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NDP Leader John Horgan says he’ll follow the recent counsel of former premier Mike Harcourt, who led the province from 1991 to 1996, and travel the province as much as possible ahead of the next provincial election in 2017.John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

NDP Leader John Horgan is taking the advice of former premier Mike Harcourt to heart – hit the road and meet B.C. residents while leaving the political battles to his five best warriors to hold the Liberal government accountable.

Mr. Horgan says he'll follow the recent counsel of Mr. Harcourt, who led the province from 1991 to 1996, and travel the province as much as possible ahead of the next provincial election in 2017. He'll also be leaning on his legislative bench-strength, especially Carole James, David Eby, Michelle Mungall, Selina Robinson and Mike Farnworth.

"Those are the five who have been performing the best for me by far."

Mr. Horgan said once people across the province hear his policies directly from him and not the Liberals, they will be in a better position to make decisions about supporting the New Democrats.

"I have to blow past the constant negative that rains down on me from the government side and go directly to the people," he said. "I find that if I can look people in the eye, let them kick the tires and let them measure my character then they'll judge themselves about what the Liberals say about me."

"I want to be able to go to Squamish, I want to be able to go to Sicamous, I want to be able to go to Salmon Arm and get the same response that I get in Sooke," he said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.

"That's the plan and I've got two-and-a-half years to do it," said the MLA for Juan de Fuca.

Premier Christy Clark recently said she believes Mr. Horgan is sometimes dismissive of her because she is a woman. The NDP Leader says he strongly denies the allegations of sexism, but acknowledges he must do a better job articulating New Democratic policies to counter Ms. Clark and the Liberals.

"I don't believe that I am dismissive of women at all," he said. "It was a ploy by the Premier to cast doubt."

Mr. Horgan said he must be able to show he can deflect Ms. Clark's political jabs with facts that people understand. "You have to demonstrate that the arguments she is making are just not true," he said.

Mr. Horgan said one example is that Premier Clark accuses the New Democrats of being anti-immigration when they raise concerns about abuses of the temporary foreign worker program.

"The temporary foreign worker program is being abused in B.C., and what we need here more than anything else is a revitalized immigration program," he said. "I was disappointed she took a program that is designed to have people come and then get lost when the boss doesn't need you any more as a genuine immigration policy."

Abuses of the temporary foreign worker program in B.C. has prompted Ottawa to come up with tighter restrictions. Ms. Clark's government has suggested it may require more such workers to fill jobs if liquefied natural gas projects come to fruition.

"I would suggest to the Premier that, rather than trying to find political opportunity, she should be trying to find ways to convince Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to open up immigration so that we can have the skilled workers coming here to build our economy and set down roots and have a path to citizenship, not paths back to their home country once the job's done."

Mr. Horgan said he was originally reluctant to seek the party leadership because after the NDP's devastating election defeat in May 2013, he believed the party should look to its younger voices for leadership. But intense lobbying from many people inside and outside the party persuaded him to take the role.

"My plan is, and what I say to my caucus at the end of every meeting is, 'Go and make more friends. Go and meet more people you've never met before. Find out what their concerns are and why they don't look to us as a viable governing party,'" he said.