On the campaign trail with: Spencer Chandra Herbert, BC NDP
This week Metro joins three Vancouver candidates as they test their mettle with voters on the street.
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This week Metro joins three different parties' Vancouver candidates as they test their mettle with voters on the street.
Spencer Chandra Herbert is marshalling his volunteers and gathering up signs, twine and brochures when Metro catches up with the incumbent candidate for Vancouver-West End.
This is the fourth provincial election for the 35-year-old B.C. NDP candidate after he was first elected as an MLA in a 2008 by-election. This election Chandra Herbert is also balancing campaigning with his new role as dad: Chandra Herbert and his husband, Romi Chandra Herbert, welcomed baby Dev this Valentine’s Day.
“I live close by so I can duck home for lunch and see him for a little bit,” Chandra Herbert said. “I thought elections were stressful, but raising a baby is a whole other level of challenge.”
Chandra Herbert says this election also feels different when it comes to the political tone.
“It’s feeling incredible,” he says. “People are coming up, pulling their cars over — which is new — and getting out just to talk to me and say, and many self-identifying: I’m a B.C. Liberal, or in some cases, I’m a Conservative but you’ve got my support.”
After 16 years in power, there are signs that voters may be tiring of the centre-right B.C. Liberals. But while Chandra Herbert will likely win his riding, it’s not all smooth sailing for his party: the NDP flubbed the 2013 election, which they were predicted to win, and are now facing an unprecedented challenge from the B.C. Green Party.
The West End is one of Canada’s densest urban neighbourhoods, and housing affordability is top of mind for many of the people Chandra Herbert talks to. Over 80 per cent of its residents rent, and strengthening renters’ rights has been a goal for Chandra Herbert every since he was first elected.
“I don’t imagine living anywhere else in Vancouver because it’s so convenient and walkable,” says Yuri, a West End resident who started voting two years ago when he became a Canadian citizen. “But I really think housing prices are unaffordable here.”
Trevor King has been living in Calgary for the past three years but recently moved back to Vancouver. He has a job in the West End, but finding an apartment has been a challenge.
“I’m frustrated because everything I see…it’s like, OK, I might have to not live downtown,” King said.
Vera Wells’ top issues are home care and a plan to move St. Paul’s Hospital to a new site near the False Creek Flats. Using her mobility scooter, Wells, 72, is carrying her 78-year-old friend’s laundry back to her, a necessity since home care providers no longer have time to do that chore.
“We lost a lot through Christy Clark,” Wells said. “My friend used to get five hours a month (of home care) — that’s not much.”
A West End resident named Trigger wants Chandra Herbert to think about how best to regulate marijuana when it becomes legal. He warns against letting liquor stores sell cannabis.
“A lot of people who use cannabis because they have problems with alcohol,
Trigger says. “They don’t want to go into a liquor store because it’s too much of a temptation.”
Two young men named Phil and Chaviz approach Chandra Herbert, saying they want to talk about housing affordability (houseboats, to be specific). The conversation quickly becomes a back-and-forth on whether the NDP will raise taxes.
“We’re always going to need poor people in society,” Phil opines towards the end of the exchange. “You need poor people to get people to work so they can start making money.”
“That is an interesting argument,” Chandra Herbert says. “I thank you for that, but I disagree.”
Chandra Herbert became a Vancouver Park Board commissioner in 2005, but was approached to run for the NDP in 2008 by then-leader Carole James. He says the NDP is the party for him because, in contrast to the Greens, “it’s a party that’s stood up for human rights and for renters, and has a broad mandate, not just focused on one issue.”
The issue that first galvanized him to enter politics was homelessness and renters’ rights, and it continues to be his focus.
“In 2008, my first statement in legislature was about the housing crisis, about homelessness and renters,” he says. “And my last speech before the last session ended was: stop treating renters like second class citizens.”
How to vote
Election Day is Tuesday, May 9. But there are lots of earlier chances to make your voice heard, including advance voting from Wednesday to Saturday. To find out more about when and where to vote, visit Elections B.C.'s Where To Vote app.