Newly acclaimed BC NDP leader John Horgan spent Sunday and Monday in the West Kootenay, touching base with picketing teachers, farmers and constituents, and taking a tour of the Waneta Dam expansion project.
“One of the issues that quite often you hear partisans use is well, the NDP didn’t do anything to grow the economy,” said Horgan. “Thing is, these things take time to take root.”
He said this year marks the 20th anniversary of the NDP government purchasing expansion rights to the dam from Cominco, now Teck.
“This was 20 years in the making, and now we have all these people working and we’ve got 335 megawatts of energy created annually,” he said of the project, which is due for completion in 2015.
Horgan was also effusive about meeting striking teachers.
“Listen, I’m a product of the public school system,” he said.
Horgan said his high school classmates, if asked whether he would go on to higher learning after graduation, would’ve guessed no. He credits his academic and political successes to the teachers who encouraged him and helped him escape a wayward youth.
Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall hosted Horgan, and arranged for him to meet with Dr. Todd Kettner after reading his letter in the Nelson Star on Friday. She had just returned from the Ukraine, but felt Kettner’s perspective would add to Horgan’s meeting with local teachers.
“Whenever I get the opportunity to support teachers, I take it,” Horgan said. “I was delighted to meet with Todd (Kettner) and representatives from Nelson’s school district.”
Horgan said he’s aware of the issues facing teachers, as he was the education critic when first elected. “I’ve got two kids, recent graduates. I know the challenges we face K-12 in BC. This has been going on and on. The Liberals need to wise up and realize they’re on the wrong track.”
Horgan received a tour of Nelson Hyrdo’s generating station.
He called the power plant a “modern day success story for a municipality”, and said it should stand as an example for companies like BC Hydro.
During the tour, led by Nelson Hydro employee Kevin Johnson, Horgan pointed out the 1907 brickwork. “Even the power stations in Nelson are funky.”
Horgan visited Randy Meyer’s farm in Creston to discuss the recent passage of Bill 24, which will amend the existing legislation on agricultural land.
Horgan said there’s “no consensus” on the issue from farmers and criticized East Kootenay MLA Bill Bennett’s position on the matter.
Horgan also took time to visit the Creston Valley Wildlife management area, and called it “an example for what we can do to make amends” for the impacts of local industry. He said hydro-electricity has shaped the landscape and the reserve is crucial to maintaining the environmental integrity of the area.
Horgan had only nice things to say about Nelson. He said he’s encouraged by the small business-driven economic activity.
“You guys are trying to make a go of it in one of the most beautiful places in the country,” he said.