Careers: Interviews
BC Premier: Gordon Campbell

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.


Discussion:

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 public life.


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 ten years?
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 internationally?
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 those recommendations.


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


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