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BC Premier: Gordon Campbell
Interview by S. Ibaraki, I.S.P.
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with the
Honorable Gordon Campbell, the 34th Premier of British Columbia. Mr. Campbell
attended Dartmouth College on scholarship receiving his Bachelor of Arts
degree and he later received his master’s of business administration from
Simon Fraser University. Mr. Campbell has a most distinguished career in the
public and private sector having founded Citycore Development Corporation and
serving as Mayor of Vancouver for three successive terms.
Q: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have a most remarkable
career; what does your wife Nancy and your sons think about your countless
successes and your long history being in the public eye?
A: My wife and sons think of me as a partner and a dad first. Our whole
family backs one another up in each of our chosen endeavours. I think my mum
taught each of her kids an important lesson: “We live in a very special place
where people can accomplish their goals if they work for them.” My wife and
boys have been my biggest supporters and I can honestly say without strong
family support it is not possible to do this job or my previous tasks in
Q: Few people realize that you also worked your way through college. Can you
describe your experiences from your college years?
A: They were one of the truly great times in my life. I had great teachers
who literally opened whole new worlds for me. I majored in English but I also
had professors in urban studies who kindled my excitement about the potential
of our cities. I love the challenge of ideas and the rigour of true debate. I
have friends from college and ideals from college years that I simply will
not forget. Strong and relentless pursuit of ideas and principles are the
foundation of most of what I have tried to do. My work experience from those
days was mostly fun and excited my interest in educational administration and
in the importance of education and liberal arts in the development of a
society of ideas.
Q: You also served as a teacher, basketball and track coach in Yola Nigeria
working under the auspices of CUSO. Can you share a story or two with us from
those times? Also, what defining lessons did you learn?
A: I loved my time in Nigeria. There are few things as rewarding as watching
the light in a student’s eyes as he learns something that connects and gets
him excited. Coaching is like teaching: it’s a way of passing on your passion
about something. It was great to watch as young men who I coached discovered
what they could accomplish with discipline, hard work and teamwork. We won
state championships and I was a coach for a state team at a National
Championship in Track and Field.
Teaching and coaching are also similar because you learn so much about
yourself as you share your interests and passions with young people. As an
English teacher I had to teach Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” to my students
as part of the curriculum. I worked hard to explain Mark Anthony’s famous
speech. When I finished one of my students who had transferred into my class
came up to me and said “Kai, Sir, this literature is too, too interesting.”
It made my day.
Q: Is there one other story you can share with us from your life prior to
becoming Premier of BC? Perhaps, you can talk about your time at Marathon
Realty, starting Citycore Development Corporation or your time as Mayor?
A: I think one of the most important stories I can relate is about how lucky
we are to live in a country like Canada. It’s a place where an individual can
help shape the future with the strength of a good idea. When Rand Iredale an
architect came forward with his plan to rejuvenate False Creek with a
stadium, most of the vested interests said it was crazy. But Rand persisted
because he knew what could happen if the City and province would just take
the right steps. It was his initiative and drive that brought us the stadium
downtown, that brought us what was first called Transpo and then became Expo
86; because of Expo we got the Trade and Convention Centre and the Skytrain and
the redevelopment of False Creek. All those changes came because one citizen
would not give up on an idea about how he thought we could make his city and
province a better place for all of us. Sometimes people take that gift for
granted. I think it’s important not to take any of those gifts for granted.
Q: The information technology (IT) sector is an important part of the BC
economy. Where do you see this sector now, in two years, five years, and then
A: The Premier’s Technology Council has done an excellent job of mapping out
a future where our technology sector is world-renowned. We can see the impact
of their work today and we will continue to build on it.
Q: In terms of IT education, where do you see the delivery options and
curriculum evolving, such as in colleges, universities, private institutions,
on-line education providers? How will the government shape this evolution?
A: We made a commitment in the last election to double the number of
electrical and computer engineers and computer scientists that were
graduating from our advanced education institutions by 2006. We have met that
commitment with funding of $150 million over five years. Our tax changes have
helped our industry to keep the best British Columbians here at home and to
attract the world’s best here. We have changed regulatory regimes to reflect
the importance of flexibility in the technology industry. Finally, we are
working to connect all B.C. communities to the opportunities of the Internet
with high-speed, broadband access.
Q: How would you contrast the IT industry in Canada versus other countries?
A: Canadians are more connected but we have lots to do to maximize our
current situation. In a country as large as ours we have to develop the tools
necessary to make the “last mile” connection in some of our more remote rural
and northern communities.
Q: In 1989, the Information Systems Professional (ISP) designation was
introduced by the Canadian Information Processing Society to ensure a high
standard of professionalism in the IT profession. The professional
designation provides to the certified individual, credibility, professional
image, and career development while maintaining the highest standards of
practice, ethics, and public protection. What are your views in this area?
A: We have to develop delivery mechanisms that will assure all Canadians and
British Columbians become Internet literate. It creates economic
opportunities and spans great distances. All of us are learning in this
rapidly changing landscape where time and distance are effectively
collapsing. We should not underestimate the societal challenge that creates.
Q: What programs and initiatives can help new IT companies get a foothold and
allow existing companies to compete against foreign corporations locally and
A: Better ideas and the free flow of individual imaginations are the critical
components of strengthening opportunities. I am not sure governments can
program that, but I believe we can get out of the way of it. We also have to
develop the economic framework for far more venture capitalism so more people
have the resources necessary for exploring the frontiers of development.
Q: Where do you see IT education evolving in public schools, K to 12?
A: Our hope is to grow the economy and to have additional resources for more
computer education for teachers and students alike. But also we have to do
more to encourage physical education and arts and music programs. The public
education system should be leading in the development of a creative
curriculum that taps into the passions of each student in a way that is
positive and that recognizes the diversity of learning.
Q: Are there particular sectors in IT that you feel show great promise?
A: Clearly in B.C. we have some special niches we should be pursuing but I
think that is best decided by those who are developing new product and new
ideas for their customers and for society as a whole. Government has to
listen to those in the IT sector to discover how to do that and then to act on
Q: Can you share a story or two as Premier?
A: I am very hopeful about the contribution the technology sector can make to
our traditional industry in B.C. I visited one mill that had applied two
software programs developed in small B.C. forest towns. Those two programs
had increased the productivity of the mill making it more competitive and
making the workers’ jobs more secure. I’d like to see that story repeated in
forestry, agriculture, mining, energy development and fisheries to help us
reach our public goals.
Q: Can you describe some of the projects that you have worked on and lessons
you have learned?
A: I have been involved in a huge number of projects in the last year. Each
has its own set of challenges and lessons but one principle is constant.
People are talented and if you listen to them and learn from them, if you
challenge them to think beyond the limits of previous performance, it is
amazing what they can accomplish. B.C. is going to become a leader in the
creative economy and I believe we will surprise ourselves with our successes.
Q: We have many young professionals in our audience; can you share your
leading career tips?
A: Follow your passion and don’t let up. We may not accomplish everything we
want exactly when we would like to but we can accomplish anything with
commitment and perseverance if we think of others as well as our own goals.
Q: Where do you see your career evolving over the next thirty years?
A: I hope to be involved with learning and teaching throughout my life. I
would like to be able to continue in public service for the foreseeable
future here in B.C. But I see other global objectives that each of us can
contribute to. Whether it is the horrendous impact of AIDS on Africa or
global hunger, there is no challenge that is beyond our reach to make a
contribution to a solving as a citizen of Canada.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what three questions would you ask of
someone in your position and what would be your answers?
A: You have done a pretty good job here.
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give?
A: I would just want to reiterate a point I have made before. We are
incredibly lucky to live in Canada. That does not mean we do not have
problems. It does not mean we are perfect. It does mean we live in one of the
few places in the world where each of us can contribute and pursue our own
dreams. So to everyone I would say follow your passion and pursue your dream.
Do not give up. We live in a place where you can shape your own future. It
will not be easy but it will be worthwhile. You can define your life with
your dreams and in doing so, you contribute to the well-being of your
community, your province and your country. The future is in your hands.
Q: Thank you for sharing your valuable insights with us today and we look
forward to watching your career as it continues to make a substantive mark in
history, our country, and in the international arena.
A: Thank you.