All School Board Candidates Meeting Hosted by New West District PAC – Wednesday, October 3rd

It’s Election time New West! (But you already knew that, right?) Saturday, October 20th is the big day to reach for the pencil and select your choice for Mayor, Council and School Trustees. There are a number of All Candidates Meetings popping up around town.

On October 3rd the New West District Parents Advisory Council (NW DPAC) will be hosting an all School Board Candidates Meeting. Questions from the 12 parent advisory councils (PACs) that make up the DPAC will be put to school board candidates. Find your school’s PAC contact information on their webpage.

The event will be held at New Westminster Secondary School’s Library at 835 8th Street in New Wesminster between 6:30 and 9pm.

Professional childcare and snacks will be provided. No RSVP required, just show up!

What does a Trustee do?
The British Columbia School Trustees Association gives a bit of info on their webpage:
“As locally elected representatives, the trustees on these boards best understand their respective communities’ particular strengths, challenges and demands…School trustees listen to their communities, guide the work of their school district and set plans, policies and the annual budget.”

 

Door knocking 101 – hitting the pavement with Gurveen

Like many folks in New West I live in an apartment. This means that knocks on my door are pretty rare (I’m a quiet neighbour). But if you live in a detached home and some townhomes you may find knocks at your door a more regular occurrence. Door knocking or canvassing is going to be picking up soon and for many candidates intending on running in October’s municipal elections, it’s already begun.

Gurveen Dhaliwal, candidate for New Westminster School Board Trustee, invited me out on Tuesday, September 4th to see what door-knocking involves and hear what some residents in New West had to say. We picked a corner and a time to meet up and promptly lay out our course for the evening.

My observations and lessons:

  • Door knocking takes time. We walked the length of a street that spanned about 2 New West blocks and it was took over an hour to do both sides of the street.
  • New West likes to talk. It might take a few probing questions but people have strong opinions and want to be heard.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Always close the gate behind you and never walk across someone’s lawn.
  • People are really happy about getting a new high school.
  • The candidates are not out to openly debate or argue, it’s more about listening to what you have to say.
  • Candidates often try and communicate with other candidates where they will be on certain days to avoid doubling up and door-knocking on the same street.
  • Dogs. There are some awesome dogs that need to be pet. I was happy to oblige.

Door knocking was largely a positive experience. I would recommend that anyone interested in gaining experience or testing the water of your future political career reach out to a candidate and ask them if they need help for an hour or two. You don’t only gain perspective and experience, you get one-on-one time with the candidate. I learned that Gurveen grew up in New Westminster and is the daughter of immigrants from India which has helped shape her desire to increase transparency and engagement in the New Westminster school system, especially for new immigrants and working class families. She recently completed her degree from UBC and we completed very similar undergraduate courses (my major was Women’s Studies at SFU and Gurveen’s was Sociology with a minor in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice.

Two final thoughts as an apartment dweller. In the 2011 Census it was reported that approximately 18% of New Westminster residents lived in detached homes while over 70% lived in an apartments (of all types).

Candidates: If door knocking is only targeting detached homes, how are you proactively seeking input, opinion and ideas from residents living in other structures?

And fellow apartment dwellers:

How are you making your voice heard for the next municipal election? Are you speaking directly to candidates? Are you attending any of the all-candidates meetings?  Are you inviting candidates into your building? Your voice and vote count.

Gurveen is friendly with all creatures she meets while door-knocking.

Small Town Voting

New West’s relative “smallness” is part of its charm. It’s easy to see the same people and make connections when you attend events. Into sports? I bet the same families attend Hyacks, ‘Bellies, and rec league hockey and soccer games. Into green living? I bet the same crowd attends Green Drinks, the farmers market, and the community garden events. Into beer? Well… you get the picture.

If politics is more your thing, well, New West gets into politics in a huge way and there’s certainly no shortage of opinions and information flying around, and that’s been the case for a long time. Part of how Tenth evolved as a site was a number of political posts and activities. New West has been called the NDP stronghold in local and regional media for years, though a number of other parties and independent candidates have run for federal, provincial, and municipal elections with lots of supporters and exposure in previous elections.

This election period has been the most challenging campaign I’ve experienced as a voter since I began when I was 18. I haven’t volunteered at all as my schedule hasn’t allowed it but I’ve attended a few events and Tenth to the Fraser co-hosted an All Candidates Meeting where I slung beers and did my best to live tweet. I really do appreciate how hard a number of my friends and colleagues are working to get their chosen candidates elected.

Everyone has their own “system” for how they choose who they’re voting for, but for me, I typically select a candidate based on them as a person rather than their party affiliation automatically telling me to vote for them. What will they do for their constituents? What skills do they bring? How much do I trust them? But what happens when there are two candidates who filter up to the top of the pile? What happens when there are two people who you know can do a good job? What happens when the charming small town you love has never felt so small?

Well, then you look to the party and the party leader. It’s a whole new way to decide how to vote for me. I’ve never felt this exhausted about an election, and I’ve never struggled to make a decision as much as this one. I’ve spent hours reading platforms, asking questions, and listening as much as I can. I can’t imagine also finding time to door knock, push paper, write copy, and generally help on a campaign. So my thanks to the volunteers who are working so hard to make this small town be a great place.

The one message all of the candidates I’ve talked to have agreed on is this: there has never been a more important time to vote. So if you haven’t yet gotten a chance to pop into the voting place in advance polls, stop by before 8pm today. It is a privilege to be able to vote, and you throw that away if you don’t make time. Your employer is legally obliged to allow you to go and vote today and it is an easy process.

Whether your riding is New Westminster or Richmond-Queensborough, there are lots of places to vote today. Use this handy dandy finder to pick your spot. You don’t have to have a voter card (though it’s a bit faster if you do) so take your ID and go. The staff are friendly and welcoming and they’ll make it as easy as possible for you to exercise your voting privilege.

And good luck to all of New Westminster’s candidates.

 

Green Party Alive and Well

greenSince the last election campaign, membership in the Green Party of Canada for New West residents is at an all time high. Support has been growing, with young and old alike keeping the flame alive until we head to the polls again in 2019. This kind of between election support for a small political party is rare, so what’s up, Greens? I was the candidate for New Westminster-Burnaby in the last federal election. Here’s the thing:

I haven’t always voted Green. In fact, one thing almost every Green supporter has in common is that they haven’t always voted Green. Most of us were members of a different political party in the past; some of us members of multiple different parties. But we’ve all come to the same conclusion: we need to think more about the long-term, we need to ensure future generations are not burdened by our short-sightedness, we need sustainability.

Continue reading “Green Party Alive and Well”

Here We Go Again

#NewWestVotesWhat’s happening in New Westminster politics has been a great portion of this site’s history. We’ve written all sorts of think pieces, op-eds, event previews and recaps, profiles, and have also hosted all-candidates events. Our comments section has always made for lively discussion, as well.

In the past, we’ve often endorsed certain candidates.

We’ve made the editorial decision that from now on, Tenth to the Fraser will not endorse any particular candidate for any election. True, our editor’s political leanings are not exactly secret, but we just don’t think Tenth to the Fraser, as a business and a team of a few people, needs to make a proclamation about who we think is the right leader.

We do commit to write about what we think is much more important: providing information about how, when, and why to vote, and providing a platform for all candidates to give answers to questions, purchase advertising (so long as they meet our guidelines about suitable advertisements), and have an opportunity to submit pieces about the issues their position might have to cover.

So…. guess what?

There’s a school trustee by-election coming up to replace Mary-Ann Mortensen who resigned in March this year, and that means you are voting for a single person to replace her. Just because it’s only one person doesn’t make it any less important for New West to vote, in fact, it’s almost more important that you do put in the effort. And regardless of whether you have children, trustees work collaboratively to develop policies and lead and represent New Westminster Schools, and ultimately, they work to raise awesome future New Westers who might one day be your neighbour, your employee, or your caregiver.

For a bit more info about what trustees do and why you should care no matter that, check out this article from back in 2011.

The election takes place on June 11. if you can’t make that, then there is also two opportunities for advanced voting: June 1 at City Hall, and again on June 4 at Glenbrook Middle School. All of the date and places are available on the City’s website and all voting opportunities are from 8am to 8pm.

Who’s running? There are two candidates who have filed: Dee Beattie, backed by the District Labour Council, and Mary Lalji, running as an independent. I sent both candidates the same questions, and I’m printing them below exactly as received. Dee got her responses in first, so hers are listed on top. If you’ve got more questions that need answers before you make a decision, get in touch with your candidates and ask them your questions! Their contact info is included below.  Continue reading “Here We Go Again”

Coal port planned across from Quay

As you may or may not know, Fraser Surrey Docks wants to build a full coal port on the Fraser River, directly across from the Quay. The coal facility would eventually move ~8 million tonnes of thermal coal from the U.S.  to power plants overseas every year. This is nearly a doubling  of the amount of American thermal coal shipped through B.C. ports.

Photo: David Hadgkiss
Photo: David Hadgkiss

A coal port across from the Quay would not only be an eyesore in an important tourist destination (and a place many New West residents visit daily for recreation), but it will also contribute significantly to global climate change and local air pollution. Exporting coal overseas while attempting to meet province-wide climate targets is duplicitous and hypocritical.  Health concerns about breathing in toxic coal dust and diesel fumes are serious and real. Vulnerable groups like kids and seniors spend time on the Quay everyday (including mine, pictured above).  The Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities and the province’s chief medical officer have all called for a comprehensive health impact assessment, but it hasn’t happened to date

There is no benefit to BC from this coal port aside from maybe a few dozen jobs. If approved, our communities would bear the health and environmental risk while the profits will accrue to the US companies that own the mines, rail companies and Fraser Surrey Docks. On top of that, it’s likely to become a stranded asset: demand for imported coal in China is tanking as the country is getting serious about cutting down on pollution from coal-fired power plants.

My objection isn’t just a knee-jerk NIMBY response as a parent who lives in downtown New West. I don’t think this coal port should be built in anyone’s backyard.  We should not be making any investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. If we start building now, Canada could get 100% of our energy from renewable resources by 2035. As a parent, I think opposing this coal plant is just as important as the decisions I will make about where to put our kid into daycare. The more fossil fuels we let burn, the more different our kid’s future will be, and the evidence is strong that that future will be worse.

Despite local opposition and lacking a proper assessment, the proposal so far has the approval of Port Metro Vancouver,  an unaccountable decision-making authority with no local representation. But the Fraser Surrey Docks still needs additional permits before operating, so all is not lost. Our City, at least, recognizes the coal port is not in the interest of New Westminster (or any community). New West City council officially opposes the proposal and has signed on as intervenors in a court challenge.  Ecojustice is taking Port Metro Vancouver to court on the grounds of procedural fairness and failure to consider climate impact.

This video from the event held in New Westminster in the spring nicely summarizes what’s at risk, and why you should care:

The official link to the proposal is here. I recommend this FAQ if you want to learn more, especially for more detail on the status of the proposal. How to get involved: