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New political party to field candidates in New West civic election

Community First organizers includes some heavy hitters on the local, provincial and federal political scene
Candidates with the new Community First party will be on the ballot when New West voters head to the polls for this fall's civic election.

Some heavy hitters on the local political scene have helped form a new electoral organization in New Westminster.

Former MP and MLA Dawn Black, former MLA Judy Darcy, former city councillor Bill Harper, some current city council and school board politicos, and community activists including Raunaq Singh, David Black and Tania Jarzebiak  are among about two dozen residents who have been involved in discussions leading to the creation of Community First, said interim spokesperson Cheryl Greenhalgh.

“Over the last two decades, we have seen huge improvements in quality of life for people here in New West,” said Greenhalgh, one of the group’s organizers. “Opening up the riverfront, creating beautiful facilities and parks, protecting rental housing, rebuilding public schools, and supporting vibrant local businesses, arts and culture – these are drawing families and businesses here. We don’t want to put that important progress at risk.”

Greenhalgh said a group of community residents who have been friends and have worked on campaigns through the years started discussing about their shared values and what they hope to see accomplished in the lead-up to the Oct. 15 civic election.

“A lot of it was what do we want to build in our community,” she said. “We want to build strong local services and public schools. We want everybody to feel included and to have a voice and to be heard. We want to champion strong environmental standards and look after future generations. We are looking for leadership. Affordability and sustainability challenges are things are facing all communities in our region right now, so we want to provide strong leadership. We hope that working together through local politics we can make our community better.”

Community First will hold its founding annual general meeting on Thursday April 28 at 7 p.m., with the online meeting being open to all of its members.

Greenhalgh said word of the new electors group has been spreading by word of mouth, but it’s now seeking to reach out to the broader community.

“This is an effort to reach out to anybody in the community who thinks that they would share our values. … If you are going to have an organization in the community you need to be reflective of the community, and that means many voices and giving people an opportunity to have input, and direct and help form the direction we are taking,” she said. “That’s been important to us from the start. This is the first attempt to make sure that there is a home here for them if they are interested in getting involved in the local election.”

Greenhalgh said the AGM will be a business meeting, where members adopt bylaws and elect and executive. A nomination meeting will be set for a later date.

“We are going to have an open nomination process, so incumbents or other potential candidates who might be seeking an endorsement through our organization, they may name themselves. But until our nomination process is complete, we can’t name a candidate. We will have an open nomination. We should have more information on that in the coming weeks, certainly, I would think, by the AGM. We will be able to provide some timelines soon. Anybody who is interested in running can certainly reach out to us.”

Greenhalgh said Community First hopes to support “many incumbents” but it will provide an opportunity for anyone who shares its values to run for a nomination. She couldn’t say how many city council and school board candidates it will be putting forward until it goes through a candidate search process and a nomination process, nor could she say which incumbents may be involved.

And what about a mayoral candidate?

“I think it is certainly possible we will have a mayoralty candidate,” she said. “I am not going to rule it out.”

A platform will be released in the coming months.

Three-party election?

The formation of Community First marks the third electors group in New West to form in advance of this fall’s civic election.

The New West Progressives, which formed before the 2018 election, have announced a mayoral candidate (Ken Armstrong) and two council candidates (Rick Folka and Jiayi Li-McCarthy) – the only candidates announced thus far.

In December 2021, a group called Together New West held its founding AGM and announced plans to run candidates for school board and city council. After its name conflicted with a campaign by the downtown business association, it announced in late December that it would be renamed Forward New West – but has not made any public statements since that time. (As of April 19, Elections BC still had Trustee Gurveen Dhaliwal listed as the group’s authorized principal official and Coun. Patrick Johnstone as its financial agent.)

Some of the organizers of Community First, including Greenhalgh, attended the Together New West AGM in December 2021.

“I want to be very respectful and careful and not speak for Forward New West. I wasn’t part of that executive so that’s not an organization I have any ability to speak for,” she said. “Are some of the people who were involved in that involved in this? Yes. Some, but certainly not all.”

Greenhalgh said there is “some crossover” between the two groups, but Community First is “a new organization, new people and a new direction.”

“We are excited about our new organization. We are moving forward here – no pun intended,” she said. “We have room for everyone who shares our values to get involved. We are just excited to get going.”

Residents interested in getting involved with Community First can email

“For us, the priority is making sure that people understand that we exist,” Greenhalgh said. “We are committed to a transparent process for nominating candidates and for community members to get involved.”

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus