t will be a battle of David and Goliaths—yes, plural.
A Terrace business owner with no experience in elected office has announced her plan to enter the B.C. Liberal leadership race.
Lucy Sager is a business development expert with a background in maximizing local opportunities from major projects. The 38-year old says she identifies with the real-world struggles of today’s British Columbian and aims to bring back the “vision and values” of the party with a diverse economy and wise fiscal management.
“We kind of joke around that I have no political baggage,” Sager says. “[But] when you start looking at my practical experience in small business and major projects, with my MBA and my time in oil, gas, construction—this is not theory to me. It’s in my background and I’ve actually done it. We need some fresh blood and new ideas in the party.”
Sager will be up against some political heavyweights in the leadership race, including confirmed contender Sam Sullivan, the former Vancouver mayor now MLA of Vancouver-False Creek, former Surrey Mayor, now a conservative MP, Dianne Watts. Several other high profile politicans are also expected to enter the race in the coming days.
Sager has never held a seat in the Legislative Assembly but has worked behind the scenes with the Liberal party for several years, as the campaign manager for Liberal Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, and as the riding president. She has no plans to unseat Ross, but will look for a “winnable” riding if elected leader. In the meantime, she hopes to use her political inexperience to her campaign’s advantage.
“Five years ago I was bussing tables working my way through grad school, and now I’m running for the leadership,” Sager said. “I will totally acknowledge this is a David and Goliath story. But there are people all across British Columbia who have never been engaged with politics but are passionate about leadership. They’re looking at their small business and saying, ‘if we don’t come to terms with how to reconcile small-business tax, I’m shutting the doors.”
The seat for the Liberal leadership opened up following the resignation of former Premier Christy Clark, brought on by the party’s narrow defeat in May’s provincial election by a coalition of the NDP and Green parties. Sager says the loss was due to what average British Columbians see as an inaccessible party. What’s missing, she says, is a bridge between the interests of northern and southern sectors of the province.
“We forgot how to engage people where they were. We have to get back to saying ‘we represent everybody.’ Jobs and economy are extremely important, but we still have to be empathetic and compassionate to people in Vancouver who are working three jobs to pay the rent…we need to connect the north and the south, and help them see that these major projects we’re working on up here are so you can afford your life down there.
“If we don’t have major projects going, where are we going to find the resources to share? That’s the conversation I’d like to have with the NDP.”
Sager grew up in Terrace where her parents worked extensively with First Nations communities on and off reserve; her family, she says, was adopted by Kitsumkalum Chief Don Roberts. Sager later attended Northwest Community College before opening a retail store, Out Spoke’N Bike and Sport. A downturn in the local economy, spurred by the 2010 closure of West Fraser’s Eurocan paper mill in Kitimat, pushed her to close her doors and head back to school. She challenged a masters in business degree at UNBC Prince George, which dovetailed into a career with major projects coming into the region.
In 2014, Sager formed Spirit Strategies in Terrace, a company devoted to local business and project development through negotiation, facilitation and community engagement. In her run for the Liberal leadership, Sager says her qualifications are rooted in some of the area’s largest investments in construction, Canadian oil and gas, mining and forestry. At the same time, her focus on families and community-level engagement is a micro-level approach to governance she feels is expandable to the provincial whole.
“There are a lot of members in caucus that should maybe have more practical experience to better understand where British Columbians are at,” Sager says. “What are the struggles and stresses of small business taxes? What does it look like when LNG projects don’t’ happen? What are the alternatives?”
Whether Sager is in the race to win, or to make a statement is a question she has heard often since announcing her intention to run. But with signatures on her nomination papers from many long-standing politicians, she says, “everyone wants us to be there. We’re taking this very seriously.”
“What this does is it brings new energy to the party. Because it engages people who have never been engaged before…maybe we won’t win, but we’ll try to win. And everyone else is taking us serious too.”