edited by Stanley Lee
video by Bing Liu
interviewed by Stanley Lee and Yi Fang
On Mar 29, 2017, Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for the Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism, and running for re-election with the BC Liberals in Richmond-North Centre, made time for us to interview her. We’ve discussed a number of topics, from her performance as a constituency MLA and Richmond Hospital to ethnic and youth questions on politics.
We will showcase the first part, which is on her performance and Richmond Hospital. Along the way, she characterized the opposition party from their performance in the 1990s, and how they are clueless about running a government.
Before we get to the interview, here are links relevant to her campaign shall you be interested:
We’ll let you enjoy the video interview along with transcript and explanation as fit.
Teresa Wat: Okay, so first of all we were all elected as the MLA representing our riding. For me, I’m the MLA for Richmond Centre, so I need to represent the voices of my constituents in Richmond Centre, and I need to make sure that whatever concerns they have, hoping that for them we are lucky enough to be the government party, so we’re lucky enough to be the government. I should try to represent their voices in the government and I’m the minister, so I should represent the voices in the cabinet, as well as in our BC Liberal caucus.
If you are not a minister, you are just an MLA. you don’t have an opportunity to speak in the cabinet, so you have to speak at the BC Liberal caucus. Every party has a caucus. The caucus is the time when all the MLA, the elected official of the party are getting together once a week to talk about the concern, the issues they hear from their riding.
I will bring that up every time I’m in caucus, at the cabinet [unintelligible 0:01:10] any discussion on policy and issues because I have the privilege. I’m fortunate enough to be the minister of international trade, also responsible for Asia-Pacific strategy and multiculturalism, so I make sure that I’m a good minister, but at the same time always remember that my primary job is the MLA for my constituents.
You are asking how good am I as the MLA for Richmond Centre, right?
Neway Opinion: Yeah.
TW: I told you already the whole idea of representing my riding to represent their voices in the BC Liberal caucus and the government. I think I’ve been doing that all over the last 4 years because I have been talking with my constituents when I have the time, so the biggest concern what I heard this they want to live a good life in British Columbia. You must be aware that more than 50 percent, maybe more than 60 percent of my constituents are Chinese communities and many of them are immigrants as well.
The reason why they want to immigrate to BC to Canada is they want to have a better life than their home country back home, but how to live a good life, you must have a good job. You either get a job from your employer or you either pursue a business. It’s either way, so many of my constituents ask for medium-sized business and I think Richmond Centre is a good place to do business because our government, BC Liberal government, is a government that promotes the economy. We always believe in having a strong economy before we can do anything, before we can allocate resources on health, on education, on social service, on infrastructure building, the hospital, bridges, highway, building schools. Because without the money, without the revenue, how can you do anything?
We are very much different from NDP who believes in — I have to talk about NDP, sorry. This is political, right?
TW: The reason I run as an MLA for BC Liberals because I believe in the ideology of BC Liberals. As a background for you to know, in the ‘90s, I worked as a civil servant under the NDP government, 1996 to 2002. I was laid off by the BC Liberal government when they took over the government, so this is a background you need to know. I fully understand how NDP worked, and in fact, NDP approached me before BC Liberals approached me to run for politics. Because I know the NDP from the inside because I worked for the government when they were in power. They really see I’m a good politician, that’s why they approached me. They asked me to run under their banner, but eventually I turned it down because I felt that I’m a civil servant, it’s okay. If you are working for organization, you don’t really sometimes get to choose the organization you are working for specially as a new immigrant then. I joined the BC government in 1996.
I immigrated to BC at the end of 1989. I worked in the media, the Chinese media in the first 5 years. I used to work for the organization, you don’t get to choose the government you work for. I always believe that in order to get to know the place, it’s great to work as a civil servant because you understand how the government’s operations are, so when I had the opportunity to work for the government, I jumped into the opportunity and I learned how the government works.
During my 6 years of working under the NDP administration, I see that they only want to grow the government. They want to grow the trade unions, and they never know how to manage government. They don’t know how to manage an organization. They don’t know how to manage the budget, and that’s why in the ‘90s, BC dropped from a have-province to a have-not province. In Chinese, 从最富裕的省份变成最贫穷的省份. I saw our credit rating dropping to only A and right now our – do you know what’s a credit rating?
NO: I’m vaguely familiar, yeah.
TW: You have to know this. This is extremely important.
NO: AAA, …
TW: Because there’s AAA, and then AAA, and then…
NO: That’s the interest you can get.
TW: Exactly. It’s like your mortgage. Of course you try to negotiate for a lower rate. If you pay mortgage on 9 percent versus 1 percent, what a bid difference it is. Because of how poorly NDP government managed the finance, that’s why our credit rating dropped to A. That means every month when you have to pay back the debt, you have to pay quite a handsome amount of money in interest rate. Right now, we have the best credit rating that we can have than for any country in the world. Our AAA credit rating and our interest rate is extremely low.
Why do they give us AAA credit rating? It’s not given by us, by ourselves. It’s by the international financial organization because we have proven to be a government who can manage our finance well. We have fifth conservative balanced budget, and this year we have the largest surplus almost in history and that’s why we can allocate our resources to education, to health, to social service, and to infrastructure.
We believe that our philosophy is not our government, it’s not the elected official, that can make BC prosperous. It’s together: it’s you and me and he altogether because you work so hard in your job in your business, and that’s why we manage to boost our economy that we are the best economy in the whole country. On average, the economic growth last year is only 1 percent even in Canada, but for BC, it’s 2.9 percent. You see how good we are. Also, we have the lowest unemployment rate of the whole of Canada. Our unemployment rate is only 5.1 percent, so it’s almost considered that everybody has a job.
I mean from the ‘90s, we don’t have the ability. We just go to Google and pick up the ‘90s and you can know the record of NDP. That’s why it’s important to educate specially the new immigrants who never underwent the NDP. In Chinese, we call it 十年浩劫. 十年浩劫你懂吗？
(Note: 十年浩劫 is a reference to the 10 years of Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, where landlords were subjected to beating, imprisonment, rape, torture, sustained and systematic harassment and abuse, seizure of property, denial of medical attention, and erasure of social identity. Intellects were targeted as well.)
NO: Yeah I know what that is.
TW: It’s the Chinese community who phrased that term for the NDP government from 1996 on, we could do nothing and won is because of how bad it was. Many people returned ‑ they even returned to Hong Kong, to Taiwan because their business are not successful and many local people immigrated to Alberta, to Ontario to get away from the NDP administration.
It took BC Liberal almost 10 years to recover our economy and we slowly built our economy to today that we have the best in Canada, that’s why that message is important to communicate to your audience.
NO: Let’s focus back on the constituency and also move back ‑‑
TW: I am focusing.
NO: Stick within ‑
TW: No, I am focusing because I have to let you know because my constituents they want a job. They either want job, a good job, a good paying job and also they want to do business. I’m telling you this bigger picture because if you don’t have strong economy, how are you going to encourage people to do business because if they lose money, they have to close their shop. I’m trying to tell you that I heard this from my constituents that’s why we are all working together. That’s why my portfolio is also related to the concern of my constituents. I don’t know whether you are following me.
NO: I was.
TW: I’m trying to promote BC Liberal is because the BC Liberal ideology will benefit every single British Columbian and this is one concern that I have.
Another concern is ever since I was appointed as a minister in June 2013, I talked to many of my constituents. They are all concerned about health and they are concerned about the condition of Richmond Hospital. When I heard about when they told me, I also went to the hospital and take a look myself and talked to the hospital staff, and also Coastal Health. Coastal Health is supervising Richmond Hospital. I do share some of their concerns, so I took it upon myself to talk to Minister Lake. Mr. Terry Lake is the health minister.
But first of all, he has to come down and look at the hospital to see for himself the condition before he had a good understanding of what the hospital is like. But don’t forget that the health minister oversees the whole province and we have so many areas in BC and every single hospital is over 50 years of age because Canada is advanced country different from Asia. Asia has new hospitals, but in BC, every hospital was built more than 50 years ago.
The condition of Richmond Hospital is not unique to Richmond. It’s actually unique to every single riding like Comox, like Kelowna. All their hospitals are old and rundown, but then as the MLA of Richmond Centre, of course I have to speak up for my riding and that’s why I keep talking to Minister Lake.
NO: It’s the only hospital in Richmond.
TW: That’s right. Every single riding has one hospital basically except Vancouver because Vancouver has a bigger population. Every single riding, some riding doesn’t even have this whole hospital. They might share hospital with other riding, so we are lucky enough to have our own hospital.
I talked to Minister Lake and let him know that’s the concern for my constituents. I urged him to come and take a look. In 2014 in October, he came to Richmond Hospital and he toured the hospital. I toured with him, so he looked at it and understood the condition. I kept doing my job. I kept up my communication with him and asked him that he should consider replacing our north tower because it’s so rundown and Richmond’s population has grown so drastically for almost in the old days 50,000 all the way to now over 200,000 that’s why we need one more riding.
Eventually he was convinced and then last year in June, he approved a concept plan. What does it mean, concept plan? You have to understand that’s the process in doing anything in any government. It’s not John Horgan. John Horgan was interviewed by the media specially he talked about Richmond. He said, “When I become the premier, I will build Richmond Hospital.”
It’s not as simple as that. That exceptionally shows that he is not capable of running the government because he doesn’t understand the procedure. This is not an underdeveloped country that the premier, the number one person can say, “I want this to be built,” that it can be built the next day. That will be like emperor. Today is a democracy. Even as a premier, you have to follow the process. you have to discuss with the whole cabinet and present the situation about Richmond Hospital, and you get a better understanding before you will start the process going.
Even when you want to build a house, unless you are building it, you won’t say, “I’m going to build a house tomorrow.” You have to see whether you have enough budget first of all. you have enough money to build your house. You might have your family meeting, asking your wife whether she wants a new house to be built, and you have to look for a site, and then you have to see how much money you have. You go for mortgage, and you are thinking about design of the house.
Building a hospital is even more complicated than building a house, right? That’s a process. The process is once the minister is convinced that their hospital has to be replaced, then you will talk to the bureaucrats you see whether that can be done. Then the first step is a concept plan. We already started the process. I’m so glad that this is an achievement I made for my constituents. Once the concept plan is approved, that means that is like you are starting the first step on a marathon. The concept plan is the first step leading to the building of the hospital.
NO: Do you have estimates of how long?
TW: Listen to me. I’m trying to explain to you. He allocated $1 million for the concept plan. Normally a concept plan would take 1 year to complete, but thanks to Vancouver Coastal Health, it takes less than one year, so they submitted this concept plan in January to ministry of health and now ministry of health bureaucrats are now reviewing the concept plan.
How long will that take place? The next question, you’re asking me, I’m sure. Because it has a set time, it can range from 6 months to 1 years to 2 years.
Why? The next question you’ll ask is why it can take 6 months to all the way to 2 years or 3 years? It all depends on how well the concept plan is done. If the concept plan is not drafted comprehensively, the ministry of health expert will ask you go back to Vancouver Coastal Health and ask them to submit further information before they can decide whether they approve the concept plan.
As I said now it’s in the hands of the expert. As a minister, you cannot interfere with the bureaucratic process. You have to let the expert do the job. I don’t know when that can be approved. It’s all in the hands of the expert.
Once the concept plan is approved, the next step will be the business plan, then the Vancouver Coastal Health will go ahead and do the business plan. The business plan again has to be approved by the ministry of health and then they will start building the hospital. That’s the process. I can assure you that once the concept plan is started, that means there is hope for building the hospital.
Whatever the opposition is critical about us is totally not true. You have to look at the facts. You can talk to the bureaucrats. What they will tell you is that’s the way that the government is run and it has been run even in the NDP days, even whatever party is in power. Just remember you have to the one official the one to give direction. The actual work is still done by the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is always there irrespective of whatever party is in power, so you can check with the bureaucrats.
I know that you’ve heard from the opposition about us. MLA not taking into the interests and representing the voices of some of the constituents, and this is another issue I have heard from my constituents. They want to be done and I have delivered in my short, not even 4 years as the MLA for this riding, okay?