Monday, September 17, 2018

Premier Horgan's UBCM address highlights need to work with communities when it comes to range of issues

Premier John Horgan brought the curtain down on the 2018 UBCM convention
delivering the final address of convention week on Friday morning.

Premier John Horgan brought a week of politics and networking to an end on Friday, taking to the stage for the UBCM convention's final item of note, delivering a thirty eight minute address to the municipal representatives that spent five days in Whistler.

In his second address to the UBCM since taking office last year, the Premier offered up a range of themes for consideration, stressing the need to work with communities to put people first across the province.

The Premier's speech opened with a popular theme for the audience, saluting the work of Minister Selina Robinson who helped steer the province's participation through the five days of the convention and particularly her speech at the start of the week that highlighted many of the themes of cooperation that the NDP is looking to make part of the dialogue between the provincial and municipal governments.

He also made note of the caucus members in attendance at the event, as well as those members of the opposition parties, calling their work a vital part of parliamentary democracy,  taking a jocular note that he looks forward to the long internship of the current opposition, adding that they do difficult work as they try to advance the work of their communities.

Mr. Horgan outlined how they can all work together to achieve the goals of communities, which he telegraphed would be the theme of his speech,.

The Premier also reflected on the size in British Columbia using the example the representatives of Stewart and Dease Lake as communities that have travelled great distances to come to the convention, noting that his Legislature office is closer in distance to Salt Lake City than to some of the communities of the province.

The example of coming to together at the convention  made for much of his theme of that of moving the province forward with a focus on the things that unite, rather than divide the province.

"Certainly we can spend a good deal of time arguing, that's what happens at Council tables, that's  what happens at caucuses, that's what happens at Legislatures but at the end of the day, our citizens want us to focus on them, and that does not involve bickering it involves hard work."

For the main passages of his speech the Premier reviewed the current wild fire situation and the challenges that communities have faced over the course of the last two summers and how the province will be looking to put place policies to seek to find solutions to the conditions that have caused them.

He reviewed how the government and opposition parties reviewed the preparations that will be required to deal with floods and fires, and how visiting those communities that were at risk the government  has a better understanding of the challenges and how the province and municipalities need to work together to prepare and react to those emergencies.

The Premier took note of the work of North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice during the wildfire season, with the Parliamentary Secretary of Emergency Planning, along with Ministers Donaldson and Farnworth criss crossed the north to give comfort to those communities, adding that the province relies and depends on those first responders, fire fighters and local officials that respond when such situations arise.

He then outlined some of the steps that the Province has taken to engage the Federal government in those responses he recounted the discussions with the Defence Minister and Prime Minister on what preparations could be made for the future.

The Premier also observed how the government had responded to last years report on the assessment of what progress has been made on how the province handles fire seasons and how the government has implemented two thirds of those recommendations and will learn more from this fire season.

Horgan took note of some of the work so far of the mayors of three municipalities, Prince George, Kamloops and Kelowna  who have been seeking ways to remove and study the cause of the fires and invited all municipalities in the province to join that initiative and deliver their suggestions and recommendations towards preparation for next season.

He used those measures as an example of the kind of collaboration that he hopes to bring to provincial/municipal relations on many issues of mutual concern.

"I also want to just take a minute to talk about that type of collaboration that I've just outlined. I believe and I think you believe that that's always the best way forward. As I've travelled around the province over the past well, few years, but certainly since I've had the honour of being sworn in as premier, the number of people that have said to me 'just get it done, stop arguing with each other, you're all good people we get that, figure it out'. That's what you do at your council tables, that's what I believe we need to do in our Legislatures. Everyone comes to their political activity, their community service from a good place"

He pointed towards the current arrangement between the NDP and the Green party as an example of how the government is doing the best it can to find what we have in common as to what divided us that allowed them to form a government.

From that the Premier offered a few comments on the upcoming referendum on Proportional Representation, taking a moment to share his thoughts on how the current parliamentary institutions need to be amended for the 21st century to be contemporary with the people that they represent.

He reviewed the past history of the Single Transferable Ballot proposals of 2005 and 2009 and that this vote offers the opportunity for the province to change the system to ensure that every vote matters, and how the time is right to take that next step..

"There has not been a majority government in British Columbia, save for 2001 the Gordon Campbell government had more than 50% of the vote, the only time in our history that has happened, and yet we have not had a minority parliament like we have now since the 1940's there's something fundamentally wrong with that. Forty percent of the vote should not mean 100 percent of the power. It should mean forty percent of the power and everyone working together for positive outcomes."

From the week of UBCM, the Premier observed  of some of the concerns and ambitions of the delegates to the convention through the debates, workshops and one on one sessions that he and his ministers had opportunity to take part in.

Housing themes made for some of his thoughts from those conversations, noting for the audience the progress that the NDP is striving to make on the issues and challenges are for communities in housing and how the government needs to be resolute on those issues.

He paid particular note of the ongoing participation of those municipalities towards the modular housing plan. One that has recently seen communities begin preparation work for the 2,000 modular homes under construction, as well as to outline how the government plans to move forward with communities to find solutions on housing.

Child care also made for a featured part of the address, with the Premier noting that creating programs that address the real issues of British Columbians is key to the focus for the government.

When it comes to economic development, Mr. Horgan observed of some of the work that they are taking on towards training and growing the economy.

He telegraphed what could be some good news for the Kitimat region, sharing his thoughts on an exciting economic prospect for the north and  how in the LNG industry, the NDP has treated that industry the same as it does for mining and forestry. Noting that he believes that the LNG  development is getting close to a final investment decision to develop its terminal in that community.

"We are now very, very close to realizing a final investment decision from LNG Canada that will transform Kitimat most assuredly, but will provide certainty and sustainability for a gas sector from wellhead to waterline. Working with Indigenous peoples because that was one of our criteria, creating jobs for British Columbians because that was one of our criteria , making sure there was a positive return to the province because that was one of our criteria, and lastly making sure that any industrial activity fit within a climate action plan which my Minister and our whole cabinet is working on to be delivered this fall." 

The Premier rolled the LNG announcement into his over riding theme of collaboration as part of the path ahead to moving the province forward.

"That's how we make progress, put in place parameters make them realistic, make them realizable make them relevant to people. Everyone wants to have investment provided its the right investment everyone wants to ensure that we're working with Indigenous people, everyone wants to ensure that we're protecting out planet I believe we can do all of those things, walking and chewing gum and having a drink of water is not that difficult." 

Mr. Horgan brought his comments to a close with a few thoughts on reconciliation and the way forward for the province and its communities when it comes to working with the province's Indigenous people.

"When it comes to reconciliation again ...  the silver linings of the tragedies of the fire seasons last year and this year is seeing Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities coming together arm in arm to protect what's precious to all of us. Regardless of where we come from, regardless of our long time here, or our short time here. And I believe that's the power of British Columbia, that's the power of cooperation and my government is steadfastly committed to genuine reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, because it will not only unlock the land base for activity, it will not only erase the horrific past of residential schools and colonial occupation in some cases, but it will allow true inclusion of all British Columbians in that which we all hold so dear. Everyone of us in this room are proud of the place we live, everyone of us in this room are proud of the work that we do. But we can be better, we will be better, if we open our arms and our hearts to all British Columbians wherever they may come from or however long they have been here.  

With a municipal election on the horizon in the province, the Premier also saluted those who are set to head to the election trail or those that will be stepping out of the political spotlight, and jokingly noted that for those that may not find success in October, he would be taking resumes for future consideration.

Some final thoughts that may have some in the audience polishing up their resumes, just in case they need to take him up on his offer on come October 20th.

Mr. Horgan's address can be reviewed below:

You can also  find  the Premier's full speech here.

More background on the UBMC 2018 convention, including some notes specific to Prince Rupert and the North Coast can be found from our UBCM archive page here.

Items of note related to provincial politics can be explored further from our Legislature archive page, while a wider overview of the developments out of Victoria is available on our political portal D'Arcy McGee.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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