The provincial NDP leadership race is winding down and the last leg came through Port Alberni.
NDP Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan drummed up last minute support in his bid for the leadership as he spoke to a crowd of more than 28 in the United Steelworkers Hall.
Steelworkers Local 185 president Dave Steinhauer said that the local voted to endorse Horgan’s bid for the leadership.
In a later interview, Steinhauer said that Horgan was the candidate who struck the best balance.
“He appeals to the workers, people in the community and businesses.”
Port Alberni was one of seven stops Horgan was making on the Island on Sunday, the effort culminating in a rally in Victoria on Sunday night.
Horgan discussed his campaign values of integrity, humility and the importance of rural and small town B.C.
But he also spoke clearly about issues that are specific to the Alberni Valley.
The Raven Underground Coal Project is “Circumspect”, he said.
Horgan questioned if mining coal was appropriate in the Comox Valley, especially when the region was looking to do more with its agricultural industry.
“I don’t believe that Raven is a solution,” Horgan said.
And the Quinsam mine was on the verge of expanding, therefore providing more jobs the Raven project says it will provide.
Cities like Vancouver wouldn’t exist without steel coal, he said.
And he supported investing in spur line improvements that would increase freight hauling out of the Alberni Valley.
“But I don’t believe we should do that on the backs of a coal mine,” Horgan said.
Remedying the toll raw log exports are taking on communities is a priority.
Western Forest Products has substantial operations in Port Alberni.
But its parent company – Brookfield Asset Management – “doesn’t care a lick about the workers, community or B.C.,” Horgan said.
The forest industry needed to be “re-connected to communities,” he said.
And a levy on exports should be considered. “If you’re going to export logs then you should pay more,” Horgan said.
Value-added incentives should be instituted. “You have bio-energy and chips sitting in the forests right now unused,” he said.
In an interview later, Horgan said returning to the Island was a natural.
“I’m an Island guy and this is where my base of support is,” he said.
The campaign is going full steam ahead.
Former NDP MLA’s Bob and Ray Skelly just endorsed him.
Fellow leadership candidates Nick Simons and Harry Lali dropped out of the race and pledged their support behind Horgan.
And he’s set to announce his endorsement by a high profile NDP member on Monday.
But Horgan was mum on which leadership candidate he’d support should he not make the final cut when the ballots are counted on April 17.
“I intend to be on the last ballot so it won’t matter who I back,” he said.
NDP members are electing a leader on April 17, but they are also electing who will lead the charge in the next election.
Adrian Dix and Mike Farnworth are both hardworking “But I’m a communicator,” Horgan said.
“We’ll be taking on an excellent communicator in Christie Clark,” Horgan said of the Liberal premier.
“And we need an equally good communicator.”