Political newcomer aims to take ‘new perspectives’ to legislature

Q&A: Michael Lee, B.C. Liberal Party candidate, Vancouver-Langara

One in a series of profiles of first-time Vancouver candidates in the May 9 provincial election.

Michael Lee, partner with the business law firm Lawson Lundell LLP, was born and raised in Vancouver as the son of Hong Kong immigrants. A graduate of the University of Victoria law school, he is a board member with the YMCA of Greater Vancouver Foundation and past chair of Arts Umbrella and the University of British Columbia alumni board. He is married and has three young adult children.

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The following are excerpts from Kirk LaPointe’s interview with Lee:

Q&A

Q: Why choose to run now?

A: I’ve had a 20-year business law career and I’ve reached the point in my career where I have the ability to take on another opportunity like this. I feel like I have the experience in the business community in working with various parts of our economy in forestry, mining, energy, technology – areas that are real key drivers for who we are as a province.

I think as a province we have a lot of opportunity in front of us but we’re missing on some of those opportunities. It has to be done in a balanced, thoughtful way, one that’s respectful of our First Nations and our environmental regulations. But still there is a lot that we can accomplish moving forward.

Q: How do you feel you’re suited for public service?

A: I feel like I’m a strong problem-solver, someone who can work on the kind of necessary collaborations we need to have between government, our private sector, our non-profit world and other organizations in our province.

Q: What is your unique contribution?

A: I come forward as a candidate who is a second-generation Canadian. I think it’s an important perspective to bring. Hopefully we get beyond the kind of counting of who we have in our elective life – when we look at the provincial cabinet, for example, looking at whether we have one of these, two of those and three of those. It’s a great thing to renew the country in that way to move forward, but I think we’re at a point of our process politically when we need to come forward a bit more.

Q: What one issue do you believe you will be most independent-minded about?

A: How can we innovate the ways we do things as government? I think for me as a new candidate coming forward, it would be about bringing new perspectives on ways of looking at how we work within government and how we work with others outside of government – industry and universities, for example.

Q: What are your apprehensions? 

A: I think there is a lot of noise that goes on in public life.

I’ve knocked on over 6,000 doors in this riding to date and the ones I am more concerned about are where people come to the door who just aren’t engaged. They don’t have time. They don’t understand. They don’t really care. We need to care more. We need to care about who we elect.

The polarized environment we have here in British Columbia, it doesn’t usually bode well for reasoned and thoughtful discussion.

When you meet people ... even if they have a different point of view than you, you get energy from that because at least they’re hearing – at least they’re having a dialogue with you. It’s the ones that shut down, the ones that just don’t want to open up; those are the ones I’m most concerned about.

Q: If you were sitting here as a first-term MLA, what would you hope you would have accomplished?

A: I would like to be the MLA who is rooted in my community. I know this riding well, but it’s about more than just knowing it – it’s about representing it well.  To be a representative means you need to know the concerns of your constituents. And that’s an ongoing process. I think regaining confidence and trust in who we elect is a big part of this for me.

Kirk LaPointe is the vice-president of audience and business development at Business in Vancouver, one of the Vancouver Courier’s sister papers. In 2014 he was the NPA’s candidate in the race for Vancouver’s mayor, garnering 40 per cent of the votes in his loss to Gregor Robertson. He is profiling five new candidates in the lead up to the provincial election.

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