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Abbotsford City Council candidate: Daljit Singh Sidhu

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Interviewed by Megan Lambert.

Since many students will be voting for the first time, what would you describe as the role of municipal politics? What can city councillors actually do?

The city looks after everything right from the beginning, like roads, sewer systems, water systems, transit systems, and our police system, it’s all under the city. It’s very important for every single person to come out and vote because if you don’t, how are you going to improve the system? Because you are the people who are trying to bring somebody in and when we are coming in, we’re only spending about an hour to come to work, but the person you are electing is going to be working for you, or the community, for four years.

Who do you view as your constituents?

Everyone is talking about business development, taxes, and everything, but no one is trying to address our youth situation. We have a big issue here right now here in Abbotsford for the last 10 years, seeing how many shooting we’ve had, and youth are heading out to drugs, and I really want to connect to the youth so I can try to help our community out, not my community, but I’m talking about the community at large. It doesn’t matter what the race is.

Every single vote adds up. And people who have situations family-wise, for example if they have three kids, the parents know the issues. I mean, if I only address the students, there’s a lot of kids who are over the age of 18 who are living single, separate. I’m trying to address everyone.

Are you doing anything to address the lack of student interest in local politics?

I’ve never thought about it, but yes. People neglect this. They should come into this; it doesn’t matter where we start, we start from the bottom from the municipality level, then we look at the provincial and the federal. Now, these students, there’s a lot of students that are genius. They’re stars. They don’t want to get into this, but they should be moving into it. But if they come into this I think we’ll have a better system. I’m not saying that we’re doing a bad job, but the thing is there’s always space for movement. You can always improve here and there. So if these kids start coming into it, we’ll have a better running of eight people of the municipality.

If elected, how would what you want to do as councillor be different from what council is already doing?

Right now I’m working as a vice-chair on a credit union, which has assets at over 300 million, and we’re in the top five credit unions in BC. I have some knowledge in reading the financial statements and all that stuff, and I have been involved in a corporate social responsibility society. I’ve got a lot of experience in dealing with the public. My approach would be completely different; I’m not just going to sit on the table in the City Hall, and I’m going to be connecting with people. I’m going to be going out there physically. I’m going to look at the views, ask them what the situations are, and I know there are a few issues with business licenses and the development process – it takes too long. These are kind of the things that if you try connecting to the people, you will know the feedback. When you get the feedback, that’s when I can work on it.

Do you have a specific project you want to prioritize or bylaw you want to change?

I think efficiency’s a really big problem. Since my candidate debate, I went to a few places, sitting there for 45 minutes, trying to see what kind of services we have. I’ve never travelled on a bus myself, but in Hong Kong the service is so efficient. You don’t even need a vehicle of your own. You don’t. In here, I think the problem is that everyone is rush rush rush, and when you’re doing this they want the efficiency, and when you don’t have the efficiency everyone wants to jump into their vehicle. I mean, from downtown to Highstreet it probably takes about an hour and a half. Who has that kind of time? Especially students. They’re running through their tuition time, running through their part-time jobs, and they still want to go for a coffee. It’s just not convenient. I haven’t travelled on a bus, but I will be travelling on a bus in the next few days. I just want to find out what the situation is, I know the efficiency is not there.

A lot of students cannot afford a $500,000 home, right? In Vancouver they have a kind of affordable home, they’re $28,000, they’re about 100 square feet, you get a little kitchen in it, you get a sofa bed in it, and you get a microwave in it, and it’s only $28,000. For a lot of people you could put $2000 down, $3000 down, and rather than paying for the rent they can have their own place, peace of mind. I think every single person in Abbotsford should be able to get an affordable home if they can’t buy a bigger home. Once you grow up, get a job, you can buy a million dollar house, but in this initial stage a lot of people are like single parents – they can’t afford a $300,000, $400,000 house – so if you can come across something with less price or some outfits out there to start up a project, then we can put up an affordable home. That’s my dream, that everyone should have a roof.

Crime reduction, it already came down quite a bit compared to three years ago, but the problem is right now we’re still number three on the table. First is Surrey, second is Chilliwack, and we’re in third. I might be wrong with the facts but we’re still third. And I’m pretty sure it’s an issue we should address. Everything starts from unemployment. When somebody doesn’t have a job, they start doing something wrong. I’m going to develop some advisory committees between the temples, churches, non-profit associations, and once we put them together we’re going to try to find out which players really hit hard. It’s really hard for the police force to find out too, right? (…) I have an idea I’m going to talk to the churches, find out where it is individually, go to the physical places where the situations are coming out, we’ll see from the situation how can we address this and how can we solve it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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