Canada, Ethnic Studies and the World

edited and interviewed by Stanley Lee

 

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of our interview. In the second part of the interview, we discussed the housing crisis, campaign finance reform, perception of whether BC has a one-party dynasty, and the importance for minority groups to get involved in politics. I hope you will enjoy this too.

 

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

 

We hope you enjoy.

 


 

I guess you wouldn’t know enough to comment on potential unintended consequences of removing let’s say cheaper options for multinational companies to buy log sites? it’s not an NDP issue for sure. When you talk about local manufacturing, how is that going to play out when real estate practically everywhere in BC is unaffordable even for let’s say manufacturers?

 

Well, we have to get real estate under control, too.

 

Let’s talk about real estate then since we’re already talking about it. How do you feel about the foreign-buyers tax?

 

The first thing I want to say about the foreign-buyers tax is I think that this is part of a Christy Clark pattern, which is her government has a track record of not doing preventative maintenance. They don’t look for the warning signs, and they don’t have a plan, and so they deal with crisis when they’re forced to deal with crisis. They have to be forced to deal with crisis, and by the time they act, a lot of people have already been hurt and a lot of the solutions that they come up with are kind of rash and impulsive, and I would say that’s true of the foreign-buyers tax. I mean I think it’s very fraught that tax is very fraught.

 

Having said that, I do believe that houses are homes. Houses are for people to live in not for people to park their investments, and so if people want to buy real estate for speculative purposes, if they want to buy real estate with the hope that it will go up in value and that they will make a big profit on their investment, then they should be taxed for that.

 

You’re not worried about let’s say the voters perceiving that the BC Liberals are at least doing something to dampen the market?

 

 

The conversations I’ve had on the doorstop, that’s not what people have been saying. What people have been saying is they’re suspicious. They’re suspicious of the tax because they fundamentally do not trust Christy Clark because their experience is that she only does something when she’s backed into a corner.

 

 If your party wins the government, like I guess it’s like premature to predict this or even just speculate about this, but if there are rampant let’s say multinational institutional speculation involved because I’ve read a whole bunch of books On how this has played out with capital investment firms buying property. Milk it as landlords, and then wait until they make enough capital gains to sell it or redevelopment projects. That’s like if any taxation policy could be enough or just out of hand based on how politics is played out elsewhere.

Well, I think you I would agree with you that it is complex. It’s very complex, and so the solution has to be more than just one form of tax. As I see it and it is a real problem in Burnaby North. It is a real problem in Burnaby North, so I see there’s two aspects to it. We need to have a solution that deals with the supply of houses and we need to have solutions that deal with the demand for houses, and the foreign-buyers tax deals with demand, but it doesn’t create more housing for people.

 

The key has to do with creating supply and dampening demand at the same time?

 

Exactly. Exactly, so we’re committed to creating a bigger supply of housing, so we will create more social housing. We will put funding. We will finally come back to funding coop housing. I think there’s other solutions that I can think of but I don’t want to comment on them specifically because I don’t know yet – Whether that’s part, but you know part of the solution I know we will be talking about these things. In terms of dampening the demand, I mean we have talked about – John Horgan has talked about putting a 2 percent tax on every transaction that is speculative, not just foreign buyers. but every transaction that is speculative and done by people who are speculators who do not pay taxes in British Columbia, and that 2 percent tax will be used to build an affordable housing project. That’s one.

Then the other things that he’s committed to doing, there’s loopholes I don’t know all the details of it, because I’m not really into real estate, but there’s apparently is a loophole in the transfer taxes, property transfer taxes so that there still is a loophole on property transfer taxes so that people can flip houses and avoid paying transfer taxes, and he will close that loophole. I also point out that the industry that is the biggest funder to Christy is the real estate industry.

 

But I’m not even sure how to ask these two follow-up questions based on what you’ve mentioned. One would be the definition of speculation and secondly how would the enforcement be played out and is the current enforcement mechanisms adequate?

 

Well, I mean as a candidate. I don’t have a lot of those details.

 

One last question on foreign-buyers tax. Based on the mainstream media and ethnic media coverage of this, there happens to be a lot of finger-pointing to buyers of let’s say Chinese descent for the properties. Do you think this foreign-buyers tax is a racist policy?

 

I think policies like this could have unintended consequences. I think that there has to be sensitivities before one gets themselves backed into a corner and comes up with a solution because they’re forced to.

 

When we talk about the next question. How do you feel about the NDP government in the ‘90s with respect to managing the economy because the reason I’m asking this is that when there are certain voters- Especially those who may be not as engaged ‑ Maybe they don’t answer the door when trying to discuss on doors and they just rely on the news, and they’ve been here for a while, maybe two of the things that they used to judge a potential NDP government is one what’s their performance in the ‘90s. That’s the last time when they were in government, and secondly, even though it’s not related would be how the NDP government is doing next door in Alberta.Even though they’re not related.

 

Okay, here’s what I can tell you about the ‘90s, and I want to preface it by saying I don’t remember the specific numbers, but here’s what I do remember because I was there. You know I was a voter, I was active in the ‘90s. I was politically active. What I remember from the ‘90s is there was a world financial crisis. International debt was the big issue that governments were working with. The Canadian government, that was Paul Martin’s –

 

Chretien and Martin, they were totally consumed with reducing the Canadian debt. What they did to reduce the Canadian debt was to cut funding, cut services, cut spending drastically and that included transfer payments to the provincial governments, so at one fell swoop, the federal government took what…

 

Basically imposed austerity on the transfer of payments for the provinces.

 

They took was it $1 billion, $2 billion instantly out of the provincial coffers, and so the provincial government then had to scramble. I think that it is disingenuous for the BC Liberals and their supporters to try to paint a picture of the NDP in the ‘90s as being poor financial managers when that money was taken away from them and what they did do was they chose not to do what the Liberals did as soon as they came into power, which is they wiped out the essential services.

 

They tried to maintain those services, but even in maintaining those services, there debt was less than it is now. They still maintained at the time what is the lowest debt in the country. They maintained services at a level that was as high as possible and kept the debt fairly low. You know people keep talking fast ferries, fast ferries. Well, that cost overrun was a fraction of the cost overrun to replace the roof of the BC Place or to replace the Port Mann Bridge. It’s a disingenuous comparison on the part of the BC Liberals.

 

I have two more follow-up questions about the ‘90s. That may have implications with this election even just based on different potential electorate. I don’t know if this is accurate, but I’ve been hearing that in terms of let’s say the welfare programs it was under the NDP government in the ‘90s where austerity was applied to them, so how would you respond to that?

 

I was on the minister’s advisory committee on social services. I was part of the committee that dealt with that. We looked at a number of different scenarios, and I can say as a being part of that committee that our mandate was not to look for austerity. Our mandate was to try to modernize social services, try to modernize welfare, but our goal was not to cut it at all. I would say that austerity –

 

Rather what I’ve been hearing was the cut started with the NDP government in the ‘90s and then it was further enhanced by the BC Liberals or something

 

I think the funding formula in the ‘90s was changed, and remember they were scrambling to find money and they were trying to find — well you know as someone said to me one time about what it was like to run the government in the ‘90s was if someone gave you $10 and told you to go out and buy $100 worth of groceries. They were trying to feed the family on $10, the government I mean. Yeah, it was hard.

 

 

My question is how would you reconcile or communicate with that because they may feel that it’s a waste of their time or resources to be involved with voting. That could play out with the voter turnout issue that you talked about.

 

Yes, yes. You’re right. You’re quite right as some of the people that I’ve talked to who have given up on voting have bitter memories from the ‘90s and I’m not sure that all of those people can be convinced in an election campaign.

 

Here’s my second question now. It may be a predictor for the future, although I don’t want to play fortuneteller. In the 1990s, the BC NDP government were, as you said, basically forced to $100 worth of groceries on $10. If your party wins the government and after looking at the budgets and the financial numbers, your party finds that essentially have to do the same things again or if the debt situation is even worse than what the BC Liberals – Have deemed to be that you guys are going to do the same thing like what are the ways that you guys are going to look on increasing revenue?

 

Well I think the first difference that jumps to my mind between now and the ‘90s is we have different ways of communicating with people. Pretty well in the ‘90s, we communicated with voters through the media, and then the voters took the initiative to contact you. We have so many more ways of communicating with voters and involving them in the decision, so basically that’s not something that’s being forced on them, but if they have a say, they can at least have a say in it. I think that that’s something that we need to take advantage of modern forms of communication.

 

I think that in terms of new forms and sources of revenue, well this doesn’t directly answer your question, but it’s something we haven’t talked about yet that I do think is important along those lines, and that is our $10 a day childcare. I am very excited about our $10 a day childcare. I think it’s the biggest thing to come along in Canada since publicly funded healthcare.

 

I talk to a lot of people on the doorstep, young families who are absolutely struggling because they can’t find childcare. They can’t find adequate childcare, and if they can, they can’t afford it. We know that it works because Quebec has had I think they’re down to $7 a day. They’ve have publicly funded childcare for 30 years. There’s a lot of European countries that have publicly funded childcare. What I say in a nutshell what research out of Quebec demonstrates is that it more than pays for itself because you have more early childhood development specialists. You have more workers like childcare workers. You have more childcare workers, and they’re paid more and they’re paying taxes. Then you also have parents who had no choice to stay out of the workforce to look after their children fulltime.

 

Many of them have good-paying jobs?

 

Many of them have really good-paying jobs, and they can go back into the workforce and they’re paying taxes and they pay off their student debt, and they’re just contributing. Here’s the other thing that Quebec has demonstrated is that social service costs has gone down because there are fewer children at risk. Those are the kinds of creative things that we need to do, and if we fund healthcare properly, it contributes to the economy because – More preventative. So it’s less costly illnesses as its prevention, and workers are taking less time off the job. I mean those are just some examples of the ways that we would love at improving the economy.

 

We’re those points offered in this election? Were they offered last election?

 

This election we are much more concrete about the $10 a day childcare. It is a central point.

 

Your party has had a reputation of not being clear about what you guys want to do we with a lot of people. I guess just the media and the Internet.

 

Yeah. We’re much clearer. The communication is much more direct. I find on the doorstep being able to say you know, “If you are like me, I want to be part of the government that stops the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and we will implement $10 a day childcare.” Usually the response on the doorstep is all those things are missing.

 

How long exactly is it going to take and how much investment is that going to take? Can the government afford it?

I do know that the upfront investment is quite high, but it quickly starts to pay off. It is my understanding, don’t quote me on this, it’s my understanding that it will be phased in but we will start with infant and toddler care because that is the most expensive and that is the most immediate need so that women, primarily women sometimes it’s fathers, so that the sooner that they can get back into the workforce and stay in the workforce. Otherwise if they had to wait to get back to the workforce, and there’s –

 

Do you have any ideas of how to improve the Chinese descent community voter turnout for NDP especially with the first-generation immigrants?

Okay. I have conversations with people in the door and at the bus stops, a lot of the people that I talked to are first-generation Chinese immigrants, and I find that in many cases, their issues are not that different from the issues of other people. They’re worried about – they want to make a difference. I would say that was something that I found is that the ethnic Chinese voters, they want to make a difference. I talked to them about that, about by how by voting for me, they can make their vote count because it’s so close in this riding if they want change. We talked about that.

 

I should also mention to you my daughter-in-law is second-generation, although her older siblings are first generation. At the bus stops, I talk to a lot of young ethnically Chinese voters, and they worry about being able to make a life here. They want to make a life here.

 

They want to stay here.

 

They want to stay here. They want to make a life here. They want to be able to afford to live here whether it’s rent or housing, and they want a good job that they can raise a family on. People haven’t talked to me about it so much, but I’m just putting two and two together, I think that there needs to be better settlement provision. I used to work for the Public Service Alliance of Canada of the federal government, federal government union. I remember when there were jobs in the federal government like it was people’s job to settle immigrants like directly. That was their job was to help people find houses, help people find jobs, language. Those jobs do not exist anymore.

 

When did they stop existing?

 

I think they stopped existing around with the first wave of austerity when they were cutting government services to the bone to save money. I talked to people that was their job and they loved it because “It was the best job I ever had, helping new Canadians.” I know that there are services. I mean I connect with people in services locally who provide those services but often as volunteers, often on shoestring budgets.

 

Often people don’t really know how to find them.

 

That’s right. They don’t know how to find them, and I can tell you it’s tangentially related, but one of my last job was I was an EI referee so I was part of the tribunal that when people were denied EI or cutoff from EI, they appealed it. They would appeal to the tribunal that I was a part of. I was the workers’ representative on the tribunal. Often most of appellants were new Canadians who had a challenge with language, and I know that ESL has been cut. I know that. I know that after a big fuss that somewhat it was reinstated but not enough, and so people who would come before us usually representing themselves, they’re struggling with English, and these were jobs that were low-paying jobs. They were precarious jobs. I mean knew that this person was like one decision away from the street, and it was my job to ‑ I couldn’t be there advocate, but it was my job –

 

This next question that’s related to the voter turnout, but it’s overall sentiment. Do you feel like there’s a sentiment that British Columbia effectively has a one-party system even though multiple parties could run for seats for legislature of the governments of the province? The reason that I’m saying this is that given how long the BC Liberals have been in power and given how for the majority of the province’s history, the natural governing party has either been the Social Credit or the BC Liberals, do you feel like that there is a sentiment that, “Oh, it’s a one-party system anyway. Voting is a waste of my time. Why should I even bother to vote?” Do you hear a lot of that?

 

You know I’ve never thought of it that way before, and I don’t know I’m trying to think now. Have I talked to people who have expressed that sentiment? In fact, I have to give that some thought. But, I’ve actually coming from Ontario — I’ve lived in BC for about 20 years, but I come from Ontario. Living outside the province, we’ve always looked at BC as the place where the political system was the most mixed. Even though it’s the Socreds and the Liberals tended to win, it was always so close. It was always the Progressive Conservatives whereas in Ontario –

 

 You’re not talking about the Progressive Conservative government for 60 years in Ontario?

 

Yes, yes. It was like a dynasty. Yeah. I grew up in eastern Ontario. I mean my poor mother where she lived in east Ontario, in her poll, there was always one NDP vote, and that was her. It was like they were like nowhere on the map, so we come here to BC where it’s like I really felt like things could change. But I see your point. I can see how sometimes people could see it as if they always win. No matter what we do, they always win.

 

Because I see a lot of that is coming from the Internet.

 

Yeah. It’s not a sentiment I’ve never shared, which is why I guess why I tell you about coming from Ontario, I’m trying to figure out why do I not see it that way. But I guess maybe for people who vote and live here, I could give that some more thought. I mean I’m an optimist. I’m always hopeful that we can change things. I have to believe we can change things, and I’m not just talking about British Columbia politics. I’m talking about the world.

 

When I was perhaps your age, you know we were so close to nuclear annihilation, and yet the peace movement, we don’t even talk about that anymore. We turned that back whereas at the time, people really thought we were going to blow ourselves up. It was going to end that way.

 

You’re talking about the Bay of Pigs incident and the Vietnam War, right? From the doorsteps, was that campaign financing ever brought up a lot or how often did that come up?

 

Yeah, it comes up. It does come up, but the thing that surprised me is a lot of people on the doorstep are not thinking we’re talking about the election yet at all. They will talk specifically about campaign financing, what they talk about is they don’t trust Christy Clark. That’s what they talk about.

 

How important do you think your party needs to be able to answer this question in order to win? For every one voter you find?

 

Every one voter we find is that you can. Actually, I was just at a meeting the other night and the way I see it, the way I think about it is I do believe this election will be about trust, and you may think what I mean by that is you can’t trust Christy Clark and you should trust us instead. It’s a given that I think you should trust John Horgan more than Christy Clark. When I say that the election is about trust, I mean people need to trust themselves. Voters need to have faith in themselves and in each other that they can make a difference, and if they all stick together, then they can make change.

 

Speaking of trust, `there is a follow-up question ‑ That I do want to have you as a candidate for the party about. Your opponents, they have a rhetoric, and I believe this is actually true that your leader, John Horgan, has attended some private high-dollar amount fundraisers, do you think this would have any impact with the trust issue in terms of hypocrisy? Yeah, do you think there is any effect on the trust question at all with your party?

 

Well I think that if I can get people to think it through, they would realize that John Horgan has introduced Get the Big Money Out of Politics bill six times, and we are absolutely committed to doing that. We have a track record. If you look at the government of the ‘90s, a number of things that are hallmarks of democracy in British Columbia was introduced by NDP government. We are trying to get the big money out of politics. We want to level the playing field, but in the meantime, we’re on the same playing field, so we have to play given the cards have been dealt. I know it’s mixing metaphors, and then just look at the results.

 

I mean the kind of fundraising that we do is so small compared to the fundraising that the Liberals do, and we still have to pay the rent on the campaign office and we still have to pay for the phone lines and all the signs. There is a limit on what we could spend. We could spend in the area of $70,000 in the election, and we have to work hard to raise money to be able to do that. We know that the Liberals will always outspend us, but we know that if we form government, we can change that. But I think it’s a bit of a non-sequitur. It’s a big of a red herring because the amounts are so different. They’re so different in terms of when everything. As a candidate, fundraising is —

 

Because a lot of them chose to build like chose to acquire skills, certain portable skills, or build a business, or get entertained instead of getting involved in politics, so what would be your comments about that?

 

Well, it’s a big question. How can I put it? I don’t want to sound trite, but just because young people don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics doesn’t take an interest in them. Politics affects every aspect of our daily life, every single aspect of our daily life. Entertainment, how much it costs, what it is, how it’s influencing the way we think, all is related to politics, where we work, how much money we make, what kind of future we have, all is related to politics, and so politics can be something that’s done to you or politics could be something you participate in.