Former British Columbia premier John Horgan is taking a job in the coal industry, and says he is not worried about the criticism the move may draw.
Mr. Horgan, who before becoming premier was the B.C. New Democrats’ mining and energy critic, is joining the board of Elk Valley Resources, an enterprise that is in the process of being spun off from Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. The new business will focus on producing coal used to make steel.
It’s a corporate turn for Mr. Horgan. Prior to stepping down as party leader last year, he had a major national profile as one of only a few New Democrats to have headed governments recently. He was also chair of the Council of the Federation, a group of premiers and territorial leaders who were making the case for the federal government to increase health care funding.
“I’ve got other things that I am going to be working on that may be more to the taste of those who would kick up some dust, but the people that are kicking up dust, oftentimes, kick it up for the sake of kicking it up,” Mr. Horgan said in an interview.
“I don’t have a lot of time any more, none in fact, for public comment on my world view, or what I am doing with my time. I don’t want to be snippy about it, but there are others that are making policy decisions.”
Mr. Horgan, 64, was premier from 2017 until this past November. He was the first B.C. New Democrat to win two terms in the role. Former attorney-general David Eby succeeded him as provincial NDP leader and Premier.
Mr. Horgan remained an MLA until Friday, when he officially resigned his seat in the B.C. legislature. He represented a Victoria-area riding.
He conceded there may be a “knee-jerk” reaction to his move to coal, but he noted there’s a difference between coal used to make electricity and coal used for metallurgy. While there are better ways to generate electricity, he said, there are not yet better ways to make steel.
In his new role, he said, he will be making sure that the company is meeting its obligations to workers, to First Nations, to the environment and to shareholders.
After enduring treatments for cancer, Mr. Horgan, 64, said his health is good and that he relishes the chance to learn in a new setting.
Elk Valley Resources will run four B.C.-based operations that are expected to produce a total of 25 to 27 million tonnes of metallurgical coal per year. The spinoff from Teck Resources is set to go before shareholders at a meeting on April 26.
Some investors are increasingly concerned about greenhouse-gas emissions from coal. Late last year, the International Energy Agency said global coal consumption was set to rise to an all-time high in 2022, and remain at those levels unless stronger efforts were made to move to a low-carbon economy.
Mr. Horgan said he had his first discussion about the assignment in December.
“When I was approached to join the board, everyone knew where I was coming from, and I think that speaks to EVR’s desire to meet my expectations and, by doing so, meet the expectations of the majority of British Columbians,” he said.
Marcia Smith, the chair of Elk Valley’s board, said Mr. Horgan will bring a depth of experience and a belief in responsible mining to the organization.
“We are fortunate to have him join the EVR board and look forward to having the benefit of his guidance as we establish this new world-class Canadian company,” she said in a statement.
Mr. Horgan said he is looking at other academic, corporate and philanthropic projects now that he has retired from politics.
“I don’t need the light to be shone upon me. I just want to do my level best to improve outcomes for everyone around me,” he said.
“That means collaboration and following the leadership that knows better than I, at this point, how to deal with some of the challenges ahead.”