One of the most hotly contested ridings has many interesting stories at play
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
The 2020 BC provincial election is underway, with all parties officially submitting their nominees. The Other Press is here to cover the candidates in both ridings of the two main Douglas College campuses. Coquitlam-Burke Mountain was one of the closest ridings in the province back in 2017, with Liberal Joan Isaacs winning with a mere 87 vote margin. Facing some furious competition from a determined NDP who are looking to take this seat with long time political stalwart NDP MP Fin Donnelly, can Issacs gain the most votes again in this highly coveted riding? Adam Bremner-Akins, an 18-year-old Green Party entry, is also looking to make some noise in the riding, and possibly become a spoiler in a close race for the seat.
Adam Bremner-Akins – Green Party
Right now, most post-secondary students are worried about assignments and the difficulties of online learning. Green Party candidate Adam Bremner-Akins understands these struggles, as the 18-year-old is running his campaign in-between studying for his political science degree at SFU. After organizing climate marches at his high school which got the attention of local MPs, Bremner-Akins is looking to jumpstart a career in politics by winning a seat in the legislature. Unfortunately, his election campaign will not count as extra credit towards his degree.
Bremner-Akins is running because he was tired of not seeing people like him represented in government, a reason Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau mentioned on why she is championing youth candidates like him. “The youngest person in the last legislature sitting was 35 […] I’m fed up with not seeing the issues I care about discussed,” said Bremner-Akins in an interview with the Other Press. He is also fighting for his future, which he sees in serious jeopardy. “I see my future being taken away from me by people who don’t have my interests in mind,” he said. If elected, the first issue Bremner-Akins will tackle is ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies. “We are in the middle of a climate crisis and the fact that we are funding companies that are leading to our extinction is insane to me,” he said. He would also like to see a fracking ban and begin establishing a plan for greener energy solutions.
“The youngest person in the last Legislature sitting was 35 […] I’m fed up with not seeing the issues I care about discussed.” – Adam Bremner-Akins, Green Party
Bremner-Akins, a university student himself, understands the struggle of students. He has friends who go to Douglas College. He stands for free college and university tuition because he does not think that students should have to take out costly loans to pay for schooling. “I believe that students should not have to go and get educated and spend half their lives paying off debt,” he said. He also feels that it’s unfair that students are priced out of the rental market due to lack of adequate paying jobs, and if they do find a place, they have to include the cost along with paying down their tuition.
Bremner-Akins is not naïve about his chances in this election. He knows that he is facing a steep grade going up against candidates like Joan Isaacs and Fin Donnelly. With that in mind, he still believes his campaign has something to say and brings light to the issues that students face from a more relatable perspective. “I’m still hoping we can influence them [Joan Isaacs and Fin Donnelly] and have them view some of our young people issues as issues that matter to them […] If we can get one issue into their heads and have them act on it, that will be a win,” he said.
Fin Donnelly – NDP
When it comes to political careers, few have as much experience as Fin Donnelly. Beginning in 2002 when he ran successfully for Coquitlam city council, he would later switch to federal politics, where he represented Coquitlam in three different elections from 2009 to 2019. Donnelly, now running in provincial politics, is looking to pull off the hat trick of representing Coquitlam at three different levels of government.
Donnelly looked to be retired from political life back when he announced that he would not be seeking another term as a federal MP, but seeing the pandemic and the pain it has caused to the people of Coquitlam emboldened him to get back into politics. “I’ve seen first hand the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on my neighbours and local businesses, and with my extensive political and community experience, I’m ready to help John Horgan and the BC NDP ensure a stable economy and a stronger BC for everyone,” he said in an interview with the Other Press.
“I’ve seen first hand the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on my neighbours and local businesses, and with my extensive political and community experience, I’m ready to help John Horgan and the BC NDP ensure a stable economy and a stronger BC for everyone.” – Fin Donnelly, NDP
Donnelly’s goals of helping Coquitlam doesn’t end with COVID though, as he is passionate about improving the lives of the people of Coquitlam through other initiatives like transit and education. “We are focusing on better transit […] building two new schools on Burke Mountain. John Horgan has announced 22 new urgent and primary care centres, including one in the Tri-Cities. “We’ve announced that there will be more affordable housing and childcare spaces in the Tri-Cities and British Columbia,” he said.
Donnelly is a passionate defense of Canada’s water and aquatic life. He has swum marathon distances in many of the rivers in the province and advocated strongly in Parliament for cleaner waterways. In terms of initiatives Donnelly would like to enact in the Legislature, he would like to see sockeye salmon return to the Coquitlam River. His want for the expansion of salmon spawning grounds is not just limited to the Coquitlam River though, as he wants to extend the salmon population to many rivers in the province. “Salmon are in trouble and that represents our west coast way of life. So, we need to focus on—whether it’s habitat destruction, climate change, pollution issues—and we need to tackle those tough challenges and give those salmon a fighting chance,” he said.
Donnelly’s love for Coquitlam can clearly be seen from his dedication through service. “Coquitlam is my home. I have lived in the Tri-Cities my entire life.” he said. Whether it’s the schools, Town Centre Park, or the Evergreen Cultural Centre, Donnelly wears his Coquitlam residency proudly. Donnelly is hoping to win the riding and continue to improve Coquitlam.
Joan Isaacs – Liberal Party
In 2017, Isaacs won the riding of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain. Since then, she has been devoted to making the lives of Coquitlam residents better. Isaacs is hoping that her and the Liberals can win the election so she can start implementing policy decisions that will help British Columbians through the pandemic and into the future. Isaacs’ reason for joining politics was a desire “to help people to get the help they need.” This could be seen last year, when she was honoured with a Senior Advocate Award.
When it comes to helping Douglas College students who are struggling with finding appropriate housing, Isaacs has a unique solution to the problem. She is recommending that students be connected with seniors who have available rooms through a student housing registry. “We need to come up with outside-the-box solutions,” she said in an interview with the Other Press. Isaacs does recognise though that this is merely a stop gap measure, and in the end more student housing needs to be built. “It has to be purpose-built housing for students, and it has to be affordable,” she said.
“It has to be purpose-built housing for students, and it has to be affordable.” – Joan Isaacs, Liberal Party
While in the legislature, Isaacs has put forward private members’ bills for access to flu vaccines, and a split assessment bill that aimed to stop a measure that made it so when someone’s business was rezoned for development, the business on that land would not be charged the postdated property taxes of that business. These bills did not get passed though, because as Isaacs said: “Opposition rarely passes bills.” She said if the BC Liberals win the election, she would like to revisit these policies.
In helping people during (and coming out of) the pandemic, Isaacs highlighted the Liberal government’s plan to eliminate the PST for one year, and reduce it to three percent for the year after in order to “kickstart the economy.” A previous small business owner herself, Isaacs understands the burden being put on the small business community by the loss of Douglas College students coming to the Coquitlam area. She believes that the savings of this and the elimination of the small business tax will help offset the costs brought on by the pandemic.
To showcase Isaacs’ love of connecting with people, I will mention that Isaacs asked me how I was doing with my studies. Though she cannot meet voters in person this election due to the pandemic, she is enthusiastic about getting back into the legislature to advocate for every resident of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.
Who will win in the critical riding of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain? Early mail-in balloting starts October 15 through to the 24—and election day is October 24. Advance polling stations will be open from October 15 to the 21. To find more information and ensure that you are eligible to vote, visit the Elections BC website.
READ INTERVIEWS WITH THE NEW WESTMINSTER CANDIDATES HERE!