Val Litwin for BC Liberal Party Leader

Val Litwin - powered by Happy Scribe

So we'll jump right into it. You've got about five minutes here for an introductory remarks.

Great. Thanks, Kaivan. So I'd like to acknowledge I'm on the traditional territory of the Lexington people here tonight. Of course. Thank you to our riding hosts and thank you to all of you that are tuning in tonight on a warm summer night. And thank you as well to the other candidates. It's been terrific listening to Kevin and Mike so far. So I think I can hear the question each of you is thinking right now. Why would an outsider be vying for the leadership of our party?

And for those of you that are actually thinking of that, let me suggest you frame it in a slightly different way. Why am I an outsider to begin with? Even though I've had a diverse career ranging from health care to public policy work, I do come from the world of entrepreneurship, the world of business, the world of balance sheets. And success in the business world is simple. You connect products or services with folks who are willing to be their hard earned cash for those products.

But if your idea doesn't connect, your business fails. And right now, the audience for the B.C. Liberal Party is shrinking. And that's why the party base wants serious, serious change. But what I've learned in my conversations, cable and everyone who's listening here tonight over the last eight months is that our audience wants to be found. They want to participate. They want us to step up. So, again, why am I an outsider? Well, let's look at the three audiences my campaign is focusing on.

The first is business. Now, I come from the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, but my entire career has been a model of service leadership designed to connect people with the resources they need to thrive in. Tens of thousands of entrepreneurs have looked at the Chamber Network in B.C. to connect their business with other British Columbians and other markets. I know how to talk to the B.C. business community, and I'll let you in on a little secret when we're talking to this community.

We have to stop thinking we have business in our back pocket. We have to stop thinking that they probably vote B.C. liberal and we have to stop thinking. But the B.C. liberals know how to protect and grow. The economy is only as though the only obstacle that business owners faces an overreaching government. The world is more complicated in twenty, twenty one. So just a quick story. Patrick Tyrer is a small business owner in Victoria. His clothing business was hammered by the pandemic.

He's had a brutal year and a half, but covid also brought him a silver lining for the entire year. Patrick, his wife and his daughter had family dinners at their kitchen table every night. And the experience, he told me, changed his view of the future he wants to build for his daughter because his priorities are changing. Now, the business community wants to succeed and get government on their side, but they also understand the pandemic. Climate change and affordable housing are driving a new economic reality.

For example, childcare used to be a social issue, but now it's a business issue. Perspectives and realities are changing. So the second audience I am focusing on is women, women elect governments in Canada. If we lose sight of what women value, we lose the ability to form government. And it's far too simplistic to suggest that women care more about health care, education and social issues than men. Instead, we need to dig into how the issues of health care, education and other social issues impact women because it is disproportionate.

The pandemic is affecting women totally differently than men. But women are BK's secret weapon. The data shows us they build more resilient, inclusive and profitable businesses. So we need to empower women and work together to knock down the barriers that are in their way. And we have a child care challenge here in B.C., as we know. But why? Because when a pandemic hits, the people forced to bear the burden of child care are women. And this is sending ripples through our economy like a hot knife through butter.

We need to reach out and listen more closely to women and other underrepresented groups if we're going to form government. Which brings me to my final audience, younger voters to me. Anyone under the age of 40 is a younger voter, and sixty one percent of British Columbians are now under the age of 40. If we're going to succeed, we cannot rely on the thirty nine percent that built the party. Do we need their wisdom and experience? Yes, of course we do.

But just like a family business, we must look to the next generation to take what this party has built and run with it into the future. Real people are demanding answers on housing, climate change, racial injustice. The list goes on. They want to see their future in the communities they grew up in, and they are demanding more of the B.C. Liberal Party than we have chosen to invest. Historically, they want progress on indigenous reconciliation, compassionate care for their parents and for governments to tackle social problems with new ideas and energy.

And that's why I'm running. I am not an outsider. I'm bringing the new emerging perspective to the party that will help us meet the moment and free us from our past. So I'll close with this. Let's not go into another election where we're dragged down by the past. Let's spring forward into twenty, twenty four and beyond, and we must embrace this chance to change. So let's support your renewal. Thank you.

Thanks so much for those are some pretty candid and unvarnished remarks, but they certainly ring true for a lot of members and folks listening in tonight. So we'll jump in on the first question here. And it has to do specifically with the thank you for your writings. So how can we win back some of them, some of the Vancouver ridings where we lost ground in the recent election? And recent elections, primaries as well, I think it's been a trend over the years, so, yeah, I think one for me, this connects back to us embracing this next generation of voters.

And so I said it before, but sixty one percent of the population is under the age of 40. Are we speaking to their issues, are we reflecting them in this party or are we going out there and seeking out diverse candidates, age, gender, ethnicity, religion? We have to reflect now the party of the future, but also the party that is B.S. We have to reflect those communities.

So on on the one hand, I do think there's a real dimension to this question that's around diversity, equity and inclusion. And for me, the way I look at that issue is we are creating, I hope, a, B, C, where everyone feels like they belong, where they feel safe, where they all have a chance of success. However, they choose to define that. And so we need to maintain that commitment to a vibrant and very civil society.

Part of that is who we bring into the party so that we can attract those voters when it comes time for reelection. But I would also say and I suspect this is another question, so I don't want to get too far into it. But we have to now be speaking about affordability in a much more profound and meaningful way, because affordability, especially for that younger generation, is really about do they see a future for themselves in this place? So for me, this is about, of course, pulling in that next generation of voters, speaking to the issues that are important to them, but making sure that we challenge the old principles and the old things that we held dear and is eternal truths in this party about what the voters are interested in.

So I talked a little bit about this, too, that we've always been the pro-business pro economy first party. Any political party now that isn't putting people in the middle of the picture is no longer electable. But the good news is for the B.C. Liberal Party is if we don't have a thriving, fair, inclusive economy, we we actually can't make those investments in people. So we're still the right party. We're still the right vehicle. But we have to wake up and we have to understand people want more than just a business private sector pitch.

It has to be more realistic now. That's thank you for that, those very insightful and just a reminder to folks who are tuning in right now, if if you do want to increase the size of the screen, you can click view in the top right hand corner and then just click, click side by side gallery and then expand the size of the of the camera box. So we'll move on to our second question here. And it's as leader, what would you do to provide a comprehensive plan to deal with the European crisis?

I know this is a very sensitive issue that's been accelerated by the pandemic. I think everybody on this call has a friend or through two degrees of separation knows somebody who's been impacted by this crisis. So what would you do and what would be your comprehensive plan?

Yeah, I mean, this is this is a humanitarian crisis we're seeing unfold in B.C. right now, the first five months of this year. We've now tracked eight hundred and fifty one overdose overdose deaths in B.C., which puts the province on pace, unfortunately, to exceed the record last year of over seventeen hundred deaths. So this is an issue that hits really close to home for me, given I used to work in health care. I was the vice president of operations for nurse next door.

We were caring for people in community across a range of needs and issues and traumas. But for me, how we address this issue is really about how we as a society are choosing to care for our most vulnerable, our families and our friends who've experienced hardship or trauma and are now suffering from addiction. My core belief is we have to choose to do better now because this is the watermark of a compassionate society. How are we addressing this challenge? And I have to say, I don't think there is a silver bullet for it, but I know there are literally hundreds of organizations in the Downtown Eastside and all across the province thinking through how we solve this.

But I'll share with you a few things that that I've heard when I've been out there in community chatting with people, in particular Matthew Smedley, CEO of Mission Possible, that on the Downtown Eastside, he and I spent an afternoon together walking through his operation, talking about the issues and what I hear from him and what I hear from a dear friend who lives across the street, who is a psychiatric nurse, who rides in a cop car every day with a police officer through the Downtown Eastside is that we are currently walking people ten steps down a thousand foot path.

And we have resources and we have commitments and we have investments and we have dynamic people working on the problem. But there are too many gaps in the continuum that's going to take someone from recovery all the way through to reintegration back into society and hopefully a feeling of purpose and fulfillment as a contributing member of society. So my I'm not going to give you a perfect answer to how to solve the opioid crisis here. Here in one quick sound bite came on.

But my my belief is that we have to choose better. We have to understand that when my friend, this psychiatric nurse, finds someone in the Downtown Eastside who is ready to get into some sort of detox program, that they don't have to wait three weeks to find a spot that they don't have to phone on that limited minutes phone five times a day for 10 days in a row in the hopes that they'll get a spot. I think the political will is there.

I know the public is ready to see a profound solution to this. So let's choose to be a compassionate and civil society. And let's let's bring a new perspective to this. We have to go all in.

And I think those are those are great words, you know, we've definitely become iconic here in D.C. for for one of the wrong reasons, which is the crisis. And I think people from around the world know about the Downtown Eastside. So it's certainly an issue that needs remedying and some new perspective in thinking. Question number three, the NDP has failed to get much needed infrastructure projects like the massive tunnel replacement to a bridge off the ground. How will you get those projects moving?

Yeah, sure, so is is the general statement off the top, I think transportation for me is about obviously getting people and goods safely and efficiently around the province. And as someone who worked at the B.C. Chamber, this is about B.C. being Canada's largest trade gateway. So that's about businesses getting goods and products out of the province as well. But a more fundamental level for me, this is about enabling full social and economic participation for individuals and families.

Given transportation will also play, I think, an essential role in solving our affordable, affordable housing crisis. I mean, when you think about if we can get better, more efficient, more distributed transportation out of our urban cores and get people into suburbs and other regions, we can we can begin to tackle some of the housing issues that we're facing right now. I hate to sound overly simplistic, it's about action, we actually just have to get moving on this stuff.

So I know there's always a dialog and a conversation around getting those federal funds in place in time to make sure we can make the commitment and we can start to hit those timelines. But we had a plan in place for the Masti Tunnel. We were going to put a bridge in that fell apart, I don't think, for a good reason. And I just know that as time passes, it gets worse. We know the patellar bridge. We have to get moving faster.

There are two for me. We've got the engineers, we've got the smart people. We've got the contractors in this province to do the work. We just have to get moving. We have to act. And a part of what I'm pitching here, as in my run for leadership, is we don't need more focus groups and roundtables and studies. We have a surplus of information. We know we need this answer now. We have to get people and goods moving.

And when we don't build these key infrastructure pieces, we know we're creating an unequal playing field for people in this jurisdiction who are trying to get around, trying to create a life for themselves, trying to get to work in a timely fashion to support their families. So this for me is about hitting our targets for becoming an inclusive society as well.

And I think when you when you talk about the halt, the construction and some of the economic loss there, it's so true. And I do recall Jazz Joel bringing his golf clubs to a big pile of sand next to the Masih Tunnel, where there are a few dozen tons of sand that have been left over from when the project didn't go forward and practice his bunker shot. So just a stark reminder that that project didn't go ahead. And it's still in those focus groups that you talk about, no real plan of action to move it forward.

So the fourth and final question here is, would you restore the provincial carbon tax to revenue neutral status as it was intended when it was first introduced under under Gordon Campbell?

Absolutely, I totally agree with Kevin on this one, I can't imagine there are many other candidates on this call that think otherwise. The carbon tax, when it was revenue neutral, we were giving the money back to the individuals, households and businesses that paid the tax. That's why it was revenue neutral. And I do think we have to tell a better story around why the carbon tax we just getting going to back there on.

We'll just pause for a second. That might be that's a bit better, we lost the ability and I guess I don't know the the desire to keep telling a really clear story around how this party leads on climate and what I think about climate change in our approach to the environment here in B.C. Clearly, it is the greatest challenge of our time, and it's about getting on course for a safe and sustainable, for future for people and ecosystems. But I do think we have to shift the dialog now from just primarily emissions to more mitigation and adaptation as we go.

We need to deepen the rhetoric around our climate performance and our leadership as a party. And for me, when I think about mitigation and adaptation, it is just so obvious to me we're seeing it right now with our wildfires. We cut forty five thousand people while they were on evacuation notice this week. Entire villages are going up in smoke. We're seeing it right now with our salmon stocks. No sockeye openings on the Fraser River in the last three years.

We're seeing it right now with climate related damage when it comes to insurance claims. Canada hit a new high water mark at two point three billion in Canada just this past year in terms of climate related claims, climate change related claims. So, yes, I would return it to neutrality. I would also deepen now the conversation around our climate leadership and I would connect it through to BKS low carbon advantage because we are one of the cleanest and most reputable jurisdictions on planet Earth producing resources the world needs.

And this low carbon advantage because we we've got the electric, hydro electric advantage here in B.C. will allow us to be a producer and seller of choice into Europe now where we know they've put up those low carbon barriers for the goods they bring in. So heaven forbid and B.C., we might be proud of our resources and what we can bring to market, but I'll tell you, we will be the provider and market of choice now for jurisdictions that are looking for low carbon products.

And I even think of Rio Tinto in Kitimat, Rio Tinto as producing the lowest carbon footprint of aluminum on planet Earth, not by 20 or 30 or 40 percent by a factor of five or six or seven times, depending on the jurisdiction you're comparing us to. We should be supplying aluminum to the world. So let's get a little more sophisticated in how we tell the story of our performance. And I think neutrality going back to neutrality is just the beginning.

That's a that's a great reminder, you know, I think we're we're something like 90 percent hydropower here in D.C. and that just leaves us with such a phenomenal opportunity to power some of these resource projects in a clean way and in a much better way than we can do it anywhere else on the planet. So we're lucky to live in the jurisdiction that we do. Well, I would appreciate everything there. Thank you so much. And just do you have any closing remarks?

I'll keep it brief. I hope everyone on the other side of the screen is at least nursing a beer, a glass of wine. But I'll just close by saying this. One of the things I'm hearing a lot about on the campaign trail is will you change the name of the party? Will you change the name of the party? And I say absolutely happy to change the name of the party if I'm elected leader. But we cannot mistake a name change with a brand change.

So the final thought I want to leave people with here tonight, Kaivan, is we're either engaging in a process of true renewal and reflecting on the core values and principles that guide our behavior and policy moving forward. Or we're just slapping on a new coat of paint. And I hope it's the former, not the latter. I am so excited to be a part of this race. It's an honor to be in here sharing this virtual space with the other candidates.

So I'm excited for what the next couple of months hold. Then I'm excited for B.C. and I'm excited for this party. So thank you Kaivan.

Thanks so much Val. That was really insightful and kind of gave us a sense of who you are as an insider, but not -- as an outsider, not an outsider, somebody really should be part of the party. So thanks for joining us this evening.

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