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Chilliwack City Council candidate: Phillip Maxwell

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Interviewed by Michael Scoular.

Since many students will be voting or taking an interest in municipal politics for the first time, could you describe what you see as the role of municipal politics and what city councillors can actually do?

I’d say they’re more like a watchdog. You know, they need to be the people between the public and what the City’s doing, they need to keep people informed on what’s going on, and basically a voice for everyone that is not running things.

Who would you see as your constituents?

Pretty much everyone, right from, you know, my next door neighbours to First Nations people — they’re really big — and seniors, and of course students.

If the entire city, then, is your constituency, how would you go about receiving or gathering the views of all those people as opposed to just those who come around City Hall?

Open forums. Even just things such as coffee meets. The main thing I see is people are not getting out enough, and councillor or not, doing enough to go out and see these people.

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

Well, yes and no. That’s kind of loaded — my wife is a student here, and is kind of helping me with that.

In your campaign, then, what sort of conversations have you been having?

Mainly the lack of turnout, basically. You look at the last election, it was just horrible. It’s just, people need to get more involved. That’s the main reason I really ran this time, just lack of involvement.

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

I’m more the type of person that doesn’t try the quick fix. I like to find out what the root cause of the problem is, address that, then everything else falls into place. And I don’t see that happening with the current council.

Can you think of any specific examples?

Crime rate, especially in the downtown area. I live close to there, so I see a lot of that. I feel sorry for the police because they’re the last line, right? They’re trying to catch them, but I don’t see where anyone’s looking at what’s causing the problem.

How would you foresee, then, going about communicating with the police department?

Well the first step would be more open forums with the people around that area. Find out what they see as the problems then address that with the police. Eventually if you get enough people talking about it, looking into what the problems are, you’re going to find a solution that’s going to work for everyone.

Do you have any specific projects or bylaws you would want to prioritize or change if you were elected?

Not really. Maybe the election bylaw a little bit, get rid of all those nasty signs all over the place.

I guess you’ve been running without any signs, then?

Nope, I refuse. You know, it’s a beautiful city. Why wreck it with a bunch of signs all over the place?

Did you have any other comments?

It’s been fun so far. It’s different. I’d really like to see more involvement from the community, seniors and First Nations people especially. There’s such a wealth of knowledge in the city. You know, they need to get out and city council needs to provide a forum for them to get their ideas … if we don’t understand what they’ve done in the past, we’re just going to make the same mistakes again and again, and nothing’s going to get done. And the only other thing I see is that, students here for example, I’m betting probably 90 per cent of them, after they’re done, will leave Chilliwack and go [to] high-paying jobs in Vancouver or down in the States. We’ve got to look at ways to keep that talent here. The current wage structure, from what I see — you know I was in retail for a while — I wouldn’t stay here. Not after I spent four or so years getting a degree here.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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