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Meet New Westminster council candidate: Chinu Das

Council hopefuls responded to our city council-focused questionnaire. Here's what they had to say.
Chinu Das 2022
Chinu Das is running for Community First New West in New Westminster's 2022 council race.

Affiliation: Community First New West

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I am a first-generation immigrant from India. I came to Vancouver 43 years ago to do my Ph.D. in urban planning from UBC. I have lived with my family in New Westminster for 33 years and raised three wonderful children who have benefited from everything the city has had to offer. As an urban planner, an immigrant woman of colour and a senior, I bring the lens of my academic credentials, work experience in social planning, and life experience to council work.

Why are you running for city council?

I have served one term on city council. I have chaired several committees including land use planning, seniors advisory, and multicultural advisory, economic development advisory committee. It is important for me to consider voices of seniors, immigrants, and families with young children in the context of housing, infrastructure development and city services. I would like to continue to listen to the community, and to build a livable, safe and vibrant urban community, looking at all aspects of living, working and recreation.

What do you consider to be the Top 3 issues facing New Westminster at this time?

Housing — we have a housing crisis in B.C., and we need to provide a spectrum of housing options including affordable rental housing to be in alignment with provincial direction on housing needs.

Infrastructure — Population growth brings with it additional strain on existing city infrastructure and services. We will need to maintain and enhance our current levels of services and infrastructure. Senior governments must provide financial support for this.

Building a city that is healthy, inclusive and vibrant. The pandemic took its toll on all of us in many ways. New Westminster worked hard to build resiliency and support its residents and businesses through these trying times. We will work and collaborate with our partners to bring New Westminster back to its pre pandemic days.

What is the biggest success and/or failure of the current city council?

The biggest success of current city council has been in housing. New Westminster has led the way in housing policy. We have acted deliberately to protect affordable rental housing and built more rental housing than other communities. We have also fast tracked affordable and supportive housing. We need to continue this good work and provide more housing options to suit our changing demographics, particularly more 'missing middle' housing.

Do you support city council’s decision to have the City of New Westminster stop using the Royal City moniker and crown logo as part of its official branding? Why or why not?

A city needs to review its branding from time to time to ensure that it reflects the values and priorities of its residents. The demographics of the city have changed considerably in the last 15 years. We have greater diversity in our population and a greater desire for more inclusive processes. Considering this, it is time to look at our official branding. I look forward to having a meaningful and robust consultation with the residents on this topic.

What is your housing situation? Homeowner, renter, other? Landlord?

I am a homeowner.

New Westminster’s population is currently 82,590 and is projected to grow to about 100,000 by 2031. How – and where – do you want the city to accommodate that growth?

New Westminster's population is growing and will continue to grow over the next decade. The city has not created the population growth, but like other municipalities it needs to plan for it. It is imperative that this growth is accommodated in a planned way and with greater density along major transportation arteries in the city. We are fortunate to have five SkyTrain stations in the city. This will create less reliance on cars.

Other residential areas in the city will need to accommodate gentler densification, such as row houses, town houses, and laneway houses.

Some organizations are calling on municipal governments to support the creation of non-profit housing by allowing projects to be built without fulfilling rezoning requirements. (As an example, Women Transforming Cities wants social housing initiatives of up to 12 storeys to be permitted in multi-family area and up to six storeys in other residential areas, without a rezoning requirement). Is this something you would support?

New Westminster has led the way in housing policy. There is a housing crisis, and we need to think creatively. At this time, we are required to follow provincial guidelines on zoning. However, ideas that are brought forward will be explored. We will continue to find ways to support affordable and supported housing, including the creation of non-profit housing.

The New Westminster Police Department’s budget has been a contentious issue in recent years, with some council members supporting cuts (to the requested budget increase) to the NWPD’s budget. (Budgets put forward by the police board were ultimately approved by council.) If elected, would you support cuts to the New Westminster Police Department’s budget in the city’s next budget? 

New Westminster's Police Department budget has not been cut. NWPD provides an important service and is greatly appreciated and valued by the community. But it is necessary to look at how NWPD's service can be improved and/or enhanced to better align with changing demographics and evolving needs and vulnerabilities. It is also prudent to look at more current police service models. The city and NWPD are currently working on integrated approaches to livability and using PACT— Peer Assisted Crisis Team — to better serve the community. Budget discussions are relevant in that context. However, I also strongly believe in discourse before decision.

City council has developed and used the Seven Bold Steps for Climate Action (and its strategic plan) as the basis for making all decisions. Has the city done enough to address the climate crisis? Too much?

New Westminster has used the Seven Bold Steps for Climate Action as a lens in its decision-making process. I am very proud of what we have achieved in the four years. We have integrated climate action into all city work. As an example, while we continue to protect the city’s existing rental supply to enhance housing security, we are incentivizing building resiliency into the existing building stock to prepare for climate change and emergency response.

There is more to be done and we have plans to do it in the next term.

You have 24 hours and your calendar is open. What would be your ideal day in New West?

My ideal day in New Westminster is playing with my two grandchildren at any of many parks we have. After that, perhaps some ice-cream from Rocky Point or Pirate Paks at White Spot, and quiet time at home.

However, as a senior, I must confess that I spend a lot of time with friends at uptown coffee places such as Flavour Balance and Waves, and there is no shortage of good places to dine!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell voters?

I'd like voters to know that over the 33 years of my life in New Westminster, I have volunteered constantly and extensively in this community and continue to do so even now. Being a politician is an extension of that commitment towards serving and working in the best interests of the people. I am happy to have served as a city councillor for the last four years and I look forward to more.

How can folks contact you?

Contact info Email:

Facebook: @chinudasnewwestcouncil

Instagram: @chinudas.604