Vaughn Palmer: By getting Horgan’s attention, maybe cruise-ship issue will get Ottawa’s attention

Opinion: Now that the cruise-ship issue has finally engaged Premier Horgan’s attention at the necessary level, perhaps there’s a chance of persuading Ottawa to take it seriously as well.

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VICTORIA — John Horgan took the safe route Friday, when asked if he had any advice for B.C. voters in Monday’s federal election.


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The premier said he personally voted in the advance poll for Alistair MacGregor, the NDP incumbent in the federal riding that overlaps Horgan’s provincial constituency.

“I’ve made no secret of that,” Horgan told reporters. “My local MP I hope will be re-elected.”

Beyond that, the country’s only NDP premier made no endorsements.

“With respect to how other British Columbians should vote, that’s entirely up to them,” he said. “My responsibility as the leader of the Government of B.C. is to work with whoever is running the Government of Canada.”

Horgan stuck to that line when pressed for whether he had any concerns that initiatives like $10-a-day child care or the SkyTrain extension from Surrey to Langley would be endangered by a change of government at the national level.


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“Those were initiatives we were already doing,” he replied. “We were grateful to hear that the government of the day was prepared to support those. But I am confident whoever is in power in Ottawa come Tuesday morning will hear from me why these initiatives are important to B.C.ers and why whoever the government is should get behind those in the interest of those providing services and the transportation needs and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.”

In any event, he said later, “it is not for me to engage in negotiations with national party leaders during the election.”

Actually, the New Democrats did try to engage the attention of the national leaders in the first week of the campaign. They took the wraps off their $4.1-billion plan to replace the aging Massey Tunnel with a new eight-lane tunnel. The provincial government “certainly hopes” for a federal contribution to the cost of construction, said Transportation Minister Rob Fleming, making no secret of provincial intentions with the rollout.


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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole readily endorsed the project. But Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau hesitated, telling reporters at a campaign stop in Surrey that he hadn’t decided whether to fund the project.

However, this week federal Liberal incumbent Carla Qualtrough told an all-candidates’ meeting in her Delta riding that she had spoken to Trudeau and gotten his assurance that federal funding will be available.

Horgan has enjoyed an exceptionally good relationship with Trudeau over the last four years, notwithstanding his pose of neutrality during the current election campaign.

In the run-up to the 2019 election, the two leaders shared a platform at several events to the point where media reports started to refer to the Justin and John bromance.


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“The prime minister and I have chosen a path of consultation and consensus — I am proud to be able to do that,” declared Horgan at one of their events together.

“Thank you John for your leadership, your partnership and your friendship,” returned Trudeau. “Over these past two years we’ve been able to get big things done.”

That mutual hug-in occurred on the very day that national NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was being renominated to run in his Burnaby riding.

In the run-up to this year’s campaign, Horgan and Trudeau took the wraps off the cost-sharing deal on child care on the same day that Singh was making a policy announcement in Duncan.

Then the two masters of the photo-op posed for a shot of them eating lunch together in the courtyard at Coquitlam City Hall.


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Notwithstanding Horgan’s pose of neutrality in the current campaign, I have to think he would welcome Trudeau’s return to office over the election of O’Toole. He might prefer a minority Liberal government with Trudeau still needing the support of the federal NDP. But Horgan worked well with Trudeau in 2017-19 when the federal Liberals were in a majority.

But whomever ends up in the prime minister’s office after the votes are counted, Horgan says he’ll be pressing for action on the latest threat to B.C.’s share of the Alaska cruise-ship business. In contrast to his dismissive comments earlier in the week, the premier indicated Friday that he recognizes the seriousness of the legislative initiatives by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young to allow ships on the Alaska run to bypass B.C. ports on a permanent basis.


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The B.C. government has been in touch with the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, to emphasize the importance of B.C. ports remaining on the itineraries of cruise ships on the Seattle-to-Alaska run.

“Ambassador Hillman is going to report back to me on Monday about what she’s learned about the likelihood of success or failure of the initiatives that are being sponsored by the Alaska delegation,” said Horgan, having scoffed at the prospects for success of earlier initiatives by Murkowski and Young.

“I do know that when I get the opportunity to speak to the incoming PM the first order of business is going to be the importance of having the United States administration recognize that we have had a collaborative relationship with our neighbours, whether they be in Alaska or Washington (D.C.),” he continued. “I’m confident that the incoming federal government will put this high on their agenda and I’m going to insist that they do so.”

Now that the issue has finally engaged the B.C. premier’s attention at the necessary level, perhaps there’s a chance of persuading Ottawa to take it seriously as well.

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