Vancouver Sun - VICTORIA — Michael Lee, the MLA for Vancouver-Langara, launched his bid for the leadership of the B.C. Liberal party on his Facebook page on Wednesday night, with a promise to restore trust.
“British Columbians have lost trust in the B.C. Liberal Party. First and foremost, we must restore that trust, and I will do so from Day 1 by leading with integrity, truly listening and uniting the party,” said Lee.
The son of immigrants from Hong Kong said he believes he can unite diverse groups, expand the party’s base and appeal to a wide range of B.C. voters.
“My approach is to be broad and inclusive to rebalance the party,” he said. “I have had over 30 years of community service, a track record of commitment to serve the community, to make a real impact. With my experience in working with tech and resource companies all around B.C., I understand the need for an economic rebuild for our province.
“And with the last four years of experience I’ve had as the MLA for Vancouver-Langara, I understand what our party needs, in terms of leading with integrity and leading with values.”
Lee’s campaign kickoff included videotaped messages of support from the former leader of the party’s youth wing, Akhil Sehgal, and Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart.
This is the second time Lee has run for the party’s top job. He came third in 2018. Lee said this time around, it’s different.
“If there’s one thing we’ve seen with this pandemic is the world is changing quickly and we need to change our approach,” he said. “We need to rebuild our party by winning back those who have left us and grow it by diversifying our base. I believe my values will help to do that.”
The 56-year-old father of three grown children was first elected in 2017. He is one of only four B.C. Liberals to hold onto their seats in Metro Vancouver in the last election. Lee pointed out his popularity continued to rise from the first time he was elected to the second, while his party’s popularity plummeted over that time.
“We know that to lead this province after the next election, we have to strengthen our support in the Lower Mainland and also recognize, as we look at issues like the environment, health care, the opioid crisis, reconciliation with Indigenous people, housing, homelessness, education and transportation, that these are all connected and these are common values shared by B.C. Liberals and British Columbians,” said Lee.
“But as we go forward, we need to make sure that taxes we collect from the public are spent in a smart way. I believe we can do that through collaboration and partnerships among all sectors, including business, community groups, First Nations and government.”
Before entering provincial politics, Lee was a special assistant to former federal Conservative leader Kim Campbell. Lee points to his organizing skills through his involvement with the provincial Liberal’s success in persuading voters to reject the proposal to switch to proportional representation, in a referendum that was held in 2018.
The other official candidate for the leadership is Kevin Falcon. Lee does not have the same level of name recognition as Falcon, but Lee does not carry the same political baggage as Falcon, who served under premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark.
As part of his campaign launch last month, Falcon recommended the B.C. Liberal party change its name.
However, Lee said he will wait for direction from the party membership before supporting a name change.
“A name is just one part of a rebuild. The challenges we have are not just cosmetic and for me we need to come together over our common values. For me, that means re-engaging with party members from the ground up. Party members are going to talk about the name and that’s an important component of the rebuild, but that’s not the first thing I will start with.”
B.C. Liberals have until Nov. 30 to declare their candidacies for leader. Party members will vote on a new leader from Feb. 3 to 5, with the winning candidate being announced on Feb. 5.