BCBusiness publisher Peter Legge sits down with Premier Gordon Campbell for a wide-ranging conversation on everything from the plunging real estate market to the Olympics to whether B.C.’s two-term premier deserves one more shot.
When I meet up with Gordon Campbell at his Vancouver office in late January, he’s battling a cough and has a bit of a strained voice. I tell him my solution, based on years of experience as a public speaker: consume a few regular potato chips, as the oil in the chips brings your voice back to normal almost instantly. The premier reaches into his wallet, takes out a $5 bill and asks one of his staffers to slip downstairs and buy a bag of chips as we begin our conversation. This year Campbell celebrates 25 years as an elected official, starting as a Vancouver city councillor in 1984 and continuing as the city’s mayor, the BC Liberal leader and, for the past 7½ years, B.C.’s premier. If re-elected on May 12 – and assuming he serves out his full mandate – Campbell would become the third-longest-serving premier in B.C. history.
Peter Legge: In all the years I’ve known you and heard you speak in person or watched you on television, I’ve only observed you get quite emotional twice. The first time was when you were first sworn in as premier at Government House in Victoria, and the second time was at the funeral of Stan Hagen (the late minister of agriculture and lands, who died on Jan. 20) in Comox last weekend.
Gordon Campbell: Stan Hagen never allowed a label to get in his way. He was always there to help you as a person and never personalized a fight. He had a sense of grace in everything he did. He also loved public life and, yes, one’s entire family gives up something while you do the job. He loved what he did, but he loved his family more. Both spectrums moved me emotionally.
Legge: How do you feel about the tenor of public discourse these days – particularly in Ottawa, but also closer to home?
Campbell: I think there’s a huge shift that has to take place. We have to move away from the partisanship and personalized politics, and we have to get on with solving people’s problems, particularly with the changes that are taking place in the world today. We have to think about families first, not politics. We have to think about how we take care of our kids. Canadians are sick of personalized attacks and partisan politics. They want their elected officials to create jobs and solve problems.
Legge: What’s your philosophy on working with those with a different viewpoint?
Campbell: I’ve been in public life a long time and I’ve learned that everyone has something to contribute. The most important thing is that we should always look for ways that we can find agreement. If we focus on agreement, we’ll run out of resources before we run out of agreement. We’ve got many common goals and objectives. We should focus on those – not the differences, but the commonalities.
Legge: Politics is an adversarial business, though. How do you establish and build a constructive relationship with the official Opposition?
Campbell: The nature of our election cycle can make that very difficult, as people get wrapped up in politicking. Having said that, I think it’s important for us to constantly invite positive and constructive solutions from the Opposition. Frankly, the thing I’m always focused on is not so much the Opposition or the Government but what we can all do to create jobs and sustain them for the long term.