Grading Horgan’s Five Years in Government
Today is Premier John Horgan’s last day as the premier of British Columbia. Primarily citing his personal fight with cancer as prompting his decision to step down, Horgan has governed British Columbia through much political, public, and private turmoil: a historically thin minority government, COVID-19, heatwaves, flooding, and wildfires. He has been the leader of the BC NDP since 2014, and British Columbia’s premier since 2017.
As the 11th longest-serving premier of British Columbia’s 35 premiers, John Horgan has had the opportunity to imprint his stamp upon the province. What does this stamp look like as he passes the baton to incoming premier David Eby?
Here is a report card of sorts, grading how British Columbia fared over the past five years on eight issues that ARPA engages in. Two grades are given. The first goes to Horgan and analyzes whether his action (or inaction) helped align the province’s policies with God’s Word or continued our society’s rejection of God’s standards. In other words, in what direction has British Columbia moved as a result of Horgan’s policies? The second grade goes to British Columbia as a whole and looks at the cumulative policies created by Horgan and every other premier. In other words, based on the grand scale of history, how is British Columbia faring?
Horgan’s grade: D-
In response to the leaked Dobbs decision coming from the U.S. Supreme Court, Horgan’s finance minister said that “any change to access to abortion will be over my dead body.” That basically sums up the Horgan government’s attitude towards the taking of tens of thousands of pre-born human lives. Despite the Horgan government’s unwavering commitment to abortion and despite frequent calls in the media for the government to play an active role in making abortion services more widely available in British Columbia, the Horgan government hasn’t done much to make abortion any more available, however. The only major action that they took was the decision to make the abortion pill free for all British Columbians in 2018.
British Columbia’s grade: F
The official number of abortions in British Columbia has declined over Horgan’s term in government (as it has across Canada) from 13,182 in 2017 to 11,934 in 2020, but that means little as abortions are increasingly unreported medical abortions. Pro-life blogger Patricia Maloney found that there were 4,562 additional abortion pill prescriptions in British Columbia in 2019. British Columbia fully funds abortion in hospitals and clinics and has no provincial restrictions on abortion, with 9 hospitals and clinics throughout British Columbia providing abortions on their premises.
Horgan’s grade: D
The Horgan government has done nothing to prevent euthanasia in health care facilities. Instead, the administration continued the previous Liberal policy of requiring all secular hospices that receive at least 50% of their funding from the government to provide euthanasia upon request. When the Delta Hospice refused to provide euthanasia on their premises, Fraser Health revoked the funding for the Delta Hospice Society and repossessed the hospice.
To the best of our knowledge, the Horgan government hasn’t passed any policies or made any funding decisions that differ from the previous government’s euthanasia policy. His government has simply continued the status quo. However, the status quo desperately needs action to prevent the sanctioned killing of vulnerable British Columbians.
British Columbia’s grade: F
British Columbia consistently has the highest rates of euthanasia of any Canadian province, with 4.8% of all deaths in the province resulting from lethal injection (compared to 3.3% of all deaths Canada-wide). The province also continues to fully fund the practice and present euthanasia as a compassionate procedure.
Horgan’s grade: C
The number of palliative care beds across British Columbia began at 325 at the start of Horgan’s tenure in the 2017-2018 year. During the course of Horgan’s administration, the number of beds grew by 20%, totalling 389 this year. Although this is progress in the right direction, there are likely hundreds more British Columbians who could have benefited from palliative care but could not access it. Only 15% of Canadians have access to palliative care in their community right now. Furthermore, as mentioned in the Delta Hospice saga above Horgan did nothing to stop the advent of euthanasia in these facilities that were intended to offer life-affirming end-of-life care.
British Columbia’s grade: B
British Columbia offers excellent palliative care in local hospices and charitable organizations like the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. When such care is available, it can be the gold standard that all palliative care facilities strive to emulate. However, the number of palliative care beds continues to be chronically low throughout the province and future growth will likely be challenged by a shortage of health care professionals.
Horgan’s grade: B-
The only significant change that the Horgan government made to British Columbia’s independent education system was to cut funding to independent distributed learning schools (now called online schools). These independent online schools serve thousands of students across British Columbia. The government has also proposed a reorganization of the province’s online learning model that made independent online schools nervous about whether they would be permitted to operate across the province. It is unclear whether this has affected these online schools at this point.
The Ministry of Education has also continued to add little regulations here and there that nibble away at the independence of independent schools. Despite these changes to independent online schools, the Horgan government has largely left independent schools alone. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Horgan administration prioritized keeping all schools open, in contrast to provinces such as Ontario which closed them for long periods of time.
British Columbia’s grade: B+
Overall, the province’s unique combination of public funding, full accreditation, and significant independence for independent schools – plus almost absolute freedom for parents to homeschool their children – leaves British Columbia as one of the best provinces for Christian education, although still short of an equal per-student funding model that would be the most equitable. The percentage of children attending independent schools and home school (as opposed to public schools) remained steady between the 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 school years at around 13% and 0.35% respectively. However, the percentage of students that were homeschooled more than doubled to 0.84% through the 2020-2021 school year, with almost all of these students being pulled from the public school system. We will see if these students remain educated at home now that pandemic restrictions are over. British Columbia continues to have the highest rate of children attending independent schools in Canada.
Gender & Sexual Ethics
Horgan’s grade: F
The Horgan government has continued to promote an unbiblical understanding of gender and sexuality at almost every opportunity. The NDP with Horgan at the helm is “proud all year.” In 2018, his government led the legislature to unanimously approve a motion that “supports SOGI 123 within our schools.” That same year, the province allowed British Columbias to list their sex/gender as “X” on their government-issued ID and removed the requirement for a doctor to sign off on this change earlier this year. The only opportunity that the province passed up to promote these unbiblical identities was its inaction on two private members’ bills that proposed provincial conversion therapy bans in 2019 and 2021.
British Columbia’s grade: F
British Columbia desperately needs a leader who is willing to reverse the province’s endorsement of LGBTQ2S+ identities and refuse to fund gender transition surgeries. As a result of current policies, British Columbia has the second highest rate of its population identifying as transgender (0.44%) among the Canadian provinces.
The status of marriage also continues to decline in the province. Between 2016 and 2021, the percentage of the adult population that was married declined from 48.7% to 47.5% while the proportion of adults living in a common law relationship rose from 9.4% to 10.0%. The province needs to revert to the biblical definition of marriage and encourage sexual activity only within the bonds of marriage.
Family & Child Care
Horgan’s grade: C-
Horgan won both of his electoral mandates, in part, on his promise to make life more affordable for British Columbians. Leaving aside the question of whether he actually achieved that objective, two family policies played a part in this effort.
In 2020, Horgan’s government released the new BC Child Opportunity Benefit that provides a tax-free monthly payment to families of children under the age of 18. This is a positive family policy that makes it easier for families to afford to have one parent spend more time at home with their kids. It also incentivizes and assists families to have more children and may boost British Columbia’s declining fertility rate.
The second family policy is the government’s goal of providing universal $10-a-day child care. Although Horgan won’t see the completion of this program (it won’t be fully implemented until 2024-25), his party has been campaigning on expanding publicly subsidized child care for years. His government was the first provincial government to sign a deal with the federal government to create this universal child care system. This family policy promoting non-parental child care fundamentally erodes the integrity of the biblical family.
Overall, though, we have been pleasantly surprised that the Horgan government has not made it a priority to remake family law according to the party’s typically post-Christian worldview.
British Columbia’s grade: D
Although the integrity of the family and the responsibility of parents to care for their children have continued to decline in British Columbia, the province hasn’t taken the radical legislative steps that other provinces have. The Alberta NDP, in their short stint in government a few years ago, rewrote Alberta’s family law to add gender identity ideology into child and family services. A few years prior to that, the Liberal government in Ontario passed an even worse family law, the All Families Are Equal Act, that we’ve written about at length. These changes may not be far off, though, as a judge last year in British Columbia did begin a transformation of family law by ruling that the third member of a polyamorous “thruple” must be legally recognized as the third parent of the child conceived by the other two partners.
The fertility rate in British Columbia, which started at 1.33 children per woman of childbearing age at the start of Horgan’s tenure, declined to 1.17 by 2020 (the last year for which we have available data). British Columbia continues to have the lowest fertility rate in Canada. The predominance of single-parent families, however, did decline slightly from 15.1% of all families in 2016 to 14.9% of all families in 2021.
Horgan’s grade: D
The four fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the freedom of religion and conscience, speech and expression, assembly, and association. These freedoms were unreasonably violated during the COVID pandemic. Although the provincial government under Horgan respected the rights and freedoms of British Columbians over the first few months of the pandemic, that later gave way to the most stringent restrictions on worship services in the country. For several months, all in-person worship services were prohibited. Additionally, there were no religious or conscientious exemptions from vaccine mandates. British Columbia continues to be one of the only provinces in which some public employees are required to be vaccinated to work, again with virtually no religious or conscientious exemptions.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of these restrictions on our fundamental freedoms have now been removed.
British Columbia’s grade: A-
Aside from a major blip during COVID, British Columbia and Canada as a whole continue to be one of the freest jurisdictions in the world. The province continues to largely uphold the four fundamental freedoms found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and promote necessities such as the rule of law, legal rights, and property rights that are foundational to a free and democratic society. However, the province is slipping up. Consider the fact that British Columbia was the first province to implement a bubble zone around abortion clinics or that the law society of British Columbia refused to accredit Trinity Western’s proposed law school. Consider also how the provincial courts required a father to use his child’s preferred pronouns and later arrested him for talking to the media. Our province might have started at a high point of respecting our rights and freedoms, but our trajectory is definitely going in the wrong way.
Horgan’s grade: B
John Horgan’s government was elected in the middle of the 2017-2018 fiscal year that boasted a surplus of $314 million. Christy Clark’s BC Liberals had run surpluses for the previous four years after several years of deficits after the Financial Crisis. Horgan’s first full fiscal year in office increased this surplus to a sizeable $1.4 billion dollars before dipping into a small deficit in the last pre-COVID budget of 2019-2020. He then incurred a historically massive $5.5 billion deficit equal to 1.8% of GDP during the first year of COVID (2020-2021). This deficit was the fifth largest of Canada’s 10 provinces but much smaller than the federal government’s mammoth deficit (14.8% of GDP) that year. While the province originally anticipated another large deficit last year, the province posted a surplus of $1.3 billion due to better-than-expected economic conditions. The latest fiscal update estimates another surplus (approximately $700 million) this year as well. Horgan’s administration has thus overseen four years of budget surpluses and two years of deficit.
British Columbia’s grade: B+
Despite Horgan’s recent two deficits, British Columbia has the lowest level of debt of any Canadian province at 15.8% of GDP. Most of the provinces have debt figures twice or triple that rate. The province is also tied for the third smallest government last year (as a percentage of GDP spent by the provincial government), behind only Alberta and Ontario. Nevertheless, the Parliamentary Budget Officer projects that British Columbia is not on a fiscally sustainable path and needs to reduce spending (or increase taxes) by at least 0.9% of GDP to be sustainable in the long run.
Horgan’s Overall Grade: D
The bottom line is that Horgan’s government did very little to steer British Columbia in a more God-honouring direction across the issues covered above. Our culture continues to slide further down the road of secularism, relativism, and an odd combination of excessive government intervention intertwined with excessive individual autonomy.
If we were to sum up Horgan’s administration like the authors of Chronicles or Kings did for the kings of Israel and Judah, we might say that he did “evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done.” Few of Horgan’s policy decisions are unique to him. Many previous premiers had set the province on its current path. Horgan simply kept a steady course… in the wrong direction.
However, Horgan in some ways exceeded expectations. The NDP across Canada but especially at the federal level have prioritized access to abortion and euthanasia, public promotion of LGBTQ2S+ identities, a centralized education sector, and greatly expanded government services. Their ideology drives their actions. For Horgan, electability was a greater driver of his government. His administration was surprisingly inactive on many of the issues that Christians had concerns about. Instead, his energies were focused on other policy areas outside ARPA’s expertise but still of significance to citizens of British Columbia: reducing the cost of living, changing ICBC, trying to make housing affordable, advancing Indigenous reconciliation, and combatting climate change. His administration also managed the province’s finances fairly well, better than the tax-and-spend expectations that many people had.
British Columbia’s Overall Grade: C
British Columbia gets a passing score. Provincial policy is completely opposed to God’s standards on the topics of abortion, euthanasia, gender and sexuality. In some cases, British Columbia is the worst offender out of the Canadian provinces on these issues. However, British Columbia is in middle-of-the-road shape in the areas of family and child care. We also still have a strong respect for fundamental freedoms, the lowest level of debt among the provinces, and arguably the best system of independent education in the country.
So, while we should earnestly continue to pray for God to change the hearts of our provincial leaders and of British Columbians in general, continue to bring a biblical perspective to our existing civil authorities, and do our best to elect God-fearing rulers, we can still be thankful that God, in his mercy, continues to restrain evil in our society. Let us give thanks and pray that this might continue to be the case for the sake of His people here and that He would continue to use us as salt and light to advance His Kingdom until He comes in glory to set all things right.
 These numbers are from private correspondence with the BC Ministry of Health.
Levi Minderhoud is the British Columbia Manager for ARPA Canada