Former British Columbia premier John Horgan says he's speeding up his retirement plans, but isn't ruling out accepting a political appointment in the future.

Horgan gave an emotional farewell speech in the legislature Thursday, saying he "loved every minute" of his 30-year career at the provincial legislature, but the time had come to do other things.

Horgan, 63, who has twice battled cancer, announced last June health reasons were forcing him to retire after five years as premier, eight years as New Democratic Party leader and five terms as a member of the legislature, representing his Victoria-area riding.

The former New Democrat premier also worked as a political staff member at the legislature for a dozen years before running for office in 2005.

"I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity," Horgan said. "I often pinch myself: 'How have I been so lucky.'"

He told members of the house that he was healthy, and thanked all those who supported him during his battle with throat cancer.

In his 35-minute speech, he also thanked several members of the legislature, Liberal and NDP, who sat with him over his years, from when "tyrannosaurus were roaming the lawns" of the legislature.

Premier David Eby, who succeeded Horgan last December, said the former premier's passion and compassion for everybody at the legislature and the people of the province earned him his nickname, "Premier Dad."

Eby cited Horgan's accomplishments while in office, including a groundbreaking child-care program, reforming political donation law, eliminating medical services premiums and tolls on bridges, and navigating the province through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former B.C. premier John Horgan to leave early as member of legislature. #BCPoli

Opposition Liberal house leader Todd Stone said Horgan has had a storied political career.

"I certainly never doubted he cared about his constituents, his community and his province," said Stone, speaking on behalf of Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon, who was not in the legislature Thursday.

"It never went unnoticed the care John would show all people in the building," he said. "Thank you for always doing your level best."

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said Horgan was a driving force behind the collaborative efforts between the Greens and the NDP after the 2017 election, where they formed a minority government.

"We did find a way to work together, and of the work we've done I'm incredibly proud," she said. "Thank you for caring about the people of B.C."

Horgan was considered by party members, political colleagues and opponents, and commentators as one of B.C.'s most popular premiers, and was consistently ranked by pollsters as one of the most popular leaders in Canada.

Known for his take-no-prisoners approach while in Opposition, Horgan transformed into a gregarious, collaborative leader following the 2017 election, where he became premier after forming the minority government.

He called a snap election in the fall of 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, winning a large majority and reducing the Opposition Liberals to 27 seats in the 87-seat legislature.

While Horgan didn't give a specific time for his departure, he suggested outside the legislature that St. Patrick's Day on March 17 might be a good day to go.

When he announced last June he was stepping down as premier, Horgan said he would continue to serve as the MLA for his riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca until the next B.C. election, set for the fall of 2024.

That now has changed.

"I spent a lot of time doing this and I believe there are other things in the world for me to do," he said after delivering his speech in the legislature. "I think I've got other skills and abilities and I'm going to exercise them."

Horgan did not rule out accepting a political appointment in the future, especially one from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"The prime minister has been very kind to me," he said. "If there is something that he needs me to do, I'd certainly consider that, but I'm not ruling out anything."

Horgan said his support for society's underdogs was a lifelong passion that came from his own upbringing by his mother, Alice, who raised four children on her own, at times accepting food hampers to get by.

His father, Patrick, died from a brain aneurysm when Horgan was 18 months old.

He often credited a high school basketball coach for turning his life around as a teen, telling him to report to the gym and stop hanging around street corners and the local pool hall.

Horgan said he spent his political career trying to represent his community, riding and province.

"I have no regrets because I have every day tried my best to make a positive impact and to have the opportunity over 30 years in this place is like, it's nuts," he said. "I started opening the mail and I got to be the premier."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2023.

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