Horgan – Ajax needs better process

NEWS/ POLITICS — It’s Sunday in Tim Horton’s on Columbia Street and John Horgan and his press secretary Shamus Reid are having coffee at a corner table.

This must be Kamloops.

The weekend has been spent on the road, from Prince George to Quesnel, Williams Lake, 100 Mile, 150 Mile and now here. Before they’re done they’ll have moved on to Vernon, Penticton, Osoyoos, Princeton, Hope and Surrey.

John Horgan speaks to Kamloops crowd tonight.

John Horgan (A.M. News file photo).

His first two months as B.C.’s NDP leader were spent in Victoria in the legislature and attending to party matters, Horgan explains, and now it’s time to get back to communities and find out what they’re thinking.

“The commitment I made was to come to places where New Democrats were not elected, figure out why that was and then try to put in place a strategy over the next three years on how we can change that.”

This is his third trip to Kamloops since he decided to seek the leadership, the first since he got it.

“What were we missing last May?” he asks rhetorically. “What was it we made in the presentation to the people of this region that didn’t lead to success, and that involves dealing with issues, dealing with personalities and dealing with approach and tactics.”

Is he finding anything different about Kamloops or is it about education and health care everywhere?

“Over time it seems to me that if the New Democratic Party doesn’t understand the mindset of the people of Kamloops then we don’t understand the mindset of the people in vast tracts of British Columbia,” he says, acknowledge this city’s reputation as a bellwether.

“My strategy is to find out what there is that’s missing from our message.”

The conversation naturally turns to Ajax, since that’s the biggest issue hereabouts.

“Every time I come here I have a contingent of people who want me to hate Ajax more than I did the last time I was here,” he says.

Does he? He doesn’t have a personal opinion on it because he doesn’t live here, says Horgan, easily deflecting the question. What’s important is whether the process for approving or rejecting the mine is good enough and he doesn’t think it is.

“I don’t believe there’s been any advancement in understanding of the file by the community or by the province but the animosity and the anxiety and the division in the community remains very, very stark.”

Horgan’s answer is a “robust” assessment process that recognizes, for one thing, that technology has changed the way we get information. “Our assessment process is almost exactly 20 years old and over those 20 years the public’s ability to interact with the assessment process is radically altered. And so the expectations of the public are much higher, and the ability of the system to meet those expectations has been reduced.

Showing up at Tim Horton’s on a Sunday and offering opinions for or against the mine isn’t going to help, he says. “I would argue the current government has had 12 years to modernize the tools so that we can make decisions on the land as effectively as possible.”

Horgan is concerned about other processes and the way the government handles them, as well. The issue of how boards of governors for universities are appointed has come up recently and he says those appointments should be based on qualifications rather than partisanship.

He has no problem with cabinet ministers surrounding themselves with party faithful but at the local level it has to be broader, he says. “When you just appoint spear carriers you’re going to get trouble.”

Touching on a report this week that showed departing B.C. Lottery Corporation CEO Michael Graydon was in a conflict when he negotiated with a new employer while still working for BCLC, Horgan says the Liberal government and BCLC’s board have to take responsibility.

“It strikes me that the board should have had a better handle” on it, he says. “For (Finance Minister Michael) de Jong to say it’s unfortunate — you’ve been on the watch for 12 years, pal.”

He and Reid didn’t drive the Coquihalla this trip, but Horgan has some thoughts about the new speed limit of 120 km/hr. Highways were designed for faster speeds than were posted but some stretches still need to be driven more slowly, in his opinion.

“Education and enforcement have got to go up and if Mr. (Transportation Minister Todd) Stone’s going to do that then I’ll pat him on the back but if we’re just going to let ‘er rip then we’re going to get more incidents than we’d have had otherwise.”

Wrapping up his visit to Kamloops, Horgan and his press secretary get back in their car and head down Highway 97 to the Okanagan.

About Mel Rothenburger (9358 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on Horgan – Ajax needs better process

  1. Lawrence Beaton // July 13, 2014 at 3:46 PM // Reply

    Not that it matters what an ordinary person like myself thinks, but Mr. Horgan can come to Kamloops and offer an opinion about Ajax every day of the week if he so wishes. However, it is the same opinion offered by a lot of other people

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