Last week I met up with Paul at Central City for some breakfast, a chat, and some good old fashioned Surrey talk. Paul Hillsdon is a blogger that I crossed paths with a few years ago now and he’s taken his passion for transit planning, environmental responsibility and education to the next level by running for Surrey City Council and Surrey School Board in the civic elections this Saturday.
I started off by asking him some of the basics about the municipal elections and he was kind enough to clarify that only Surrey and Vancouver have ‘parties’ (which are more like coalitions) such as Surrey Civic Coalition, Surrey Electors Team, COPE, the NPA, or Vision Vancouver, since they are the largest cities in the region. Paul himself is running as an independent.
I then decided to get his thoughts about the strong sense of voter apathy in Canada, particularly among youth (since he is still a teenager himself – although wise beyond his years). “I thought I would be able to reach out to youth but even that’s tricky. Sure, they’ll join the Facebook group but will they come out and help?”.
“I think with the youth it’s more of a matter of them being able to convince others to vote,” Paul noted. He feels that young people play a very strong role as influencers. When I asked what he thought might help he simply replied, “…. a Canadian Obama?” Although that was followed by laughter I think we both knew there was definitely some truth to that statement. Canadians (on all levels of government) need to have a leader and representative that is passionate and they can really get behind – someone who will also be seen in the community.
One thing that Paul is passionate about is transit and he’s outlined an ambitious yet extremely responsible and practical proposal with his Transit for Tomorrow plan.
“The detailed plan is quite simple: shift $1.1 billion provincial dollars from 6 km of SkyTrain in Surrey to funding a 43.4 km light rail network across Surrey and Langley.”
In fact, transportation is one of the main reasons Paul has even considered a career in politics. “It was a matter of timing,” he noted “I decided to run and bring this to everyone’s attention.” However he’s also branching out and you’ll find his name in two places on your ballot this Saturday.
“School Board was a last minute thing,” said Paul. “If I’m bringing transportation to the forefront in Council, I might as well bring the students’ perspective to the School Board because there’s a huge generation gap there.” Paul goes on to note that these are issues that really hit home for him as he admits when he was 15 he almost dropped out of school, “this is the reality of the system today – and things need to change.”
Paul has some interesting ideas for his School Board platform such as giving the students more of a voice and a place in the Board system. “We need to open it up so that students can take control of their own learning.” He’s also outlined some of his ideas for ’empowering the student’ which would include a district-wide roundtable for student council members, to make sure all levels are communicating. “The Student Council can be more than just a pep rally organizer.”
During our interview my sister arrived and being a Surrey citizen, mother, home owner, and having two children currently in the elementary school system, I thought she would be a good person for Paul to speak with.
She asked him about developments around the city and more specifically about the Campbell Heights fiasco, something that was recently brought up at the Surrey civic election forum. Campbell Heights is an industrial park where construction, industrialization and development threaten the sensitive eco-system of the Little Campbell River. This has even grabbed the attention of the David Suzuki Foundation. With Paul’s vision also concerning sustainable development and green building strategies, this is a project he adamantly opposes.
It’s encouraging to see someone with so much ambition (and so many fresh ideas) take initiative like this. I encourage everyone to read more about Paul’s platform and proposals: The Paul in ’08 campaign site, Paul’s website, Facebook event page, Facebook group page, and Civic Surrey.
If you live in the Greater Vancouver region, chances are your city will be holding an election this Saturday. For more information on how and where to vote, you can browse the CBC’s Civic Vote 2008 page with fun clickable maps, or view some of my election coverage. Polls are open this Saturday, November 15th from 8:00am until 8:00pm.
Photos in this post are all from Paul’s Flickr stream