BY RATTAN MALL
SO, what should British Columbians expect from NDP Premier John Horgan, following the NDP’s historic win, over the next four years as he enjoys a solid majority in the Legislature?
Former NDP president, Moe Sihota, told The VOICE on Wednesday: “First of all, they can expect a competent government and they can expect a fair-minded government. And they can expect a government that is going to have to deal with uncharted waters.”
He pointed out: “A healthy population and a healthy economy go hand in hand. We are not going to get economy recovery until people feel comfortable going out and feel safe and secure. So, the first thing that you are going to see Horgan work on is the pandemic and increasing the sense of well-being from the health point of view… people feeling safe and their health being looked after.”
Sihota added: “When we start to bend the curve, then the shift will come more to the economic side. So, in the November to March window, economically, you can anticipate that government will possibly be mindful of the difficulties faced by seasonal businesses; so, tourism and hospitality in particular.
“In the post-March window, you can expect government to start to begin to deal with the implications of COVID and the implications are going to be such that the economy here will change and we have to respond to that change. What I mean by change? We already know that the world of work is changing. We know that the nature of travel is changing. We also know that the world of leisure is changing.”
Sihota said there will be other changes and these will be more around the innovation side of it.
He noted: “You take a look at how well British Columbia has done on health care. When you take a look at the best economy in Canada prior to the pandemic, where else would you invest? Well frankly, British Columbia is just an attractive place to invest particularly given how well we’ve done on health care. So, the idea would be to pitch to the large technology companies and try to encourage them to locate in B.C.
“Long-term, it will mean working on things like the Cascadia rail line to link Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. Not only does it bring us international travel, but it gives a 20 per cent discount to the large innovation companies like the Google’s and the Microsoft’s. And again, why not locate it here in British Columbia – it’s attractive, it’s cheaper and we have a great health care outcome.”
He added: “So you are going to see the government shift to try to attract investments on the innovation side of it. And by innovation, it doesn’t mean just the Amazon’s of the world; it means companies [like those] that specialize in health technology, in environmental technologies, because those are real growth areas. So, you are going to see in the long run government attention being paid to the innovation economy in the Lower Mainland.”
Sihota noted that in the rural areas while it’s still going to be the traditional industries of forestry and mining, even there “it’s going all around technology and innovation because that’s what made the Metro Vancouver area grow and that’s where the good, high paying jobs are.”
He said: “So that’s where you are going to see government go over the next four years, in my view.”
FUTURE OF BC LIBERAL PARTY
The VOICE asked Sihota about the future of the B.C. Liberal Party that lost 12 seats with 35.34 per cent of the total votes even as the NDP gained 14 seats with 45.08 per cent of the total votes, according to the preliminary results.
He said: “I think the BC Liberal Party will ultimately be replaced by a new party – probably the Conservatives. I think that the Liberal brand is so stained by their 16 years of neglect – they neglected issues of affordability and income inequality and housing – and I am not persuaded that a new leader can rinse the stain.”
Sihota added: “I think what you will start to see is the Conservatives asking ‘why should I vote Liberal?’ when I am a Conservative, and why should the Liberals be voting for the Conservatives if it isn’t to be a coalition government?
“So, I think you will start to see people like [former B.C. Liberal deputy premier and finance minister] Kevin Falcon and [former Conservative MP] Dianne Watts and maybe others start to raise the prospect of a new entity, just like Social Credit eventually became the Liberal Party.”
Sihota pointed out: “We know they weren’t made up of Liberals. They just took the label and made it one of convenience. I think they will try to do the same thing with the Conservatives.”
He added: “I think they will have to find someone new, fresh. It definitely will serve us well if they went to the past and went to Watts or Falcon.”
Sihota said: “They’ve got to sort themselves out and so it’s best that they are in Opposition sorting themselves out while we deal with the more pressing issues of health and the economy.”