Richmond-Queensborough candidates field questions on opioid crisis, COVID-19 and more

BC Votes 2020

Four candidates are vying for your vote in Richmond-Queensborough in the Oct. 24 provincial election.

Here’s whose names will be on the ballot when you head to the polling station or fill out your mail-in ballot: Earl Einarson – Greens; Kay Hale – Conservatives; Jas Johal – Liberals; and Aman Singh – NDP.

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To help community members get to know their local candidates a bit better, the Record recently sent questionnaires to each of the candidates. Along with a short biography and several policy questions, we also threw in a few lighthearted questions – just for fun.

Biographies were limited to 50 words and policy questions were restricted to 150 words each. In cases where the candidate exceeded the word count, the responses have been cut off and replaced with ellipses. ( …)

Meet Earl Einarson, BC Green Party

Einarson did not return the questionnaire to the Record.

Kay Hale
Kay Hale, Conservatives - Contributed

Meet Kay Hale, BC Conservative Party

Occupation: Real estate

 Brief bio: I have lived in Richmond, B.C. for over 35 wonderful years. I was born in Hong Kong to a military family. My father fought in WWII and was held a POW in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation. We grew up in humble times where we learnt to appreciate …

What do you think is the top issue facing New Westminster in this election? How will you address this issue? Be as specific as possible.

Affordable Housing, Homelessness, and Over Dose Crises.  Ref 4 & 6….. (see below)

Re-Open River View Hospital to address Mental Health.

The next government of British Columbia will have the responsibility of guiding the province through the COVID-19 pandemic and into recovery. What makes you and your party best positioned to carry out this work? What specific actions would you take to guide this process?

Work with our health professional and follow the science.

 Students and families in New Westminster have been vocal in their concerns about the safety of schools in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. What specific actions would you take to address these concerns?

 All personnel, teacher and student should have a "temperature" check prior to entering the school premises. Students and school official should also be given a swab test on regular interval best suggested by provincial health officer. Any meeting or consultation between teachers and parent should be conducted virtually by appointment or over the telephone only. No face-to-face meeting.

 Affordable housing continues to be top-of-mind for New Westminster residents. Name at least three specific, concrete actions you would take to address this issue, locally and within B.C.

Reviewing the existing 95% of land in British Columbia that is Crown land – in consultation with First Nations, municipalities, urban planners and other stakeholders. Allocating up to 1% of existing Crown land to development that will promote more affordable housing for British Columbians. Encouraging all financial institutions in British Columbia to finance the development of affordable housing that is released from crown land.

Anti-racism and Indigenous reconciliation have come to the forefront of public discussion in recent months. How would you ensure this important work is carried out when you are elected? Be as specific as possible.

Building a new relationship between Aboriginal people and all Canadians is based on acknowledging the past and its present-day impacts. ...Hate crime should be punishable by law.

 The opioid crisis continues to make headlines and affect the lives of New Westminster residents. What specific actions would you take to address the crisis? Provide at least three concrete examples.

Walk-n-clinics for swab testing clinic.

Set up a system and provide assistance thru home care or support system to address the mental health of our seniors.

Schools to other facilities for do temperature check.

Homeless: We have to work with all three levels of government to create low-cost and affordable housing!  Repurpose old hotels and vacant office tower to immediately accommodate tackle the homeless problem.

Just for fun:

Cats or dogs? (No response)

Favourite book or movie? (No response)

Preferred Halloween treat? (No response)

Jas Johal
Jas Johal, Liberals - Contributed

Meet Jas Johal, BC Liberal Party

Occupation: Currently running for re-election as MLA for Richmond-Queensborough

Brief bio: Born in India. Moved to Williams Lake as a toddler. Worked as a reporter for many, many years, including stints in Beijing, New Dehli and of course back here in British Columbia. My wife and I have a 10-year old son.  

What do you think is the top issue facing New Westminster in this election? How will you address this issue? Be as specific as possible.

Queensborough sits at the junction of several communities and yet undoubtedly receives less services than their neighbours. I am keen on a permanent school bus for NWSS kids that live in Queensborough.  Additionally I would like to see greater recreation facilities in the Queensborough neighbourhood, as well as fewer portables at the middle school.

The next government of British Columbia will have the responsibility of guiding the province through the COVID-19 pandemic and into recovery. What makes you and your party best positioned to carry out this work? What specific actions would you take to guide this process? 

The Business Council of BC says 10,000 to 20,000 small businesses will go bankrupt by the end of 2021 due to the pandemic. This makes renewing our economy more important than ever. We would implement 0% PST for the first year, then 3% in our second year. Under a BC Liberal government, the province led the country in economic growth.  We were able to accomplish this while investing in services and balancing the budget for five consecutive years. 

Students and families in New Westminster have been vocal in their concerns about the safety of schools in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. What specific actions would you take to address these concerns?

I would like to see more hybrid classes so families have choice about in-person vs. digital learning. In the same vein, we would benefit from greater school flexibility to accommodate parents working from home. We need greater funding for the Ministry of Education to implement these safety procedures, but it is a justifiable cause as we are in a once in a century pandemic. 

Affordable housing continues to be top-of-mind for New Westminster residents. Name at least three specific, concrete actions you would take to address this issue, locally and within B.C. 

Eliminate the speculation tax. Implement a pre-sale condo-flipping tax. Work with municipalities to cut the red tape responsible for years long delays in getting new housing built. Since 2018, vacancy rates have increased by just 0.1% – that represents just over 100 units provincewide.

Additionally I would be thrilled to work with the federal government to build a national rental strategy, similar to what we had in the 1970s with purpose-built rental homes.

Anti-racism and Indigenous reconciliation have come to the forefront of public discussion in recent months. How would you ensure this important work is carried out when you are elected? Be as specific as possible.

As a person of colour, I was very proud to be part of the committee reviewing our province’s Police Act. Unfortunately that work was stopped when the NDP called the election. It will be my priority to see this work resumed by the next government.

Indigenous reconciliation is not a process with an end date where we can pat ourselves on the back and say “it’s done.” This is a new way of life where we recognize that we live and work on unceded territories that cross different nations. It goes without saying I support UNDRIP. (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)

The opioid crisis continues to make headlines and affect the lives of New Westminster residents. What specific actions would you take to address the crisis? Provide at least three concrete examples.

I was proud when our previous health minister Terry Lake was recognized for his work with addiction recovery and overdose prevention in 2013. That being said, we need to understand that the opioid epidemic is still here and people are still dying. We already know that the most effective approaches are 360 degree wraparound services, so our work should be within this realm. I want to see a better worker-to-patient ratio in recovery homes, increased safety supports for the neighbourhoods that host transition homes and outreach services for those struggling specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just for fun:

Cats or dogs? Both, or whichever sheds less.

Favourite book or movie? The Great Gatsby. I read it when I was young and it has stuck with me.

Preferred Halloween treat? Anything but candy corn.

Aman Singh
Aman Singh, NDP - Contributed

 Meet Aman Singh, BC NDP

Occupation: Lawyer

Brief bio: As a human rights lawyer, Aman is committed to fighting for social justice. He believes in building a B.C. where everyone succeeds, not just the wealthy and well-connected, and where the government makes a strong commitment to addressing issues of affordability and mental health. Married with a young daughter, he will make education and childcare a priority in Richmond-Queensborough.

What do you think is the top issue facing New Westminster in this election? How will you address this issue? Be as specific as possible.

As we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must build a recovery that works for everyone, not just the people at the top. For too long the BC Liberals gave tax breaks to the wealthiest while cutting services for the rest of us. We need a government that will champion working people and ensure that families can get ahead. John Horgan has released a recovery plan that puts people first, by investing in our communities, health care, education and infrastructure while creating good paying jobs and ensuring affordability. 

The next government of British Columbia will have the responsibility of guiding the province through the COVID-19 pandemic and into recovery. What makes you and your party best positioned to carry out this work? What specific actions would you take to guide this process?

COVID-19 has hit the most vulnerable people of our province the hardest. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the realities left behind after 16 years of BC Liberal cuts to health and seniors care. Under the Liberals, long-term care homes were subject to privatization and cuts that left nine out of 10 care homes inadequately staffed. We are fixing that problem by hiring 7,000 new workers in long-term care and assisted living and making investments in home care. People are the economy, and we have introduced three balanced budgets while improving services for British Columbians. COVID hasn’t changed our focus; we’ve made an unprecedented $8-billion investment to support people while kick starting our economy. This action helped support the hardest hit small and medium businesses while protecting 200,000 jobs. Our recovery benefit will provide an extra $1,000 to families earning up to $125,000 to help take the stress off of households budgets.

Students and families in New Westminster have been vocal in their concerns about the safety of schools in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. What specific actions would you take to address these concerns?

Every parent wants their child to have the best start possible. Under the BC Liberals, per-capita student funding fell to the lowest levels in the country. Cuts to education hurt an entire generation of students. We have focused on hiring 4,200 new teachers and making class sizes the smallest they have been in a decade. We are investing in seismic upgrades to ensure schools are safe. To keep students safe during the pandemic, we are investing in new ventilation systems and enhanced cleaning protocols. We know remote-learning is part of the future, so we are fast-tracking improvements to online learning so that every student can have access to education.

Affordable housing continues to be top-of-mind for New Westminster residents. Name at least three specific, concrete actions you would take to address this issue, locally and within B.C.

We are finally getting the affordability crisis under control after the BC Liberals ignored real estate speculation, money laundering and skyrocketing rents. When Andrew Wilkinson was in cabinet, the price of a single-family home shot up by hundreds of thousands of dollars. We’ve put a stop to those runaway increases. The Liberals want to end the speculation tax, putting speculators and developers ahead of families looking who need homes in our communities. The BC NDP will continue to make investments in affordable housing, and we will create a renter’s rebate for households earning up to $80,000. 25,000 homes are already complete or underway as part of our 10-year plan. There’s more work to be done, and we will continue to work to ensure that everyone can afford a place to call home.

Anti-racism and Indigenous reconciliation have come to the forefront of public discussion in recent months. How would you ensure this important work is carried out when you are elected? Be as specific as possible.

My work as a human and civil rights attorney has always made me aware of the systemic racism that exists in our society. If elected, I would be the first MLA to wear a turban in the legislature and that gives me a unique perspective on anti-racism work. The BC NDP has taken action to combat systemic racism and discrimination in our province, through re-instating the BC Human Rights Commission, which was disbanded by the BC Liberals in 2002; and funding 34 organizations across the province as part of the government’s new Reslience BC network. The BC NDP was the first province in Canada to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are guaranteeing long-term funding for First Nations through a 25-year revenue sharing agreement, while supporting learning about reconciliation in our school curriculums and provincial parks. 

 The opioid crisis continues to make headlines and affect the lives of New Westminster residents. What specific actions would you take to address the crisis? Provide at least three concrete examples.

The opioid crisis has taken too many lives. The BC Liberals ignored the opioid crisis while it grew. It is a problem that requires a solution that works on many fronts. That’s why John Horgan created Canada’s first Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. It is vital to support youth, and we have doubled youth treatment beds. We are committed to building new facilities across the province so that people who are struggling can get help close to home. We will continue to work with Dr. Bonnie Henry to expand access to safe prescription alternatives to toxic street drugs. We will continue to work with the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs to call for decriminalization of small amounts of drugs, so that police can focus their efforts on stopping criminals who create this toxic supply of drugs.

Just for fun:

Cats or dogs? Dogs – I have two rescue dogs, Charlie and Dave.

Favourite book or movie? 100 Years of Solitude

Preferred Halloween treat? Reese Peanut Butter Cups 

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