John Horgan spent Wednesday night meeting with members of the NDP in Langley and taking their questions — the third of the five candidates for the party’s NDP leadership to do so.
Adrian Dix and Mike Farnworth have already made similar visits to Langley. The three are the front-runners in the race to take over from Carole James. Also running are MLA Nicholas Simons and marijuana activist Dana Larsen.
Horgan is MLA for Juan de Fuca and is perhaps best-known as NDP energy critic. On Wednesday, he outlined the priorities he would follow as NDP leader, and took questions on a variety of topics ranging from the BC Rail political scandal to the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Horgan said the party must lay out its approach to various issues for voters to consider when the next election is held. That could be later this year, as premier-designate Christy Clark has said an election will be held before the legislated date in May, 2013.
“We need to try to engage in a positive discussion, in order to form the next government,” he said. “In the last election, I was told by people they would vote for me, but at the same time they said ‘What does your party stand for?’ We cannot depend on habit to collect votes — we must earn votes,” he said.
Horgan brought that point home, saying that if the NDP could collect an extra four to five per cent of votes, it could win a seat like Langley. In the 2009 election, winning Liberal candidate Mary Polak got 12,772 votes, while NDP candidate Kathleen Stephany got 8,060 votes. The Green Party’s Ron Abgrall had 1,694 votes.
“In 2009, people were looking to us for answers on the economy and we were mute,” he said.
Horgan said he would establish a fair tax commission if he becomes premier, to examine what is the fairest way to raise revenue needed to run provincial programs. He opposes the HST.
Horgan said his four priorities are the economy, environment, education and training and integrity in government.
He wants to see an inquiry into all aspects of the BC Rail case, particularly the $6 million payment to the lawyers of Dave Basi and Bob Virk, who agreed to plead guilty in return for the payments.
He said Clark became very uncomfortable when asked about BC Rail in a television interview during the Liberal leadership race, and fell back on the defence that no politicians faced any charges.
“Ethical behaviour is a little bit more than ‘I didn’t get charged,’” he said.
Horgan said he would like to see a more robust training policy to ensure that apprentices can learn trades and take over for retiring workers. He would like to see the land claims process changed so that it moves more speedily and less money goes to lawyers.
He said the education and health systems are being “chronically underfunded” as an attempt to have people look more favourably on private, for-profit solutions. He wants to see an investment in farmers and marketing to boost B.C. agriculture and keep land within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The NDP leadership vote will be on April 17, in a one-member, one-vote system. Unlike the recent BC Liberal leadership vote, a percentage of votes is not allocated to each constituency, so each member’s vote has equal weight.