Leading up to the provincial election, Todd Stone was just a face in the crowd of B.C. Liberals trying to get elected despite daunting polls.
He had some insider credentials in B.C. politics. He and Premier Christy Clark knew each other as teenagers rattling around in university-level politics. Mr. Stone worked for several years as an executive assistant to Gordon Campbell when he was leader of the official opposition.
But the election vaulted the 40-year-old founder of the tech company iCompass into the big leagues when the rookie MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson became B.C.’s new transportation minister.
Mr. Stone will handle files that include a referendum on TransLink funding options, dealing with Lower Mainland calls for such projects as a $2.8-billion Broadway rapid-transit line and various connectors, replacing the Massey Tunnel, and liquefied natural gas terminals in the Prince Rupert area, plus a review of the Insurance Corporation of B.C.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Stone talks about how he plans to manage it all.
Have you been promoted too quickly?
That’s a question, perhaps, for the Premier. I am honoured she has asked me to assume this role. There’s no question there are many facets of the ministry that are quite complex, but everything I’ve done in my life has been about taking challenges head on.
Do you think it’s a strength or liability to come at Lower Mainland issues from the perspective of a politician from outside the area?
It’s a strength. I have no axe to grind in the Lower Mainland. I am the Minister of Transportation for all British Columbians, and there are a lot of transportation and infrastructure projects under way or will be on the books soon. I suppose if you were someone from the Interior, you might ask the question to someone from the Lower Mainland: How could you deem yourself to be fit to be a good transportation minister when you’re from the Lower Mainland?
What are you going to do to win over those who oppose a Lower Mainland referendum on transit funding?
Our commitment to holding a referendum on transit funding is ironclad. That being said, I have a track record in business as being good at bringing people together. I will be looking forward to meeting the mayors’ council and others throughout the Lower Mainland to hear their concerns, and, more importantly, their proposed solutions and ideas.
As someone born, raised and living in landlocked Kamloops, what do you know about B.C. Ferries?
I did live in Victoria for almost eight years, so I was a frequent user of the ferry system at that time. Certainly, I am going to bring the energy and ideas I have to the table to ensure we do what we can as a government to make sure B.C. Ferries is sustainable.
How do you feel about tolls and paying to use roads?
Nothing is free in this province. The taxpayers know that. When we look at addressing traffic congestion and look at improvements to our highways system, we look at all options to fund those improvements.
When was the last time you took a long ride on the SkyTrain or the Canada Line?
As someone with many business meetings in downtown Vancouver, I was on that Canada Line once or twice a month for the better part of the last four years. It’s a very good system. SkyTrain? I probably have to go back a couple more years.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson points to congestion on the 99B bus as justification for a multibillion-dollar Broadway Line. When was the last time you rode that bus?
I haven’t ridden the 99B bus, so I look forward to doing that in the near future.
Do you really plan to give it a shot to see what he’s talking about?
Hey. It’s all about reaching out to stakeholders. Anyone who knows me from my time in business knows that I will go beyond the call of duty to sit down with every stakeholder I possibly can. Day 3 on the job here but lots of opportunities will afford themselves in the coming weeks.
You were a young Liberal at 16. What draws someone that young into politics and keeps them there?
Perhaps a defective gene. I have always been passionate about public service and I can’t help myself. From the age of 16 on, I have been on all kinds of different boards and community organizations from the United Way to Friends of the Kamloops Airport to Thompson Rivers University.