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Meet the candidates

By Don Fennell and Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:37 PDT, Thu May 13, 2021

Last Updated: 2:09 PDT, Mon May 17, 2021

On May 29, Richmondites will go to the polls to elect a city councillor in a civic by-election. The councillor-elect will fill the seat vacated by Kelly Greene after she was elected to the provincial legislature in the riding of Richmond-Steveston in the October 2020 B.C. election.


Richmond Community and Education Party

What do you think is the biggest priority for Richmond in the next year?

Normally, housing would be the biggest priority in any year—but COVID-19 has changed all that. Dealing with COVID-19 and how we take care of each other will be the biggest priority. Hopefully we’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the delivery of vaccinations. If all goes well, we will soon need to look at re-opening our city. As much as that will be a welcome relief, it won’t simply be a matter of returning to the “old normal.” The effects and impact of COVID-19 will live on and affect our city for years to come. The city needs to be prepared to deal with the expected and unexpected challenges.

We also need to be prepared if the current vaccination plan is delayed and/or doesn’t produce the results we are hoping for. Many in our community are struggling with the medical, financial and social aspects of COVID-19. If it turns out that the current lockdown measures have to be extended, then how the city continues to support our community will be critical. Strong leadership and building a strong support network will be necessary to help us get through this (which we will).

What is your preference, rain or snow?

Snow (although eventually it turns to slush which is no fun). But when it first arrives, it excites the children and it puts smiles on people’s faces.

How would your long-time community engagement assist you as a city councillor?

As a city councillor it is important to have a connection to the community. My work with people with disabilities (notably autism), involvement in community sports, role as school trustee (and former board chair) and early days working in the local community centres (including the Minoru Seniors Centre), have given me a great opportunity to get to know the general public and the diverse group of service providers within the city. My experience with them has given me better insight into their needs, challenges, hopes and dreams.

But even more significant is the relationships I have developed with our community members and organizations. Good relationships are invaluable in building trust, solving problems, dealing with conflict and working towards common goals. I have spent over 40 years building these relationships and it has been pleasure doing so, and time well spent. If elected city councillor, I will use these relationships to better serve the community—and to further build on them.


Richmond Community Coalition

What do you think is the biggest priority for Richmond in the next year?

The past year has been a difficult one due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The economic repercussions of the pandemic have seriously impacted many residents, and in particular, the hardship experienced by our small business community has been momentously challenging. The biggest priority for Richmond in the next year is to revitalize the city’s economy and save jobs. 

What is your preference, rain or snow?

I prefer rain. I like to go outside to feel the rain on my skin, to hear the sounds of rain pattering on car roofs, houses, umbrellas, and to smell the freshness of the air after raining.

What ideas would you propose to help support small businesses?

Richmond businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and 17,500 jobs were lost in the city in the first 11 months of 2020. Many Richmondites either lost their jobs or had their pay cheques reduced. I firmly believe that we need to revitalize the city’s economy by helping out our small businesses.

My team, Richmond Community Coalition (RCC) and I will propose a $7.8 million plan to support local business and promote a robust economic recovery. Under this plan, each household will receive a $100 voucher. There are approximately 78,000 households in Richmond. These vouchers can only be spent on businesses in Richmond within three months.

With the “multiplier effect” in economics, it is estimated that this plan will have the benefit of injecting $40 million into the local economy. It will be an effective booster for the city’s small businesses, speed up economic recovery, and save jobs.

This plan to revitalize the city’s economy requires an investment of $7.8 million. Funds can be allocated from the city’s reserves, the COVID-19 Response Grant from the provincial government, or deferring projects that are not immediately needed.



What do you think is the biggest priority for Richmond in the next year?

The No. 1 issue facing us all right now is to stay safe and healthy. 

The city must make sure that it implements policies that help support small business so that jobs are protected and families’ incomes are secure. We need to take steps now to not only make sure our local businesses, like restaurants, survive COVID-19 but thrive after. I have advocated for the city to expedite permits, at no cost, to allow restaurants to expand patios so they can serve more people in a safe manner. 

I have also stated the city should establish a grant program in which small businesses can access money to help buy PPE such as plexiglass, masks, gloves, cleaners, etc in order to keep their workers and customers safe. Small businesses are always the first to support our local sports teams, arts clubs, etc. and we need to do what we can to help them out during their time of need. 

What is your preference, rain or snow?

If I wanted snow, I would have moved to North Vancouver. That said, snow around Christmas time is welcome. Also, you don’t need to shovel rain. 

How would you maximize community safety using currently available resources?

I spent my entire working life keeping people safe—from when I started as a patrol officer with the VPD in 1979 to when I retired 35 years later as a superintendent with the VPD. 

Community policing is the most effective policing model for Richmond but community safety involves a lot more than just the police and fire services. We must make sure that our local police coordinate action with other stakeholders such as the fire departments, healthcare providers, schools, community groups, etc.

The Richmond RCMP analysis of crime trends and safety issues means police must adjust priorities as needed. Not everything can be the No. 1 priority. When gang shootings escalated in Vancouver, I led the creation of the VPD’s Uniform Gang Task Force. That was the No. 1 priority at the time. In Richmond, gang violence is an issue as is hate crime. Police have the resources to be flexible, work with other partners and tackle identified priorities.  

Police need to be present within growing parts of our cities to ensure that people and property stay safe, which is why I have called for police stations to be built near Aberdeen Centre as well as in the Hamilton neighbourhood. 



What do you think is the biggest priority for Richmond in the next year? 

Be harmonious in the city and prepare to go back to work any time. Basically it’s about safety, affordability and prosperity. 

What is your preference, rain or snow?

I enjoy watching snow falling. It makes me feel very peaceful.  

What more could the city do to support seniors? 

• Education: teaching them how to use tablets or iPads, so they will be able to use the tool to enjoy life with the ability to communicate and learn. 

• Education: educating seniors to say “no” to abuse and bullying. Educating the public to respect, love and help the senior citizens in many different ways. 

• Provide routine volunteer services to help them deal with daily stress and chores.   

• Help them with affordable living, tax deductions and mental support. 

• We shall modify the City of Richmond's spending towards more focus on seniors’ sports, arts and culture information, safety tips such as fall prevention and fire prevention through local newspapers. Budget permitting, the city shall plan for a low-cost community dental clinic for seniors to improve seniors' dental health, and shall request provincial funding in respect of free ESL classes for seniors.

• Finally, care for seniors and disabled people and provide them with new skills to enable them to do volunteer work.



What do you think is the biggest priority for Richmond in the next year?

As Richmond hopefully moves towards economic and social recovery from COVID-19, the biggest priority is to invest in our collective humanity and ensure equitable recovery for those in our city who were struggling even before the pandemic hit.

This means a more hands-on approach from local government than is currently budgeted and a re-focus from police contracts to labour and wage justice that keeps people healthy and housed. Now is the time for the city to take up leadership in facilitating growth of neighbourhood small businesses, new tech ecosystems, and new production opportunities. It is also long past time to explore a sub-provincial minimum wage increase to bring living wages to Richmond.

This goes hand in hand with an inevitable need to bolster the social safety nets Richmond has been working to build in recent years. The city must partner with existing organizations that serve women fleeing domestic violence, sex workers advocating for safer working conditions, drug users and migrant workers. The city needs to be a hub for resources and sharing of information between organizations, and I am eager to find out whether the member organizations of the Richmond Community Services Advisory Committee feel that is being achieved.

What is your preference, rain or snow?

Rain. I’m slightly less likely to slip and fall while dancing in the rain than I am while dancing in the snow.

What would you introduce to further bridge divides in Richmond?

Based on my experience as a translator and interpreter, the language divide in Richmond is actually the easiest to address. Large percentages of our community speak a language at home that isn’t English. The bare minimum is providing language access to public services in those languages, so that all residents of Richmond are able to equally participate in civic processes. 

In terms of the age divide, I want inter-generational to mean more than “youth and seniors” in Richmond. I would love to introduce youth caucuses for advisory committees and push for more grant funding for truly inter-generational initiatives.

For wealth disparity, I believe in people paying their fair share of taxes. I’m sure it will be less popular with wealthier folks, but I will advocate for progressive taxation until someone can show me a more fair way to redistribute wealth.

For the divides caused by a continuing history of white supremacy and colonization in Richmond, I am not naive enough to think that I am enough to bridge them on my own. Not everyone is even ready to start having these conversations. It is going to take a major cultural shift for most people, and our increased support particularly of Black and Indigenous voices through both policy and direct action.



What do you think is the biggest priority for Richmond in the next year?

Land use is always a huge factor—regardless of year—because how we plan and shape communities impacts our daily lives immensely. Do we want communities that garner praise and appeal, such as Steveston, or do we want to continue the trend of hollowing out neighbourhoods in order to make the most profit? As councillor, I will always choose to support the development of great communities in Richmond.

What is your preference, rain or snow?

Growing up in Richmond, a snowfall was something special. It would seem at times the whole city would shut down, a stillness would overcome everything except the sounds of kids playing in the snow. We would be bumper riding, building forts and snowmen, or having snowball fights—and to this day, I still pause and enjoy a fresh snowfall.

What would you do to increase housing affordability, particularly in the developing downtown area?

My main priority as councillor is to see mixed-income communities return to Richmond—starting with the downtown core. We can work with the province to make sure Richmond is getting the support it needs to help create these developments. Seniors need to live close to amenities they require, college grads, and those starting out need places that meet their needs, and people wanting to save for homes deserve decent places to live. If we don’t finally address this issue, we will continue to drive people out of our city.



What do you think is the biggest priority for Richmond in the next year? 

The affordable housing crisis—we need a renter’s advisory board to ensure renters’ voices are heard. (We should) create an anti-racism policy and collect and analyze data on hate crimes.

What is your preference, rain or snow? 


What new community services would you introduce to further support residents?

• Richmond can address pressing social justice issues by engaging in creative and thought-provoking public art. Art can create healing and tell important stories in history, and creates lasting impact and a sustainable and prosperous economy. Local arts bring business, and investment in arts is needed for a vibrant city and to bring tourism back to Richmond.

• Expand services for women fleeing intimate partner violence.

• Invest in technical competence and information literacy. With COVID-19 everything was pushed to be online, but this has further left people behind. Access is a concern and so is the skills divide.

• Further expand mental health support for youth, children and all Richmond residents.

• Support our non-profits who have been essential to all Richmond residents through this pandemic.

• Expand the Fee Subsidy Programs from $300 to $500. Activities and sports are needed now more than ever for mental health.

• Prioritize childcare investments to limit the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women in the workforce.

• Support businesses to operate safely through this pandemic by expanding opportunities for the temporary patio program and other outdoor spaces.

• Create a job action plan and a mentoring opportunity to help people overcome barriers. Richmond lost 17,550 jobs in 2020, we need to help everyone affected and this requires immediate action on all levels.



What do you think is the biggest priority for Richmond in the next year?

The biggest priority for the next year is the survival of small business. I live in Steveston and spent several years working in a native art gallery on the wharf owned by a very smart young woman who had the ideal business in the ideal location. However the very high rent meant that the landlord was the one taking home most of the profits. So I understand the disaster that has hit Richmond small business now and how much more help is needed. The B.C. government has legislation that allows the city to give favourable tax treatment to businesses in a particular location. In the past, council has turned down my suggestion that it use that power. Let’s hope we can turn that around.

What is your preference, rain or snow?

I love winter sports, but I spent several decades in a city where blizzards piled snow above car roofs and everyone spent a lot of time digging them out so give me rain any time.

Why do you think it’s important for Richmond specifically to commit to environmental sustainability?

If Richmond does nothing on environmental sustainability then it is only a matter of time until we are short of food, need to consume lots of energy for cooling and disappear beneath the waves. That is why I have spent so much time on the preservation of farmland for food production, the protection of large trees to provide shade for cooling and the promotion of electric vehicles to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and slow ocean rise.

• Kay Hale and Sunny Ho did not reply to questions by the Richmond Sentinel’s press deadline.

To hear more from the candidates, click here.

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