NDP Leader John Horgan pauses while speaking during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. Horgan said the struggles of his childhood, watching his mother build the family and his bout with bladder cancer in his 40s, helped forge his political aims of making life better for people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

NDP Leader John Horgan pauses while speaking during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. Horgan said the struggles of his childhood, watching his mother build the family and his bout with bladder cancer in his 40s, helped forge his political aims of making life better for people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Childhood lessons, fight with cancer helped John Horgan forge political goals

Struggles of Horgan’s childhood and a bout with bladder cancer helped forge his political goals

An Indigenous leader says John Horgan would often use a joke to ease tensions during difficult times in talks over the future of fish farms between groups with different interests in British Columbia.

Bob Chamberlin says the NDP leader was willing to listen, but he stood firm when he needed to.

“I respected that,” said Chamberlin, a former vice-president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs who helped develop the joint fish farm policy with industry, Indigenous groups and Horgan’s New Democrats when the party was in Opposition and in government.

“It wasn’t like he was trying to make friends with myself,” said Chamberlin, who has run unsuccessfully as a candidate for the federal NDP. “I could tell he heard me very clearly. He acknowledged it, but he was also very keen and aware of the responsibilities he would hold.”

In a recent interview, Horgan said he didn’t accept responsibility naturally, describing himself as a poor student in high school who would often skip classes to shoot pool or hang out in downtown Victoria. He said he was heading for trouble as a teen before his basketball coach took him aside and warned him to take life more seriously.

“I do my homework now,” Horgan said. “At the time many of my teachers, who are big supporters now, helped me get through despite my best efforts not to get through.”

Horgan’s father, Pat, died of a brain aneurysm when Horgan was 18 months old and his mother, Alice, raised four children on her own. Sometimes food hampers were delivered to the home, he said.

Horgan said the struggles of his childhood and a bout with bladder cancer in his 40s helped forge his political goals.

“It all involves bringing people together and what I’ve tried to do in the 3 1/2 years I’ve had the opportunity, is to reach out to everyone, business people, not-for-profits, labour, just regular folks, and ask them what they want to see in their government, and I think it’s worked,” he said.

Horgan and his wife Ellie have two grown sons, Nate and Evan. Horgan met his wife while they were students at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont.

The 61-year-old politician was acclaimed NDP leader in 2014 following the party’s election defeat in 2013 when a 20 percentage point lead evaporated and the campaign ended with a majority B.C. Liberal government.

In 2017, the NDP was able to form a minority government after reaching an agreement with the Green party, which held the balance of power.

Horgan said he struggled with his decision to call the early Oct. 24 election during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he wanted to seek the stability of a majority government and was convinced the election could be held safely. B.C.’s fixed election date was set for October 2021.

He said he would rather be meeting voters on public transit or at hockey rinks, but the pandemic has changed that.

“Although the Zoom calls are great … I don’t get that connect that I would have if I was able to sit down with them and just listen one on one,” Horgan said.

Prof. Kimberly Speers said Horgan has become more at ease as communicator over the years.

“He’s always very comfortable in terms of chatting with anyone,” said Speers, who teaches at the University of Victoria’s school of public administration. “I think he’s even honed that skill even more.”

Horgan’s time as premier in a minority government may also have helped his leadership abilities, she said.

“Given that it’s a minority government situation, he’s had to negotiate and listen, reach consensus on issues during the last three years,” Speers said. “Just in terms of negotiating skills, building consensus, I think he’s done a very good job.”

Speers said despite being political opposites, she sees style similarities between Horgan and former populist premier Ralph Klein of Alberta.

“He’s relatable, easy to talk to and not condescending,” said Speers, who taught in Alberta.

Chamberlin said Horgan’s leadership qualities shone through last year when the B.C. government passed legislation adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“If you look across Canada and you look for a government that stood up and made a very clear decision to implement UNDRIP, you’ll only find premier Horgan.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

View of the city from West Trail. Photo: Ryden Wahl
What you see …

If you have a recent photo to share email it large or actual-size to editor@trailtimes.ca

Summer does provide some shelter for homeless. In winter, it’s a different story. Photo: Jim Bailey
Trail RCMP offer healing approach to mental health and addictions

People living with a mental illness and substance use disorders need assistance not incarceration

Team Buchy skipped by Kimberley curler Kaila Buchy are unable to defend their BC junior women's title this year, after CurlBC announced the cancellation of the event due to the pandemic. Photo: CurlBC
CurlBC cancels U18 and U21 championships

With curling clubs closing due to PHO order, CurlBC was forced to cancel U18 and U21 events

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Dogs don’t drive: they don’t need to be in the driver’s seat

A smaller dog on the lap could move into a position that would entangle it in the steering wheel

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Victoria waterfront

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

Most Read