Jason Lum, 37, and Chris Kloot, 39, were two of five Fraser Valley candidates under the age of 40 elected to city council.

Chilliwack ‘a bright light’ for millennial leadership says forum founder

Jason Lum and Chris Kloot were two of five FV candidates under 40 elected last month

An advocate for more millennial leadership is congratulating a pair of Chilliwack city councillors on their recent victories.

Jason Lum, 37, and Chris Kloot, 39, were among the five candidates under the age of 40 who earned seats in the Fraser Valley, and that was considered important to voters in this election, according to Forum for Millennial Leadership founder Gavin Dew.

READ MORE: More than 25K voted in the ‘Wack

FML is a non-partisan group active during the recent civic elections and worked to strengthen “the voice of the largest generation in Canada” since millennials are “disproportionately underrepresented” at every level of government, Dew said.

He admits the FML acronym is intentional, and tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also an attempt to redefine how millennials are seen, since they tend to get a bad rap, and change how the under-40s see themselves as well.

Some would argue the oldest milliennial turned 37 this year, and that anyone born after 1997 is post-millennial, but FML uses a slightly more relaxed definition including those under 40.

“It’s one thing to have a couple of young people showing up at a public hearing once in a while but having younger people at the council table every day makes a difference,” Dew said. “It means a voice of that generation is being heard loud and clear and it changes the perspective of everyone on council.”

FML recently tweeted out congrats to the youthful councillors elected or re-elected around the Lower Mainland.

“Frankly, Chilliwack stands out in this election,” Dew told The Progress, noting there were several younger candidates from Chilliwack running for both council and school board seats — and elected.

The only negative aspect was that the number of millennials dipped to five councillors elected, down from six after the last election. There were two from Chilliwack, one from Hope, one from District of Kent, and one from Mission.

“Chilliwack continues to have one of the younger councils in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley, and it certainly is a bright spot,” Dew said.

He noted that in 2014, Chilliwack chose three millennials, with the election of Sam Waddington, Lum and Kloot at city hall.

Since 18- to 34-year-old voters recognize city council as the level of government having the most impact on their lives in crucial areas like housing, and crime, it is “important that those directly affected are part of the decision-making process.”

FML commissioned polling before the election asking Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley residents how many elected officials under 40 they would like to see elected. The answer was more. The results showed that more than three-quarters of those polled by Research Co. said electing younger people to city council would change their communities for the better.

“When we asked how many people under 40 they would like to see elected as mayors and councillors in the Fraser Valley, the average Fraser Valley voter wanted to see 15, or three times the number who were ultimately elected,” said Dew.

Coun. Jason Lum, who was just re-elected with the highest number of votes on council ever at 15,604, also just completed a term as chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District.

“So there’s a guy that exemplifies the kind of millennial leader we’re talking about, one who is not just talking about millennials, he’s talking about everyone’s issues across the entire region.”

Younger elected officials bring more balance to any table, Dew said.

Coun. Lum agreed that electing more millennials is a worthy aim, even if he isn’t used to thinking of himself as one. If it leads to more positive participation, he’ll take it.

“A diversity in leadership across the board is important,” Lum said. “So certainly any kind of initiative that is encouraging people to get involved and participate at the local government level is a good thing.”

Increasingly people are feeling “disconnected and frustrated” with their government officials, “especially when they don’t feel like they have representation at the table,” Lum added.

Coun. Chris Kloot, who was 35 when elected the first time in 2014, said FML is doing good work inspiring younger people to get involved in politics.

“I applaud them for doing this. Young people and millennials bring something to the table, and they’re often energetic and enthusiastic about making a difference, and it’s important that their voices are heard as well.”

There are barriers to millennials running campaigns such as mobilizing the financial resources needed and making ends meet.

“That can hamper good people from running,” the councillor said.

Chilliwack saw a spike in the voter turnout this election, with 38.7 per cent of eligible voters casting votes, compared to 25 per cent in 2014.

READ MORE: Even at advance polling numbers were up

“That was a lot better turnout that in the past,” Kloot noted, adding the youth component might have been a factor in the increased numbers.

Five under-40 candidates were elected in the Fraser Valley, down one from the six who previously held office.

In Metro Vancouver 27 candidates under 40 made it.

Just elected in the FV:

Chilliwack – Chris Kloot, councillor

Chilliwack – Jason Lum, councillor

Hope – Dusty Smith, councillor

Kent – Susan Spaeti, councillor

Mission – Jag Gill, councillor


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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Jason Lum was the top vote-getter on council. (Submitted)

Chris Kloot was the second-highest vote-getter on council. (Submitted)

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