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ELECTION 2021: Chilliwack-Hope candidates answer two Progress questions

What are the most important issues locally? Why are you best for the job?
Chilliwack-Hope federal election candidates, top row left to right, Mark Strahl (Conservative), Kelly Velonis (Liberal), DJ Pohl (NDP), bottom row left to right, Arthur Green (Green Party), and Rob Bogunovic (People’s Party of Canada). (Submitted)

Chilliwack-Hope federal election candidates have faced numerous questionnaires and requests to participate in private and public meetings over the 2021 campaign – if maybe fewer than in past elections.

Still, The Chilliwack Progress decided to ask our own questions, but keep it simple.

We asked the candidates two open-ended questions.

1. What are one or two of the most pressing issues facing Chilliwack-Hope residents and how will you address them?

2. Why do you make a good representative for your constituents in the legislature?

Here are their answers in full, presented in order of when the candidates responded to us.

• Arther Green – Green Party

1. Well obviously the greatest existential threat to all regions of the Earth is climate change. However, this is a threat that must be dealt with nationally and globally, and the cause of most of all our health and economic woes.

In Chilliwack and Hope it has raised its ugly head in the form of homelessness and poverty (mental health). Because the strongest sector of our economy is housing, we are quickly pricing ourselves out of the market. So much so, that I couldn’t even afford to rent my own home, never mind purchase it.

We have now gotten into a situation where we have literally hundreds of homeless people living in our area, and all the troublesome problems that go with it. We also have thousands of working poor who have no chance of ever raising a down payment for a home, and are forced to co-habitate for extremely over priced rentals.

The only logical solution for this dilemma, other than throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at it every year in an unsustainable fashion, is to create housing that is actually affordable for everyone, not just those who can create a financial statement with a business plan.

The BC NDP Government doles out every month approximately $360/month as housing allowances to its destitute population. Where can you find rent for even under $1,000/month, never mind $360? You can’t, dead stop! So consequently we pretend that we’re doing this poor sector of society a favour. We’re not, we’re trapping them into systemic poverty.

The only way out of this crisis, is to offer these challenged groups a stepping stone out. What if we offered these very destitute people a way of owning their own homes with the already $360/month provided for social housing? I believe tiny homes are the answer.

If both the federal and provincial governments shared this idea, we could house all these people, including the working poor into fully functional tiny homes within the $360/month housing allowance cost.

If we allowed the purchase of tiny homes through mortgages with a 25-year amortization, with an average cost of $25,000, there would be plenty of room within the $360/monthly allowance to not only cover rental costs, but infrastructure and taxation as well.

As a one-time homeless person I would have jumped at that chance, and it wouldn’t cost either government a dime more than what they are paying now. In fact, it would save us money. Not to mention when a person goes from homelessness to home ownership, everything changes, believe me I know, it happened to me.

We have an opportunity and the ability to put every homeless and working poor person into home ownership and create the biggest step out of poverty you can give a person.

This would also put some much needed downward pressure on our housing market and inflation as well. There would also be room for banks to finance the whole project and take this dilemma out of the hands of government and politicians.

2. I believe I would make a great representative for our constituents simply because I genuinely care. I’m not in it for the career or the money. In fact if I was king no politician would be paid. If you actually want to run the whole country, how could you ever find time for anything else? I’d recommend you be financially secure or go find a real job, or buy a tiny home and get your own act together.

Our political systems in North America have grown corrupt because of this and their very partisan nature. We can never get out of the box as long as we have to play the tune of a different drummer.

• Rob Bogunovic – People’s Party of Canada

1. Among the most pressing issues for Chilliwack-Hope are crime and poverty.

Adam Smith said the essential elements to creating prosperity are “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.” Canada has been failing regarding these last two elements for decades. Our court system does not deliver timely justice, and frequently it fails to deliver even a delayed version of it. Securing a tolerable administration of justice should be the highest priority in federal spending. We must bring serious reforms to our courts and our criminal code, reducing complexities and absurdities. We will also work to create a fair and just tax system, eliminating corporate subsidies and other inefficient federal interventions that unfairly support some companies over others. A lower corporate income tax rate would replace our convoluted system which currently invites armies of lobbyists to invade our capital looking for hand-outs and bailouts.

Another grave concern is the growing totalitarianism that threatens our whole way of life. While our courts frequently fail to deliver justice, various authorities have become all too invested in policing Canadians on issues that ought not to concern the government or the criminal code. Ideologues within the other parties have been advancing expansions in government censorship and encouraging lawfare against ordinary citizens who happen to hold contrarian opinions. The PPC will oppose political correctness, champion our Charter rights and our fundamental freedoms, and fight against draconian expansions of government control and the abuse of government power. The PPC will oppose vaccine passports, vaccine mandates, and other lockdown measures that have already done grave damage to the social and economic fabric of our communities and our country.

2. As philosopher John Stuart Mill noted a century and a half ago, “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.”

Public discourse is an essential aspect of a functioning democracy. Reformers push for change, but the implementation of changes must be undertaken with great care, or chaos will reign. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult for such public discourse to take place. Too many of us have become blind to the ideas and motives of others. Warring camps now regard each other as malicious and immoral, and vitriolic rants, slander, and extreme prejudice now dominate every debate that emerges amongst us. Social media has trapped people into echo chambers that divide us, deafen us, and encourages us to slide headlong towards extremism. If left unchecked, intolerance will tear our society apart.

I have taught social justice [as a high school teacher] for more than a decade. In my class I’ve brought before my students the most controversial and divisive issues day-in and day-out, inviting my students to understand and have empathy towards the contrarian opinions of others. While some are unwilling to hear out the other side, most do come to a deeper appreciation and respect for those who differ in their opinions, and tolerance tends to prevail. Witnessing this leaves me hopeful. Moderating this process has installed within me a deep appreciation for the forces that shape our worldviews. Some of our quarrels are rooted in the ancient debate between Plato and Aristotle, and some are modern manifestations of our common desire for prosperity, acceptance, and validation. Bridging the divide in our culture will not be easy, but Chilliwack-Hope deserves a member of parliament who is at least willing to try.

• Mark Strahl – Conservative Party

1. The two issues that people have raised the most with me during this campaign have been affordability and the rising cost of living and protecting our fundamental rights and freedoms.

The Conservative platform is focused on addressing affordability and the rising cost of living. A Conservative government will lower prices for Canadians by introducing a GST holiday for the month of December, bringing down food prices and cellphone bills, and tackling the housing crisis by increasing housing supply and banning foreign buyers from the housing market if they don’t intend to live here.

Regarding protecting our rights and freedoms, my constituents have expressed deep concern with the division and discrimination that Justin Trudeau has been embracing during this election. In the last Parliament, he threatened internet neutrality and the free speech rights of Canadians with his Bills C-10 and C-36 and in this election he has doubled down on pitting one group of Canadians against another. Canadians need to unite and fight the pandemic – we cannot allow an “us versus them” approach to take hold in our country as it has in places like the United States. Canadians want to see their rights and freedoms respected and upheld, and a Conservative government will ensure that they are.

2. I was born and raised in Chilliwack. My wife, Lisa and I have raised our son here. I know this community and the hard-working, commonsense people who make it strong. I understand their concerns and their values and have a track record of being a strong voice in Parliament, standing up for the people I represent and always remembering where I come from and who I work for. I am an MP who puts his community first, and I will continue to reach out in a variety of ways to seek feedback, suggestions and constructive criticism on the job I am doing. It has been an honour to serve the community I was born and raised in, and I will continue to serve the people of Chilliwack-Hope with honour and integrity if I am re-elected on September 20th.

• DJ Pohl – New Democratic Party

1. Besides the climate emergency, affordability is the number one most pressing issue facing Chilliwack-Hope. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted affordability for most Canadians significantly and highlighted many pre-existing inequalities. The cost of almost every facet of life continues to increase and inaction by previous Liberal and Conservative governments have directly led to this. Areas like housing, health care and student tuition are good examples of this and only the NDP has a real plan to curb these costs. I have heard from people and families who are struggling, who are having to make the impossible choice between life altering medication and paying the bills. People who are having trouble accessing the supports they need for important health needs, including mental health. People living in fear of skyrocketing rents, demovictions and are unsure if purchasing their first home will ever be a reality. I will address these issues by ensuring no one is left behind while I fight for quality, affordable housing ensuring everyone has a safe, affordable place to live. We will ensure everyone has access to housing and a gateway to enter the market by providing supports for first-time homebuyers, renters and addressing the needs of the unhoused. We are proposing a foreign buyer’s tax to ensure homes are for living and not for speculation while protecting current homeowners’ equity. To curb health-care costs, we need to fundamentally change our medical system so that people can access basic health service with only their medical card, not their credit card. This includes prescription drugs, dental care, and mental heath services. Taking care of peoples’ health up front will save us billions of down-the-road health-care costs that we are currently paying now. All these services can easily be provided universally by taking action to ensure the ultra-rich pay their fair share of taxes. We’ll do this by closing loopholes and with progressive taxation policy. If elected, we will act fast on these plans as we know the people of Chilliwack-Hope can’t afford four more years of empty promises and inaction from Liberal and Conservative governments.

2. I have the political will and leadership to fight for change on behalf of Chilliwack-Hope in Ottawa. The communities in this riding are growing and changing quickly, and our representation must grow and change with it. I have the experience needed to create space for all voices to be heard and to ensure no one is left behind. We have an opportunity to change what our representation looks like and what we expect and deserve of that representation. To be engaged, people must see themselves reflected in leadership and I want to empower others to fight for the change needed in our communities as I have been inspired to do.

I have lived in Chilliwack most of my life and have worked in the criminal justice system for 14 years after graduating from the University of the Fraser Valley. I am deeply involved in and care about my community. As a respected partner in the justice system, working on the most serious and complex cases, I know we have serious challenges facing our community and a lot of work to do. Engaging in the community and within the labour movement saw my interest in justice grow to a general lifelong pursuit of fairness and equality. This includes environmental and labour justice where expanding my advocacy skills while representing working people across the country and ensuring workers always had a voice at the table. I have been the president of the FVLC since 2017, held many elected positions within the labour and I am currently on my second term appointed to the climate solutions advisory council to the premier of B.C. My passion for justice, fairness and equality drives me. My ability to bridge political divide with compassion and empathy brings success. I can be the bold voice in Ottawa needed in Chilliwack-Hope. I will fight for electoral reform to ensure all voices are heard and no one is left behind, representing all of our best interests and fighting for you. I deserve your vote because I am committed to working hard to earn it and then working even harder to be accountable to your vote.

• Kelly Velonis – Liberal Party

1. Firstly, I am hearing from constituents the concern on housing affordability. This is an issue that is extremely important to me, especially when it comes to young people and seniors on a fixed income. Everyone deserves a place to call home whether they rent or own, homes are for people not investors.

Chilliwack has had the good fortune to have seen firsthand the results of the National Housing Strategy (NHS).

- the development of a 36- unit affordable housing project between the Liberal governments NHS, the provincial government, the City of Chilliwack and Ruth and Naomi’s. This project also includes 20- day care spaces and nine treatment beds.

- This federal affordable housing program brought a four-storey 67- unit apartment complex with affordable housing on Webb Avenue. Which was as made possible with the CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFI), which promotes innovative and socially responsible housing options.

- The program also gave residents more access to affordable housing with the $5 million investment into the affordable housing complex at 9194 Edward St. in Chilliwack

As your elected MP I will make sure Chilliwack and Hope continue to be on the receiving end,

Using my experience, expertise and skill set to work with our municipal and provincial government and other stakeholders to ensure Chilliwack-Hope residents have access to affordable housing. Unlocking home ownership and helping renters become owners, protecting homeowners rights with our Home Buyers Bill of Rights, stop skyrocketing prices, act against speculators and implement an anti-flipping tax. For a full list of our housing plan please go to:

Secondly, the communities of Chilliwack and Hope have been deeply impacted by the discovery of mass graves containing the remains of Indigenous Children. Now is the time to move forward on Reconciliation with Indigenous people and address the legacy of residential schools and colonialism. We must support First Nation, Métis Nation, and Inuit Nation priorities. We must listen, reflect, engage, support, and take real measures towards building a better future for all Indigenous Canadians.

As your MP for Chilliwack-Hope I will work to build authentic and respectful relationships with all the First Nation and Indigenous Communities here. I will confront systemic racism against Indigenous people especially in our justice and health care systems. I believe that reconciliation is a vehicle for prosperity for all our communities.

2. I am committed to building workable solutions that solve the most pressing issues for Chilliwack-Hope. I have the experience and track record of working with various stakeholders and all levels of government on projects as well as implementing much-needed programs and services for our community.

Chilliwack-Hope deserves an experienced leader who is not a career politician, someone who is a problem solver and community builder. I have dedicated my career to improving the lives of those that live in this riding. I am a strong advocate for youth and seniors as well as those that are marginalized, always working for equality, justice, and respect for all.

It is time that Chilliwack-Hope has representation that works for everyone, to bring the needs and concerns to Ottawa and make sure they are acted upon. Chilliwack will be best represented by someone who has worked in the trenches and who will advocate for human rights. There is no place for a Conservative MP that continues to make choice that harm vulnerable members in our communities. There is no place for an NDP MP who lacks the experience and represents a party with bold ideas yet no plan or experience to form a majority government.

This community needs a leader who will speak the truth, someone unapologetic about basic human rights, and someone with the courage to make hard choices. That someone is me, my history and record speak for itself and it’s why I’m asking for your vote on Sept. 20.

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