By Dylan Hackett, News Editor
Last week I had the chance to speak with BCNDP candidate for the riding of New Westminster, Judy Darcy. Below is an excerpt of the conversation.
First off, could you please tell our readers of your background, personal history, and how you came to be the BC NDP candidate for New Westminster?
I’ve been involved in standing up for issues that affect students, that affect working people, affect seniors, and the environment for my entire life… my first involvement was the student movement, the women’s movement, the peace movement, and the trade union movement and in all of the work that I’ve done, what I’ve focused on is bringing people together around common issues. For instance, when I was Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) president and I represented a wide variety of folks across the county, we initiated a national, provincial, and local coalition called Water Watch. It was about bringing together environmental organizations, Council of Canadians, citizens groups, and water workers.
I have worked for years with the Canadian Federation of Students, nationally and in BC, about issues of access to post-secondary education. Healthcare—we’re really trying to bring together the interests of those who provide health care with those who receive health care. That’s what my life has been all about. That’s what gets me up in the morning and has for a long, long time. You reach a certain point in the province of British Columbia where you say, if we’re going to make some real changes in people’s lives you have to get political. So I decided to run for nomination for the NDP.
How did the nomination process go?
I was acclaimed like Hector [Bremner] was, like the Conservative candidate may well be (he isn’t official yet). I had very strong support in the community and I was acclaimed a year ago, on August 30, because we thought the election was going to be in the fall of 2011, but it was the day after I was nominated that the premier announced “Nope, we’re going back to the fixed date.” It’s been 13 months with seven months to go and we’re gearing up.
What was your previous post of employment before this?
I was head of the Hospital Employees’ Union. I was the media spokesperson, chief negotiator. I spent a lot of time on issues related to public health care and access to health care, seniors care, advocating for more cost-effective ways to provide health care to our community.
Say you’re elected as MLA for the New Westminster riding—what are your plans for the Royal Columbian Hospital?
Well, I keep trying to get a handle on what the government is trying to do because it’s just one concept plan after another, after another. There was something new that was said just a few days ago and you have to go over it with a magnifying glass just to see if there’s actually any money being committed. There’s no question that we need modernization and that we need upgrading of facilities.
You’re running in a riding that has proved to be, for most of the last half-century, NDP-supporting. Do you think this makes the campaign trail easier? Has it already made it easier?
I do not take anything for granted. I have been working my butt off since last August. The polls have been looking good but I agree with Adrian Dix in saying those polls are going to narrow, but I am working day in and day out to win the confidence and the trust of voters in New Westminster.
Hector Bremner is fairly confident in his position as BC Liberal candidate, citing the changing demographics of New Westminster as a reason why the riding might not want to be represented by labour this spring. What are your thoughts on that?
Yes, the demographics are changing somewhat, for sure. A lot of the seniors who’ve had their own homes before are moving into condos in New Westminster. We have an incredibly diverse riding here. It’s a lovely, lovely riding in its diversity. I don’t believe in politics of division. As MLA, I wouldn’t want to be more about this group than another group because at the end of the day, people have the same interests. They care about the kids in their schools, about their access to post-secondary education, students are concerned about the jobs out there after their post-secondary education and their parents are too! And seniors.
What is the NDP going to do for students if elected into government this spring?
The first commitment that Adrian Dix made after he was elected leader was that he was going to be the Education Premier. If you follow his message, wherever he’s speaking, not just to NDP audiences, to the Vancouver Board of Trade, he went in there and said that “I’m about access to post-secondary education, skills and apprenticeship training, investing in good jobs, investing in the economy, and overcoming inequality.” Economic development and overcoming inequality have to go hand-in-hand. He said we’re going to reinstate the non-refundable student grant program that was scrapped by the Liberals. He has said that from day one and he said here’s how we’re going to pay for it—we’re going to have a tax on banks and financial institutions.
Do you have cabinet ambitions?
My goal is to be the MLA for New Westminster. Those decisions are made by the premier of the province. My goal is to win election for New Westminster and to give the best representation I can to this constituency and bring my experience out and speak for all parts of the constituency in all its diversity.
Is there anything else you’d like the readers of The Other Press to know about you campaign?
We’re really gearing up now. We had a fabulous fundraiser with Stephen Lewis, who has done lots of incredible things in his life. We packed the Columbia Theatre. It was just buzzing, packed to the gills! I’m very proud that my campaign has attracted a number of students as volunteers. We’re really out in the community and there’s nothing I like better than talking to people on their doorstep! Some people who run for office don’t like that part of it, that’s what it’s about! You find out what people want, you look them in the eye, what issues they’re about, they invite you into their home, you hear their stories!
We’re going to have a dynamic campaign that involves a broad cross-section of people and I hope, next May, to be the MLA—to give the best possible representation to this constituency. I love it. It’s an amazing community. There aren’t many communities like it.