Premier John Horgan began what sounded like an apology for his “fatalities are part of life” comments after BC’s record-breaking heat wave and death toll – but didn’t quite get there.
Consider a not-very-different world, where everything is exactly the same as ours, except for one small change: due to whatever random accident or series of events, the NDP are still (or back) in opposition.
Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, literally everything else is the same. Mayors, other premiers, the prime minister – all the same people. Dr. Bonnie Henry is still leading BC’s pandemic response, there are still antivax and old growth logging protests, and the Canucks still missed the playoffs.
And yes, in late June, this BC also endured record-breaking heat wave, which led to the deaths of some 570 people.
Also the same: in response to the still-being-counted death toll, BC’s not-NDP Premier remarked “fatalities are part of life,” and that “there was an element of personal responsibility.” This other world’s Premier’s Office has different people working in it, but they still release the exact same statement via social media that day, conceding these comments lacked compassion.
And finally in this parallel BC, this week a Human Rights Watch report strongly criticizes the provincial government’s lack of preparation and action.
This hypothetical BC, as did ours, faced the largest mass death event in provincial history. Its Premier said people die all the time, and they should’ve done something about it. An international human rights organization called out the province for getting caught off guard and failing to do much of anything – which disproportionately affected (and resulted in the deaths of) the most vulnerable.
Now imagine: how would an opposition NDP react?
For an NDP opposition, this series of events would confirm many of their worst suspicions: a government that doesn’t seem to care about the little guy. How else can you shrug off hundreds of deaths in a weekend as “part of life?” And even worse: seniors, people with disabilities, low-income renters paying the heaviest price? Well look, there’s an element of personal responsibility here.
For an NDP opposition faced with comments like these, furious isn’t the word. More like incandescent.
Driven by outrage, they might be moved to say such things as “the Premier has more compassion for cats and dogs than for people with disabilities.”
Or even more inflammatory: “this government, in my opinion, has blood on their hands.”
Two real examples from a previous NDP opposition in our world, incidentally.
Today in Question Period, Premier John Horgan began what sounded like an apology.
“So I agree very much with the Leader of the Opposition that words do matter. If I offended anyone by talking, at that time when we were just learning about the magnitude of what this summer would be…”
From there, he ventured into a parenthetical aside, and never came back to what sounded very much like the preface to a form of apology – even if just the “if people are offended” version.
Premier Horgan might heed these words from an opposition NDP leader:
“We’ve heard some good words again today from the Premier, but what we have here is a complete disconnect between what’s been said in here and what’s being delivered out there.”
He ought to. He said them.
Maclean Kay is Editor-in-Chief of The Orca