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NDP hopeful still doesn’t like run-of-the-river private power

NDP leadership candidate Joe Horgan wants the Liberals to hit the road. - Paul Rudan/The Mirror
NDP leadership candidate Joe Horgan wants the Liberals to hit the road.
— image credit: Paul Rudan/The Mirror

The “shelf life” of NDP leader is about four years, figures John Horgan.

And within that small time frame to enact change, Horgan also figures he can provide the fresh face to lead the B.C. New Democrats and, perhaps, the province.

“I’m seizing the moment,” the Juan de Fuca MLA tells a gathering of 25 NDP supporters in Campbell River.

Horgan stopped by the local Labour Hall on Wednesday to gather support in his bid to lead the party which has been relegated to the opposition for the past decade.

He’s among six hopefuls vying for the job after former leader Carole James was shafted by unhappy members of her own party – including North Island MLA Claire Trevena.

However, Trevena attended Wednesday’s gathering along with former NDP MLA Colin Gabelmann. Also, in 2008, Trevena brought Horgan – the NDP’s energy critic – to Campbell River to speak against the independent power proposals (i.e. run-of-the-river power projects).

Horgan hasn’t changed his mind about large run-of-the-river projects, like Plutonic Power’s Toba Inlet project which started operating last year. Plutonic also wants to build an even bigger run-of-the-river hydro-electric operation in nearby Bute Inlet which Horgan wouldn’t allow if he was premier.

“A thousand megawatts in Bute Inlet? Bad idea,” says Horgan, who wants the private contracts publicly examined. “Hydro was forced to sign (power-buying) contracts that they knew wasn’t in their best interest.”

However, Horgan supports mico-hydro projects; in essence, much smaller run-of-the-river operations which provide electricity close to their source.

He also disagrees with estimates that B.C. needs more power. He points to mill shutdowns across the province which were formally enormous electricity consumers. That included the now-closed Elk Falls pulp and paper mill in Campbell River which was once BC Hydro’s largest in-province customer.

On the labour front, Horgan says B.C.’s $8 minimum wage is “immoral” and he would raise it to $10 “for starters.” He also supports community-based value-added forestry and recognizes the need to provide rural communities with access to fibre.

“Capitalism will not be eradicated with the election of Joe Horgan,” he points out. “Localization will be our salvation.”

Horgan would also re-examine taxation policy in B.C. He says the tax break the Liberal government provided a decade ago to corporations and large income earners amounts to an annual $2.1 billion shortfall in the provincial coffers. He also doesn’t believe all that money was re-invested in B.C.

The affable Horgan answered questions for more than two hours before leaving for his next engagement. He says he’s serious about leading the province, but adds that a leader can still make other people smile.

“Canadians are New Democrats, they just don’t know it,” he chuckles.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to remove the statement included in a previous version that Claire Trevena is a supporter of John Horgan. Trevena has not declared who she supports for the party leadership.

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