The former provincial health minister is turning his sights towards Ottawa - but first, a conversation with someone who knows him very well.
As you’ve likely heard by now, former B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake is attempting a political comeback.
After deciding not to seek re-election in the 2017 provincial election, the former Kamloops-North Thompson MLA was later named the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility of Hexo Corp, a Gatineau, Quebec based cannabis producer and processor.
But once a politician, always a politician, and the former mayor of Kamloops is once again taking the political bait by seeking the federal Liberal nomination for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, which hasn’t had a Liberal MP since 1979.
I’ve known Dr. Lake for nearly 30 years and from behind a radio microphone, watched his rise to political prominence.
The Price is Right: Terry, the first and obvious question is why. Why step back onto the political battlefield?
Lake: Bob, you have to consider the progress that our country has made over the past three years on climate change, Indigenous reconciliation, gender equity and the economy with a 40 year low for unemployment…and I fear the possibility of a Conservative government. If the Ford government in Ontario is any example, it means that we would take backward steps. I don’t want to see that happen. I want to make sure that our country keeps moving forward.
TPIR: Right now, it looks like you’ve got things pretty good in the lucrative private sector. But obviously, this isn’t about money in any way, but rather something more fundamental in your heart?
Lake: There’s no question that you have to get up every morning and feel like you’re motivated, and as much as I’ve enjoyed working with Hexo in the private sector, politics is something that I care deeply about. And I care because it can mean real change in people’s lives. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen the overdose crisis continue to rage on, and I think I’ve invested so much of my ability to learn, that I have the ability to make positive change. While it sounds kinda corny, I really do feel like I owe it to my country to step up and help out.
TPIR: Terry, while in office provincially, you were widely seen as one of the first Health Ministers in the country to recognize the storm that quickly became the opioid crisis which has claimed so many lives. Obviously, that situation must have had a profound impact on you.
Lake: You know, when you lose friends and when friends lose members of their family, it can’t help but have an impact. When I think how difficult it is for someone with lots of love and support and with a good family…I also think of the vulnerable population. People who have faced childhood trauma and years later have become dependent on substances that are toxic and life threatening.
I just think that as a society, we need to do something about this that reaches and gives people a hand to get to a better place. We need to keep them alive and then offer services that help them become more successful and move away from a life of problematic substance abuse.
That’s not easily done – I know that for a fact. It’s going to take a bigger investment across this country than we’ve seen to date.
TPIR: I suspect that federal support for the opioid crisis is a conversation you’ve had with Justin Trudeau?
Lake: Indeed we did talk about this when the Prime Minister was in Kamloops recently. But while we did have a very fruitful conversation, I feel that I really need to get in there and convince people that this is something that has to be dealt with. You know, if it was any other substance, Bob, like a virus coming into our country that was killing 4,000 Canadians every year…I have no doubt that we would be doing more, that we would be putting more money and resources than we are right now.
I won’t rest and can’t rest until I convince people that that is necessary.
TPIR: Turning back to the political side, could your entry into federal politics be a little bit awkward since you and the current Conservative MP for Kamloops, Cathy McLeod are quite friendly?
Lake: Yeah, we’ve worked well together over the years. It’s what good representatives do, working on behalf of constituents. We shared an area with common constituents and so it was in their best interest for us to work well together.
I feel no animosity whatsoever toward Cathy. She is a hardworking MP.
But I also think people need to ask themselves which party has the better vision for Canada, which can work better on their behalf and work to make the riding better. So I think we have an opportunity to have a greater federal investment in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo than we have had in the past. There are areas of rural B.C. in the Cariboo, and North and South Thompson Valleys that could use a helping hand, whether it’s increased connectivity to the internet to allow them to educate their kids more easily or to open businesses or have access to natural gas in the North Thompson. These are things that most Canadians take for granted, and yet areas of our riding don’t have those yet.
TPIR: Terry, for most of the last two years, you’ve been splitting your time between Ottawa and Kamloops. Parlez-vous Francais?
Lake: Je parle un peu de Francais et oui, j’etudie. J’ai besoin d’en apprendre plus.
TPIR: I’ll take that as Oui! On the personal side, away from the world of politics, is there something that you would like British Columbians and all Canadians to know about you?
Lake: Well there is this, Bob. I was 10 years old when I came to this country (from the U.K.) It was 1967, the Centennial year. I can still recall the feeling I had that day. A young kid coming to this great new country and the excitement around a hundred years of confederation.
I know that if my dad hadn’t made the decision to move the family to Canada, I would never have had the opportunities that I have had or that my children have had. So I feel a real love for Canada and a huge debt as well. You know, it’s just one of those things where you feel you’ve got the tools that are needed in this job and you’ve got the passion for it…so why not do it!
TPIR: What does Terry Lake like to do in his off time, away from politics?
Lake: Well as you know, I’m a dog lover. I think my dog has more friends in Kamloops than I ever will. I love sports, played soccer. I believe in having fun. I’m a very social person and of course my family time is everything.
TPIR: Terry, having known you for over a quarter of a century, I know that you don’t like to lose. You are obviously in it, to win it.
Lake: (chuckling) I firmly believe that the Trudeau government will be re-elected. I’m convinced that our country is heading in the right direction and I also feel I have a great opportunity to win the riding. We intend to work hard over the summer and fall and yeah, I do think it’s winnable.
And this is one of the reasons that I can’t sit on the sidelines because I feel that the combination of the party and the candidate will make a difference and I want to be able to deliver it for the people of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.
Bob Price is a veteran B.C. broadcaster who anchored the morning news on CHNL radio in Kamloops for the past 30 years. Bob is also a past Webster Award winner whose previous stops included Vancouver and Calgary.