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Keith Baldrey: Human touch has marked Horgan’s time in office

Anecdotes shed light on how much down-to-earth leader has enjoyed serving as B.C.’s premier.
John Horgan - March 2021
Premier John Horgan has never lost his personal touch during the course of his successful tenure as B.C. premier.

This week ends one of the most successful and rather astonishing turns at the helm of a B.C. government, as John Horgan turns the keys to the premier’s office over to incoming Premier David Eby.

Rather than offering an analysis of his record, in this column I thought I’d share offer some of my favorite Horgan anecdotes.

In the legislature, Horgan and I often run into each other in the hallways, each of us leading impromptu tours of the place for people we often don’t even know. At one point last year, he motioned me over to take over a tour he was giving to some of his constituents.

“I totally forgot that I must be on a phone call with the prime minister in a couple of minutes. You have to take over,” he said, to the bemusement of his constituents.

Another time, I saw him pointing some things out to an elderly couple. I ran into them later and asked: “How do you know Mr. Horgan?” Their reply: “Oh, is that his name? He said his name was John and that he worked here.”

I told them that both were true statements. They were Americans and I explained, to their astonishment, that the equivalent of their state governor has just given them a private look around.

Finally, one of my favorite Horgan stories involves a visiting Grade 11 class from Reynolds High School in Victoria, which he attended himself. Their teacher had contacted me and asked if I could get his class into the premier’s office to meet their school’s most famous graduate.

Given that a Reynolds High School banner is draped over the door to Horgan’s office, I told them it was a pretty safe bet and sure enough I led a wide-eyed bunch of teenagers into his office one morning in October 2019.

As he talked about what it was like being premier and a Reynolds high grad, I suddenly realized the annual “great shakeout” earthquake drill was about to begin in minutes and there were not enough desks for the kids to dive under for safety.

Horgan had an idea. “Let’s go up to the cabinet room and dive under the huge table up there,” he said, and I led the students up the internal spiral staircase and opened the cabinet room door.

To my horror I walked in on a cabinet committee meeting. Staring at me in complete astonishment were then-Finance Minister Carole James, then-Attorney-General David Eby and a few others.

We were all speechless at this unbelievable violation of the rules when suddenly Horgan – who had been trailing – came bursting into the room. “Everyone out! Reynolds High is coming in!’ he barked at his startled ministers, who quickly realized he was serious.

And so the ministers trooped out into the hall and the kids came in and sat around the giant table. When the alarm sounded they dove for cover under it, and Horgan dove under it with them. He crawled around for several selfies with the students.

When it was over, I led the kids out to where the ministers were waiting to go back in.

“That was soooo Horgan,” James said, laughing.

It certainly was. No one enjoyed being premier more than him.

He will be missed.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

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