Canada, Ethnic Studies and the World

edited by Stanley Lee

interview by Stanley Lee and Yi Fang


A week before the writ was dropped, we have had the chance to talk to Steve Darling, BC Liberal candidate for Burnaby-Lougheed. Mr. Darling has been frank about his answers to our questions regardless of how tough they were. Given how close the race Burnaby-Lougheed is anticipated to be, it will be thrilling to watch how this matchup turns out.


Before we get to the interview, here are the links relevant to his campaign:


About three weeks ago we actually interviewed your major opponent in this riding from the BCNDP. We asked her to assess the competition in this riding for the election. She did mention in our interview with her that you haven’t done much of anything substantial for the community in Burnaby Lougheed. Our question is do you think you could ride on the main recognition on Global Morning News as the main dominating beneficial factor for you going into this race?

Okay first off I think she’s wrong. [laughs] That would be the first thing is I think I have done a lot more than she has. Look I’m not in this to say “she said” “He said” all that kind of stuff. I think my record speaks for itself.  I’ve been an advocate on my program for all of British Columbia, Burnaby included. I have done numerous events in Burnaby. I’ve hosted charity events. We’ve done stories about Burnaby. I’ve in the community for 18 years.


In this riding I’ve seen how the riding has changed. I’ve done stories about how kids have been helped with things with like variety and things like that.  So for her say I that I haven’t done anything for Bernie I think it’s all misleading. I think she is incorrect on that.  


Did I work on television? Absolutely, I did and I think that’s an important part of what I’ve done. I’ve been a strong voice on TV for 18 years. Do people know who I am? Absolutely, that doesn’t do anything for anybody. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is just give me a bit of a platform to move forward but I feel I have a great deal of experience in dealing with issues of the province and dealing with both sides of the issue. Knowing from one side to the other side and then deciding what’s best for way to go forward.  


When you look at an issue from only one side which she has right now she is looking at only one side only then nothing ever gets accomplished. I look at things from both sides. I think that’s a positive way to go forward is to make sure that you look at an issue from this side to side and then find the best way to go forward.

How well of a job do you think the party you’re representing has done on the Burnaby Hospital given how it has been waiting for the seismic upgrades for a long time?


There has a tremendous amount of money put into hospitals in general. I mean St. Paul’s is a prime example of what going next. There also a bit of money put in Surrey and Abbotsford. There is only so much money to go around obviously. But having said that I’ve been very clear since I announced that I was running that Burnaby Hospital had to be the next hospital that gets taken care of because it needs to be changed. It needs upgrades.


It needs to provide a—what they are doing right now they are doing a great job. Doctors and nurses work their tails off. They work really hard but we need to give them the tool now to do their jobs as good as they are now and better in the future. So to do that, a new hospital is something that we have to have. I’ve said that right from the beginning we need to have a new hospital and over the next four years that’s going to be the number one thing. By the time I’m finished my first term in the next for years, I want to make sure that we have substantial movement on Burnaby Hospital. I mean actually shovels in the ground.


So starting construction?


Absolutely I want to make sure that’s one thing I’m definitely pushing for is to make sure that we have an announcement sooner on Burnaby Hospital. Hopefully in the next –whenever it can be but I want to make sure that we have some substantial progress and actual shovel in the ground in the near future.


Let’s move onto another topic that’s probably pretty controversial within Burnaby and probably Burnaby Lougheed as well –  that’s the Kinder Morgan Trans mountain Pipeline expansion.  Now given the pipeline would be going through this riding before it goes to the terminal, and Burnaby Lougheed would essentially bear most if not most of the risk of a spill, how would you justify supporting the expansion, or do you even support it?

It is not a decision that we want. To build the pipeline was never our decision; it’s the federal government decision. When it looked like the federal government was going to approve it, we did what – when I say we I’m talking about the premier because this is obviously before me. The premier did what a good leader does. She made sure that she protected British Columbia. She put out very strong conditions that had to be met before British Columbia would approve that.


That meant world class spill protection. It meant money coming into the province, money for Burnaby- Lougheed, it meant for First nations approval and to make sure that it was done properly –correctly. There is a pipeline even now. There already is a pipeline. So we are talking about 40-year newer technology as well which is a lot safer –which is better. But nothing is ever 100% we all know that. But all I could say is that when something is out of your hands as far as the decision is concerned, you try to do the best you can for the people you represent. I think with that world class spill protection and with the other conditions that we put in place that we can have resources coming out and arriving here safely.


I think that one of the major reasons that this issue is so controversial is that – you mentioned about the five conditions. They are set by the government and when the government and the governing party has been taking a lot of money from the oil industry as donation. From the National Observer, it was 92% of 5 million dollars went to the BC Liberals last year, which is more than 4 million dollars.


So we are in this era when I don’t want to use the term “alternative facts”. People believing different facts even when we talk about science. What if the scientific conditions behind it, there are other incentives rather than the truth? So then people just don’t believe in the conditions the government has set and that’s apparently what’s happening right now to many people who oppose these projects.


After you get elected let’s say what if there’s apparent opposition in this riding. Let’s say majority of the people in this riding are against Kinder Morgan, is there anything you want to do with it? Are you willing to oppose your own government?

Well like I said here before it’s it was never our decision. So there’s nothing I can– there’s no way that I can– I can’t stop it. I can’t. It’s the federal government’s decision to move forward on it but as I said to you all we can do is to move forward with what we think are conditions that will make it as safe as possible. You got understand that this issue is a completely different issue elsewhere in the province, right?

I’ve had people say they’re in favor of the pipeline here as well because it does come with a lot of jobs as well and a lot of money also is going into the community and in environmental protection. So there’s different opinions on that here in this riding specifically. There’s also a difference of opinions anywhere you are in BC because the further you go up the pipeline the more people are in favor of it. Because it provides jobs for them as well which is important so yes is it a polarizing issue? Absolutely but I think that when something is out of your hands you have to make sure that you try to protect the citizens.


That’s what I think the Premier has done is trying to create conditions that she feels– and when she announced those decisions everybody laughed at her. Everyone said there’s no way you’re going to get it. Well, she got that and more. Then all of a sudden everyone’s saying well now the conditions are met and they’ve done that. She’s done what she promised that she was going to do in trying to protect the BC and I think she’s done a good job with that.


Now the next step is to make sure that we make sure that everything is done correctly and done right. That’s what my pledge is and to make sure that when those jobs come up, we want to make sure the jobs are going for the people in Burnaby Lougheed first because as you mentioned it does end right here. So we want to make sure that we’re the ones that take advantage of those jobs in Burnaby Lougheed.

Well, I guess with the public sphere there is a lot of debate as with the semantics first class or world class spill response.  In terms of jobs there’s also debate on the definition of the construction jobs versus the existing permanent jobs in the refinery I believe on Barnet Highway with the Chevron plant. But let’s move on to debate and definitions since I think these things happened based on a gradual deterioration of trust in public officials over time.


I think one of the topics going into the elections would be campaign financing. I think there’s a lot of talk and discussions about what’s happening with the state of capping financing.  Now I’m pretty sure none of the BC Liberal candidates are going to comment on the current investigations right now with improper donations by certain donors. But our question is, are you concerned about the BC Liberals image being hampered by what’s going on with the campaign financing situation especially in the sphere of  the public court of public opinion?

I would say no because I think that the most important thing is we have set up a real-time system – well, 10 days. I mean obviously that can’t come by the second but we’ve announced all of our donors. We’ve told everybody who’s been donating with the names of all the donors. We are the only party that does it.  


Why doesn’t the NDP or one of the groups do that?  Why don’t they step up and say who’s donated to their party but they haven’t.  We’ve also set out a after the election we’re going to have a three-panel person—three-panel group that’s going to look into campaign financing completely. Because there’s different ideas of how all this can work because you need funds to run campaigns –I mean you just, you do.  


So how that works in the future this independent three-person panel will be taking a look just to start with. What it does is it takes the hand out of the politicians completely and it puts it into independent hands. That’s how we move forward I think in this is to have someone who could actually independently look at it and say “we think that it should be going this way this way and this way” and that’s when we take a look at that. I think that’s one way to do it. It takes it out of everybody’s hands.

Do you think the 15% property transfer tax with foreign buyers? Is the policy effective so far? Do you think it’s efficient?

Well, it has been. You could tell by the actual cooling down of the real estate market. The numbers have cooled down. That’s what it was designed for from the beginning. There obviously has been some tweaks to it which I think when you put something in place like that there has to be some tweaks and things and I think that’s been important. But if you were to ask “Did that slow the real estate market down and cool it down a little bit?” Absolutely it did.


Now the next step and that’s what I think is over the next few years what we need to do is start working on the supply. Because I mean it’s simple economics if you have four houses for sale and you have 35 buyers obviously the price is going to go up because there’s all those people fighting for it.  But if you have 15 houses for sale and you have 12 buyers then there’s a big difference, right?


So that’s what we need to do is to start getting the supply going and start to build more affordable housing. Especially in this area there’s a lot of places that are up for sale right now like that I’m talking big swaths of land that I would hope would be developed into affordable housing. We’ve contributed — we have money ready to go but sitting on the table right in front of this specific riding for affordable housing.


But we have to make sure that we have all the players together which includes the provincial government, the municipal and we have money coming from the federal government as well. The only way to solve the problem is to get more supply. That really is the way to do it is if you have more houses available people will buy them. But we have to make sure that we –and the others we have to make sure that we provide people with good choices. Meaning that not necessarily– guys our age, of your age and my age can’t afford a million dollar houses but we have to make sure that we have enough for young people to buy as well.


If they don’t want to buy right now then we have to make sure there’s rental housing available as well. The rental housing market is hot right now as well. That’s why I think the program that we instituted the first homebuyer tax plan. It’s huge because if you can raise say 20 thousand dollars, we’re going to match that’s 20 thousand dollars. Also you have 40 thousand dollars into it that puts more into your mortgage which is so important, right? The more you can pay on a down payment on a mortgage the better you are in the future. So ours goes up to 37,500 so if you can save 37,500 we’ll match that and that gets you into a home.


Sometimes it’s not necessarily that people can’t afford a home is they can’t afford to raise the down payment so we’re trying to help with that. I think that’s progressive. That’s a step forward. That’s getting people on the market.


So when people are saying we have a housing crisis. Do you agree that we do have a crisis?


I don’t think anyone disagrees with that but I wouldn’t necessarily say a housing crisis. I’d say we have a supply crisis.


We need to get more supply. There’s just not a lot of places for sale right now that are in a certain price range. If you’re going to spend $5 million, I’m sure there’s lots of places to buy but most people can’t do that. So what we have a crisis in is trying to get supply. We need supply that’s the biggest thing. That’s how you solve it.


Some of the Chinese political opponents in Vancouver they claim that the 15% foreign buyers tax actually racist against Chinese. How do you respond to that and why did such an impression that this tax is a very unfriendly thing towards the Chinese community here. Even some of the people do actually believe that.  What do you want to respond to that? Is a communication problem between the government and the Chinese community?


Well I think that there is a bit of that as well. I think that has always been a problem. I think that if English isn’t your first language and most of the news releases come in English people might not understand exactly what was talking about. But the foreign buyer’s tax was never – I mean I wasn’t in government at that time when it came out.


I was a news anchor so I was covering the story. So for me I don’t consider it a racist tax in any way whatsoever. I’m not a racist. The premier is not. The government is not. I think that what it was was we needed something to slow the market down and there was money coming in and money wasn’t coming just from China there was money coming from all over the world.


I think it was meant as a way to slow the market down because it was –as you guys know –it was red hot. I covered stories every day.  It was out of control. There had to be a way to slow the pace down and try to level it a little bit. I think that it did its job with that as I said there’s been some changes to it now that made it a little more easier to use. Now will it stay there for the next –how long –who knows I mean that tax depending on what happens it may not be needed in 10 years. I don’t know.  That’s why I’m saying at the time it needed to slow the market down and it did its job.

We’ve been talking to many Chinese voters here in much of Vancouver area. The sense is that they feel there’s a sign of phobia sentiment going on in the society in Canada in general. Especially when they read the newspapers even mainstream media newspapers or television shows–not just the content but also the comments people leave under the news. Do you agree there is a Sino phobia sentiment going on? Do you feel the same way? Can you feel the same or that’s just a bit of exaggeration here?


Well, I would classify it this way. I am not responsible for people right on Twitter.  I’m not responsible for what people put on Facebook at the end of the article or whatever—


People have been saying stuff bad stuff about me as well. Don’t believe anything on Twitter because there’s a lot of people out there who feel that it’s okay to go to write stuff when they don’t have to actually stand in front of someone and say it. I’m someone who was raised on everybody is in this together. We’re all in this together whether you’re white whether you’re Italian whether you’re Chinese whether you’re a Korean whatever.


I hope to be an elected official. I think that that my job is to make sure that we bring everybody together. What I want to do is specifically in Burnaby Lougheed is I want to have meetings every couple of months with different communities and talk about their issues and bring—see the thing that you mentioned earlier about the language barrier. Sometimes there’s programs that are available especially to new immigrants that are coming to BC and they don’t understand them. They don’t know how to access those.


So what I want to do is I want to have those almost like mini town halls that we make sure that we provide the information that people need when they first get here and going forward. So they can make sure that they understand that there are services that are available for them. I can’t comment on what anyone else thinks but as for me I’m just someone that thinks that the only way problems get solved in the world is when we come together. I feel I’m the right person to bring everybody together.


We have a tactical question here about your campaign. Your major opponent she is an ethnic Chinese politician. She’s been around for a part relatively it’s for a long time. Do you feel that because when you face ethnic minority groups or new immigrants you have a bit of a disadvantage getting votes from these communities? Or do you think It doesn’t really matter since the Chinese don’t really vote?


No to either. All I’m saying is that my role is to be an elected official for everybody.


I think the Chinese voter is just as important as a Korean voter is just as important as an Italian voter or just as important a South Asian voter. See that’s the problem is it irritates me sometimes when people say stuff like that.  I’m not saying you in general.


In the end we’re in BC, right?


The great thing about being in this province is this province has been built by everybody. For someone to say that “you won’t get the Chinese vote because you’re not Chinese”.  It just makes no sense to me. What I’m saying to you is that if they think that our policies and the way we run the province right now is good.


I mean the economic indicators suggest that’s the case. We have jobs. We have a strong economy. We have most middle income taxes. We have all that. We have good health for small businesses all that so those are the same things a white voter, a Chinese voter, a Korean voter. Those are the same things that are important to them.  


You know what I’m saying?


In theory I agree with you but in reality there are some emotions going on. Like let’s say why Donald Trump is getting way more white votes than Hillary Clinton. There’s something into it but I mean I agree with you.


Well, I think that there’s something into it in the US. I don’t think that’s as much here in Canada. Because you got to remember the US is always considered a melting pot so when you come to the US you all forget about your heritage.  In Canada we’re not like that, right? We’re mosaic. We encourage you to continue to follow your heritage and it’s important to learn about that. I feel just as comfortable talking to any group of people.


It’s just not something I’ve never– I mean I’ve done stories –when I was in the news –with all different communities. I’ve been welcomed by all.  I’ve done events for Chinese-Canadians. I’ve done events for Koreans. I’ve done events for South-Asians. I don’t think –the only issue is do I speak Chinese? No, I don’t. I don’t speak Chinese.

But I’m willing to go into a situation and try to understand and have a common ground with people. I think that’s what makes me a great leader is able to do that and not someone who just says well I’m a stick here and that’s about it. I don’t do that. I can talk to anybody.


I think in today’s society in terms of communities breaking down or how we consume the news and what not and even technology. We do see signs that we are getting divided in more and more ways than I think I believe language barrier would have been another one.  But our next question has to do with the media.

Given in recent years if not decades that media has –whether it’s newspaper or TV or the radio. We’ve seen a consolidation of the ownership of those media into the three big telecommunication companies either Rogers or Bell or Shaw. Given how it’s consolidating staff as well at the same time that they’re buying up all these smaller companies. Do you see a growing problem of those media given its ownership interest to be an effective check and balance to power?


Okay I’ll answer this this way just because I was a member of the media five years ago. I’ll say this the most important thing as a journalist in my opinion is autonomy in the newsroom. Meaning that you have to be able to– the newsrooms have to be separated from the company.  Now that’s not to say that a company can’t have their—if a story is basically around a company then they have to obviously have their message heard, right?


Because that’s why you always hear people always say “such and such is the parent owner of this company”. But that said I’ve never –I don’t think in all the time that I was in broadcasting that I’ve ever had someone come to me and say don’t run that story.  I’ve had someone say this is what we think happened and we’re happy to run that. But I think that there’s enough journalists out there that understand how important that is and to make sure that you speak from a journalistic point of view. I can’t speak for any other company except the one I worked in and when you look at people like Chris Gallus, Sophie Louie, Lynne Collier to myself.


We’re independent journalists. We cover the story the way the story should be covered. I think that’s an important part of the media world. As we’ve seen newspapers are starting to decrease and nowadays and you’ve see what’s happened in the US, it’s important more than ever to have those journalistic voices. I mean it really is and I have not always respected journalism because I was a member of it.


I think that there is a great place for journalists in society ask the tough questions. I’m always happy to answer any question whatsoever. You guys have asked some tough questions. I’m happy to have them but the one thing that can happen is that we lose that independent voice in news rooms. I hope that hopefully –and I’m sure it will not happen– I hope it doesn’t happen. I have nothing but great respect for journalists. I think that as long as there is that fight to have an independent voice in the newsrooms NBC will always have that independent journalist.


Yes, I believe we asked the last question because of the increasing points of division. There’s also public perception from the consolidation that there may be a threat to the autonomy, right? Nobody really knows what’s goes on inside.


I’ll defend the newsroom I worked as a newsroom that always fought to tell the right story and there are all these people saying that you don’t tell it this way, you tell it whatever. That’s beside the point. All I can say that when I was in the newsroom, it was always discussed as an independent stories and that’s the most important thing with journalism.


There are a lot of millennials who are more skeptical about liberal democracy than ever. Especially last year what we witnessed around world especially in the in the States so many of my friends they don’t want to vote.  They don’t want to participate because it doesn’t really matter. Nothing’s changed and if something has changed you have Trump being the US president. So as a candidate what you want to say to these young people?


Why in this era you still need to care about politics and participating in politics? Why liberal democracy is still worth it?


I’ll put it back on you. Do you care about your family? Do you care about your friends?


So why wouldn’t you be a part of it? This is nothing new. I talked about this in the air. Every time there’s election, I talked about it. There was a time when people couldn’t vote. There was a time when women were not allowed to vote. To be able to vote is one of the greatest things in the world. You have a chance to step into a ballot box and decide which way you think things are going to go. To say it doesn’t matter I don’t want to do it or anything then there is always that you can’t complain if you don’t vote.


But the thing is by not voting you’re not taking part in your own future because you need to be informed. You need to take advantage of that.  Voter turnout is always low. It has been. I think in the last election it was about 47% which is not good. So how do we change? How do we get people interested in voting?  In my opinion, change the way we vote.

I mean that by traditionally you go your local school.  That way will continue but in the future we would bank on our phones. Some of the most sensitive information that we have are on our phones.  Is there a way that we can move towards a system where people will be allowed to vote on their phones?  That’s something we can do. That’s something coming in the next 10 years. I mean we’re doing everything else on our smartphones right now. Why can’t we vote? There has to be a way to use technology to move elections forward and to increase the way that we vote.

Trust me young people are as technological savvy as you can get. I’ve got a five—he turned six on Thursday. I have a six and a nine year old. They love technology. They love every bit of it. They know how to use a smart phone. When they get to the point where they’re 18 years old, I have no doubt in my mind they’ll be able to vote on their smartphone. I think that’s the way we have to go.


We have to catch up with technology. If we can put sensitive banking data on our phones and be able to change stuff our account and be able to do all these things in our phones, we should be able to vote. I think that’s eventually where we’re going to have to go. That will increase I think more people– because a lot of people it’s not that they don’t care and they don’t want to vote.


They just don’t vote either they don’t have the time or they don’t want to do it, they forget whatever it is. But in order to increase the way we have to make it easier for people not harder.  I think the easiest way to do it is what we’re doing now is voting in your phone. So that’s something we have to look at in the future.  


So you do advocate making voting easier for the electorate without regards to how the politics play out right? Because in the United States there’s a lot states that are predominantly Republican-controlled enacting voter suppression tactics.  


Are we a progressive society or not will the traditional way of voting still be there? Absolutely I mean some people like going to the school. They like talking to their own elections officers and they like me casting their vote but not everyone is like that.  There has to be a way that we decide to move society forward. In BC we’re a province of leaders, right? That’s what shows good leadership is being able to move things forward. Is this going to happen the next 10 years? I don’t know maybe.


Will it take 20 years? Who knows but eventually we’re seeing more and more stuff done through our phones and the computer. So we have to be a way to increase the way people turn out for voting. As you mentioned, a lot a lot of people are Wechatting and they’re not picking up that – they don’t even check their mail to see where they’re voting where their booth is or whatever. So we have to find a way to engage those people as well and we can find a way to engage those people and then that’s good for everyone I think.