NDP leadership candidate John Horgan  meets with party members at Vernon’s Bean to Brew Tuesday.

NDP leadership candidate John Horgan meets with party members at Vernon’s Bean to Brew Tuesday.

Horgan makes pitch for leadership

Taller than Mike Farnworth and faster than Adrian Dix.

With a chuckle, that’s exactly how John Horgan sums himself up against two of the other four contenders vying to become the next leader of B.C.’s New Democratic Party.

Entering into the homestretch of the leadership race, Horgan stopped in Vernon Tuesday to speak with interested party members over coffee at Bean to Brew.

He is up against Dix, Farnworth, Nicholas Simons and Dana Larsen on the April 17 ballot – which he adds is a little more crowded than when he put his name in the hat.

While less than a dozen showed up to listen to the Juan de Fuca MLA, Horgan insists it’s these type of intimate meetings that will help the NDP win more people over.

“I’ve been getting a favourable response wherever I go,” said Horgan, who joined the NDP 28 years ago.

Horgan’s political career actually started out in a minor form – opening mail at the House of Commons. But from there he’s seen the good and the bad in leaders of all parties, worked with all kinds of politicians and puts himself right in touch with the people by actually riding the bus with voters.

“It’s an opportunity for me to connect with 80 members of my constituency,” said Horgan, adding that voter turnout in his constituency has increased.

There’s a key group of four to six per cent of the population who haven’t yet affiliated themselves with a party, which Horgan says the NDP needs to win over to help them win an election.

Although the NDP may be the underdogs, he says it shouldn’t be hard to get more people on board considering the NDP vision.

“Their best interests are served by electing a party that puts people first.”

In doing so, Horgan says fair taxation is needed to strengthen programs and services, but that could mean raising taxes.

“It shouldn’t be a free ride. You need revenue to provide services. It has to be a balance.”

For example medical coverage isn’t as broad as people want, or in some cases need.

Horgan says families are struggling with oral hygiene due to costs, but they shouldn’t.

“How do you support it? You raise more revenue.”

Horgan also encourages the BuyBC program, which was introduced by the NDP but later cut.

“It doesn’t help B.C. to buy apples from Washington State,” said Horgan, adding that supports are also needed for the small-mix farmers.

“We need to use local food in our hospitals and public institutions. We have the capacity to feed ourselves.”

In terms of potential for a provincial election this year, Horgan says fixed election dates are part of the democratic process and he is concerned about voter fatigue. While keeping voter fatigue in mind (HST referendum in June and possible federal election), he also believes the public wants an election soon, perhaps not in the fall, but maybe in the spring once campaigns are over.

All in all, Horgan says: “If we are going to affect the change we want in B.C. communities, we are going to have to form the next government.”