John Horgan is stepping down as premier of British Columbia and will not run in the next provincial election.
“My health is good, but my energy flagged as the days go by,” said Horgan, who will turn 63-years-old this summer and went through treatment for throat cancer starting late last year.
Horgan said he recently spent a week in his Langford-Juan de Fuca constituency reflecting with his wife Ellie on the job and how he wants to spend his time.
“We came to the conclusion I’m not able to make another six-year commitment to this job.”
The couple had been walking at the beach at Otter Point west of Sooke and talking about other beaches they’ve walked on, he said. “Watching the otters playing just offshore... reminded me that doing a little more playing and a little less working is probably not a bad idea.”
Horgan said he loves the job of premier that he’s held since 2017 and had planned to lead the NDP into another election.
But ultimately his health dictated his decision to step down.
The announcement comes following a two-day cabinet retreat and five weeks of controversy over a now paused $789-million plan to build a new Royal BC Museum.
Horgan said he’s proud of the government’s achievements and acknowledged he has some regrets, but that he would leave a full discussion of the highs and lows of his time as premier for another day. He pointed to the rising cost of living, challenges in health care and climate action as continuing focuses for the government.
One success he did mention was the progress toward returning Indigenous people to being full participants in decisions about what happens on their lands.
Horgan said governments come to office with a plan — in the case of the NDP, one developed during many years in opposition.
But they also need to listen and be attentive so that they can respond to events, he said. “Government is about dealing with things as they come toward you, planning and preparing to do the best you can every step of the way.”
Horgan said he’s been premier for five years, NDP leader for eight, an MLA for 17 and has worked in government for 36 years.
“My spouse and I just felt it was time that I passed on to another generation,” he said. “I’ve talked about the need for generational change in our politics, not just within the NDP but indeed within all of our political institutions.”
BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon thanked Horgan on Twitter for his contributions. “While we may not have always agreed on the politics, we both share a love for this province and a commitment to helping make B.C. a better place for all who call it home,” he said.
“On behalf of the entire [BC Liberal caucus] I want to wish both you and Ellie our best, as together you focus on family, health and future endeavours.”
Horgan said he has asked NDP president Aaron Sumexheltza to work with the NDP provincial council and executive to set a date in the fall for a leadership convention.
In a prepared statement Sumexheltza said the provincial council will meet in the coming days to set the rules and timing for a leadership contest and will provide an update as soon as possible.
The convention will likely be around the same time as the Surrey South byelection that needs to be held by Oct. 28 to fill the seat recently vacated by BC Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux.
In an emailed statement BC Green Party Leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau wished Horgan well and highlighted the period starting in 2017 when Green MLAs entered an agreement with the minority NDP so he could form a government.
“Although we have not always agreed on policy, together our two parties created an era of unprecedented cross-party co-operation,” she said. “This is just one of the many important initiatives that Premier Horgan participated in throughout his years as premier.”
She said the province continues to face crises and that it’s critical there be a fall session of the legislature, adding the leadership contest must not distract cabinet ministers from their roles as public servants during a difficult time in the province.
Horgan said he will continue working as premier until the NDP chooses a successor, including in his role as chair of the group of Canada’s premiers, the council of the federation, who he will host for a meeting in Victoria in a couple weeks.
The most obvious potential candidates to replace Horgan as NDP leader and premier are cabinet ministers David Eby, Ravi Kahlon, Josie Osborne, Jennifer Whiteside, Nathan Cullen and Rob Fleming.
Horgan said he’s ready for a step back from public life.
“I’m looking forward to just being me again, talking to people not as premier of British Columbia, but just John, a guy who stopped by to make friends. I’m looking forward to that.”
Read more: BC Politics