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New Westminster electors' group announces slate

Voice New Westminster is endorsing eight candidates for city council and school board in November's municipal election.

Voice New Westminster is endorsing eight candidates for city council and school board in November's municipal election.

Gavin Palmer, Susan Wandell, John Ashdown and David Noshad are getting the nod for city council, while Casey Cook, Jim Goring, Lisa Graham and MaryAnn Mortensen are getting the group's support for school board. The election is being held on Nov. 19.

"The candidates Voice is supporting have proven they can put the community first in all decision-making processes," said Neil Powell, president of Voice New Westminster. "They've shown they can listen with an open, unbiased mind and have demonstrated a strong commitment to making New Westminster a better place for all of its citizens."

Powell said Voice had planned to endorse and support just four candidates for city council and four candidates for school trustee but hasn't ruled out further candidate endorsements.

"We've received a number of inquiries from people considering running in November and we're actively looking at that," he said in a press release. "We're very pleased with the interest Voice has received and we can't rule out further endorsements given the calibre of some of the people who've approached us."

Powell stated that Voice has chosen not to endorse any mayoralty candidate in this year's election.

Palmer recently stepped down as president of the Queensborough Residents' Association so he could run for city council. He ran under the Voice banner in 2008 and placed 12th in the council race.

"A lot of people want to see better representation at council for Queensborough," he told The Record. "It's time to be recognized."

Palmer said Queensborough contributes greatly to the city's tax base through businesses like Starlight Casino, Queensborough Landing and Smurfit, but it doesn't necessarily get its equal share of services. Palmer, who has lived in Queensborough for 14 years, is a manager in the food and beverage department at Starlight Casino.

"As QRA president, and with the association's direction and encouragement, I have been able to keep Queensborough's wants and needs in the forefront of our city's leadership. And together we have been very successful in making our community a desirable place to live and work in," he said in a press release. "We need to keep our city taxes reasonable and make sure our city is fiscally responsible, accountable and prudent when it comes to looking after and spending your money. We need to make sure we receive good value for our hard-earned money."

Ashdown, who's lived in New Westminster for 30 years and been involved with business and residents' associations, wants to address issue such as economic development and accountability, and to be a voice for taxpayers.

"I would like to see more support for businesses in the city," said the first-time candidate. "I have been in business. I gave it a three-year stint. I believe there needs to be more support and advocacy for businesses, also private sector job creation - increasing the economic development a little bit."

Ashdown, who recently stepped down from the West End Business Association so he could run for council, believes small businesses pay more than their share of taxes. He said they pay three-and-a-half times those that residents pay.

Ashdown said he's been outspoken about his concerns in the past and would continue to advocate for residents and businesses. He said he wouldn't be running for council if he felt his concerns were being addressed.

Powell recently told The Record that Voice New Westminster's executive believes the group can be just as effective if it can elect a majority to city council or school board compared to running a full slate.

Powell believes that Voice New Westminster has made an impact on school board, where it had three trustees elected - Cook, Goring and Graham. He believes they have helped bring openness and communication between the school board and parent advisory councils, and have helped make the board more accountable to children and parents in the community.

In the 2008 municipal election, Voice New Westminster ran full slates of candidates for both city council and school board. It endorsed six candidates for council (Steve McClurg, Betty McIntosh, Bob Osterman, Palmer, Powell, and Wandell) and seven candidates for school board (Cook, Maylen Crespo, Goring, Graham, Kirpal Kaur, Patrick O'Connor and Shelley Waldie), as well as Blair Armitage for mayor.