B.C. Premier John Horgan, the first two-term NDP leader of the province, announced Tuesday he will step aside after a convention in the fall to select a new party leader.
Horgan, 62, made the announcement after a two-day cabinet retreat in Vancouver, saying it’s traditional to reflect on the future at the halfway point of a term. After two bouts of cancer — throat cancer in 2021 and bladder cancer in 2008, along with a recent case of COVID-19 — his energy is flagging, he said.
After talking to his wife, Ellie, and colleagues, Horgan said, he came to the conclusion that he’s “not able to make another six-year commitment to this job.”
He said he has asked the president of the B.C. NDP to work with the party’s governing body and executive to select a fall date for a leadership convention. The next provincial election must be held by October 2024.
“This has been the thrill of my life to be the premier of British Columbia,” said Horgan. He will continue to serve as MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca but won’t run again when his term is up.
Horgan led the NDP to a minority government in 2017 via an agreement with the Green Party then won a majority in a snap election in October 2020.
He said there has been “endless speculation” about his future since his most recent battle with cancer.
“I want to put the speculation to rest so we can get back to what really matters and that’s the issues before British Columbia.”
The premier said he’s cancer-free, but likely returned to work too soon after completing radiation treatments in January.
“I probably got back a bit earlier than I should have,” said Horgan. “But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m going to be 63 this summer and I’ve been involved in public life working in government for 36 years, I’ve been an MLA for 17 and I’ve been leader at the NDP for eight and premier for five.”
Last week, Horgan announced that he was putting plans for a new $789-million Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria on pause, after a strong public backlash to the idea. He said Tuesday there is no connection between the museum cancellation and his decision not to run again. He said he loves the museum and didn’t want it to become “a political football.”
Although the Horgan-led government has received relatively favourable reviews for its handling of the pandemic, it has faced mounting pressures in recent months because of the chronic shortage of family doctors, record-high gas prices, rising inflation, and lack of affordable housing.
B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau thanked the premier for his service, saying the role takes an enormous toll on people. She said the three-plus years of the confidence and supply agreement between the NDP and Greens showed political parties can work collaboratively and put public service at the forefront. “It was an important era in B.C. politics,” said Furstenau.
Former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who worked closely with Horgan in the minority government, said the NDP leader defined what it means to be an honourable member, noting that even when he and Horgan didn’t see eye to eye, they could agree on putting “people first.”
Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon thanked the premier for his contributions to the province, saying they both shared a commitment to making B.C. a better place. He wished Horgan and wife Ellie the best “as together you focus on family, health and future endeavours.”
Before he steps aside, Horgan will host the upcoming Council of the Federation meeting July 11-12 in Victoria, where Canada’s premiers are expected to urge the federal government to increase federal health transfers to provinces and territories.
“I fully intend to carry on that battle to make the federal government stand up for the commitments they made to all of us and convene a meeting so that we can fix the most important social program, in fact, the most important program in Canada,” Horgan said.
Horgan said he began reflecting on his future when asked by CBC’s Gregor Craigie last week if he planned on finishing his term. He said he and wife Ellie strolled Otter Point and discussed it.
“When Ellie and I were on the beach, laughing and reflecting on how many beaches we’ve walked on in our lives … and it was just a moment where we said let’s do more of this and less of that, quite frankly.”
After the couple returned from their few days away, Horgan said, he came out of the shower and went into the kitchen, where his wife mentioned he was humming.
“[She] said you’re humming — you haven’t hummed in a while,” said Horgan. “So I think I’m at peace.
“It’s a very difficult decision. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t. I love this job.”
Horgan said he believes his government is making a difference.
“But I know that my team can continue to do that without me, and so it’s time to exit when the new leader is picked and I’ll continue to find other ways to make a difference.”
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