 2021 for throat cancer and then enduring radiation treatments into 2022 that he reported as leaving him with less energy at the end of the day.

Today he complimented the surgeon who ‘slit his throat’ and others on the BC Cancer medical team, for doing their part in bringing him back to health.

Everyone is genuinely glad about Horgan’s recovery. That was his second battle against cancer, the first being early in his career as an MLA, with bladder cancer.

He has gained back some weight since first reappearing in 2022 following some aggressive rounds of chemotherapy. Today he boasted that his beard is growing back with dark hair (in contrast his white-hair balding coif), quipping that it makes him feel younger.

In June 2022 Horgan announced that he would not be seeking re-election. He said he didn’t have the energy to make another six-year commitment “to this job”, referring to the Premier’s role (two years in run-up to an election, then serving another four years in the top job of running government).

horgan, group shot, feb 2023
Former Premier John Horgan in a large group shot of MLAs, staff and health care reps, outside the legislature on Feb 9, 2023. [web]

A quick transition:

Horgan officially stepped down from being Premier in October 2022, shifting to being “just John from Langford”. David Eby was sworn in as Premier on November 18, 2022 and Eby announced his new Cabinet on December 7, 2022.

That may have seemed rapid, but the plan had been in the works for years. David Eby was going to run for party leader in 2014 but decided to start a family with his wife who herself is a busy career person. Horgan stepped up to carry the NDP mantle until Eby was ready. The leadership race that officially brought Eby to the fore was met with some insider resistance to the plan that was already set in motion. But the result seems all so stable.

john horgan, ellie horgan, 2019
Premier John Horgan and his wife Ellie at a lacrosse game at the Q Centre in 2019. [Mary P Brooke]

Horgan is likely to choose March 17 (St Patrick’s Day) for his final swan song from being an MLA. He also chose March 17 for announcing his party leadership bid in 2014 and for announcing the COVID public health emergency in 2020… for good luck. He often speaks with pride about his Irish heritage. He attends Victoria Shamrocks lacrosse games in Colwood whenever he gets a chance.

Thanking the media:

Horgan did thank the media and journalists who’ve been covering his journey through the channels of rough political waters for decades. He looked up to the gallery during that portion of his speech, also knowing there were many journalists everywhere around the province taking note of his remarks about ‘how good it must be to be a journalist’.

The one journalist he called out by name was Vaughn Palmer, who is currently a columnist for the Vancouver Sun but for many years hosted a one-hour talk show called The Voice of BC which served to provide a regularly available platform for the rise of the NDP. When Horgan became Premier in 2017, Palmer said that ‘his work was done’ and his long-running TV stint soon wrapped up.

horgan, media, scrum
Outgoing MLA John Horgan addressed media in the halls of the BC Legislature, Feb 9, 2023. [web]

Other long-time legislative reporters have spent many a year covering Horgan in politics. Horgan also gleaned coverage from local and regional media, to keep the constituency home-fires stoked. One publication (this one) began in 2008 when Horgan had only a few years of elected office under his belt, and has continued local-insight coverage of the now nationally-known politician through to this day. [MapleLine Magazine ran 2008-2010 based out of Sooke, followed by the weekly Sooke Voice News, then the weekly print/digital West Shore Voice News, which in 2020 emerged fully online as Island Social Trends.]

This is the first and only time, today, that the public heard that Horgan might have taken the road to be a journalist, as his way of acknowledging the long hours and deep thought that it takes to produce what the public hears about those in power who make decisions that impact everyone’s lives.

john horgan, mary brooke
Premier John Horgan takes a moment’s pause to pose with Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke, at the Sooke Community Sport Box opening on June 26, 2022. [Darcy Smith]

Last year he referred to the media scrums and photo ops as “political theatre”, in a way that suggested he had become used to it despite its voracious appetite for quick-clip deadlines.

Horgan politely made the rounds to chat with most of the province’s and region’s media in the last few months, mostly favouring broadcast media with the largest soundbite audience for politically informative but lighthearted farewells.

Not missing a political beat:

Horgan will stay on as MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca for a short while longer, then resign his seat “before the end of the fiscal year” (coming up March 31, 2023). He says he has other plans, but has not yet publicly revealed those.

“I believe I’ve done as much as I can do,” he told reporters after his 30-minute speech today.

Since stepping aside as BC’s 36th Premier last fall and these past few months brandishing the new moniker of “just John in Langford”, today Horgan never mentioned by name the community of Sooke where he built the might of his foundational voting base and also would go for respite. Always the consummate politician, this is largely to protect a bit of a ‘secret’ as to the power that his Sooke base has had for him politically and personally, but equally if not more so to keep the name of Langford in the sphere of his political aura as he backs his hand-picked soon-to-be MLA candidate Ravi Parmar to replace him. Is it ever really up to the voters?

john horgan, ravi parmar
MLA John Horgan still working the local political angle for his hand-picked replacement candidate, Ravi Parmar, showing off flags outside the new Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School in Langford, Jan 31, 2023. [SD62]

Parmar ran for school board in Sooke School District SD62 in October 2022, putting himself back into the role of chair of that board of education for another term, knowing full well he’d be moving on fairly soon. Horgan has done nothing that would allow any missteps in that trajectory of replacement, which the seasoned politician has had in mind since first encountering Parmar as an elementary school student in Langford many years ago. Talk about playing the long game.

Horgan let other things fall on the spear point of his goal to hand over the Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA mantle to Parmar, not allowing himself to waver from the art of his political gamesmanship.

The by-election in Langford-Juan de Fuca must be called by around September 2023. While Parmar is thereby expected to run for the BC NDP, the BC Liberal faction has been busy honing their candidate as well.

Vancouver Island impact:

Horgan has done a lot for the south Vancouver Island region (including well-stocking the Cabinet with island representation that continues under Premier Eby, including south island MLAs Mitzi Dean, Rob Fleming, and Lana Popham).

Notably John Horgan finally brought home some successes for his own riding, including long overdue improvements to the winding and dangerous Highway 14 between Langford and Sooke. When Horgan was in opposition for the area that includes Sooke Juan de Fuca and Langford, the BC Liberals held back on many improvements for the Sooke region in particular.

mitzi dean, mla, constituency, ad

Horgan will likely one day be credited with drawing attention to the need to upgrade the Royal BC Museum infrastructure; there is already a satellite collections museum building underway and expected to open in the west shore in 2025.

Horgan has co-worked the west shore area with Mitzi Dean, MLA (Esquimalt-Metchosin) since 2017, as a way to entrench the NDP vote in the west shore in the years ahead.

A decoupling of Sooke from Langford in proposed new BC electoral boundaries (which would come into effect for the 2024 provincial election) partially explains the push on Langford in all of Horgan’s political spin the last several months, without the mention of Sooke. The new boundaries would see the growing urbanizing Langford combine with Highlands, while Sooke would become central to a more ruralized population including East Sooke, Shawnigan, and Juan de Fuca up to Port Renfrew.

boundaries, langford, sooke
Proposed new electoral boundaries would create a large rural riding (Juan de Fuca-Malahat) and condense the Langford vote into the urban area (Langford-Highlands). | BC Boundaries Commission map – 2022

Social media glare:

There was a media scrum with Horgan in the halls of the BC Legislature after his speech today. And there was a shining burst of activity in social media with comments, thank you’s, and well-wishes.

Some of the social media posts: (more to come)

two premiers, eby, horgan
Two Premiers — current and former. [Tweet by Premier David Eby about outgoing MLA and former Premier John Horgan]. Feb 9, 2023
  • “I’m going to miss having @jjhorgan as a colleague in the Legislature. His legacy of hard work, leadership, and “level best” dedication helped BC through some of our toughest challenges. He has made BC a better place. Please join me in wishing John the best in his retirement.” ~ Premier David Eby
  • “Wishing my friend @jjhorgan the very best as he makes the decision to leave elected life. He has been a mentor to me. His passion for making life better for British Columbians has resulted in an amazing legacy.” ~ Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh
  • “I phoned @jjhorgan earlier today to thank him for his many years of public service to our province. We may not have always agreed on politics, but we share a love for BC & a commitment to making life better for all who call this place home. We wish you all the best, John!” ~ BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon
  • “Cheers to you my friend. I’ll always cherish the work we did together, and the opportunities I had because of you. May we once again end up in rivers with our hip waders on, snacking on Hawkins Cheezies.” ~ Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South and Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport
  • “Leadership is almost never easy. Taking BC through such challenging times & working every day to make BC better in every way is what I respect most about @jjhorgan. That & a shared Irish heritage & the accompanying ‘gift for the gab’. We’ll miss his humour & wisdom. ~ Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship
  • “Thank you John Horgan, for your incredible commitment to the people of BC. Strong leadership, decades of public service, former Premier, Leader, MLA, my colleague, and friend. Grateful for all you have given, and the positive difference you have made!” ~ Carole James, former BC Finance Minister
  • “Live long and prosper! Thank you John for being an incredible leader, mentor and friend!” ~ Brittny Anderson, MLA (Nelson-Creston) and Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism to the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport
  • “Thank you John! Barely a day has gone by since 2008 that as editor of several publications (MapleLine Magazine, Sooke Voice News, West Shore Voice News, & now Island Social Trends) that I’ve not penned something about your journey for the people.” ~ Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends
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  • “He has great respect for the media and is always quick with a funny anecdote. He’ll be missed.” ~ Katie DeRosa, Times Colonist reporter
  • “Well done & enjoy retirement from politics! Ya done good!” ~ Bill Tieleman, political pundit
  • “Thank you @jjhorgan for your dedication and passion for the people of BC.” ~ Stephanie Smith, President, BCGEU
  • “You’ve been a lifelong friend of working people, and you leave a legacy of progressive change and achievement.” ~ BC Federation of Labour
  • “John Horgan leaves a legacy of care, commitment, passion, kindness and leadership. During his years of service, he kept an open door to support, guide and contribute to the betterment of Sooke. I extended my utmost gratitude and appreciation to John and an open invitation to visit Sooke again and again for a game of lacrosse at the sport box, some pie at the Sooke Fall Fair or to take in our Canada Day festivities just to name a few.” ~ Sooke Mayor Maja Tait
  • “Thank you for your leadership @JJhorgan, particularly in post-secondary education. I wish you every success as you complete your service to British Columbians.” ~ Dr Philip Steenkamp, President, Royal Roads University
  • “Wishing @jjhorgan the very best as he steps down as MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. Thank you for making time to listen to students at Camosun. Live long and prosper.” ~ Camosun College President Dr Lane Trotter
  • “On behalf of the (CRD) Board and staff I wish to congratulate @jjhorgan on his announcement to retire. His legacy of leadership and service to the province and our region is vast and will not be soon forgotten. Thank you ‘John from Langford’.” ~ CRD Chair Colin Plant
  • “I was part of two person team to put Pharmacare together in 1973, then CEO of VRB. Both under Dave Barrett. He was good, @jjhorgan is great, the best Premier I’ve known.” ~ David Schreck, political pundit
  • “Paid sick leave, highest minimum wage of any province. Single-step certification, unprecedented commitment to trades/training, historic progress on Reconciliation, Shifting burden of taxes/fees from working families to wealthy corporations, huge investments in housing…” ~ Freya Keddie
  • “A big thank you to @jjhorgan for his service to our province and country. A remarkable career and a nice guy – always appreciate John taking the time to chat and wish me well after I stepped down,” ~ Dr Terry Lake, CEO BC Care Providers’ Association (former BC Health Minister)
  • “Thank you for launching the $10aDay Child Care Plan. You created a legacy that will positively impact the lives of children, families and gender equity for generations.” – Sharon Gregson, Advocate for $10-a-Day Child Care Plan
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Comments from 37th Premier & Opposition House Leader:

Today Premier David Eby said he is going to miss having John Horgan as a colleague in the Legislature. “His legacy of hard work, leadership, and ‘level best’ dedication helped BC through some of our toughest challenges. He has made BC a better place. Please join me in wishing John the best in his retirement,” said Eby in a Tweet this afternoon.

Opposition House Leader Todd Stone gave a politicized but heart-felt speech about Horgan, nodding to the outgoing MLA across the aisle, saying that yes, he did in fact ‘do his level best’.

john horgan, david eby
36th Premier of BC, John Horgan, delivering his last speech in the BC Legislature, Feb 9, 2023. [livestream]

Insights from the Lieutenant Governor:

Back in December, Island Social Trends had a moment after the Order of BC awards to ask Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin about her impressions of the Horgan years:

feb 2022, austin, horgan
In the BC Legislative Assembly on Feb 8, 2022 after the Throne Speech.

“He really built a positive professional relationship, and brought a sense of goodwill and collegiality to the legislature,” said Austin.

“He has set a constructive tone for British Columbia. Especially the last few years of his term have been remarkably difficult because we’ve been in a constant state of emergency with the pandemic, disasters, the opioid crisis. He is a leader who works incredibly well with a team to build a consensus.”

===== RELATED:

Former Premier John Horgan’s last day in the BC Legislature (Feb 9, 2023)

Digest of Horgan departure articles (June to Oct 2022)

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mary p brooke
Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Island Social Trends emerged in mid-2020 from a preceding series of publications by founder/editor Mary P Brooke and published by Brookeline Publishing House Inc, covering news of the Vancouver Island region, BC and national issues through a socioeconomic lens.

The publication series began with MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), then morphed to a weekly print newspaper Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and then into the weekly PDF/print West Shore Voice News (2014-2020). The news at IslandSocialTrends.ca (2020 to present) is entirely online.

Ms Brooke has covered the news of John Horgan in the west shore since 2008, with insight about the progressive goals of the man and his politics.