Spencer Herbert is the current MLA for Vancouver-Burrard and is up for re-election in the new Vancouver-West End riding with the NDP.
I have been following his career since, as a member of the Vancouver Park Board, he left a comment on my blog a few years ago. I sat down with him at a local coffee shop near his office on Denman Street where we talked about the main concerns of the community, city, and Province. I also learned (as if I didn’t know already) that Herbert does indeed (heart) the West End.
“When you’re over in Victoria in the legislature it’s such a different world,” he noted. “It just really helps ground you in the community when you’re actually talking to people face-to-face on the street corner where anything can come up.” Since being elected in the fall Herbert has taken to opening up what he calls a “mobile community office”, where he’ll head out and about on a Sunday afternoon to engage the people of the community. He says the type of people he meets in the informal setting are those who wouldn’t normally feel welcome or comfortable stopping by an MLA’s office. There’s everyone from renters who are in need of guidance to homeless people looking for nearby shelters – all are welcomed and offered information.
In his first week in the legislature, Herbert introduced a bill called the Long Term Renters Protection Act, which have would ensure that outrageous rent increases (above and beyond the annual increases) would not be allowed. This is one of the biggest concerns for his constituents in the West End, including the group over at the Seafield Apartments (who aren’t alone in their rentoviction battle).
Other concerns for Herbert include the fate of St. Paul’s Hospital, which is actually still up in the air. “It’s a world leader in terms of AIDS/HIV care, addiction, cardiac care and the Healthy Heart program and it really is a model for many hospitals in terms of its teaching facilities as well.” He encourages people to check out the Save St. Paul’s website for more information. Side note: according to a poll I conducted in January 2009, 72% of my readers would like to see the hospital remain downtown.
Herbert would also like to see better enforcement of hate crimes, namely the recent gay bashing incidents downtown. “I think we need to be treating them as the serious crimes that they are – as hate attacks.” He also said that having community police and the VPD out on beat patrols are helpful. “I have been working with the Vancouver Police Department to get more cops to walk the neighbourhood, instead of drive because it is a walking neighbourhood.” With regards to the hate crimes, he believes, “prosecutors have been too cautious, the evidence is there but it needs to be put forward as such.”
The BC General Election & Referendum on Electoral Reform takes place May 12, 2009 and I will have several more candidate interviews, from several ridings, covered here within the next few days — this will include Liberal and Green Party candidates as well. I’ll list each one at the bottom of every post but as this is the first of the batch, I’ll have to add the links as they become available.