By: Alex Bloom
In the lead-up to the Burnaby South by-election on February 25, I spoke (separately) to all three recognized party candidates over the phone. You can read my interviews with Jay Shin, Conservative, and Jagmeet Singh, NDP.
Richard Lee has served 16 years and four terms in the BC Legislative Assembly and comes to this election as a veteran. To start our conversation, I asked him how he thinks this has prepared him to run in the Burnaby South by-election.
“In the riding I’ve been working with many people and non-profit organizations for a better Burnaby riding, so I hope I can continue to represent the people in Burnaby South so that we can have more housing and more transportation infrastructure,” Lee answered.
From there, I asked him to summarize his top priorities, and he told me that one of them was job creation. “I think this is a top priority, to grow our middle class. And we have a very good record already, we are at the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, so this is a good base to build on. I would like to bring in more well-paying jobs in Burnaby South.”
For Lee, another priority is affordable housing, and he says he’s pleased with the Liberal government’s plan to put $40 billion in investment towards this goal over a 10-year period.
He also noted that homelessness needs to be reduced Canada-wide, and I asked him to name some of the strategies that the Liberal government might apply towards that goal.
”Building more houses, investing and working with more groups, as well as investment in shelters,” he said. “Those are the important issues; of course the local committee has to agree on the shelters.
“Our former mayor in Burnaby, he does not like shelters. But now with the new mayor, there could be more investment.”
I then asked Lee what he wanted to accomplish for young people, namely university students, if elected. “For young people, I think this is very important,” he said. “I think jobs are probably the most important area [. . .]
“I think we have to invest in more high-paying jobs so that our students and their talents stay in the area, stay in Burnaby South.”
Lee then added, “Of course affordable housing, and more units for people in need. And we have also increased the student grants available.”
Following his vision for younger generations, I asked Lee to expand a bit on a comment that he previously made at the Burnaby South by-election debate saying that the internet and social media platforms should be regulated by the UN.
“This is my personal suggestion,” he began, laughing. “I believe misinformation is one issue we want to deal with and Facebook and other social media platforms they probably should have more responsibility in terms of misinformation. We also know that — we have a by-election coming — we know that in some elections in other countries they were influenced by foreign countries, so I think it’s important that government work with the social platforms as well as establish some kind of a security in our system.”
Due to the lack of a Green Party candidate, I asked Lee what his stance was on green energy.
“Green energy is great for our industry,” he said. “Polluters should pay if any industry is a big polluter in our atmosphere — this is a common good — and they should be responsible to pay the price.”
I followed up, asking him what his thoughts were on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and its proximity to the surrounding community. “I believe actually the economic development and the environmental protection, we have a balance and the environmental protection [sic] — the government is investing 1.5 billion dollars — as a plan it’s called Oceans Protection Plan, that would be actually going ahead with a local environment and monitoring safety. For economic development, it’s also important that the project will create jobs in Canada and then also open up markets in other countries, not just depending on the U.S. as a single market for our resources.”
Lee concluded his thoughts saying he supports the project.
Before Lee had to go, I asked him if he had any final statements for our readers and he said, “I encourage all the young people to come out to vote [. . .]”
Lee’s last words emphasized the importance of this by-election.
To find out if you are eligible to vote, and how to vote if you are, you can check Elections Canada’s website.