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 basically plays a huge part in the community: how your streets are developed, and your planning and building and everything — how it takes place in the community. City council is obviously there to make sure everything is in place for people to live, to work, and to enjoy Chilliwack. Everything from water to sewer to developing, we’re there to make sure there’s a uniformity behind it all and to make sure to keep our taxes low.
Who do you view as your constituents?
My constituents, because of my background, obviously I try to reach to as many people as possible, but I might have a slight advantage because I’m also a realtor in this town, so I’ve got a pretty good network there. I’m also a farmer, born and raised on a farm, so the agricultural community is very supportive of me running for council. I’m working hard towards the seniors because they take voting very seriously. So obviously, I’m out and about and meeting people on the streets and just talking to anybody. So, yeah, I’m trying to work towards the younger crowd as well. I was heavily involved with the government relations committee of the Chilliwack District Real Estate board, which has organized the Twitter parties. However, because I’m running for municipal office, I had to step back from that at this point. But we were very proactive in trying to encourage a younger vote as well because we’ve had such a poor turnout in the last elections that we’re trying to make people aware that there are people in the same world who would fight and die for the opportunity to actually go out and vote in a democracy.
How will you receive the views of the entire population instead of just those most active around City Hall?
You know what, I’m an open guy and I’m out and about on the streets every day; I’m approachable; I’ve got an email and obviously I’d be happy to meet and answer questions for people. We’re a city but we’re still small enough to have interaction with people on a pretty good scale, I think. Out and about I’m selling Chilliwack as a realtor, so I’m an ambassador for the community, bragging about how great it is to be here, and I’m out and about, and easily accessible and happy to answer any questions people have.
You mentioned social media, but is there anything else you’ve been doing to try to address the lack of interest among students in local politics?
Students in per se, I’m definitely—social media plays a big part of that. I’m not only social media, simply because I don’t think you can bank on social media as the only thing you can do to get votes, but I’m still young enough to understand social media is a huge part, so it is definitely part of my campaign. Out and talking to people, trying to go to events that are organized in the community. I have yet to attend a student event of some sort, but I’ve attended events for charities and seniors, so I would love the opportunity if I knew there was some sort of gathering with young people or students, to be able to go to talk to them for a few minutes.
If elected, how would what you want to do as a city councillor be different from what city council is already doing?
My biggest thing right now is our city is fairly well-run. That being said, there [are] things I might have done differently, but at the end of the day it’s a team effort. We debate the issues, whether I agree or disagree with them; we abide by council’s decision; and we come out unified as one voice. We obviously should [first] and foremost, put all the needs of the City of Chilliwack — [ask] “is this the best interest of the community?” — put that first and foremost. At the end of the day, I honestly believe our city is being fairly well-run; there’s things I’d like to see a little bit different, but that’s okay; that’s why we’re in a democracy; we can bring different ideas, and I think the youthful enthusiasm of myself and [with an] energetic approach — [I was] born and raised here, always interested in civic politics here, and I want to be part of that to make sure we continue to grow. Yes, we are, to a certain extent, a bit of a bedroom community. We’re an agriculture community, but I want to see growth up, not out, and see that we densify rather than urban sprawl, and I’m willing to work with a team and work hard to ensure Chilliwack remains a low-tax base. We are the place to be, I think, and there’s so much going for the community; there’s so many things city council has initiated that I would like to continue to build on. For instance, neighbourhoods such as Garrison, such as the Historic Downtown, to see something happening there. I’d like to see us plan for infrastructure down the road as we face potential growth. We see a lot of businesses moving here but we have to plan for the infrastructure that’s going to be required for that as well, because congestion is going to be part of that. So we have to prepare and be ready for that and make sure that it’s an affordable option, and that when we do things, we can pay for them and not raise our taxes.
Do you have a specific project you want to prioritize or bylaw you want to change?
I’ve mentioned there’s a few things I’d like to see happen regarding congestion; I’d like to see Promontory Road widened, and have better access up to Promontory; I’d like to see more [all-weather] sports fields on the South side of the freeway … I would like to see a trail network expanded in the community, whether it be for running or biking or walking. We have an amazing Rotary trail here; however it would be nice if we could capitalize and build something similar, or build onto what we have on the North side, and ultimately my goal would be to see all of our communities connected by way of a trail or a bike system, and that means from Yarrow to Sardis to Greendale to Chilliwack, into Rosedale. We could capitalize on Tourism Chilliwack’s great outdoor theme; we do live in a beautiful area and it would also encourage health and well-being for people to go out and actually enjoy the outdoors.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.