Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is interested in the way B.C. is approaching illicit drug overdoses, which are claiming lives across the country, Premier John Horgan says.
The two talked about opioids at a video-conference meeting on Monday, Horgan said. “He likes what we’ve been able to accomplish here and how we can duplicate some of that stuff.”
Horgan said the prime minister asked about how B.C. is distributing Naloxone overdose-reversal kits in communities and training emergency health workers to respond to opioid poisonings.
“So the prime minister knows what we’re doing here and he wants to encourage it,” Horgan said.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Horgan discussed the hour-long video teleconference he had with the prime minister earlier in the day.
Horgan said he initially planned to meet Trudeau for a beer in Langford on Sunday night. With weather warnings in effect, the next plan was for a visit at the B.C. legislature on Monday. That fell through as a storm hit, cancelling flights and ferry sailings, and closing roads.
The premier and prime minister had the video call instead. Horgan hasn’t met the prime minister in person since Trudeau was re-elected in the fall.
The two talked about the “tragedy of loss of life” resulting from the Ukraine International Airlines flight that crashed outside Tehran last week, killing more than a dozen people from B.C..
“When anyone is lost through tragedy such as we’ve seen in the past 10 days, of course we’re all grieving as a result of that, and the prime minister shared his reflections from his time in Edmonton [for a memorial] and will be reaching out to families on the Lower Mainland,” said Horgan, who complimented the prime minister’s handling of the situation.
The two also discussed federal support for B.C.’s $10-a-day daycare pilot program. “That’s a commitment the prime minister made to me today,” said Horgan.
“I’m going to see how that unfolds but the finance minister is in contact with the federal finance minister and the prime minister understands and recognizes the importance of child care and families and the economy and he made that commitment to me.”
Horgan and Trudeau also discussed Vancouver transit projects, softwood lumber, Canada Health Transfer payment program, national pharmacare, and other topics.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau thanked Horgan for the province’s contribution to fighting wildfires in Australia, commended his government’s actions toward implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “and agreed that governments will continue to collaborate on implementing federal legislation on Indigenous children, youth, and families.”
Other priorities discussed included climate change, housing and “continuing to move ahead on establishing a liquefied natural gas sector in British Columbia, including implementing the Memorandum of Understanding on the electrification of the natural gas sector that was signed last August.”
The 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline across northern British Columbia, part of a $40-billion LNG Canada project, is vital to the region’s economic future, Horgan said at the news conference.
The pipeline will be built, he said, despite objections from hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en Nation near Smithers who say the project does not have their consent.
Horgan told reporters that all the permits are in place for the project to proceed and it has received approval from 20 First Nations along the pipeline route. “The courts have confirmed this project can proceed and it will proceed.”
The Prime Minister’s Office said Horgan and Trudeau also discussed challenges facing the forestry sector in British Columbia.
A dispute between Western Forest Products Inc. and United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 started on July 1, making it the longest labour dispute in forest-industry history in B.C. “I’m not happy about that,” said Horgan.
He had said before Christmas that he expected the strike to end soon.
Mediator Vince Ready is on hand, “but the best deal will be the one that’s made at a negotiating table,” said Horgan.
“I think British Columbians and particularly Vancouver Islanders, their patience is running quite thin on this and I think both sides understand and recognize that and I’m hopeful Vince can do his magic in a short period of time.”
Ride-hailing — including Uber and Lyft — was also expected to arrive before Christmas, but didn’t.
Horgan put the delay in the lap of the independent Passenger Transportation Board, which is “in charge of making that decision.”
“I wish it was done before today,” Horgan told reporters.