You are on page 1of 8






Ladies and Gentlemen …

I want to thank my colleagues here today, my friends and supporters for coming, my
family, my Mom, but most importantly, my wife Jessica and our daughter Josephine,
without whose support I would not be taking this step today.

Last night I spoke with the Premier and advised him I was stepping down as Minister of
Health so I could focus all my energy on the task I want to share with you today: that is
to announce my candidacy for the Leadership of the BC Liberal party.

Every generation has the opportunity to define its future.

Today, British Columbians have that opportunity.

It is time for a new generation of leadership, a generation that will renew our
government and provide a clear vision of how British Columbia and our people can lead
our country and ensure our families can face an uncertain future with confidence.

It is a new generation of leadership and renewal that is not the exclusive preserve of
politicians or pundits or society elites, but rather leadership that taps into what has built
British Columbia into one of the great places in the world to live . . . it’s people.

It is time for a leader that sticks to three simple rules to guide us into the future:

Listen to people – Learn from them – and then Lead.

Listen. Learn. Lead. And lead decisively.

It is a simple promise, often forgotten by today’s politicians.

But in almost a decade in government, overseeing the health and transportation

ministries as a senior cabinet minister, I’ve come to see those three L’s as the true
essence of leadership.

That is the sort of leader we need in British Columbia.

Today, we are at a moment where our government – a government that has done many
things right – needs a new leader who will reach out once again to the people – to listen
and learn – and importantly – to lead.

This decision was not an easy one.

My wife Jessica and I have thought long and hard about what this tremendous
responsibility would mean to ourselves and our daughter Josephine.


But when I look at my daughter, who is just over 10 months old today, I see another
responsibility, a responsibility to provide leadership that is unafraid to deal directly with
the challenges our society faces.

To ensure we continue to provide an economic framework that encourages investment

and job creation;

to continue to make changes in our health care system, ensuring a strong, public health
care system will be there for their generation too; to fulfill what should be the promise of
each generation to provide the best possible education for our children that will prepare
them for a rapidly changing and competitive world.

I have been privileged to serve British Columbians and I have tried hard to make sure
that I do my homework – listen to the best advice possible – and try always to do the
right thing – not necessarily the easy thing.

And I am proud of our successes.

Our BC Liberal government eliminated the culture of deficit budgets that were the
standard of the 1990’s.

We restored BC’s triple AAA credit rating and dramatically reduced our personal income
taxes from what once was the highest in North America to the lowest in Canada.

Our critics may want to forget this record. But listen carefully to what the world said
when they visited us during the Winter Olympics:
they were in awe by what we accomplished in this corner of the continent.

It is now time for our generation to build on this legacy. We must begin by
acknowledging the obvious – that no government is infallible…that we do make

The manner in which the HST was introduced and explained is perhaps the best
example of that.

The public of British Columbia does not expect a perfect government – but they do
deserve one in which mistakes are acknowledged and where appropriate, corrected.

We need leadership on the HST right now.

The message from the public is very clear – they are upset at not being consulted and
are angry over how it was implemented.

I take my share of responsibility.

I’ve listened and I’ve learned from it.


As premier, I would respect the will of the people, but I would also move up the date of
the HST referendum to reduce uncertainty.

George Abbott has suggested June 24th and I think that is a good idea.

I am therefore calling on my fellow leadership candidates today, to join with me in

signing a letter to the Premier and Executive Council – to ask ElectionsBC to move up
the date of the referendum to that date in June.

I am preparing and signing such a letter today and will be circulating it to the other
candidates at the end of this week.

With unanimous agreement we can get that happening now.

If 50 per cent plus one of British Columbians vote to scrap the tax, I will eliminate it.

But I also want to ensure that the public has a real and informed choice.

In the months ahead, before we take this historic vote, I intend to foster an informed and
honest debate on the HST.

For the good of our province, it is time to do what we neglected to do at the outset –
share the facts – both pro and con – about the HST – eliminate the scare mongering
and politics – and allow the public to make an informed decision.

But I repeat … if British Columbians vote to scrap the HST, it will be scrapped.

But let’s not lose sight of the opportunity that a referendum provides.

A referendum is a mandate – and a mandate is a great opportunity to engage the public

in a debate over what direction this policy should take.

As leader I will begin an important and broader discussion about what, if anything, we
can do to improve the HST.

As former Health Minister, responsible for the single largest spending ministry in
government, I know how important good tax policy is to support important social
priorities like health care and education.

For example, should we look at reducing the HST rate? I’d like to begin a discussion
about how people would feel about lowering the HST rate over time to 10%.

Perhaps a 1% reduction in 2011 and a further 1% when provincial revenues are

sufficient to accommodate it.

I want to be clear, I believe the HST is sound tax policy for a more competitive
economy and I don’t want to pass up the opportunity for a full, open and informed
dialogue prior to the public exercising their mandate.


It is important we remind ourselves that in the space of a few centuries, British
Columbia has emerged as one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

We are so fortunate to live here, but we have to keep writing the story of our province
and its promise.

There are new chapters our generation must now write.

We live in a comparatively small economy, in a highly competitive global market that

does not stand still. We cannot either.

Leadership demands that we must take every advantage of a new vision that will
leverage our key assets such as:

• BC’s geographic location as Canada’s only Pacific Gateway province that

connects North America to the fastest growing, most dynamic area in the world –
• A province that enjoys abundant natural resources in demand around the world.

• A province that has the benefit of a diverse population that has already built a
cultural bridge to connect with the growing economies of Korea, India, China and
Southeast Asia.

My commitment as Premier would be to transform our cultural advantage into an

economic bridge that secures our economy for the next generation and beyond.

Over the next few months, I intend to listen very hard to all British Columbians on how
we build the best possible future for our children.

I will also share some ideas of my own that are informed by almost a decade of
traveling to every part of this province and speaking to folks from every walk of life.

But one thing I have learned from those conversations is that too often we tend to
overlook the contributions made by those individuals and communities who live outside
of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

The investments we’ve made at the Port of Prince Rupert and the further investments
that have been facilitated with inter-modal facilities in Prince George and the ports in
Vancouver, should now be leveraged to create new engines of economic growth for our

Our investments in airports, whether in Prince George, Smithers, Cranbrook and

Comox, or Kelowna, Abbottsford and Nanaimo ensure we connect communities to
economic opportunities.


The construction of the Cariboo Connector, the Kicking Horse Canyon, improving Hwy
#1 from Kamloops to the Alberta border, and the construction of the Port Mann Bridge
are not just about having safer, freer flowing highways, it is about a vision that
recognizes that a small trading economy like British Columbia demands a transportation
network that ensures we have a competitive advantage over competing jurisdictions.

We are builders again in British Columbia and I am proud to have played a role as your
previous Minister of Transportation for 6 years, in conjunction with my colleagues.

As leader I will continue to build and invest across our province because I fundamentally
believe that our future economic prospects depend on it.

Being a new Dad has also reminded me of the importance of preparing our children for
a world that will be very different than the one we know today.

It will be a world where the Asia-Pacific region will generate half the worlds GDP during
their lifetimes.

We need to ensure all our kids are ready to meet this challenge by realizing the

We need to expand the language options available across the province to ensure our
kids can learn Chinese and Indian languages, along with French and English.

We also need to ensure that no child is denied a proper education because of a learning

For example, bright children with dyslexia – many of whom have unique skills for a
digital world - shouldn’t be forgotten because our education system is not geared to
help them learn the way they need to learn.

So too with autistic children.

We must ensure parents of autistic children are supported in choosing the best style of
intervention for their kids and ensuring parents know that they will have support in
figuring out how we can make the system work better for them – not have them work
better with our system.

It is simply the right thing to do to ensure no children are forgotten.

Yet the reality of the 21st Century economy is tough on families – whether it’s dealing
with aging parents, two working parents holding down two or more jobs, or those with
young children seeking accessible, affordable daycare.


We need to be clear that government cannot solve every problem imagined but it can,
with leadership, imagine solutions that better meet those problems.

It is time that we help parents access seamless childcare options in this province.

Why not look at leveraging our existing school infrastructure in a way that provides
options for parents to access services from 7am to 7pm. This could include childcare,
sports, music and arts.

Its time to create better strategies to lift families up. That includes increasing the
minimum wage – but recognizing it needs to be done in a consultative way to ensure we
stage any increases to help our small businesses adapt.

But we also recognize that the best job we can do as government is ensuring we
maintain a low tax environment that encourages job creating investment and allows
more money to be left in the pockets of families.

Finally, I want to express my sincere belief that we need a strong public health care

This is an issue that is very personal to me.

I learned the value of our health system from my mother who was a nurse for 30 years,
most of that time at St. Paul’s hospital.

She was a part of the social safety net that helps countless people in time of need.

That same system – and the people who make it work – helped our family too.

They were there when my brother Greg was critically injured over 20 years ago – they
were there when my father suffered through a slow, degenerative illness that robbed
him of his ability to feed himself or even communicate.

Both those examples are seared into my DNA – particularly the knowledge that without
a strong public health care system to look after our family – we could not have
financially managed.

It is why I will continue to honestly tell British Columbians that those who say the only
answer to our health care challenge is to change nothing and just spend more money –
are wrong.

To preserve an outstanding public health care system we must never be afraid to

innovate and ensure that every dollar we put into health care – maximizes the benefits
and measures the outcomes of that system.

I didn’t approach the challenge of being Health Minister from a right wing or left wing
perspective – that is too simplistic.


Instead I took my favoured approach.

I listened to the public and to health care experts. I learned about the issues by using
facts and evidence. And I’ve led by acting on those facts and challenging the status quo
to do better with our tax dollars.

I can best be defined as a results person.

I want to be judged by the results of my decisions.

Whether it was leading the effort to successfully reduce red tape by one-third in our
government’s first 3 years, or working with my colleagues to successfully complete
projects as diverse as the William Bennett Bridge or the Canada Line or implementing
the 48 million dollar Seek and Treat HIV/Aids program to ensure we provide treatment
to at risk populations that are the hardest to reach.

I want and I believe the public expects – that their elected officials must be accountable
for results.

I’m excited about the next 90 days and the opportunity to share my ideas and vision and
discuss them with people around the province.

I look forward to reaching out to BC Liberals and encouraging them to join with us and
be part of this renewal process.

Most importantly I want to welcome back to the party, those who share a common belief
that the BC Liberal party remains the best option to deliver the right balance of
economic growth and smart government programs that will create the best possible
future for our children.

Thank you.