Rick Glumac was elected MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam in 2017, representing communities in Anmore, Belcarra, Coquitlam and Port Moody. He is the Parliamentary Secretary for Technology and has been appointed by the Premier to be B.C.'s representative to the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, where he works on cross-border issues related to economic development including strengthening relationships along the Cascadia Innovation Corridor.
Glumac serves on a number of different boards - he is the chair of the Select Standing Committee on Health, and serves on the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth, and the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts which has oversight on government services. He is also a member of the Sustainable Shared Prosperity Cabinet Committee.
Rick graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Electronics Engineering and his career prior to politics encompassed a variety of hi-tech industries, from work on Hollywood movies with DreamWorks to designing apps for Apple’s iPhone. As such Rick has a unique perspective on the tech sector as both a member of the workforce and an elected official. Cascadia Report were delighted to get the opportunity to speak with him, and to share his story.
“I love being able to be a voice for people, to the provincial government. To be able to work on issues that are important to the people in my constituency. It is very rewarding for me to be able to be that voice and be that champion. That's what has driven me into politics, going back to my days as a city councilor. I never expected that I would be doing this, but I’ve found that I really enjoy it.”
Connecting with people has been made difficult for everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Glumac is keen to point out that his team are still there ready to listen and eager to help.
“Most of my engagement is via phone or Zoom. But there is still a lot going on at our office. And although people aren’t coming in physically as much, we get a lot of contact through email and telephone and obviously, people are facing a lot of challenges right now because of the pandemic. Challenges with their jobs or access to services and they are looking for assistance. We are very busy with that right now.”
Looking at Glumac’s background, we were keen to learn more about his journey from high profile positions in the tech sector to a career in local politics. It is not a path that’s particularly well worn, and he admits that it is not something that he had planned out.
“I never really expected that my life would go in this direction. From a technology perspective. I do think that having worked in a variety of different tech companies over my career, I have a firm understanding of what it takes to have a successful tech related business and I'm knowledgeable about what goes into all the different aspects of that in a way that I think no other politician really is. So, I think that it helps me on that front. But no matter what career or what background we come from, we all have an opportunity, I think, in our careers to engage with people and to try to make things work smoothly or work better. My ability to contribute in meaningful ways, in ways that can affect a lot of people's lives has been amplified many times by being in the role that I'm in.”
Graduating with a degree in electronics engineering, Glumac was exposed to a lot of computer science, and his first job out of university was for the company that made the world’s first computer animated TV program - the cult classic kids’ show, ReBoot. Working on the show, primarily as a developer coding in C++, he also developed tools for animators and found that he enjoyed the creative side of the work. This early passion lead him to pursue a career in the movie animation industry, working on blockbusters such as Shrek 2 and Madagascar, a time which Glumac reflects upon modestly, saying “my technical background gave me a lot of opportunity and skills to contribute to a lot of different projects”.
As someone with a strong background in tech it is inevitable that he would carry that passion with him into his political career. The tech industry in BC is growing, fostered by local politicians such as Glumac and a community that is bolstered by ‘innovation hubs’ that are being promoted throughout the region. Glumac was keen to point out that while the big cities get all of the headlines and often the lion’s share of funding, making sure that the tech industry is accessible to all of the people in the region is important and valuable.
“I feel that technology doesn't have to be restricted to people that are living in urban centers. The cost of living in an urban center like downtown Vancouver is quite high. There are a lot of people that live outside of the urban centers that have a lot of skills, and particularly in the technology sector. We have an incredible opportunity to see the growth of tech jobs across this province. We have invested $50 million in connecting people through high speed internet throughout BC.
I think you're starting to see more tech companies and tech professionals locating in areas that are outside of urban centers. To give you an example, the CEO of one award winning tech company I visited recently in my community informed me that nearly all the people that work at their company live outside of Vancouver, and I think that's a very, very common trend. We have a great opportunity to connect people and businesses outside of the urban areas going forward.”
While many people have been forced to work from home in recent months, and that transition presents a particular opportunity for business owners to find the right talent that might not be in the same city, Glumac points out that human interaction is more valuable than ever.
“I've held a lot of roundtables over the last couple months over Zoom with tech professionals and many expressed that there's value in still working together in the same location. The experiences that I've heard from people, especially with the younger people working in the tech sector, suggest that working at home alone can be challenging from a mental health perspective. While we have an opportunity to do more work remotely, I still feel that working together has a lot of benefits. And that's why I think the concept of a tech hub is still something that is going to be an important consideration going forward. BCs innovation Commissioner issued a report at the end of his term, and his number one recommendation was that to invest in innovation precincts, essentially tech hubs. British Columbia has a great opportunity to do this.”
Attending Zoom meetings has been a common theme for anyone in the tech industry recently. As an active supporter of the BC Tech Association, we were keen to find out more about Glumac’s work with the organization, and following his attendance at their recent virtual awards ceremony, how important such events were for highlighting companies and letting the world know about the great work they’re doing.
“It's important to acknowledge that companies here in BC have had an easier time of being successful if they find a market outside of the province. That's something that we certainly recognize and want to support and encourage, as a province. And that's why we have awards like that to highlight and showcase examples where this is successful. We recognize it's a very key component to success and we have a network of trade representatives across the world that are there to help assist local companies to find markets and to find companies that want to invest in our province as well.”
Glumac is a passionate supporter of the tech industry in BC and his work with Innovate BC is clearly a point of pride, and a key part of his role as Parliamentary Secretary of Technology is being hands-on with tech sector and maintaining those relationships.
“Innovate BC is a crown Corporation, whose focus is supporting the tech sector in the province. Innovate BC has a number of programs, they fund various accelerators across the province and I've recently been working with them to host these Zoom roundtables with tech professionals where we can talk about the important components in the success of companies in the tech sector. Everything from access to talent and access to markets, and access to capital and how these things can be improved.
We have a lot of success here in BC with startups, but we want to see more companies grow and stay in BC and create this ecosystem that helps sustain and grow the tech sector further. That's been a key focus of the conversations that we've been having. There’s a big difference between how that works in San Francisco for example versus Vancouver and BC. And we want to see more of that. We want to see more local companies growing that stay here and nurture new tech professionals that start new companies.”
In 2018, the BC NDP government released Clean BC and set out a series of ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 2030. We asked Glumac if he is confident those targets will be met, and what role he sees tech companies in the Cascadia Corridor having in meeting these targets.
“In order to achieve that target, we definitely have a lot of work ahead of us. And I want to see that target achieved. I want to see it being surpassed. The climate crisis is a crisis that is only going to get worse as time goes by if we're not able to find ways to address it. The problem is so big that it's more than just trying to hit these targets. I really feel like the only way that we're really going to address this is through innovation. Each jurisdiction plays a role in this. And I know there has been a lot of discussion between the Premier and the Governor of Washington State. There is a lot of agreement on the importance of this and, and we definitely want to continue to work together on that front.
Innovation is such a key part in addressing the climate crisis, there are a lot of amazing clean tech companies in BC, and Washington as well. And I think there's great opportunities for partnership there. One example I can talk about, which I'm very familiar with because it's in my own riding. We had a thermal energy plant, that used to burn natural gas to produce electricity and it was shut down and decommissioned in 2016. It's located right next to high voltage power lines, because it was connected into that grid. It's next to the water and most of the lands are not being utilized.”
As a part of their commitment to the Clean BC economic plan, Glumac has spoken at length previously about the potential of using the Burrard Thermal lands for work on clean energy projects and experimenting with new technologies such as carbon sequestration. It is encouraging news for tech companies in the region, who are often among the world leaders in climate science. While the legislation required to make this happen may not be straightforward, Glumac maintains that the will is there, and he is clearly determined that it will happen in the future.
“I see incredible potential for these lands to nurture innovation in cleantech and clean energy. I have met with many companies in BC and seen some of the incredible work that they're doing. But they may need space to build a larger project or do a demonstration and this land with its access to clean high voltage electricity and access to the water is a way that we can, as a province, nurture opportunities and facilitate breakthroughs in clean energy technologies. There are opportunities like that across BC, across Washington, and this is where I think we need to be putting a lot of our energy and focus right now, to address climate change.”
Away from the pressing global concerns, as MLA for Port Moody and Coquitlam, his riding includes several communities. While connecting with people in person may have been difficult in recent months there are many community initiatives that Glumac plays an active role in for Anmore, Belcarra, Coquitlam, and Port Moody.
“I've been doing a lot of work in a lot of different areas, both locally and at the provincial level. One example, early on in my term was related to the former government’s plan to sell off some of the lands around our local hospital and it met with a lot of community resistance. I worked with the Health Minister to find a way to keep those lands public because the community and I felt it would be short sighted to sell off lands around a hospital in a growing region of Metro Vancouver. At some point that hospital may expand, and we may need those lands. You’re never going to be able to get them back once they are sold. I'm generally not a fan of selling off public land, whether it's schools or hospitals or whatever it might be.”
Another initiative Glumac was particularly keen to share with our readers was the potential for development of the area around the Moody Centre SkyTrain station. He sees the light industrial land around the station as the perfect place for a new tech hub that would connect local businesses and residents with the wider tech community in the region. It is a project that Glumac has taken a personal interest and is one of many across the province that he is excited to see come to fruition in the coming years.
From day one Glumac has enjoyed the hands-on aspect of speaking to his community and he says that one of the key aspects of the role is ‘being accessible and open and, and willing to listen and to take concerns to the proper places in government’. He has a number of examples of more recent initiatives he has enjoyed being a part of, such as working on active transportation and electric scooters - which has involved lengthy discussions with the Ministry of Transportation and pilot projects with various communities. This work could see them becoming widely available and properly regulated across the province, helping people reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The desire to be at the forefront of environmental initiatives are a big part of what motivated Glumac to explore his unconventional career change.
“I've always cared a lot about the environment. There were a couple of environmental issues that came up before I was involved in politics - I had an experience that was positive - I was part of change. When I first moved to Port Moody I started getting involved in my community. Volunteering at different places like the Art Center and Fish Hatchery and city committees, just to get involved locally. One issue that came up involved a proposal to build a garbage incinerator in the city. The proponent who was bringing this forward, had a lot of claims about how great this whole process was. The city struck a taskforce and I just happened to be on the committee from which the taskforce was formed, so I became very involved in this. We went through several months of public hearings where we got to hear from experts that were really looking at the science of this technology.
We issued a recommendation to not proceed with this and cited a number of valid reasons why, and what would be needed in order to support this kind of initiative. The council accepted our recommendations and voted down the incinerator, and it was just such a rewarding process. That encouraged me and a lot of people encouraged me to run for city council after that. The reason I even got involved in my community is because of my daughter. Thinking about the future and what kind of a world we’re leaving for our kids, really inspired me to take a more active role in the community that we live in.”
Living in Los Angeles and working in the animation industry, Glumac decided soon after his daughter was born that he didn’t want to raise his children in LA, describing it as ‘a very polluted place’. The switch to Port Moody, surrounded by beautiful nature and clear skies of British Columbia triggered a change, and a move into politics that he had never considered as an option.
“I didn’t want my daughter growing up in LA surrounded by smog. She was the catalyst for me getting involved in my community. My experience seeing how well government can work - that people can get involved and have a voice was very inspirational to me. Before that I didn't think that politicians listened, and it was just a waste of time in my mind. That was my opinion at the time. I think a lot of people share that opinion today. But I try to be the kind of person that I would want to see in politics. It’s so important to me that I'm accessible, that I'm available to talk to and to champion issues and that's what inspired it all.”
It is hard not to be inspired by Glumac’s story and identify with the desire to make the world a better place for the next generation. We asked what words of advice he would give to the young people thinking about a career in politics, those that may have the same opinions of politicians that he did before he got involved.
“The advice that I would give is, all of the positive changes that have happened in the world have come from people. Working to change something can be a frustrating process and it can be demoralizing and everything else. But I think that, if you have the opportunity to experience what it's like to commit yourself to something and to see change happen you will come to understand what is possible.
If you are relying on other people to do things solely and you have this huge disdain for politicians and government the best way to deal with that is to get involved yourself and to follow your passions in terms of the things that you believe in. You may sometimes have a bumpy road along the way, but there's really no other way that good change happens other than through the hard work of people that care. It's up to you. It's up to each one of us to be part of that change. You can be, and that's a fact.”
You can find out more about Rick Glumac, MLA, here: http://rickglumac.com/