While Liberal leadership hopefuls were gathering in Prince George on the weekend, New Democrats from around the province descended on Victoria for the party’s annual convention – the first since it formed government earlier this year.
The highlight likely was an appearance by newly-minted federal leader Jasmeet Singh.
“I have to say, after 16 long years it is simply wonderful to have beautiful B.C. once more represented by a New Democratic government and a New Democratic premier,” said Singh to a cheering crowd. “Thank you to everyone, all the organizers, volunteers and members for all your hard work in making this possible.”
Singh then singled out some of the achievements the government has made in the last several months, including starting development of a poverty reduction plan, tackling housing affordability, banning big money from politics, re-establishing a Human Rights Commission and committing to support the principles of UNDRIP.
After speaking about his personal experiences of facing discrimination, Singh talked about the kind of country he hopes to champion as NDP leader.
“We deserve a government that gets it and is willing to fight unfairness and oppose injustice and with a progressive vision that will make lives better,” said Singh. “A vision for expanding universal health care to include Pharmacare and dental care instead of cutting it. A vision for tearing down barriers to education and making investments so that all levels of education are accessible to all. A vision for real reconciliation and a true nation to nation relationship with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. A vision for a commitment to climate change that aggressively reduces emissions, builds the green economy of the future and leaves no worker behind in the transition.”
Singh’s speech came after Premier John Horgan gave a 40-minute address to the 800-delegate crowd.
“We are here this weekend to celebrate our victory,” he said. “We ran an incredible campaign. We weren’t afraid of bold ideas. We weren’t afraid to talk about our values. We gave people something to believe in.”
Horgan also highlighted the changes the NDP have made in the short time they have been in power.
“Friends, if this is what we can do in 109 days, imagine what else we can do,” said Horgan. “Together, we can make life more affordable, build housing for people, bring in fair ferry fares and eliminate unfair MSP premiums,” said Horgan. “We’ll build hospitals and urgent care centres, make sure our kids have safe schools to learn in and deliver transit and transportation to get people moving. We’ll continue to support traditional industries like forestry and mining, and we will grow the new economy and create good jobs for people as we build up our province.”
When the delegates got down to business, they endorsed resolution supporting a comprehensive review of the Residential Tenancy Act. Convention delegates also voted to stand by the BC NDP government in its effort to reduce unfair fees – including MSP.
Resolutions that called on the government to create an anti-corruption investigative body that tackles corruption and protects whistleblowers, along with a resolution to reaffirm opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, also passed easily.
In response to today’s heated political climate, convention delegates also passed a resolution to confront – and defeat – sources of hate in BC.
“I was proud to vote for that motion,” said Glen Sanford, Vice-President of the BC NDP. “It’s important to take a strong stance and demonstrate that our party does not condone hate in any form and will actively work to eradicate it from our communities.”
Two resolutions debated and passed focused on supporting B.C.’s forestry industry, which has been hard hit in recent months by fires across the interior. One resolution encourages support for family-owned mills and local forestry operators throughout B.C. by ensuring they have an adequate supply of wood fibre. The other pledges support for the province’s advocacy on behalf of B.C. forestry workers and B.C. mills in ongoing softwood lumber negotiations.
BC NDP delegates also recognized the need to expand rapid transit in the Lower Mainland and Central Okanagan.
Delegates re-elected Craig Keating as party president. The treasurer and financial agent is Amber Hockin.