Working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic helped convince Jennifer Whiteside to seek the NDP nomination in New Westminster.
Whiteside, who has been the Hospital Employees’ Union’s secretary-business manager since 2015, is a longtime activist and has worked for several unions and community organizations.
“We are in a moment right now, having come through the first part of the COVID pandemic, where there is a lot at stake for people. Standing up for progressive values and for working people is what I have done all of my life,” she said. “I really want to work on behalf of the people of New Westminster, the people of British Columbian to make sure that in the post-COVID recovery that we have a recovery that really puts people first. The John Horgan government has done a remarkable job over the last three years of working to repair 16 years of B.C. Liberal neglect, and it’s an enormous job.”
Whiteside, who was born and raised in New West, said it was while attending Douglas College that she really learned about organizing, campaigning and standing up for people and issues. Since then, she’s gone on to advocate for a variety of issues including accessible public child care, migrant workers and health care.
Whiteside said the past six months have had a real impact on her, as she’s been working on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic with the government, the health minister, Dr. Bonnie Henry, public health officials and health-care employers to build protections into long-term care for seniors and nursing homes.
“I’d say the catalyst for me right now is the moment that we are in,” she said of her reason for seeking the nomination. “It’s the incredible change that we are undergoing right now and the incredible change that is going to continue to happen to our economy, to our communities as we continue to grapple with COVID.”
Along with Whiteside, New Westminster resident and former City of New Westminster employee Ruby Campbell is seeking the NDP nomination in New West.
“I think that our party is very fortunate to be fielding very good candidates, very strong candidates, across the province,” Whiteside said.
Along with New Westminster councillor and former NDP MLA Chuck Puchmayr and school trustee Gurveen Dhaliwal, several former presidents of the New Westminster NDP constituency association - Brynn Bourke, Cheryl Greenhalgh, Andy Ross and Nancy Whiteside, who is Jennifer’s sister – have endorsed her bid to become the NDP candidate in New Westminster.
“I’m absolutely excited. I am really honoured by the community leaders who have approached me and asked me to put my name forward. I have been a bit overwhelmed with the support I received over the weekend through my launch,” she told the Record Sept. 21. “This morning I received an endorsement from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip (president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs),which is deeply humbling and meaningful to me. I’m really looking forward to getting to work for folks in New West and for our province.”
Last week, MLA Judy Darcy announced she would not be seeking re-election. Today (Sept. 21), Horgan called an election for Oct. 24.
Whiteside, a Quayside resident, said she hopes to become part of the NDP team that works to address issues that are important to people in New Westminster, such as health care.
“I have deep experience and a deep understanding of our health-care sytem,” she said. “Having been at the table working on the COVID response, that has deepened my conviction and my understanding of what we need to do, particularly with seniors care.”