Wendy Cox in Vancouver this morning.
Upon hearing him explain it, John Horgan’s decision to leave his job as B.C. premier this fall shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to B.C. politics.
But it was a shock nonetheless, coming with more than two years left in his mandate and while Mr. Horgan enjoys the support of 48 per cent of voters surveyed earlier this month by pollster Angus Reid. That figure was down by seven points over the last quarter, but it still left Mr. Horgan as the third most popular premier in the country.
It is rare for a premier to leave office before being kicked out: Witness Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s messy departure by comparison. But more than 30 years in government, combined with a recent bout with cancer – his second – and a brush with COVID-19 earlier this year. He said during a frank news conference Tuesday that although his health is good and he is cancer free, “my energy flags as the days go by.”
“I wish I had the energy to do more, but I don’t.”
At the roughly halfway point of his government’s mandate, Mr. Horgan said it was time to ask his caucus colleagues whether they planned to run again.
“I had to ask myself that.”
He said he and his wife – whom Mr. Horgan consistently refers to as the “love of my life” – spent 10 days in his riding on Vancouver Island, walking the beach and reflecting on the beaches around the world that they have been able to walk together. They decided, he said, that they wanted more of that in their lives.
Mr. Horgan had some of the highest approval ratings among premiers as his government shepherded the province through the COVID-19 pandemic. British Columbia did not face nearly as much of the vitriol and turbulence around COVID-19 restrictions and health measures that other premiers struggled with.
But with the public eager to move past the urgency of the pandemic, Mr. Horgan’s government has been under the kind of scrutiny it hasn’t faced before, not since it first formed an alliance with the Green Party to form a minority government in 2017. It then won a solid majority in 2020.
With a million British Columbians without a family doctor, with emergency rooms facing hours-long waits and even closings, with public sector workers girded for tough contract negotiations as inflation hits levels not seen in decades, the work of governing British Columbia will be intense and without easy answers.
Later this month, Mr. Horgan is the host of the Council of the Federation and he said Tuesday he is committed to the important work of pressing the federal government for more health care dollars for the provinces. It’s an age-old tension within federal-provincial relations, but one that the pandemic has brought to the fore once again.
Mr. Horgan was lauded by political allies and philosophical opponents alike on Tuesday.
Mr. Kenney said he was sorry to learn the news.
“It has been a real pleasure to work constructively with John on a range of issues,” he said in a tweet. “We come from different political traditions, but have always worked to find common ground.”
Former NDP premier Glen Clark told Gary Mason that Mr. Horgan will be sorely missed.
“John is the first NDP Premier in B.C. to get re-elected,” Mr. Clark told Gary.
“And he’ll be the first to leave more popular than when he got elected the first time, which is quite a feat.”