Michelle Livaja is the latest candidate to throw her hat in the proverbial ring to represent the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding as our MLA.
The Squamish Chief sat down with Livaja, who is representing the BC NDP Party, for a chat about why she wants to run, what took so long for her to come forward and her platform. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: The first obvious question is why do you want to run?
A: I think people are tired of seeing the same types of candidates. We’ve got professional politicians and I am hoping to bring something fresh. I am seeing people suffering and struggling and I just couldn’t sit back and not try to do something.
Q: But what took so long for you to step forward? There’s only weeks left until the election.
A: It is always easier to sit back and let someone else do it and then no one was stepping up. Stepping up into civil service is a big step and it means a lot of sacrifices for you and your family and people are just so busy nowadays they don’t have as much time to get involved. I am just at a point in my life where I actually am prepared to take this on. I do have the space for it.
Q: This is such a massive riding and people don’t want Squamish to get lost in the shuffle. How well do you know Squamish and our issues?
A: I will admit I am not a resident of Squamish. I am not up to date as someone who is there, but I can tell you if it is my job I will make darn certain that I know everything that is going on.
An interesting perspective that I can bring to Squamish is there are parallels to what has already happened on Bowen Island, where I live. Squamish I see as turning into a bedroom community. Years ago this happened in Bowen. We lost so much of our diversity of residents – we’ve lost many of our artists and a lot of our young families and a lot of our volunteers. The social fabric has been stretched. It has become a more wealthy place. You have people who are commuting – I was communting four hours a day. So in Squamish, people have to leave the Lower Mainland because they can’t afford to stay so they are going to places like Squamish. Your young families are moving out, your housing is going up in price. Then you have transportation issues because everyone has to get down to the city.
Q: As you mentioned, affordability is a huge issue here so what would you – the NDP – want to see done to help tackle the housing problem?
A: Housing is a tricky thing and it isn’t just a provincial government issue. You’ve got federal and you’ve got municipal, so these three levels are going to have to work together. We need to look at more creative options. There’s a huge opportunity for rental housing, social housing, co-ops, non-market housing options. I know on Bowen we do have land that the municipality owns. We could be doing something with that land. We need to be thinking outside of the box and if there’s a political will, we can definitely do some stuff.
Q: Another huge issue in Squamish is finding affordable, quality childcare. Can you speak to that a little bit?
A: I am so excited that the NDP is committing to $10-a-day daycare. This is huge for our working families, huge for single parents. As you know if you’ve got kids, how hard it is to find a spot – and then it is almost the same cost as paying a mortgage and then there’s the question of quality because there aren’t spaces available. It is really tough and parents shouldn’t have to decide between staying home with their kids and being able to get back into the work force.
Q: Liquefied natural gas has been a divisive issue here with our pending Woodfibre LNG plant. Where do you stand on that issue?
A: The NDP is supportive of Woodfibre LNG. They are supportive of the jobs and the economic activity that it is going to bring to the province. With that, though, there are conditions. The First Nations approval is a big part, the environmental conditions. Those are important to making it as good and as safe as it needs to be. But also, let’s have those jobs and get our people working.
Q: Let’s talk transportation. Our highway is getting clogged – do you support regional transit?
A: Yes, every time I go up there I get caught in a traffic jam. I am a huge fan of regional transit. I am stunned you don’t have it. It is a major tourist destination up there. That makes no sense to me. You can get so many cars off the road with regional transit. That whole stretch – North Shore, Sea to Sky – it is badly under serviced with regional transit.
Q: What else would you like to say to Squamish?
A: I am focused on jobs and affordability issues. I am really concerned about affordability and housing is just a part of that. It is the fees – everything is going up. The Hydro fees! This was a really bad winter and the fees were astronomical and they just went up again. Working people can’t afford that and I am just concerned that the current government keeps picking our pockets and the fees are going up and people are reaching a breaking point. Something has to change.
The provincial election is set for May 9.