Canada, Ethnic Studies and the World

edited by Stanley Lee

interviewed by Stanley Lee and Yi Fang

 

Anne Kang is the BC NDP candidate for Burnaby-Deer Lake (you may have seen her campaign ads on the bicycle lock stations). She is nominated to run for the NDP as the incumbent MLA, Kathy Corrigan, is stepping away from provincial politics. Overall impression from this interview is that she seems to know the ins-and-outs of who’s responsible for which part of government policy, and how – even as our team bombarded her with difficult questions. Two things that stood out are their Burnaby city council’s negotiation abilities, and how well they involve youth into community service. Below includes our full conversation. And here’s how you can reach out to her campaign.

 

In early March, we have visited her at an office to discuss about these topics. After the writ period started and her party’s platform was released, we have revised our conversation as reflected. 

 

Before we get to the interview, here are links relevant to her campaign shall you be interested:

 


 

Why did you decide to run for provincial office after having served for 3 terms in the Burnaby city council?

 

I’ve been a councillor since 2008. I’ve been doing a lot of work in terms of social planning. I know that there are many things that we can do as a city, for example creating a safe and welcoming community and supporting multicultural and friendly neighbourhoods.

 

I also see that there are many things that a city cannot do alone and that we need other levels of government to be partners, especially in areas like housing and social services. Cities do not have the tax base or the legislative tools to deal with many things that we now have to deal with, including support for people who have mental health or other issues.

 

What do you think are ballot box questions? Do you have examples showing what they are?

 

Peoples’ budgets are stretched. I hear a lot from people that they are working more but life keeps getting harder – with things like higher hydro, MSP and ICBC. I think that voters will have that in mind when they vote.

 

And in Burnaby – all over the Lower Mainland – more affordable housing and more fairness and protections for renters are a huge issue.  But I also hear a lot that people do not trust Christy Clark and her BC Liberals. Whether it is using public money to promote Liberal policies with so-called government advertising or giving big tax breaks to Liberal friends, people don’t think that Christy Clark cares about them. I think that will also be on voters’ minds when they go to the ballot box.

 

What do you think of the current 15 percent property transfer tax for foreign buyers that the government made last year? Do you think it is an effective policy at all? How do you plan to sell your party’s platform given the perception that the sitting BC Liberal governments have “taken action” and “fixed the rough edges”? And they appear to be helping first time homeowners with the home-buyer loan?

 

I don’t think anyone believes that Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have handled affordable housing properly. They neglected problems from housing being used as investments instead of as homes until there was a huge crisis. And then, the Liberals reacted in a knee jerk way with no real plan and they hurt a lot of people who are not speculators. People who live here and pay taxes here were swept up in the legislation.  It was not fair and not well thought out. I understand that people want action and I agree wholeheartedly. But the BC Liberal reaction was just to deal with a political problem. The NDP had been raising concerns about housing speculation and the lack of affordable place for a long time but the Christy Clark Liberals left it until there was a big political crisis. A lot of people got hurt needlessly because of how they handled it.

 

On the new home-buyer loan, I am concerned that again it was a one-off measure to deal with what Christy Clark sees as a political problem and in the face of a long-standing housing affordability crisis.

 

How do you feel about the NDP government’s performance in the 1990s? How would you sell the vote when you encounter some who is still holding grudges from back then? Apparently, the BC Liberals are deploying this rhetoric because of the number of people who are holding grudges…

 

Many people who will be voting in this election don’t remember the 1990s. I think that they will be voting on the things that matter to them – like good child care and the being able to afford to live in Burnaby or even close.

Like so many on the NDP candidate team, we are looking to build a BC that is progressive and that looks forward. If you keep looking back how will we ever get a better BC for the future generations. This is just fearmongering.

 

Are you concerned about voters evaluating your party based on the brand affiliation with the Alberta NDP? Explain.

 

Every province in Canada has its own history and politics. One thing that the Alberta NDP did as a first measure was to ban big money from politics – something I support and that the BCNDP has said we will do. On this issue, Christy Clark’s BC is out of step with the rest of Canada.

 

But my province is BC and my leader is John Horgan – and that is what I look at.  Our platform provides a philosophy that I believe in: supporting every day families and protecting the services we need; making life more affordable and focusing on creating good paying sustainable jobs. He believes that when you lift people out of poverty and provide good public services – the economy and our society does better and we all benefit. I agree with that.

 

The $10/day childcare plan sounds good to soon-to-be parents. However, how is your party going to pay for it? How are you going to sell for support in the initial investments given how stingy the public is on spending tax dollars on entitlement programs? Especially when the BC Liberals weren’t exactly transparent about the provincial debt situation (this shows that the Christy Clark Liberal government grew the provincial debt by 48% during the past 6 years), and as a result, the public may think the province is actually too financially broke to do anything.

 

I would say that the $10/day child care plan is an area that shows a real contrast between the Christy Clark Liberals and the BCNDP.

 

Is it a big investment? Yes. After housing, child care is the second-highest cost facing families in BC parents here are paying some of the highest child care fees in the country. The $10/day plan is a comprehensive plan that looks at costs for families, creating quality spaces and training and supporting providers.

 

But making child care affordable makes economic sense since expensive care makes it difficult for people to work. Because of the long-term economic benefits of having more people in the workforce and paying taxes – it pays for itself over time.

 

It is not just the NDP plan. We worked with experts and advocates who have put together a thoughtful and comprehensive proposal to put this program in place. What the BCNDP is saying is that as a government, we would make it a priority to invest in this area instead of making choices like giving big tax breaks to the top two percent.

 

The risks of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline expansion to Burnaby-Deer Lake is well known. However in an provincial election, there’s a lot of geopolitics in place between different regions of the province. And we do see there appears to be quite a bit of working class, union support for the project like especially in the interiors and north. Sure, these construction jobs are temporary, but those voters are often comparing that with nothing. How would you assess your party’s ability of winning those voters support as well so that the province doesn’t elect a government who wants to steamroll ahead on this expansion?

 

On Kinder Morgan – it is a big issue in Burnaby but the risk of an oil spill to our coast would affect our whole province.  We have jobs in tourism, in fisheries, on our massive port – all of which would be hurt by an oil spill. And the issue of how many real jobs and real economic benefits come  to BC from Kinder Morgan is important. There are better ways to create long-lasting jobs that don’t come with a project that is potentially devastating to our environment and our economy when a spill happens.

 

How would you sell independent voters on your party’s economic plan, especially when your party has a reputation of not having solid plan for economic growth and management, with the opposition to resource development in the cases of LNG and Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline expansion?

 

The NDP position on resource development looks at getting more value for the resources like our forests and supporting value-added industry instead of just exporting raw logs. And we want to make sure people in BC get a fair return for our resources. On something like LNG development, Christy Clark promised 100,000 jobs and we’ve seen nothing. We would focus on LNG development that provides training and jobs and respects First Nations and environmental concerns.

 

What other industries do we have available to develop? Do young people have a future here given the lack of employment opportunities that pay well and housing unaffordability? Or is Metro Vancouver becoming a resort town where the only way to survive is servicing the wealthy landowners and businesses locally? Please comment on your thoughts on the structural analysis of the provincial economy.

 

Burnaby has many clean and growing areas of the economy that the NDP would want to help expand. The tech sector, the film industry, higher education, research and development. In BC, our tourism sector is very important – and that also speaks to protecting our environment and investing in our parks. On affordability – things like increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour will go towards helping with some affordability issues but we will also look at ways to support our small businesses and increase training opportunities and support for post-secondary students.

 

How would you respond if your opponent’s team from the BC Liberals play the identity politics card (specifically as a voter suppression tactic or scaring certain voters to vote for the BC Liberal candidate because of identity recognition in the geopolitical conflict between Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan)? Given how close the competition is likely to be, this could make enough of a difference in the result.

 

I am proud of my heritage. I am glad that I’m able to speak Mandarin and communicate with a large and growing part of our population. But most of all, because I grew up here coming from Taiwan since I was 6, I’m a Canadian. I know Canadian values, and those values are welcoming and supportive of multiculturalism.  I won’t be playing identity politics. And I hope that all candidates will do the same.

 

Your party proposed abolishing the road tolls and freezing hydro rates. How does your party plan to afford this according to your knowledge? Wouldn’t getting rid of road tolls encourage more people to drive across the Fraser River and disincentivize the public and the government agencies to solve the public transit problems?

 

It is just not fair that the only place where people must pay tolls is south of the Fraser. Even the Liberals have recognized it’s not fair with their promise to lower the cost on the Port Mann bridge tolls. The BCNDP has said we will support the Mayors’ council plan for transit – that will help get people out of their cars – and will offer a real plan to deal with the need for better transportation planning in the Lower Mainland.

 

On BC Hydro – the Liberals have played politics with it for too long. Money that should have gone to lower rates for people got funnelled into general government revenues. People want us to treat BC Hydro as a service and not a cash cow and that is what an NDP government will do.

 

Newcomer communities, especially those coming from China and Hong Kong (not sure about Taiwan), are known to have lower voter turnout than the other communities. What suggestions do you have to improve the turnout?

 

I strongly believe that because politics affects everyone, it is important to get engaged.

My message is that when you don’t vote and get involved you lose the chance to let political leaders know about what matters to you.

What I’m doing is collecting concerns, showing that my leader John Horgan has been listening to all parts of the community, but also making sure that as an elected official, regardless of which level of government I’m in, that I will help to be a voice for issues for newcomers to Canada and help to have their issues understood and acted upon.

 

Overall, it seems like as aware as young people are, they are so frustrated with politics that they feel like they don’t want to waste time participating in it anymore. They feel like either nothing is going to change or they will get a change for the worse (i.e. they think changing for the better doesn’t exist or is unattainable). Donald Trump is the manifestation of it in the United States.

 

What do you want to say to these young people? Why should we get more involved and stay involved especially with the level of cynicism? Are elections just a sales and marketing game?

 

On the Burnaby City Council, we have involved so many youth in the city. Whether it’s a skateboard park at Bonsor or Taylor Park, south of the Edmonds center that was designed by youth and for youth we involve them.

We involved youth as part of community cleanups. We have our Community Policing office in with youth represented. Burnaby City decisions and programs have benefited from the youth feedback on things like bike ramps or parks and the environment. It is important for young people to see how government works and to understand they can be part of it.

I love the fact that many youth are volunteering on my campaign. It makes me feel hopeful. I think that it is harder for anyone, especially young people to be cynical about politics once they get involved and understand that while it can be a game and a lot of marketing, it is also mostly about a lot of people who volunteer their time, knowledge, money and experience to make their neighbourhood, community, province or country a better place.