Whether it’s housing or resource projects, childcare or wineries, one of the things that I hear from people constantly is frustration with red tape and stalled projects.
We need to get better at getting to yes.
That’s a good slogan, but slogans alone are not enough.
The BC Liberals need a new leader with real world experience bringing people together to turn things around and get stuff done, in the face of politics and bureaucracy and opposition.
We need someone who understands what it’s like to feel the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in building up businesses - and who knows what it’s like to see opportunities strangled by red tape.
That’s what I’ve spent most of the last two decades doing as a community leader, business advisor, and executive, including helping navigate billions of dollars in capital investment through complex regulatory and political hurdles.
Since I’m introducing myself to many BC Liberal members for the first time in this leadership race, I want to share some of my story with you:
- My teenage years were troubled. But the direction of my life changed in Grade 12 when I discovered the power of positive action while responding to a teacher’s cancer diagnosis by raising $13,000 for cancer research, and in the process helping shake off the sadness that had gripped our school community.
- I fell in love with business as a UBC student leader, running the financial turnaround of a 15,000 person charity rock concert (Arts County Fair) after a series of crippling losses. I was 20 and knew nothing about business when I started, but I was the only one willing to take it on and I learned an incredible amount in the process.
- That led to representing more than 40,000 students as an executive of UBC’s student association, cleaning up the mess left by a radical left-wing administration. I secured investments to improve academic support programs and fought the forces of no to get more than 1500 units of affordable on-campus housing built for future generations of students.
- After graduating I helped UBC to re-engineer their fundraising and alumni relations office in advance of a $1.5B capital campaign, then ran career and mentorship programs for students and young alumni to build up the next generation of leaders.
- I later went into consulting, with a focus on sustainability and urban policy issues. I ran the first advocacy campaign to get the Broadway Line built, and worked to get hundreds of transit oriented housing units built on the Canada Line. That left me with the strong opinion that it’s an insult to taxpayers across BC when their money helps pay for urban rapid transit projects and there’s still single family housing sitting across the street from Skytrain stations years or decades later.
- A decade ago, I took out a gigantic student loan to attend Oxford University in the UK and get an MBA. I wrote my thesis on corporate ethics and “social license,” or how companies get permission from communities to build stuff.
- That led me to three years working to get the 1000km Trans Mountain Expansion Project built, helping navigate 30 months of regulatory process. I’m proud of the work I did to engage the business community, get to yes, and make sure that local people and small businesses had the opportunity to benefit from jobs and procurement on a multi-billion-dollar project going through their communities.
- I spent another three years as a senior executive at Canada’s largest gaming and entertainment company. Living out of a suitcase in Ontario, I negotiated agreements and partnerships with municipalities and First Nations that helped add more than 5000 new long-term jobs in some of the most economically challenged communities in Ontario. I negotiated one of the most complex Community Benefits Agreements ever done in Canada, securing open shop construction on a massive project in union-dominated Toronto.
- Working with law enforcement and military veterans, we built and sold a security and regulatory advisory company. Our work included investigative due diligence to keep organized crime from infiltrating and extorting the regulated cannabis sector - because getting to yes can’t just mean saying yes to anything.
- I helped my wife Erin to launch a licensed childcare operation. I can tell you firsthand that John Horgan and the NDP are making things worse for childcare providers in their drive toward a government-run, union-dominated, one-size-fits all approach that deprives parents of childcare choice.
- For most of the last two years, I have been leading the turnaround of a proposed multi-billion-dollar agricultural technology and aerospace cluster in Abbotsford, which would create affordable housing, educational opportunities, and local jobs while strengthening BC agriculture and improving our food security.
In between, I’ve worked on everything from sustainability to medical technology to interprovincial trade barriers to trades certification, while volunteering my time in business, charity, and academic governance roles.
Experience matters, and I’m ready to lead our party into the future. I’m used to fighting uphill battles with a lot at stake, and I’m committed to doing the hard work it will take to win future elections.