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West Shore columnist answers weighty political question

Mortimore queries Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan on weight-loss

“How did you manage to lose 50 pounds in six months?”

I seized the chance to aim that question at John Horgan when I was talking with him recently. He was NDP house leader in the recently-dissolved legislature, and opposition critic for energy, mines and petroleum resources.

He currently is odds-on favourite for re-election as the MLA for Juan de Fuca constituency.

Melting belly-fat is a political topic, although some people might not want to talk about it.

“(Being) overweight began when I quit smoking 12 years ago,” Horgan acknowledged. “I went up to 270 pounds.”

That would have increased his expenses if he had been flying among the islands of Samoa, where Samoan Airlines recently began a charge-passengers-by-weight tariff, the world’s first.

He was only moving around his home province, where airlines charge heavyweights the same fare as lightweights. Flab-reduction may not pay off immediately in cash in B.C., but it brings social-emotional benefit and a better chance of solving health problems.

So John and his wife Ellie discovered after they visited John’s brother at Port McNeill.

“My brother’s wife lost 70 pounds in six months,” John said. “We didn’t think she was that large before she thinned down.” Didn’t notice, he implied. Smart clothes concealed the body-line facts. But the weight-loss news was a sting to the health-aware conscience.

“We kind of looked at ourselves, and while I was up at Prince Rupert and Haida Gwai for the summer, we started to do something about it.”

And before the election writ was dropped, while early uncommitted voters were kicking the tires of the NDP image and policies and making up their minds, the Horgan weight-loss (down to 220 pounds) became an accomplished fact.

“How did you do it?” I asked. “We stopped eating sugar, bread and starches, like rice, potato and pasta, and went on a protein-rich diet.”

To me, that weight-loss sends an action message: Don’t merely skewer the late Liberal government for its continuing failure to give people added years of useful life by prevention. Take individual preventive action. Shed some flab. That isn’t enough, but it helps.

Eventually it could morph into a consensus as wide as “hate tobacco.” Former U.S. surgeon-general David Satcher said that if the U.S. wanted to shrink the residue of smokers down even further, it would need to take all possible steps at once, from warning labels on cigarette packages to lawsuits against tobacco companies to alternative high-value crops for tobacco farmers.

Saying that, only government can manage such a co-ordinative manoeuvre. Many Americans have a neurotic fear of their government; but a larger proportion of Canadians are ready to treat government as the instrument of the people’s will.

Canadian health care investigators Justice Emmett Hall and Roy Romanow were zealous advocates of prevention. The NDP’s Tommy Douglas, who launched medicare while balancing the Saskatchewan budget, hoped to wield preventive tactics to save lives and money - millions of people shielded from premature death and billions of dollars clipped from health-care spending or diverted into useful healthcare investment.

Prevention was Tommy’s Phase 2 goal when he jumped into the federal arena in the 1960s. (I was in Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto when he launched his national bid to the music of The Travellers. I even wrote some radio scripts for NDP politicians in spare time from work as a reporter at The Globe and Mail).

Liberal-Conservatives rejected Tommy Douglas’s design for prevention – arguably because of the misguided corporate push on politicians. Don’t hold your breath for Lib-Cons to sign on now, provincially or federally, whatever they may promise.


• G.E. Mortimore is a longtime columnist with the

Goldstream News Gazette.