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BC Liberal leadership candidate talks northwest issues

Vancouver-Langara BC Liberal MLA Michael Lee visited Terrace Aug. 2-3
Michael Lee, Vancouver-Langara MLA, B.C. Liberal transportation critic and BC Liberal leadership candidate speaks in the legislature, March 10, 2021. Lee visited Terrace Aug. 2-3 as part of his province-wide leadership tour. (Hansard TV)

BC Liberal leadership candidate Michael Lee advocated for greater provincial investment in Terrace and a “different path forward” during a campaign stop in the city Aug. 3.

In an interview, Lee, the MLA for Vancouver-Langara and BC Liberal transportation critic, told the Terrace Standard that the northwest region has “tremendous potential” and the provincial government needs to reinvest in the northwest.

“There are certain areas of our province here in the northwest that have that tax base, because industry is situated right there, like in Kitimat, but I think there needs to be some rebalancing here for some of these other communities that have a significant growth as a result of this, but don’t have the necessary build for the same tax base,” he said.

“I think that’s important that we be invest in these communities like Terrace, to ensure that there is that right balance.”

For Lee, that means the government of B.C. needs to do more to work with local leaders to make sure that transportation networks, housing and other community amenities keep up with growing demand.

“Road infrastructure, for example, in municipalities, like the three hills here to the benches, I saw some of that erosion. That’s a major safety consideration and concern as to how you build out a community, it needs to be done in partnership.”

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Lee said that partnerships are also important for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and those can take many different forms. Lee was one of two members of the BC Liberal caucus that that reviewed the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples in B.C.

“We went through that process recognizing the significance of it, but I think there needs to be a greater level of clarity as the path forward,” Lee said.

“This [NDP] government has been working on an action plan with First Nations and Indigenous peoples for over 18 months. I understand we’ve been in the pandemic, but still, I think we need more real progress on that and truer understanding as to how we’re going to build forward under that new framework.”

Prior to entering politics, Lee was a business lawyer in Vancouver, working with mining, forestry, energy and technology companies for 20 years. He ran for the leadership of the BC Liberals in 2018, finishing third in the race.

He said that for the BC Liberals to once again form government, the party needs to broaden its base and gain more support in the province’s largest population centre.

“We recognize all the regions of the province are important, but for the BC Liberal Party to move forward, to regain government we need to win back the Lower Mainland,” Lee said.

“For me, the learning around the first leadership race is really that we have to continue to broaden our base and in order to do that, we need to be more balanced and inclusive party, we also need to ensure that as we come forward, we have to restore trust with our party.”

Shirley Bond was named interim BC Liberal leader in November 2020 after Andrew Wilkinson lost his seat in the October 2020 general election. Whoever wins the leadership convention on Feb. 5, 2022 will become the party leader.

So far five other people besides Lee have declared their intent to run for leadership: Gavin Dew, a business person who ran in the 2016 by-election in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant; Kevin Falcon, former deputy premier and runner-up in the 2011 leadership election; Ellis Ross, MLA for Skeena and former chief councillor for Haisla Nation; Val Litwin, CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, and Renee Merrifield, health critic and Kelowna-Mission MLA.