Interviewed by Michael Scoular.
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?
It’s six people on council, then we have the mayor above. For me, how I’ve run this whole campaign, is as a voice for the people. So it’s like the toughest job interview I’ve ever had, but it has to be.
You go to municipal and council meetings and stuff like that, and I know that we can change certain things, but we have to do it as a team. But I want to do it as a voice for everybody else. I don’t want it to be just my opinion, I mean certainly I have opinions based on things that I study and that kind of stuff. But I want it to be because the majority of Chilliwack says that this is what they want.
And you also have the policing, the RCMP, the firemen, you have all of that underneath. And you have to budget for all of that, and you have to budget for the infrastructure. I think the biggest thing that’s been on everybody’s mind is our security, is our policing. Public safety has been huge. So it’s going to be things like asking if there should be more police, and if that’s in the budget. I know there’s some roads that are flooding, these roads have had floods for 10 years, they’ve been living, some of them, in their homes for 30, why hasn’t that been taken care of? So it’s like finding that money in the budget, making sure that people are important.
Who do you view as your constituents?
Definitely the people. You respect the people you work with, but I definitely think the people of Chilliwack, and it doesn’t matter what age group — you know, 18 and over you have a voice. You have look at what you’re wanting from somebody — if you think that they’re going to be authentic and follow through on some of the things that are concerns, and push for those different concerns no matter what, even if it’s against the grain, you want somebody that’s going to stand up for everything that you believe in.
How will you receive the views of the entire population instead of just those most active around City Hall?
The majority of people have actually gone out and gotten signs; I haven’t. My thing has always been about going up to people and talking to people. So I have a nursing background, I’m a people person, you know is what people say? And I would rather talk to them, so I would definitely go up one by one. That kind of stuff, introduce myself, I’ve always done that — I’ve worked at the hospital 28 years, a lot of people know me. So I’m definitely out in the community a lot.
Are you doing anything to address the lack of student interest in local politics?
There’s almost 40 per cent of them, that’s almost 40 per cent of the vote. The last time we went to the polls, it was like 17.5 per cent of eligible voters that voted, making a minority government. That’s not cool, that’s not what you guys want. There has been a lot of talk for change, and if you want change, then you have to change it. But it is about educating the youth for sure. And that’s why I’ve been all over Facebook and social media.
That’s been hard, I didn’t realize it was going to be so tough. I hit social media hard, based on it. I know I’ve gone one-on-one, like private messages, talked to people. And starting November 1 I’m on the road, just walking the streets, talking to people, I’ll be calling the university asking if I can talk to different groups, that kind of stuff. It’s about educating people now, it’s about having that passion, finding that something that makes you passionate about politics. Sometimes it’s something that gathers somebody’s interest and whether it’s positive or negative, it still gathers your interest and you’re like “What’s happening over there?” and you want to be a part of that. I think that’s a big thing. I really think that the numbers are going to be way higher, I really do.
If elected, how would what you want to do as councillor be different from what council is doing now?
I’ve done a lot of studying, and I’m not gonna lie, I think when I go back looking on all the council members, and I like them all, all really great people. And I think looking back at their platform last time, three years ago. All of them talked about revitalizing the downtown and I know hearing from other people, you turn around and go, “What happened in three years?” and I think a lot of it is the City’s bought up a lot of downtown, most of them are vacant, so we’re not paying any municipal tax on any of it, and that’s kind of harsh because we’re taking a huge financial hit that way.
My plan would definitely be manageable housing, I would think that at this point you have the stores underneath and all the apartments or whatever on top, almost like a little mini-Garrison, that’s how the downtown should probably be. And it’s all facing the road, so it becomes more of a public safety thing — you’re all watching each other. So you’re not needing maybe as many police officers in that area because all the windows are facing, all the stores, all the porches are facing the street and it becomes a community again that way. I’m definitely pushing for manageable rents. Thirty per cent of your wage is what it should be. There’s a lot of people on welfare, and if you say affordable rent, people go, “Oh, that’s a terrible area,” but if you say it’s a manageable rent area, you know, the elderly and stuff like that, that’s what it needs to be. If you’re older you need to be able to afford your medication, you need to be able to eat your food. If you’re on welfare, you need to be able to feed your children and do all that kind of stuff too. I think we’ve just totally missed the boat on that one.
I spent some time with the homeless too. I went actually underneath the bridge and slept there for three days. It was harsh.
And you did this because?
You know, everyone’s asked me about the homeless in Chilliwack, like what are we going to do, what’s your plan, and I have a medical background, I work in the hospital, but you know you can’t answer it honestly if you don’t really know. And I could give a textbook answer, but I don’t think the textbook answer is what anybody needs to hear anymore. So it was more based on being an honest answer and being able to experience different things that I’ve never experienced in my life and being able to truthfully tell you what I thought.
Did you talk to a lot of homeless people?
I did, they’re hungry, they’re cold, they were very truthful. Once you’re there for a while they start to open up about their past and the reasons why they’re there. The majority are there because of family violence. There was one that was there that wasn’t from Chilliwack, but all the rest were from Chilliwack. It was hard, thinking that at 10 years old this man who was 50 ran away from home, and when did our system fail him? Did it fail him when he ran away from home or did it fail him now? He’s a drug addict, he’s very honest about it. His habit’s $150 a day. He gets a disability cheque for $1000, and they definitely break into the businesses. And if they’re doing that, why are they doing it? He said that it was mainly because they have no place to go. He wants a place — Ruth & Naomi’s and the Salvation Army are great places. But he said, you know, Ruth & Naomi’s they pray, and he’s not into that right now and at that point of his life he’s just not. He just wants to be able to walk into a place and be respected. For whoever he is. And that was the majority of the people who were there, that’s what they said. They would prefer to have a place where they could just go into and sit down for a couple hours, stay dry and be able to eat and not have the pressures of everything else right now.
Do you have a specific project you want to prioritize or bylaw you want to change?
The first thing that came to my mind is what’s happening on First Avenue, so I sat in at a council meeting, I spent five hours there. And there were a lot of people from James Street and McNaught Road and Walden Street and that area is definitely on a low plain, like a floodplain. We’re about 100 km from the ocean, and Chilliwack is about 30 feet above sea level and that area is 8.7 feet, so what’s happening is they’ve lived, some of them for 30 years, but the last 10 years, it’s been flooding in their basements and they’re done. There’s building going on around there now and they don’t know if it’s going to continue and they want that taken care of. I’ve been around with the city engineer, we went up on the mountains, they taught me about where the sloping is, on Elk View Road, on Ryder Lake, on Thornton Road, on Old Orchard Road, there’s different areas there that are sloping and they’re dangerous places. And I think at this point, it’s great to keep building and building, but we also need to keep it safe. And so those would be the places where I would say “Listen, let’s just make sure — I would die if anyone got hurt when I know about those places.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.