Could one of the oldest ridings in the province be in for a historic change?
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
The 2020 BC Provincial Election is underway. With all candidates officially declared, who will represent the riding of New Westminster—where the Douglas College main campus is located? This riding, which has been represented in the BC legislature going back all the way to the 1870s, has been a NDP stronghold for a long time. Judy Darcy of the NDP has held the riding since 2013. However, Darcy has decided to resign her seat this election, which means it will be up to the NDP’s Jennifer Whiteside to claim it. She has some fierce competition from the Green party, who finished second in this riding last election. They are hoping to gain the riding for the first time with their candidate Cyrus Sy. Liberal candidate Lorraine Brett, who campaigned to a third-place finish three years ago, is running again in the hopes of winning it for the Liberals.
Cyrus Sy – Green Party
The BC Green Party has never had a representative off of Vancouver Island. With a strong second-place finish in the New West riding last election, the Greens are hoping that Cyrus Sy can secure them a seat on the mainland. Sy has lived in New Westminster since 2007, and it’s where he has raised his family. “I care deeply about the community and it has given so much to me and my family I would like to give back and have an impact,” he said in an interview with the Other Press.
“I care deeply about the community and it has given so much to me and my family I would like to give back and have an impact,” – Cyrus Sy, Green Party
Sy is a strong advocate for public education, volunteering for The Lower Mainland Purpose Society for Youth and Families as a board member, and the New Westminster District Parent Advisory Council as an executive member. “I know in my own life that education is the strongest foundation to help people become productive citizens,” he said. He believes that the foundations of education start at an early age. His motivation for joining the Green Party came from former deputy Green Party leader Jonina Campbell. “I saw the passion she had for education and more recently with Sonia [Furstenau] coming on as leader and her being a teacher […] the Green Party is very supportive and very committed to fighting for a strong public education system,” he said. He also believes that some aspects of post-secondary education should be rolled into the public-school system, as the grade-school system was designed with the industrial economy in mind and needs a more current perspective.
When it comes to the issues facing Douglas College students, Sy, being a graduate of SFU himself, has experienced the struggles that are paired with trying to pay down student loans while also pursuing a new career. “People want to feel secure, but if they can’t find a house they can afford because they are trying to pay down their student loans, it makes it very hard for them to grow their careers and take those risks they need to take,” he said. Sy feels the Greens really understand the affordability crisis in the region. He highlights that that the Green Party has put together a plan for rental assistance for those whose rent exceeds their earnings.
The New Westminster riding has delt with a lot over the last year between COVID-19, the loss of businesses due to coronavirus, and the burning of the New Westminster Pier. Sy believes that proper leadership that puts New West first is key to the recovery of the region. “We need to have representation in Victoria that puts the needs of the community first,” he said. He believes that New West needs a representative who will stand up for New West residents’ rights.
The riding has had a long history of NDP dominance, but Sy believes that he can stem that tide with the Green way of thinking, and support for the schools, children, and people. He hopes to bring the same care to the riding that he has shown through his school board work.
Jennifer Whiteside – NDP
Since 1952, the New Westminster riding has elected an NDP candidate to represent the riding in every election with the exception of the 2001 campaign. Statistics would state that the NDP should consider this riding safe, but that won’t stop Jennifer Whiteside from working hard to court the vote of the community.
Born and raised in New Westminster, Whiteside has a passion for the health care sector, working multiple positions for the Hospital Employees’ Union and as Labour Relations Officer for the BC Nurses Union. “For the last 20 years I have been advocating for our public health care system and health care workers […] I’m looking to take the lessons I’ve learned in a lifetime of activism and a lifetime of understanding people to the legislature,” she said in an Other Press interview.
Whiteside understands what Douglas College students are going through because she was once a Douglas College student herself. “When I was at Douglas College, I developed a taste for activism. It was in advocating for accessible post secondary education. It was in my time at Douglas that I learned about social movements and learned how to organize,” she said. She mentioned that she recently visited the college to talk to students about the struggles they are facing with COVID-19 and other issues like food and housing insecurity. She also knows what it is like to deal with student debt from higher education as she had a $20,000 debt that took her a long time to pay off. “John Horgan and the BC NDP take access to education very, very seriously, and they have taken steps to [increase] accessibility. They’ve eliminated interest on provincial student loans, they’ve eliminated the tuition on adult basic education, and they have eliminated tuition for children in the foster care system,” she said. Whiteside mentions that the NDP have brought back the grant program and promise to increase the amount of money given out from the grant to $4000 per year.
“When I was at Douglas College, I developed a taste for activism.” – Jennifer Whiteside, NDP
Whiteside’s strong advocacy for the health care industry and the response of the NDP government to the COVID-19 virus is why she wants to run under the NDP ticket. “I think what COVID has really demonstrated is the importance to have a strong government response to coordinate all parts of our health care system, our economy, and to protect British Columbians—and that’s what this government has done throughout COVID,” she said. Whiteside has been helping people in the health care system for most of her professional life. She now also wants to bring that level of care to the people of New Westminster and BC.
Lorraine Brett – Liberal Party
Lorraine Brett is a marketing professional and real estate professional who has resided in New Westminster since 1994 with her family. She was motivated to run in the provincial election because she has not been impressed with the NDP’s handling of the overdose crisis. This is an issue that hits close to heart for Brett, as her son has struggled for years with addiction and homelessness. In an interview with the Other Press, Brett stated “I have a son who is homeless, addicted, and mentally ill I have seen first hand the failure of the NDP at street level […] Offering a tent, as the NDP would do, to a person with schizophrenia is an inappropriate response to what is a complex medical problem.”
“Offering a tent, as the NDP would do, to a person with schizophrenia is an inappropriate response to what is a complex medical problem.” – Lorraine Brett, Liberal Party
Brett blames the NDP for not improving on the crisis and believes that a Liberal government under Andrew Wilkinson would create a coordinated effort to take on the overdose crisis and help people who are in need. “A BC Liberal government, with a track record of successful infrastructure builds including 14 hospitals, will invest $8 billion in infrastructure improvements over three years, an increase of 35 percent in infrastructure investments, to create jobs, stimulate our economy, and meet the needs of our growing population.” She states that the Liberals intend to make the biggest investment in infrastructure in our province’s history, with an investment of $30.9 billion over three years.
Brett ran for the BC Liberals in the 2017 election, placing third behind the NDP and Greens respectively. She has also run for New Westminster City Council in 2005 and 2008. Brett has contributed to many New West based organizations like the Queens Park Hospital Foundation, Hyack Football, Hyack Festival Association, the Queens Park Residents’ Association, and the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay Committee. She also founded the New Westminster Homeless Coalition, which aims to help marginalized people in New West. When it comes to the problems small businesses are facing in New West, she states that “the BC Liberals have instead delivered a historic move that will save people and small business a lot of money right away, not later.”
Douglas students have suffered due to the circumstances and Brett believes “bold policy moves are needed” if these problems are going to be solved. She states that “eliminating the PST for a year (and only charging 3 percent until COVID is behind us) is a bold idea and will put money back in everyone’s pockets including those of students; especially as the PST is a regressive tax that burdens the lowest income earners the most and many of those are students.” Brett is hoping that second time’s the charm for her hopes of entering the BC legislature.
Who will win the riding of New Westminster in the BC’s Provincial Election and represent Douglas College students at the main campus? Mail-in ballots will be accepted starting October 15 through the 24, with election day on October 24. Advance polling stations will be open from October 15 to the 21. Register and make sure you are eligible to vote by visiting Elections BC.
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