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Chilliwack City Council candidate: Kim Harder



Interviewed by Vanessa Broadbent.

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?

I would describe the role of municipal politics as the level of politics that is at your front door and it’s the stuff that impacts how you live the quality of life from a day-to-day basis. Everything from garbage collection to off-leash dog parks, all that kind of stuff. But it’s bigger than that because we are a community and so I think that municipal politics need to be reflective of our community. To answer your question about what can councillors do, what I feel is that city council needs to provide leadership on lots of the issues that face us. I’m very excited to be able to run, because I’m really excited for the future of Chilliwack and so I think that we’re kind of on the cusp of this, I wouldn’t really say a break out, into a more urban kind of positive attitude about things.

I really just think that city council needs to be at the vanguard of that and providing us the leadership. I keep coming back to that because I think it’s important for the citizens of Chilliwack to recognize that that is in fact why they elected city council, to provide leadership. They’re not there just to sit and listen to rezoning. Not that that isn’t an aspect to what city council does, there’s just more of an opportunity to take the leadership, and leadership doesn’t cost money. It’s not an extra cost item to provide leadership around issues. Particularly the social issues that we’re all going to be facing and we are facing now as we go forward with this increasing urbanization and the demands that that is going to make on all of us. That is what I think is important. All those kinds of things obviously, bylaws and changes to things, come about as the law requires, but really that’s what I will be looking for from city council.

I was motivated to run because I was flipping through the paper and I saw that the percentage of voter turnout was so low. The second thing I saw when I turned the page was that at that point, this was getting very close to the deadline for nomination, at that point only two identifiable women’s names were printed in the paper. That was for me kind of the tipping point and I just thought we need more women in decision-making roles. We need more women in leadership roles. I’m really self-actualized, I know myself. I thought, I have to do this. I have those leadership qualities that will really benefit this community and it comes back to what I said too. That was my initial thought. I have to do this because we need more women, but I also relate it back to how we really need to have council be a reflection of our community and also further to that, I really hope that the voters of Chilliwack and especially young people and youth look and go, “We want to elect to Chilliwack city council someone that’s a beacon of where we want to go, not strictly a representation of where we are now,” so that’s where I come in.

Who do you view as your constituents?

My constituents are basically all of the citizens of Chilliwack. As I was just saying, for me, I want to really focus on youth because the City of Chilliwack has identified that that’s a segment of society that needs attention. Also, I’m a mom and my kids are university age, they attend the University of the Fraser Valley, but I really believe that idea that it takes a village to raise a child. The more I think about it, it comes back to getting things right at the beginning. The beginning is when you’re young and if we can engage youth so that they feel that they have a voice and get them to participate then the payback is immense. Strong kids lead to strong communities. Although undoubtedly my constituents are everyone in Chilliwack, youth is a focus that I would like to take. We have to consider points of view and we have to look at bringing people together to look at our disagreements or work together towards common goals. I’m adopting the word collaborative a lot as it applies being able to listen and be open to an exchange of ideas and really work together and have good discussion and go forward with decisions and things that will benefit our community.

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

Specifically no, but I am really trying to focus on the value of youth and advocating for youth representation. Maybe we could do things like have a high school student sitting on city council. We could have a university student sitting on city council. They could be representative of those age groups, they could be other opportunities to engage youth. I do have a community Facebook page, I know that that’s something that people that are younger than me relate to. That is a way for me to try to reach out to them. I really value their input.

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

Certainly, I feel that I’m running for city council because I feel that I have a vision for the community and I want to be able to guide decision-making and provide leadership as we go forward. At the same time, I’m not running with an axe to grind about city council. I also don’t think it’s really healthy to live in the past. Sometimes you can go back at a decision that was made, look at it again, and consider options that may not have been clear at the time and remake a decision. I’ve always thought that once a decision is made, if it’s not the right decision then you have to work to make it right. For me, what I would do differently is provide a little more leadership and a little more inspiration, is what I’m hoping, a little more enthusiasm for where we’re going and the bright future that Chilliwack has.

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

I don’t have a specific bylaw that I’m aware of at this point that I would like to change, but a specific project that I would like to see or provide leadership around is the idea around some youth initiatives. For example, Abbotsford has a youth healthcare centre. They just won a Premier’s award for innovation for that. It’s in the works here, but City Hall needs to provide some leadership around that and facilitate it happening. Those are the kinds of projects that I would really advocate. Coming back to this whole idea of youth involvement, youth engagement, it’s starting from when you’re young. If we can get youth involved and engaged and feeling like they’re contributing to society it makes it better for all of us. My specific project would be to get the Chilliwack youth health centre established.

How will you actually propose this change, pay for it, involve the community?

Interestingly, there are groups that are already involved in trying to get this established — the Division of Family Practice, the Ministry of Health and Family [Welfare] — but what I would do to give it a nudge in the right direction. I’m not sure if the school division or the schools are actually involved, but the players that need to make it happen, the same groups that were involved in the Abbotsford one, are involved here, but somehow in Abbotsford they were able to get it off the ground. They just won this Premier’s award for innovation and here the ball has kind of been dropped, it’s really frustrating because it’s really important. I think we need to be prepared, take the stance, recognize the value of that, and provide leadership in making it happen. It doesn’t cost money, good leadership doesn’t cost money.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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