Horgan exits as a popular Canadian premier, but leaves wake of criticism on housing and health care

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves as one of the most popular premiers of his time, never dropping below 43 per cent in approval in his five years in office according to Angus Reid polls. But despite his personal popularity and wide-approval of his handling of COVID-19, two issues exacerbated by the pandemic – housing affordability and health care – continue to dog the B.C. government.

“I’ve done my best to not let you down. There have been days when things have gone well and there have been days when things didn’t go well. That’s the nature of the human condition, and I’m honoured to have had the opportunity.”

Horgan announced his plans to step down as leader of the province in a press conference Tuesday, citing waning energy levels after his radiation treatment for throat cancer and his infection with COVID-19 earlier this year.

Overall, British Columbians offered plenty of praise for Horgan and his government’s handling of the pandemic. Only the Atlantic premiers received higher grades on their performance at the two-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdowns. But housing affordability and health care continued to be sticking issues.

Though as recently as May, Horgan hadn’t ruled out running for a third term as premier, there was speculation in recent weeks that he would retire after fully taking on the chin the Royal B.C. Museum flop. What was dismissed by critics as a “vanity legacy project” for Horgan, the $789-million rebuild of the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria failed spectacularly in the court of public opinion, and was recently cancelled.

With many struggling with the rising cost of living, spending near $1 billion on a museum was tough for many British Columbians to swallow. Most (69%) opposed it, an Angus Reid survey showed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Horgan for his service to British Columbians.

“I have worked closely with Premier Horgan over the past five years to advance the issues that matter to British Columbians and all Canadians, including creating clean growth and good middle-class jobs. He has been a strong advocate for affordable housing, reliable public transit, and quality health care and services for families. Working together, we signed a historic early learning and child care agreement that will deliver results now, and $10-a-day child care in the coming years.

“I thank Premier Horgan for his over 17 years of dedicated public service. He will be missed at the First Ministers’ table. I wish him and his family the very best in the future,” Trudeau said in a statement.

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