Infrastructure, housing, and crime and safety are top-of-mind concerns of many of the candidates seeking seats on city council.
When New West voters head to the polls on Oct. 15 – if they didn’t vote in advance polls – they’ll have an opportunity to choose who they’d like to fill the six councillors seats on city council.
Twelve candidates are in the council race, including one independent, five New West Progressives and six Community First New West candidates.
“Housing security and affordability are the city’s top issues,” said Henderson, a first-time candidate, who is running with Community First New West. “We need to prioritize protecting our existing rental stock, push to increase the number of affordable units required in new multi-family developments around transit, and streamline permitting processes to accelerate the construction of “missing middle” housing for young working families, like laneway homes and townhouses.”
Henderson, a city planner, said she’d like to explore more innovative and bold ideas, such as developing a Community Land Trust model, to keep tackling this complex issue.
Daniel Fontaine, a New West Progressives candidate who placed seventh in the race for six council seats in 2018, said housing affordability and choice is one of the Top 3 issues in New West.
“Despite the best of intentions at city hall, New Westminster is facing an unprecedented housing affordability crisis,” he said. “Even before inflationary concerns, rental costs were skyrocketing while monthly mortgage payments were on the rise. Notwithstanding all the new towers under construction, many of our youth are being forced out of the city to find their first home.”
Incumbent councillor Nadine Nakagawa said New Westminster is in a deepening housing crisis, with more and more community members being pushed out of the city because of unaffordability. She’s running with Community First New West.
“We need to continue to do our part to ensure that all residents of New West have appropriate housing where they feel comfortable and are able to build a future in this community,” she said. “This is important for seniors, for families, for renters, for the disabled, and everyone in between.”
Ruby Campbell, a former City of New Westminster employee and a first-time council candidate, said the city needs to prioritize affordability, especially secure housing for working people, marginalized communities and individuals who have complex care needs.
“We need to increase affordable new multi-family developments in transit-focused areas, partner with non-profits and senior governments, as well as update and streamline permitting processes to accelerate the construction of ‘missing middle’ housing for young working families who face barriers to the housing market,” said Campbell, a Community First New West candidate.
New Westminster’s infrastructure is a top concern for candidates – whether they’re independents or part of a slate.
“Population growth brings with it additional strain on existing city infrastructure and services,” said incumbent Chinu Das, part of the Community First New West team. “We will need to maintain and enhance our current levels of services and infrastructure. Senior governments must provide financial support for this.”
An “infrastructure deficit” is citied as a top concern by candidates running with the New West Progressives.
“Infrastructure management appears not to be a priority for this city council,” said NWP candidate Paul Minhas. “Streets and sidewalks are in disrepair, and some key facilities have experienced unexpected permanent closure. The city has grown, however, investment in community infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth in the city.”
Fellow NWP candidate Karima Budhwani said investment in community infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with population growth in the city.
“Due to rapid population growth and a lack of new investments, getting accepted into some community programs is akin to winning a lottery,” Fontaine said. “The fact so many moms and dads are struggling with something as basic as getting their child registered into a swimming program is very problematic.”
Campbell said she supports enhancing the city’s community infrastructure, public amenities and green spaces in a way that prioritizes equitable access to public spaces, recreational space, facilities, amenities.
“This includes increasing accessible green public spaces throughout the city to ensure all residents have access to shade natural spaces,” she said. “We also need to work with sports communities to identify gaps in local sports and recreation facilities as well as work with the broader community to create a renewed vision for the Anvil Centre.”
Community First New West candidate Bereket Kebede also named infrastructure improvements as one of his Top 3 issues in New Westminster. The Queensborough resident, who works in public transportation, said increasing transit service in underserved neighbourhoods, and expanding partnerships with local organizations and community groups are top issues he’d like to pursue if elected.
Crime and safety
Daniel Ampong, a local businessman and the lone independent in this year’s council race, is one of several candidates who consider crime and safety a top issue that needs to be tackled in New Westminster.
“The safety of this city needs to be a priority especially around Westminster station and Columbia station, the crimes have escalated in these areas,” he said.
Ampong’s safety concerns extend to the need for proper crosswalks to keep children and other community members safe.
Minhas, who owns a business on Columbia Street, also lists crime and safety as a top concern.
“Safety underpins the feeling of well-being, and without that safety on a day-to-day basis, quality of life suffers,” he said. “I hear from of my neighbours in Downtown that they live in fear of being attacked when they are out and about town. Staff of many businesses have experienced physical and verbal attacks and there is damage to property on a regular basis. Living in fear of being attacked is a common experience of residents and business owners in downtown.”
Several New West Progressives candidates cited crime and safety as a top concern, including Budhwani.
“Residents all over New Westminster are expressing that they do not feel safe on the streets in our city, and this feeling is shared by residents of all ages and across gender lines. At the same time, people feel that incidents of crime are on the rise in their neighbourhoods and that police are not responsive to their concerns or do not have the capacity to deal with these issues,” she said. “Partnership with the police department is needed to find creative approaches or solutions that allow the police to do their job and make residents feel safe.”
NWP candidate Jiayi Li-McCarthy said many citizens, especially women and seniors, aren’t feeling safe on city streets after dark.
“Our police need to be well-funded, and we need more of them on the street,” she said. “We also need to open a new community policing office in Queensborough to address the concerns of this neighbourhood that has, for far too long, been ignored by city council.”
Longtime New West resident Rick Folka, a New West Progressives candidate, listed traffic enforcement and pedestrian safety as one of his top concerns.
“New Westminster is a corridor for thousands of commuters driving through our city,” he said. “Work with the NWPD to increase enforcement of traffic violations such as speeding and running red lights. Ensuring pedestrians are truly considered the number one priority when it comes to new transportation infrastructure investments.”
Two incumbents – Jaimie McEvoy and Nakagawa – cited the climate crisis as a concern that must continue to be addressed.
“Undoubtedly, the climate crisis is the biggest issue of our time and impacts all other decision-making,” Nakagawa said. “We need to meet the IPCC targets for carbon emissions while also making sure our city is ready for the inevitable climate-related impacts we are already beginning to experience.”
McEvoy, first elected in 2008, said he wants to continue the city’s work on the Seven Bold Steps on Climate Action. He said he’s proud of the city’s Seven Bold Steps on Climate and the creation of a new urban forest policy that’s working to plant more trees in New West.
The Top 3 issues in New Westminster was one of several questions the Record posed to council candidates. Public engagement, support for local business, fiscal accountability, community connections and affordable housing were also cited as top concerns of some candidates.
You can read about their completed responses to all the questions – as well as other election stories and videos with mayoral candidates – on the Record’s 2022 Civic Election page.