Premier John Horgan rejected calls to halt the $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink project at a media availability Thursday and addressed the serious issues of protesters blockading railroads and even his own home.
But first he made reporters laugh out loud with his response to the musings of John Furlong, who is floating the idea of Vancouver hosting the Winter Olympics again in 2030.
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Furlong, who was CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, told media today that Vancouver should consider hosting the games again.
“I certainly feel there are lots of British Columbians and Canadians that have very fond memories of 2010 – I certainly do,” Horgan said, when asked to respond to Furlong’s suggestion.
“If there’s a credible bid, I’ll certainly take a look at it.”
But when asked what kind of financial support a Vancouver bid could expect from the provincial government, Horgan provoked laughs when he responded: “I’ll have to go back to the finance minister and see what we have in the budget for hypothetical bid processes ten years from now.”
On a more serious note, Horgan briefed reporters on a call he had February 19 with Canada’s premiers on the question of how to deal with protests in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that have shut down railways and ports across the country.
He is scheduled to talk today with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the ongoing protest crisis as well.
Horgan himself got a taste of protest zealotry when members of the Extinction Rebellion came to his home in Langford to conduct a “citizen arrest” on Tuesday, February 18.
A furious Horgan reportedly swore at the protesters, three of whom were arrested. Asked about the incident, Horgan said it was inappropriate for protesters to subject his wife and neighbours to their antics and intimidation.
“I think the vast majority of British Columbians and Canadians think it’s just out of bounds,” Horgan said.
“You want to yell at me? Fill your boots. I normally wade into crowds, oftentimes against my better judgment, and I’m not going to apologize for being as accessible as I can be. But nor will I apologize for saying to people who think that bringing trauma to my peaceful neighbourhood in Langford is somehow a good idea.”
Protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline are costing the Canadian economy millions. Railways and ports have been blockaded by other First Nations, notably Mohawks in Ontario.
Via Rail has had to cancel trains in the busiest corridors in Ontario and Quebec, CN Rail has temporarily laid off 1,000 workers and exports are stuck on idle trains.
Railroad blockades have come down in B.C. but remain in place in Eastern Canada.
Despite demanding meetings with federal and provincial leaders, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have recently rebuffed offers to actually meet.
They flew to Ontario Wednesday to meet with Mohawk sympathizers and in doing so snubbed provincial and federal aboriginal affairs ministers – Scott Fraser and Carolyn Bennett – who were on standby to meet with the chiefs in Smithers today.
It was the second time an offer by the two ministers to meet was snubbed by hereditary chiefs.
“For our part, Minister Bennett from the federal government (and) Minister Fraser remain available and ready to meet at any time with the Wet’suwet’en leadership, and that’s the course we’re going to pursue in the hope of a peaceful resolution to these issues,” Horgan said.
Asked if he himself would meet with the chiefs, Horgan said he didn’t think he could offer anything more than his minister of Aboriginal relations and reconciliation can.
“I believe that the appropriate course is to have Minister Fraser and Minister Bennett, on behalf of the two orders of government, start that discussion,” he said. “I don’t believe that I have any more magic in my pocket than Minister Fraser does.”
Asked about his discussion with Canada’s premiers Wednesday, Horgan said other premiers needed to be brought “up to speed” on the unique duel governance system in B.C., where there may be both elected and hereditary leaders, because many Canadians do not understand why negotiating with First Nations can be so difficult in B.C.
“They don’t understand how elected band councils could have said yes [to the Coastal GasLink pipeline] and other hereditary leaders have said no,” Horgan said.
It has been recently suggested that tensions between the Wet’suwet’en and government might be improved if the RCMP were replaced with a First Nations police force.
But Mohawks in Ontario and Quebec have their own indigenous police, and they too have been frustrated in their efforts to convince Mohawk protesters from dismantling roadblocks on railway lines.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have suggested that the way to defuse the current standoff would be for Coastal GasLink work crews to leave their territory and for the project to be cancelled or at least put on hold.
“That’s not an option for me,” Horgan said.