City council hopefuls discussed housing, public engagement and safety in New Westminster’s first all-candidates meeting last week.
About 40 people turned up to the event on Aug. 1, which was hosted by Women on Wednesdays, an advocacy group whose goal is to strengthen women’s participation in the democratic process, in partnership with Women Transforming Cities. The purpose of the meeting was to provide women an opportunity to hear from candidates about how they would approach issues and policies that affect women.
“The feedback I heard afterwards was really positive, and I was really impressed by the leadership shown by the candidates,” said organizer Trudi Goels.
Candidates in attendance included Nadine Nakagawa, Chinu Das, Mary Trentadue (incumbent), Jaimie McEvoy (incumbent), Patrick Johnstone (incumbent) and Benny Ogden. They were asked about a variety of city-related issues, including housing, transportation and public safety and whether they’d support the creation of a women’s advisory committee.
While, ultimately, Das supported having such a committee, she and other candidates, including incumbent Mary Trentadue, questioned if the composition of such a committee would reflect a diverse cross-section of women.
“I have a group of immigrant women that I meet with on a regular basis once a month, and it has taken me three years now to gain their trust,” Das added.
Council candidate newcomer Benny Ogden and incumbent Patrick Johnstone both agreed a task force might be better equipped.
“It’s working well for public engagement, it’s working for affordable housing, where we have a group of staff and residents working together with a timeline with an actual clear goal at the end of it,” Johnstone said.
Goels was impressed with the amount of back and forth between candidates during the meeting, noting that they were all able to contribute to a thoughtful and respectful discussion about the issues at hand.
“They acknowledged what they know and what they don’t know and left it open for more discussion, which I think is really the most important part. This wasn’t a campaigning opportunity really because we weren’t talking about their platforms, we were talking about a bigger issue in our city and I think that they really rose to the occasion and provided some really good input,” she added.
With each question, candidates were asked to consider an intersectional gendered lens, and Goels hopes they’ll continue to do so throughout the campaign.
“We were really hoping that this conversation would help inform the discussions when they’re talking about their platforms.”