While announcing an increase to welfare rates and firing the president of B.C. Hydro may be important to John Horgan to get done in his first few days as premier, it shows a shocking lack of sensitivity to more than 40,000 evacuated Cariboo residents.
Offering some additional assistance for the evacuees and the municipalities on Wednesday was much appreciated but that needed to be delivered in person, along with a vow to do and spend whatever it takes to get these people back on their feet.
As the most successful business and political leaders know, events often sideline the agenda. In those situations, sticking to the plan is delegated to others while the leader steps forward to tackle the unexpected problem. Leadership isn't just about doing the right thing, it's about being seen doing the right thing and caring for the people and their problems.
In Horgan's case, he's got experienced cabinet ministers, two of whom are former provincial NDP leaders themselves, to start implementing the pillars of their platform. He should have left them in charge for a couple of days, to get to Kamloops and Prince George, to make it clear that what's happening in the Cariboo is top of mind for him and for his new government.
No doubt Doug Donaldson, his new forestry minister, and other senior bureaucrats are regularly briefing him on the Cariboo wildfires. That's fine but in the same way that premiers need to be seen and heard doing their job, the evacuees need to be seen and heard by their premier.
The same applies to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, of course, but British Columbians outside of Metro Vancouver should be fully accustomed to being ignored by prime ministers, regardless of their party. Stephen Harper decided to go check out the Brier rather than come to the 2015 Canada Winter Games. Trudeau would rather look at restored tall ships in Quebec than come to B.C. to offer his government's assistance and his personal support to the wildfire evacuees.
Neither Horgan nor Trudeau's visit would be taxing on resources. Both of them already travel with a small security detail and an assistant, regardless of where they go. Coming to Prince George or Kamloops would be just another day for these people. Rounding up a plane for a quick aerial tour of the effected areas would not be detract from the firefighting effort, nor would stopping to briefly thank firefighters and encourage evacuees to stay strong.
If both men came at the same time, it would be an opportunity for them to meet and focus on something other than their differing views on the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline. Their attendance would also attract provincial and national media coverage, which would aid in the Canadian Red Cross and its fundraising efforts.
There's even political points to score if they must be cynical about it. To their supporters elsewhere in the province and the country, they would look like caring leaders, coming together to support the people in their time of need.
Horgan sitting at his desk in Victoria while the Cariboo burns and people sleep in cots or in campers in Prince George and Kamloops, wondering whether they have a home to return to, speaks volumes about his priorities. There's a major difference between standing on the lawn at the legislature in Victoria and saying he cares and coming to Prince George and showing some of the 9,000 evacuees that he really does.
Horgan and his NDP colleagues spent the election and the four years leading up to it hammering Clark and the B.C. Liberals for not caring about people, for their heartless decisions that hurt families and people in need. Yet, on her first full day as leader of the opposition, a job she clearly didn't want, it was Clark going to the people in Prince George, listening to their concerns, offering to do what she can to help.
Give a guy a new title, a nice office and some additional responsibility and caring about the little people is suddenly much less urgent than it used to be.
If actions speak louder than words, the real crisis in the province on Friday was B.C. Hydro president Jessica McDonald. She needed to be fired immediately.
Wrong fire, dude.