In a strong rebuke of anti-SOGI politics, Chilliwack voters have elected a slate of progressive school trustee candidates.
The top five vote getters on election night (Oct. 15) are Carin Bondar, Willow Reichelt, David Swankey, Margaret Reid, Teri Westerby as Chilliwack continues a shift to the political left. Voters elected two NDP MLAs in the last provincial election and now a progressive majority on the school board has increased from 4-3 to 5-2.
Bondar cruises to top spot. She earns 8,888 votes while second-place Reichelt earns 8,287.
Swankey earned re-election with 8,047 votes.
“There’s a lot of positivity and excitement in the room tonight,” he said. “I think it’s a rebuke of anti-SOGI sentiment, and also about getting back to what the work of the (school) board is.”
The school board is rounded out by two right-leaning candidates, incumbent Heather Maahs and first-time trustee Richard Procee.
Procee and fellow ParentsVoice BC candidate Elliott Friesen did very little public campaigning, yet Friesen was also close to capturing a seat. ParentsVoice BC is a fledgling party that ran a handful of candidates across B.C. pledging to ‘take back our schools.’
Darrell Furgason and Barry Neufeld both fail badly in their bids for re-election.
Neufeld, who has been the most vocal of the anti-SOGI candidates in recent years, finishes 12th out of 15 candidates while Furgason is 10th.
“I think that it’s a strong indication that intolerance doesn’t have a place in Chilliwack,” Swankey said. “We’re a welcoming community. It’s one in which we all belong, and our public schools should be working to uphold that spirit and do that work.”
Westerby made history as the first openly transgender man elected to office in Canada. Experiencing election night for the first time as a candidate, he says he found it exhilarating.
“It’s pretty remarkable to know I have a place of privilege where I can be that person,” Westerby said. “I think that speaks volumes to where we’re going as a community and where we’re going as Canadians.”
Like Swankey, Westerby views the vote as a rebuke of anti-SOGI politics.
“I am thrilled to see that people were standing up and saying no to bigotry, no to hate and yes to community and yes to moving forward,” he said. “That’s been a big part of filling my heart with so much joy, knowing that not only have we won and we’re ready to make so much change, but that Chilliwack is ready for it and they want to see it.”
NOTE: The Progress emailed Heather Maahs, Barry Neufeld and Darrell Furgason on Oct. 13 asking to attend their Saturday night election party, but the request was declined.