Olympic champion shares his story
By Dylan Hackett, News Editor
I recently had a chance to talk with Chris Wilson, BCNDP candidate for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, which is the home riding of Douglas College’s David Lam campus. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
What led you to sign up last September to run for NDP representative for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain?
It goes back a long way. My parents instilled in my brothers, sisters, and me the will to help people. As far back as I can remember, we’ve been a family that volunteers. I got a little sidetracked when I got really into wrestling when I had to be more focused on my training. Once I achieved success in wrestling, I realized I could use the success to educate young people and motivate them to reach for their goals, their dreams. I started travelling around the province, talking to kids about setting goals and making good choices—staying away from drugs, and that sort of thing. I was in a position where as a young, successful role model, I could have a good influence on young people. I started doing that in 1989, when I was 21.
I’m on the homelessness and housing task force in the Tri-City area, and we’re really pushing for a provincial replacement policy, especially in the City of Coquitlam, especially because of the Evergreen Line and all the construction that’s going to happen up by the Burquitlam area. The developers bought all the low-cost rental housing up there, filled with low-income families and new Canadians who can only afford what they’re paying right now. They’re all going to be torn down eventually, and replaced with towers. What we’re trying to do is convince the city to implement a rental replacement policy like in Vancouver—anything over six units is replaced one-for-one… too many people on city council have the feeling that the market knows, and the market will decide what’s needed. Developers will do what makes them the most money. I have no problem with them making money, but let’s be more creative.
What did you expect when you put your name forward in September, given that you were running against Barrie Lynch and Joe Keithley?
I knew it was going to be a lot of work. I knew I had to be as organized as I could and I knew it was going to be close.
It was evident in the nomination meeting crowd that you had a decent supporter base.
The way it came out in the media was that [MLA Mike Farnworth, candidate Selina Robinson, and MP Fin Donnelly] all came out and endorsed me at once. A lot of those folks endorsed me about eight weeks ago. It was huge because it gives my campaign a bit more credibility and that the party is behind me. I’m so thankful for them coming out and supporting me like that.
What exactly made you want to hop from the non-profit sector, leading the charge for childhood recreational opportunities at KidSport, to the cutthroat legislature in Victoria?
Being a former wrestler, I don’t mind getting in there and fighting it out (laughs). For me, it’s having that opportunity to make a difference. I have an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son, and I look at the world that we are leaving them and I’m ashamed—on so many levels. It’s easy to be a critic, but at some point I’d like to do something about it. A lot of my life has been around trying to make a difference with people and this gives me an opportunity to have a bigger influence in what I’m doing.
What are your main strategies to win and bump incumbent Douglas Horne out of his MLA pension?
It was interesting that when I was trying to sign up members and would ask ‘Do you know who your MLA is?’ and a lot of them didn’t know and still weren’t quite sure… I think my competitor has not had much of an impact on our constituency. He’ll talk about playing a role in bringing the Evergreen Line to area, but c’mon. The people in Burke Mountain are clambering for an elementary school. Jerome Bouvier of PoCoMo Youth Services is begging the provincial government to provide funding for them but they don’t provide any. They run an outreach bus on Friday and Saturday nights. A majority of the money comes from outside the community. They got a big grant from a foundation in Alberta. At some point, you say: What have you done for our community?
My strategy to win is multi-pronged—I’m going to work my ass off like I did for the nomination campaign, and talk to people about issues. What the NDP is all about really resonates with people.
You look at all the people graduating from university and the jobs they trained for aren’t there. In your late 20s, you’re more likely to live with your parents than ever before.
What are your views on TransLink and how it operates?
It’s ridiculous how the government set it up. Having to rely on property taxes for funding increases is totally wrong. It’s been set up to fail. I don’t know why they’d set it up to fail. It’s an extensive issue, not something to be fixed overnight. We definitely have to change the money and governance models for it and make sure its actually providing the services it needs to be.
Is there anything else you’d like the readers of The Other Press to know about Chris Wilson?
I would love to meet with any student and would love to support a young NDP club at the Coquitlam campus. I want to get young people involved in politics. That’s what this is about—our future generations. We’re leaving the world in your hands and we have not done you justice. That has to change. One way to change that is to get young people involved in politics. It has got to happen.