NDP 'out of touch,' downfall forecast, say Liberals, Greens as spring sitting ends

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VICTORIA — British Columbia's opposition parties left the legislature Thursday saying Premier John Horgan's New Democrats have lost touch with the realities facing the province and its people, while predicting the government's electoral defeat over a museum replacement plan.

A four-month spring session, where health, affordability and the provincial museum project were dominant issues, concluded with tense exchanges in the legislature.

Opposition Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said the NDP's decision to proceed with the $789-million Royal B.C. Museum project will become the government's "death warrant."

"Mark my words, Friday, May 13, is the day the NDP really have signed their own death warrant as a political party," Falcon said at a post-session news conference at his legislature office.

May 13 is the day Horgan announced the government's plan to tear down and rebuild the museum, which has since become a matter of daily attacks by the Liberals, who call the plan the premier's "vanity legacy project."

"If they go ahead with that, this will be their fast ferries and this will bring their government down," said Falcon, referring to the former NDP government’s fast-ferries shipbuilding program in the late 1990s that had cost overruns and delays, and even when they were completed, the ships turned out to be unsuitable for the trip between the mainland and Vancouver Island.

Falcon was elected leader last February and took a seat in the legislature this month after winning a byelection in Vancouver-Quilchena.

The next provincial election is scheduled to be held in the fall of 2024.

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said Horgan and the government have failed to see what residents are facing in the province.

She accused the premier and government during question period of doing more talking than working on preventive measures since last year's disastrous, fires, floods and slides.

"We sure hear a lot from this government about committed to something in the future. But we don't hear a lot about the outcomes," she said.

Lytton was mostly destroyed by fire, farms were flooded, crops destroyed, many people can't afford housing and there's a shortage of family doctors in B.C., but the government still congratulates itself on its efforts to help people, said Furstenau.

"They are out of touch with the realities British Columbians are experiencing," she said. "This government has made gaslighting its organizing principle for communications. What people need from this government is to recognize the reality that they are experiencing."

Furstenau asked if Horgan can "be honest about the state of affairs in this province."

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth accused Furstenau of attacking Horgan's integrity.

Horgan was not in the legislature.

"I think questioning the integrity of any member of this house, particularly the premier, through a rambling statement, without a question attached to it, quite frankly, I find offensive," said Farnworth.

He said on issues of health, education, transportation or any other, "this government is working every single day to improve the lives of British Columbians."

The government passed almost two dozen new bills, including legislation that will lead to a cooling-off period for homebuyers navigating the province's high-pressure real estate environment.

Farnworth said outside the legislature the government passed a people- and family-focused budget that offers supports through challenging times.

"I'm confident our government's doing everything we can to deal with the issues that matter to most British Columbians," he said.

The session also saw the legislature return to its pre-COVID-19 operations of face-to-face interactions after two years of virtual news conferences and hybrid sittings.

Horgan was a regular presence in the legislature after undergoing cancer treatment late last year, but he missed some time this spring after contracting COVID-19.

The session also saw Horgan use an expletive in a heated exchange with the Opposition Liberals, although he later apologized for his use of the F-word.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2022.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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