There are many people who deserve to be acknowledged during this pandemic. I honour all of the frontline workers in health care, housing, social work, food service and all other essentials. I honour their dedication, commitment and bravery.
It’s also important that we acknowledge the leaders in our communities who are working diligently to keep people supported, and our communities and economies functioning as best they can.
There are leaders at all levels who are keeping us on track and it’s not an easy feat.
I think of my boss, Kevin Albers CEO of M’akola Housing Society working to keep the essential service of affordable housing operating. I acknowledge Dave Obee, editor and publisher of this newspaper and the leadership he has displayed while ensuring the news gets shared and on top of that he’s raising funds for people in need. Mayors, police and fire chiefs are also under pressure and demonstrating great leadership.
Right now, I think one of the most challenging and demanding leadership positions is to be the Premier of British Columbia and I reached out to Premier John Horgan with the request to ask how things are going.
“Charla, it’s a difficult time right now,” said Horgan. “I am marvelling at how many politicians can be on a TV screen in one day.”
With our leaders under an immense amount of pressure, I asked Horgan how he does it and what advice he has for others.
“You have to be who you are, be genuine,” said Horgan explaining many people will point fingers and make accusations that are untrue. “I know I am doing the best I can based on the best advice.”
We all know that leaders have to make decisions that not everyone will agree with. This is true if you are a parent, a CEO, or a politician.
“Leaders need to be always listening and be respectful” said Horgan. “Part of leadership is having the responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the greatest number of people.”
Like any good leader, Horgan credits his team members for their work.
“Adrian Dix and Carole James are both capable people and good friends of mine. Everyday is a challenge and I thank the creator for Dr. Bonnie Henry,” he said.
I interviewed MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert last week on the B.C. government’s support to renters and landlords. Horgan acknowledged both Chandra Herbert and Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“Selina has been able to draw on the team at B.C. Housing,” said Horgan, speaking highly of B.C. Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay.
“Shayne and his team have a level of innovation that’s been unleashed over the last couple years,” said Horgan. “Shayne has been creating relationships which provide opportunities to build more affordable homes.”
Even with all the strides made in affordable housing, Horgan is worried we’ll need to start from scratch when the pandemic passes.
“Unemployment is soaring at the moment and many sectors are shutting down,” Horgan said. “We want to help renters and make sure landlords keep their homes.”
Horgan explained Dix and Dr. Henry had been preparing for COVID-19 for eight weeks prior to its arrival.
While planning for a pandemic, Horgan talked about other events during that time including the Indigenous youth protest at the Legislature and “people lying on my driveway,” he said.
This really put things in perspective for me. I can’t imagine the pressure of preparing for a pandemic on top of these other high-profile issues.
I’ve sat around tables with Horgan and Indigenous chiefs, I’ve stood in the big house singing and drumming with Horgan alongside Indigenous chiefs, Elders and youth. I’ve seen Horgan in Indigenous communities on his own time without news cameras or any handlers present. He’s authentic and genuine when it comes to building relationships with Indigenous communities.
Nothing is ever simple, and things get complicated by politics on all sides. I don’t know all the politics involved, but I do know him as a person, and he’s a person who has my respect.
“I’ve had a bunch of unusual suspects come out and offer me support,” said Horgan. “If only I had a dollar from every person who reached out and said, ‘I didn’t vote for you, but you are doing a great job.’ ”
Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.