De Jong wants to lower voting age

Liberal MLA Mike de Jong was in Campbell River for a “job interview” on Wednesday.

Liberal leadership contender Mike de Jong makes a point at the Coast Discovery Inn Wednesday.

Liberal MLA Mike de Jong was in Campbell River for a “job interview” on Wednesday.

The position he’s applying for?

Premier of B.C.

“I call these job interviews,” de Jong told a crowd of about 22 Liberal supporters at the Discovery Inn. “I am applying for a job and you are the hiring committee. It’s quite a job you have, not only picking the leader of the (Liberal) party but the next premier.”

De Jong has been travelling the province conducting “job interviews” while on his Open Mike Tour. He says B.C. needs a top salesman, a role de Jong believes he can fit right into.

“The premier needs to set the tone in attracting investment from the rest of the world into British Columbia,” says de Jong.

B.C. needs to capitalize on the fact it is a land bridge between North America and the world’s second largest market, China, and an emerging world market, India, says de Jong.

“We need to sell these countries on using our wood products because they are environmentally sustainable and that they should be buying from British Columbia because we have the best product in the world,” he says.

De Jong stressed that all of B.C.’s natural resources, including electricity and minerals such as coal and copper, need to be better utilized.

He also suggested the province produce clean, green electricity not only for itself, but for the rest of North America.

“I want us to be the party that tells British Columbia what we’re for – I’m for hydroelectric generation; I am for run-of-river projects,” says de Jong. “I’m sick of all these people who only tell you what they’re against.”

He makes no secret of the fact he supports the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and would like to see the referendum moved up to June, if possible.

De Jong says he would rather put a dent in the B.C.’s $1.7 billion deficit with the HST than by raising personal income tax or making cuts to essential services.

De Jong has also been lobbying for a more transparent government, acknowledging that all British Columbians should have the right to know where their money is going in order to gain their trust.

“All MLA’s are given travel expenses. It’s your money and we should be prepared to post how we spend it, we should lay out what we’re doing with your money. In the past year (as attorney general) I’ve had great difficulty in making that happen – I don’t know why, if they have nothing to hide there shouldn’t be a problem,” says de Jong.

The Abbotsford West MLA has other ideas unique from the five other hopefuls vying for Liberal party leader.

De Jong says he is concerned about the lack of eligible voters that actually cast a ballot and one way to remedy that could be to change the voting age to 16.

“I worry tremendously about general electoral apathy,” says de Jong. “We puff our chests out that we won 46 per cent of the vote (in the last election) but actually we won 23 per cent of the vote because only half of the people eligible to vote, did.

“As Grade 12’s are graduating, we tell them they’re now a full member of society. If we really believe that, then let them vote. Teens are focused. I want them to vote,” says de Jong who added that a civics course could be added to the high school curriculum.

De Jong is also so far the only candidate to advocate downsizing the government’s 24-member cabinet.

“Our cabinet has been the largest ever in the history of the province,” says de Jong. “Well, we can have a smaller cabinet. We can do our work with less than 20 cabinet members.”

De Jong says it would show British Columbians that government can “do more with less” but the proposal has not made him any new friends in the legislature.

He says he has, however, maintained a good relationship with the other leadership candidates.

“I am friends with all of them and I actually like them all,” says de Jong. “We can’t lose sight of the fact we’re all on the same team. We’ve all got to lock arms and sing Kumbaya around the campfire on Feb. 27.”

De Jong says he will work with whoever is “hired” or the party faces a defeat at the hands of the NDP in the next election.