With orange foam fingers pointed skyward, more than 1,000 delegates cheered Premier John Horgan and newly elected federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to the stage at the B.C. NDP convention in Victoria on Saturday.
It was Singh’s first appearance on Vancouver Island since becoming party leader. He said the federal NDP is looking to B.C. as it tries to rebuild after the 2015 election, which saw it knocked from its position as the official Opposition.
“With the New Democratic government, we’re going to be able to point to a lot of the successes here in B.C. as an example of what we can achieve at the federal level as well,” Singh said.
“So it’s a province where I’m hoping to continue to work, where I hope to be an ally in helping the provincial government, but also one that I hope can help us at the federal level, as well.”
But the most obvious way to show B.C. support is also one that would cause problems for Singh in another NDP province: Alberta.
The two NDP premiers have clashed over the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, but Singh said Saturday he agrees with Horgan that Trans Mountain’s risks outweigh its benefits.
Horgan clarified that Singh won’t play referee.
“The federal and provincial parties are separate. I don’t take orders from Jagmeet, nor does he take direction from me,” Horgan told reporters.
The convention, which continues today, is the first since the party returned to power after 16 years of Liberal governments. It comes as the provincial party faces some tough decisions, including whether to continue with the $10-billion Site C hydroelectric dam project or pull the plug and remediate the site.
Horgan’s speech Saturday focused on positives, avoiding tougher topics such ridesharing and giving little hint about the direction his government will take on Site C, beyond saying the decision is “one of the toughest our government will make.”
Since taking office, the party has initiated at least a half-dozen reviews and consultations on subjects ranging from marijuana regulation to eliminating MSP premiums.
Some participants said they want quicker action.
Irene Lanzinger, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, indicated that there are limitations on her patience when it comes to a $15 minimum wage, saying the government’s commitment to change by 2021 is too slow.
Another delegate lamented a resolution item to create a “comprehensive plan to make post-secondary education affordable and accessible” for its lack commitment to any specific action.
The Island coloured much of Horgan’s speech, which included reference to a solar project by the T’Souke Nation and the land-sharing agreement by the Beecher Bay First Nation, Metchosin and Langford.
When it comes to the government’s review of B.C. Ferries, “everything is on the table,” he said.
“Ferries are a key component of our transportation infrastructure, particularly for the 750,000 people that live in coastal B.C. or on islands here in B.C. We’re going to be focusing on that,” Horgan said.
“As a premier from Vancouver Island, I think I have a better appreciation than previous premiers of the importance of the ferry system, but we’re going to make sure it’s fair for everybody.”