JOHN HORGAN once spilled a beer on my sister at a Shamrocks game.
Or maybe it was one of the guys he was with. We were down in the seats and they were standing along the rail when somebody’s elbow accidentally nudged the plastic cup and over it went.
Other than describing the best day of my life, this story reveals a bit about where Horgan comes from. Beer and lacrosse — Friday Night Lights, West Shore style. Shamrocks games are where you meet people whose Victoria roots go deep.
Andrew Weaver, he’s a local boy, too, even if there’s a hint of something in his voice — academia? Oak Bay? — that reminds people of England. Around here, that makes the two men appear dissimilar.
So consider this: Greater Victoria, having had no one in government for the past four years, wakes up Tuesday with a pair of born-and-bred locals comprising the most powerful tandem in provincial politics. NDP leader Horgan, 57, graduated from Reynolds Secondary in Saanich, and 56-year-old Green leader Weaver from Oak Bay High.
That represents a big shift in influence. Not since John Hart’s Second World War government has a Vancouver Island member been premier (though his successor, New Westminster MLA Boss Johnson, was a Victorian). In fact, when Weaver defeated Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong in 2013, it left the capital without anyone in the governing party for the first time since 1952.
The perception, valid or not, is that the capital has gradually become a bit of a political backwater, the business of government shifting to the Vancouver cabinet offices. It didn’t help when Premier Christy Clark referred to Victoria’s “sick culture” in 2012; she was referring to the legislature, not the people, but we were thin-skinned enough — and felt ignored often enough — to take umbrage.
Perception has also been that Weaver and Horgan don’t get along particularly well. So when the two men were photographed sitting side by side at last Sunday’s women’s rugby sevens final in Langford, looking as cheerfully chummy as Cheech and Chong, many took it as a sign that they had already done a deal to form government.
Not so, they say. Weaver said he didn’t decide to back the NDP until later that night, after some final negotiations with the Liberals. Horgan concurred: “The Rugby Summit was a myth.”
The truth, they said, is that they’re both former rugby players who in recent weeks found they had more in common with each other than previously thought. What Horgan referred to as the “adversarial” nature of the legislature doesn’t always allow such discoveries to be made.
How all their talk of co-operation plays out remains to be seen. While the Greens have agreed to support the NDP on supply and budget bills (the ones where their backing would be needed to keep the New Democrats in government) Horgan said he expects the Greens to vote against his party on occasion.
They’re generally on the same page in many areas.
That might actually present a problem if they don’t make progress in areas where frustrated Islanders expect action. Note that during the election campaign the NDP promised to roll back ferry fares on small routes by 15 per cent, freeze fares on major routes and restore the 100 per cent seniors’ weekday discount, while the Green platform said B.C. Ferries should be brought back into government as a Crown corporation, with a full review of its role in the province’s transportation network to follow.
Given where Horgan and Weaver come from, Islanders will expect the two leaders to work it out.
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