Home Election Tracker BC Provincial 2020 Safety, food security & child care top of mind for BC NDP...

Safety, food security & child care top of mind for BC NDP Leader John Horgan

“We are just at the beginning of what will be a very long road,” says Horgan about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

oranges, produce, grocery store
Much of the fresh produce that Canadians consume in winter is normally imported from warmer climates in the USA and Mexico.

Monday October 19, 2020 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., editor | Island Social Trends

With three days left in advance voting and General Election Day coming up Saturday October 24, BC NDP Leader John Horgan is now re-emphasizing the key points of his party’s platform while also getting key candidates out in front of the cameras as much as possible.

Horgan himself voted at an advance voting station in his own riding today, and encouraged British Columbians to get out and do that, saying it only takes a few minutes and how easy it is.

Today in Gordon Head his BC NDP announcement theme was about health care and how the BC NDP has moved things forward to health care during 2017-2020 after cuts that happened under the BC Liberal government. At the microphone a few health care workers outlined their experiences in that regard.

“Making sure British Columbians are safe is my highest priority and always will be,” said Horgan today on the hustings at Gyro Park in Cordova Bay, along with BC NDP candidates Murray Rankin (Oak Bay-Gordon Head), Mitzi Dean (Esquimalt-Metchosin), Lana Popham (Saanich South), Rob Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake) and Grace Lore (Victoria-Beacon Hill).

The pandemic road is long:

John Horgan, 2020, NDP Campaign
BC NDP Leader John Horgan ahead of voting in his home riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca, October 19, 2020. [Island Social Trends / Mary Brooke]

“We are just at the beginning of what will be a very long road,” said Horgan today about the pandemic experience. Utilizing a new verb of sorts, the premier-in-fact (until election results are known about three weeks after the October 24 General Election date) said that “the pandemic has daylighted a whole host of challenges.”

Horgan effectively proposed that a closed US-Canada border would continue to be the smartest thing for BC (and Canada) until the US gets a better handle on management of COVID-19 viral spread.

Timeline prediction:

Premier John Horgan, April 15, 2020
On April 15, 2020 Premier John Horgan extended the State of Emergency in BC due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the world. The State of Emergency has been continually renewed and is still current in BC — currently to end of day October 27, 2020.

“The pandemic turned our worlds upside down. No one expected this at the start of 2020. But here we are. The provinces have led the way in Canada following the guidance of Dr Henry and her public health team. More importantly, we’ve not only just listened to the advice, we’ve taken that advice and we’ve worked it into our daily lives,” said Horgan today once the other presentations had been made.

“To make sure we’re protecting our families, our friends and our communities, we have a long way to go with COVID-19. I wish I had better news on that front, but we’re still deep into a pandemic and will be in the spring, and likely to the end of next year, and perhaps into 2022.”

Trucking of essential goods across the US-Canada border is a key part of maintaining food supply in BC.

“I don’t want to be discouraging when I say that. I know we’re working every day in governments across the country with the federal government and other provinces to make sure that practices are put in place,’ said John Horgan who has been widely credited for his input to federal decisions about things like single-site workers in long-term care, sick pay for people who are asked to stay home in self-isolation during the pandemic, and encouraging support for people forced to stay home (including CERB nationally and the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers).

“With the guidance of Dr Henry we’re going to get through this,” said John Horgan today, who (along with his Health Minister Adrian Dix and the rest of cabinet) has taken serious input from BC’s Provincial Health Officer.

“But we don’t want to make bad choices and go back to a time when BC Liberals were focused on the wealthy and the well-connected rather than focused on the needs of British Columbians. And nowhere is that more obvious than when it comes to delivering on health care,” said Horgan today.

Food security also top of mind:

Horgan revisited the issue of food security today, which he says has become precarious during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Having been premier already for 3.5 years and guiding BC through this pandemic so far, Horgan says that people could see the challenges of “basic necessities in some cases” having a hard time getting through the US-Canada border.

Lana Popham, Saanich South, agriculture
BC NDP candidate Lana Popham (Saanich South) during an All Candidates session in the 2020 BC election campaign. She has served as Agriculture Minister in 2017-2020.

“We all have a new view of grocery stores and food security as a result of the pandemic experience. We need to be able to grow our own food here in British Columbia,” said Horgan in his speech ahead of media questions. He acknowledged again the vision of the late BC NDP Premier Dave Barrett whose government in the early 1970s set up the Agricultural Land Reserve, which Horgan says has been “chipped away at” over the years through several governments, mostly for land development.

Horgan made a point of saying that longer-term solutions are important (indicating that the BC Greens take that approach) but that his re-elected BC NDP government would deal with immediate needs as well. He was referring to health care and food sustainability but overall that was a stance to differentiate the BC NDP approach from the BC Green Party approach.

Supporting the grocery sector:

oranges, produce, grocery store
Much of the fresh produce that Canadians consume in winter is normally imported from warmer climates in the USA and Mexico.

In the grocery sector the importance of front line workers became ever so much more evident to everyone. BC NDP actions to prevent evictions and to freeze rents helped relatively low-wage workers from having to worry about a roof over their heads while heading out to work in a scenario known to be dangerous for viral spread.

“Local food and food security is what she’s on about since the day I met her,” said the BC NDP Leader about Lana Popham who is the incumbent candidate for Saanich South and has served as Agriculture Minister in 2017-2020.

Social distancing while grocery shopping,
Social distancing while grocery shopping. This has become second nature now. [File photo March 21, 2020 by West Shore Voice News]

“We have discovered through this pandemic that food security is precarious. We talked about tightening supply chains, not just for PPE, it was basic necessities. It has changed the way that British Columbians now look at work in retail. The grocery sector has been transformed,” said Horgan today.

He said that countless people have told him they’ve thanked the grocery sector for keeping food on the shelves and making sure truckers were working overtime — “going into the USA where they didn’t have the same focus on protecting individuals” — to bring back food for the rest of us. “That has really changed how we look at food security.”

planting, gardening, food supply
World Food Day on October 16, 2002 was a reminder about the importance of the food supply chain.

“Now more than ever, British Columbians understand that we need to be able to grow our own food. We need to make sure that we’re producing the things we need right here in BC,” said John Horgan.

“We are no longer the hewers and wood and drawers of water — we have tremendous natural resources for sure, but let’s use those natural resources to benefit everyone. To make sure we’re not just harvesting unsustainable yields in our forests and sell 2x4s to someone else but add value to our forest products to make sure we’re creating more jobs and that those logs are not going out of communities to provide wealth somewhere else but they’re staying here.”

OakTree Naturals, Langford, COVID-19 hours
OakTree Naturals open Monday to Saturday during COVID-19.

Weaving a new approach, with inner strength:

Coronavirus, COVID-19
COVID-19 pandemic is now in its second wave in BC and across Canada. BC NDP Leader John Horgan says the pandemic and socioeconomic impacts are expected to last through Fall 2021 and possibly into 2022.

“The pandemic has been horrifying for all of us,” said Horgan.

“But it’s also shone, daylighted, a whole host of challenges that we have in our community. And we need to make sure that we have a government that picks up these various threads and weaves together a tapestry that makes sense to people. To make sure we’re protecting their needs in the pandemic, and beyond, by focussing on all of the elements that we’ve learned about”.

NDP Leader John Horgan is known for his unshakeable interest in enhancing the public education system. But he expanded upon that. “We learn every day. We have to take the information that comes to us and make science-based decisions on what we know and we’re knowing something new each and every day.”

“The pandemic showed all of us that we have an inner strength as individuals, as in this province. But we’re far from out of the woods yet. We need to keep focused on providing services for people,” said Horgan, leading from there to a comparison about the two other major political parties that people will be voting for up to election day.

The role of stories:

And with a pitch why today a few health care workers were brought to the political microphone (and perhaps a nudge to the many hardworking journalists out there, too), Horgan said: “Stories are what keep us going. The best stories always help us grow and expand our knowledge and make sure that we’re making positive decisions for everybody.”

Child care gets full due:

early childhood education
Training of early childhood educators is part of the BC NDP approach to increasing the number of child care spaces in BC.

Horgan today with only five days of full campaigning left before October 24, said that “one of the upsides of the pandemic is that no one talks about child care as a ‘nice to do’ any more”. He articulated child care as being essential for families, the economy and communities.

Political comparison:

“The BC Liberals like to say it’s not about health care, it’s about the economy. That’s nonsense. It’s about all of those things. It’s about our environment, our economy and keeping people well and building the services that they need,” said Horgan today. He gave as an example how child care for front line workers was not just about those working in the health care system it was about working in the grocery sector to make sure we were getting the food that we need. It’s all connected.”

He intimated a few times over the last few days that the science-based and long-term approach of the BC Greens is valuable, but that a government returning to office in the midst of a pandemic must also be ready, able and equipped to deal with immediate concerns and acting fast as things change so quickly during the pandemic.

“When I look at the platforms of the three political parties, the choices being put on the table for British Columbians to consider, I look at the BC Liberals program — no focus on health care. I look at the BC Green Plan focused on long term thinking which is very important but not a lot about what are we going to do today to make sure our health system is safe for people today and going forward.”

“Our plan talks about 7,000 more workers in long-term care. Nine out of 10 care homes did not have adequate staff to meet the needs of the basic low bar that BC Liberals had set for care for the most precious people in our community, who helped build BC, our elders.”

“They did not have a plan for child care,” said Horgan about the BC Liberals. I’m delighted to hear that the BC Liberals have discovered $10-a-day child care. It took them 16 years and 3.5 years in Opposition but they’re almost there. This election is about people and we make sure the government is there for them every single day.”

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

==== About the writer: Island Social Trends editor Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. (nutrition science) has a strong interest in food and nutrition as needing to be both wholesome and optimal. She sees the role of journalism and the venue of publishing as key to delivering reliable information to people about current information but also to provide views on new ideas, options and means to better health.