Martyn Brown: How Horgan made the B.C. Greens’ central case—no one should be trusted with absolute power

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      It has been 133 years since Lord Acton penned his infamous prophetic proverb “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

      How fitting for today: he wrote that in a letter warning about the doctrine of Papal infallibility.

      Sadly, B.C. premier John Horgan has redefined himself as the latest self-centered ruler to prove Acton’s axiom, so smitten was “St. John” by his dogmatic faith in his own infallibility.

      In the process, he has unwittingly made B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau’s case for a minority government.

      By his deeds, Horgan has shown that a hung parliament would probably be the wisest course of action, in affording us at least a partial check on an unprincipled partisan who cannot be trusted with absolute power.

      True believers who kneel at the altar of St. John’s NDP probably take strong exception to that heretical assertion.

      They are convinced that their mission is so righteous as to warrant any abuse of power; for their divine right as social democrats can never be wrong, if it serves to advance their noble aspirations.

      Lordy, Lordy, John Horgan.

      Forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

      Breaking faith with your friends, lying to thyself, dishonouring the law, disavowing the CASA’s Holy Word, abusing the trust of those most vulnerable, subjecting us to unspeakable mistreatment—in the face of a killer plague. 

      All of it, Monsieur Horgan’s “necessary evil”, which he now tries to reframe as his gift to democracy.

      Blasphemy, you say? Hardly.

      What is really profane is Horgan’s pathetic attempt to further glorify himself by playing all voters for suckers. 

      As if they have no choice but to grant him the absolute power he craves.

      Therein lies the rub: by his dirty deed he is putting the fear of God in many voters like me.

      We now pray for a minority government to hold Horgan’s ego and power in check. 

      That is, assuming his fall from grace isn’t so great as to cost him his hallowed office, which would not be the end of the world.

      I mean, if Horgan would pull this stunt in the midst of a global pandemic, to cash in on his previously deserved high standing in the opinion polls, what might he do with absolutely no one to answer to as B.C.’s unquestioned Ruler Supreme?

      That is the central question of this unwanted snap election, which Horgan is forcing us all to endure in wanton contempt of our wishes and in gross violation of his sworn pledge to Queen and country. 

      In the grips of a global pandemic, he has chosen to push his advantage and kick us all when we’re down, the opposition parties especially.

      If that’s not un-Canadian and un-British Columbian, I don’t know what is.

      The arrogance of power thus argues for its own constraint. If not through proportional representation, at least through some meaningful representation, to deliver us a “responsible government” worthy of that moniker.

      The central lesson of the last three-and-a-half years is that minority governments can work better for the people they are supposed to serve than majority governments that listen to no one but their own partisan supporters.

      Will we ever again be able to rely on the likes of John Horgan to negotiate another power sharing agreement in good faith, like the GreeNDP confidence and supply agreement? Sadly, not.

      But Horgan’s dishonest disavowal of that sacred social contract he signed should not dissuade voters from electing Green MLAs. 

      On the contrary, that act mostly reinforces the need to hold Horgan in check, as it also begs the question: what would he have done so differently if he had not been obliged to work cooperatively with the Greens?

      That’s the really frightening issue. Which of those achievements that have helped make Horgan the most popular premier in Canada would never have been won if it were not for the three B.C. Green MLAs? 

      Which of those successes that so often Horgan trumpeted as proof of his “excellent” working relationship with Andrew Weaver, Sonia Fursteneau, and Adam Olsen is he now also implicitly disavowing by denigrating their vital contributions?

      Clearly, the Greens were not an obstacle to Horgan’s personal political success and to the good government that his administration did indeed mostly deliver. If anything, the opposite is true.

      Elections B.C.

      Horgan exploits an emergency

      As I have written, I will never again fully trust John Horgan as I did, nor believe a single promise he makes in this election.

      Nor will I ever again place any faith in him to honour his word.

      No one should certainly ever again trust him to respect the fixed election date that he personally enshrined in law and has now eviscerated. 

      Even with a minority government, Horgan has reminded us that laws aren’t worth the paper they’re written on when they can be so easily ignored by those who are so drunk on their own power.

      I, for one, won’t forgive him that sin; for he bloodly well knows too well what he’s done.

      Moreover, he was only able to blindside us as he did because he was effectively granted absolute power to use this ongoing state of emergency to his own partisan advantage.

      It was only because of COVID that his political opponents temporarily buried their partisan hatchets, and locked arms with the NDP government to combat that lethal common enemy.

      What did Horgan do with that fleeting endowment of total power? 

      As Lord Acton might have put it, he used it to first cut the tongues out of the apostates who stand to challenge his authority, and then, to put us all on the rack of this wickedly painful election.

      Confess. It’s our fault for stupidly believing those heathens who really made the devil do it.

      The tapestry of Horgan’s papacy is now hopelessly tattered and hanging in mockery of its progressive promise.

      Can it be salvaged? 

      Certainly not without at least a few B.C. Green MLAs holding a new balance of power to keep whomever forms the government a little more honest for the foreseeable future.

      Horgan damn sure knows the contributions that the three Greens all made in effectively authoring and/or strengthening so many of his government’s bills and policies.

      For him to disparage their collaborative efforts for the betterment of B.C. is despicable.

      Hopefully, Furstenau will soon document those achievements, in testament to the truth of what really went down over the past three-and-a-half years.

      The Bible According to Sonia, that’s what we need, to set the record straight on the Greens’ voting history, legislative contributions, and policy proposals—including those that Premier Capitalist either frustrated or rejected.

      Or more to the point, Horgan for Dummies. I can’t wait to read it.

      On so many issues, those three Green MLAs left their indelible mark, which Horgan now hopes history will rewrite in invisible ink. 

      As Furstenau so cleverly countered, “John Horgan and I both studied history, but I’m not interested in rewriting it.”


      Sonia Furstenau is quickly lining up a long list of B.C. Green candidates.

      B.C. Green leader shows gumption

      But what of the future? 

      A surprise strength of showing from her party in this assumed slam-dunk victory for the NDP would indeed rewrite the future in ways that would surely benefit all British Columbians.

      It would certainly teach St. John a harsh lesson about the nature of miracles in B.C. politics. 

      And also, about the fallibility of flawed mortals laid low by their imperious failings of vainglorious action.

      Horgan may live to regret sorely misjudging Furstenau’s skills as a campaigner, as many of us did the B.C. Greens’ organizational readiness.

      Over the weekend, she announced the names of several B.C. Green candidates from ridings in every region in the province, with more soon to come.  

      It’s an impressive list, insofar as it suggests that folks like me were wrong to assume the Greens would field less than a full slate. 

      Furstenau seems determined to prove her party’s doubters wrong. 

      Only one week into this campaign this much is clear: she and her candidates will make a much greater impact than virtually anyone but them ever dreamed, only days ago.

      There will be time enough in the weeks ahead to fairly consider each party’s platform to lead B.C. through this Age of Treason that Horgan has wished upon us. 

      Again, my beef isn’t with Horgan’s record in government, which I still regard as exemplary and also credit in no small part to the B.C. Greens.

      Fact is, I would have rewarded Horgan’s team with my vote of confidence, had he not so utterly destroyed my trust in his leadership through his snap election Evil Deed.

      And that’s what makes this election so painful: it’s the betrayal of trust and promise from a premier and a government that had up until now had done so much to prove its merit.

      In one fell swoop, for me, Horgan has gone from being one of B.C.’s potentially best-ever premiers, to being a lying cheat who is willing to sell us all short in our darkest hour, purely to benefit himself.

      No one is beyond salvation, they say—a “truth” that unprincipled partisans hold as an article of faith only insofar as it pertains to their party of choice and its leaders.

      Whatever. The path to redemption lies in contrition of past mistakes.

      It reveals itself in awareness of our past wrong turns, and it bends hopefully forward with the guidance of those who help us stay true to our word and better Angels.

      The opportunist-in-chief, John Horgan, is gunning for absolute power in this election.

      Why reward bad behaviour?

      Believe me when I say, giving Horgan the absolute power he covets is not in B.C.’s best interests.

      Now, more than ever, we need more checks on unfettered power—not less.

      Now, more than ever, we need more voices, greater diversity, and enhanced representativeness in the legislature—not less. Especially in pushing for meaningful climate action.

      We won’t get that by giving any party de facto dictatorial power, by dint of a majority government that will once again render all of their political opposition mute and impotent.

      On the contrary, it is because of the evidence and experience of the last three-and-a-half years that we should have more confidence than ever in the constructive force for greater good that can flow from a minority government—not the opposite.

      And it is because of what John Horgan has so wrongly done in so dishonestly misrepresenting what his government so rightly did, in partnership with the Greens in their role as honest brokers, that he cannot be trusted with absolute power.

      Ditto for Andrew Wilkinson, who should not be accorded 100 percent of the power no matter what fraction of the popular vote his B.C. Liberals command.

      In rejecting proportional representation in 2018, British Columbians need not now also reject better representation. 

      They need not reward Horgan’s bad behaviour in his cynical attempt to capitalize on the Greens’ and Liberals’ vulnerablities. Which are largely due to those parties’ collaborative efforts to rise above partisan politics in helping us all to better weather this global pandemic.

      Don’t let Horgan’s opportunistic fearmongering of his honourable minority government partners succeed in punishing the Greens, perversely, by rewarding his bad behaviour and his despotic lust with unbridled authority for the next four years.

      Heed Lord Acton’s sage adage and flip it on its head.

      Have faith, I say: balanced power tends to correct, if not absolutely.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at