BC Liberals all over the province are gearing up for two important votes – on Feb. 26th when members choose a new Premier, and this weekend on Feb. 12th when members vote whether to change the BC Liberal party constitution. If two-thirds of party members on Saturday vote for a new 'weighted vote' and preferential ballot, then on the 26th the person who is chosen "number two" has a very good chance of becoming Premier.
Mike De Jong wants to be your #2 pick. Today he's now in my "top 2" picks and here's why.
Wednesday's editorial in The Province repeated what we've heard from others, such as Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason, which is none of the current candidates for leader – BC Liberal or NDP – have expressed a vision for British Columbia's future.
The two most significant parties in B.C. are both holding leadership races right now, so where are the big ideas? Where is the debate? When is someone going to present some vision of where B.C. needs to go, and why they are the person to lead us there?
Hear, hear. I have spoken to as many members in the past several weeks who have this same complaint, as I have heard members who have already decided who to choose for Premier. There are those who are attracted by Christy Clark's populism and high poll numbers, or to Kevin Falcon's record in government or business support, or George Abbott's 'steady hand on the tiller' approach. But what ideas are coming forth that truly inspire people in the room?
On Tuesday night I went to hear Mike De Jong speak, and I finally heard someone sound like they weren't just trying to step into Gordon Campbell's shoes. While De Jong addressed an intimate crowd of about fifty guests, I couldn't help but keep nodding as he spoke. It wasn't a nervous tick, but a realization that Mike is really excited about the future of our province, and as much as I am.
Before this week De Jong was barely on my radar. His campaign has been relatively low key, apart from announcing he's sold 10,000 (he says it's now closer to 13,000) memberships last week. Hailing from Matsqui in the Fraser Valley, Mike has tapped heavily into local South Asian support and has been accused of not paying as much attention to other communities. He hired Alberta political top gun Rod Love for strategic support, but his campaign didn't catch fire in recent weeks.
What I'm seeing now is Mike is slowly gaining ground. We know that De Jong is the best political orator of all six BC Liberal candidates. Last month when addressing a roomful of smart phone toting under-40s who ignored the candidate speeches, it's said that Mike was the only one that the crowd actually stopped chatting long enough to listen to.
When he began speaking on Tuesday he was gracious. He said that all six people running for the BC Liberal leadership would be a great Premier, and he would back them all if he didn't win. That's a message we're not hearing in recent days, where some campaigns are getting a little testy with each other.
Then Mike delivered a message I've been wanting to hear from one of the candidates. He talked about how British Columbia must distinguish itself in a global society. He reminded us that we're a Pacific province, and that our markets are "out there" across the oceans. In order for B.C. to distinguish ourselves and to be noticed by the world we must stand on each other's shoulders. We're only four and a half million people, but with one voice we can conquer the skeptics.
It's true, I believe, that British Columbia's economic and cultural destiny is more closely linked to Asia and the Pacific Rim, or even Cascadia, than it is to the rest of Canada. In his talk De Jong underlined the fact that India now has the largest middle class in the world, and that all the connections we could possibly wish for to business in China, Singapore or Mumbai are living right among us.
Yet, we're always talking about trade missions as though spending thousands of tax dollars sending politicians and bureaucrats overseas will create business. It's more accurate that networks create business, and those networks are here if you want to find them. De Jong points that out.
Government, he says, doesn't create jobs and build an economy over the long term. Business does.
As we near the first anniversary of the 2010 Games it's pretty clear that we've not been very strategic as a province or a region on leveraging the Games' exposure to profit B.C., Tom Cruise movies and Gregor Robertson's unsubstantiated claims notwithstanding. In De Jong's message you can hear the possibilities that await our province if we only go after them. That's what made the prospect of bringing the Olympics here exciting.
I've watched Mike De Jong in many contexts, and while I cannot claim to know him well, I believe he is honest, hard-working and sincere. He's a terrific speaker – no candidate comes close – but he also has something to say. This weekend all six candidates will be facing off downtown during the Feb. 12th vote. I recommend that you listen very carefully to what Mike has to say.
Vision? Mike's got one. If you're a BC Liberal member already decided on your top pick and looking out for number two, give serious thought to Mike De Jong as your second choice.
- post by Mike