Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake announced his support for George Abbott in the B.C. Liberal leadership race to Barriere and area residents in person on Thursday, Dec. 17, at Barr K Treats. Lake and Abbott were in the area as part of the leadership campaign tour, and took the time to schedule on short notice a meet and great at the restaurant with just over 30 members of the public attending.
“As premier, George will offer a unique perspective as a longtime resident of our region and will bring a collaborative and engaging style to governing,” Lake said. “His leadership will ultimately benefit our communities and ridings across the province. I’m pleased to support him as the next premier.”
At the time, with the addition of Lake, the number of Liberal MLAs backing Abbott stood at 13.
The other leadership contenders are Christy Clark, Kevin Falcon, Michael de Jong, and Moira Stilwell.
Abbott has strong roots in rural B.C. He was born in Enderby, and grew up in Sicamous, where he operates a farm today with his wife and three children. If he wins his candidacy he will be the first rural Premier in 30 years to take the office.
“I think what is most important from my perspective in this campaign is that our party, in fundamental ways, has lost the trust of British Columbians,” said Abbott. “We have a lot of work to do in reconnecting with the people of this province, and getting back to the grass roots. We need to reach out to the people, sit down with the people, and talk to the people. Our government had become too accustomed to solving problems without including the people in the discussion. If it doesn’t change we are in the ditch as a party here. We need to spend the next two and a half years re-engaging with the people.”
“There is a lot of anger out there against our government, and even in our government. Something Terry and I have done, and will continue to do, is connect with the people. It is absolutely fundamental that people have that opportunity.”
Abbott agrees that the introduction of the harmonized sales tax has done a lot of damage to the BC Liberals Party.
“I actually believe in the HST,” said Abbott, “It’s probably a long shot that it is going to pass, but for the resource industry such as forestry, mining, tourism, and ranching it offers a huge opportunity. Now is the time to get people to see that over time the HST will not only benefit consumers but also property owners.”
Lake interjected, “If we lose the HST we will seriously harm a lot of the resource and agriculture industries in North Thompson Valley.”
Abbott said he wants to get the referendum HST question done with by moving it up to June 25 or 26. “If people want PST we’ll do the best we can to make it the best for British Columbians,” said the candidate.
He heavily emphasizes that reconnecting with the grass roots of the province is vitally important and says as premier he would spend more time in all areas of the province meeting with the people of B.C. to discuss their concerns and ideas.
Abbot is passionate about the resource sector of B.C.’s economy, and says his highest priority would be to make sure the province’s main industries, from forestry, to mining, to tourism thrive; noting those industries need to be performing well for B.C.’s economy to expand and diversify.
“Our resources allow us to have all of the infrastructure and culture we have come to expect in our towns and communities such as Barriere. Manufacturing, high-tech, restaurant, and merchant industries do well when resource industries work as optimally as they possibly can in this province,” said Abbott. “All wealth ultimately comes from the land.”
One member of the public asked, “What about this B.C. Rail thing? It doesn’t seem to go away.”
“I don’t know how we make it go away,” said Abbott, “Fortunately I don’t have any connections to BC Rail. I want to focus on moving ahead, not spending $20 million for another inquiry.”
Abbott also noted that he felt it was imperative to give B.C. farmers and ranchers an opportunity to be competitive, to support them through flood, wildfire, and drought, and to make sure that when a program is available farmers and ranchers have an opportunity to participate.
“We need to focus on training and employment opportunities for our young people by taking advantage of our resource industry,” said Abbott, “We have the opportunity to see British Columbia become a real powerhouse in the 21st Century, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. I very much look forward to working with you and building B.C. into that powerhouse.”