I may not have recognized John Horgan before he walked into our makeshift studio on Jan 24, 2017, but the man I met impressed me deeply.
The leader of BC’s NDP party had joined us to participate in an hour-long Facebook live interview dedicated to our community. His handlers had wasted little time in accepting our invitation — even when I told them the interview would be conducted by two of my favourite drag queens.
Not a squawk. His team embraced the opportunity to take our community’s questions, and quickly confirmed a date and time.
Of course, as the candidate with less name recognition in BC’s upcoming provincial election this May, Horgan had reason to accept our invitation. Still, I hope his opponents are just as open to engaging with the LGBT community’s questions, concerns and feedback.
From the outset, I was struck by Horgan’s apparent humility and sincerity. He arrived right on time, with just one assistant in tow, and quickly fell to chatting with our interviewers, Isolde N Barron and Peach Cobblah. His tone didn’t change when the camera started rolling.
Watch our full Facebook live interview with John Horgan, above. (Angelina Cantada/Daily Xtra)
The role of government is to help others, Horgan said. He’s been fortunate in his life and wants to pay that forward so all British Columbians can live comfortably. “And when I see bullying, when I see discrimination, when I see hate — I want to resist that,” he said.
If elected, his NDP government would use provincially-owned land to develop co-ops and affordable housing units, introduce $10-a-day childcare, eliminate MSP premiums, raise the minimum wage in BC and reopen Riverview Hospital to support people with addictions and mental health issues. All predictable NDP promises, but certainly consistent with my own personal view of the role a government should play.
And then we delved into some specifically queer issues.
Like his stance on PrEP accessibility:
“It’s a mystery to me,” he said of the BC Liberals’ apparent reluctance to cover the costs of Truvada as PrEP for people who want the pill to protect themselves from HIV transmission. “Because whenever we can find ways to make people’s lives safer, why wouldn’t we invest in that?”
“Give people the medical devices that they need to protect themselves,” he said, “and you’re going to reduce costs over time.”
Quebec pays for PrEP through its provincial drug plan — “I don’t see why British Columbia wouldn’t.”
And his plan to get all school districts in BC to pass LGBT policy:
It’s a question of resources, Horgan said, when asked how an NDP government would get the 10 percent of school boards who missed the recent deadline to pass LGBT policy to comply.
“We just need to make it mandatory and we need to make sure that the resources in the Ministry of Education are there to assist school districts in getting to this objective,” he said.
“It’s clear that that’s where British Columbians want to go, it’s consistent with our human rights views of the world and how we want to be inclusive — why can’t we make sure that we get to that last 10 percent?”
And his take on the government’s role in resetting cultural norms now that discriminating against trans people is officially prohibited in BC:
“The good fortune that we have in British Columbia is that now [trans rights are] enshrined,” he said. “It’s unequivocal and it’s undeniable.”
“You can disagree with it, but it’s still the law of the land. So you have to abide by that.”
“Where does the state then change people’s bias?” he asked.
His threefold answer impressed me:
Remain vigilant to ensure the hard-won rights “are always front and centre.”
Give people the freedom to believe what they want but make sure they face consequences if they cross the line from thought to discriminatory action, so over time you can modify their behaviour.
And educate everyone from a very young age to embrace a society of inclusion.
“We, as the state, have a responsibility to educate, and that starts in the school system. When it becomes second nature, commonplace, you don’t think about it — that’s what we want in our society,” he said.
“But you can’t get there by the state forcing people to think a certain way. That leads then to resistance, and the response is Trump.”
“So how do you make people understand? You ensure that they don’t violate other people’s rights. They can hold those opinions — we can’t change people’s opinions, we can’t impose our will on their thoughts — but we can impose our will collectively on their behaviour. And that’s the critical part.”
The Horgan I met that night seemed intelligent, reasonable, thoughtful and sincere.
I could see him as premier.
But it’s only January, and I have yet to sit down with his opponents. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has already expressed his willingness to be interviewed by Xtra, and I’m hoping that Liberal Premier Christy Clark will do the same.
Are you listening, Christy? Call me. The queens are waiting.