In April I did three candidate interviews in one day, covering Vancouver West-End and Vancouver-Hastings and I thought those would be my last. Three more interviews later and I’m falling behind on content, as expected. I was however able to meet up with Mary McNeil, the BC Liberal candidate for Vancouver False-Creek so here are some notes from our chat on Friday.
Mary McNeil has a long business history in Vancouver which includes having organized several international summits (such as the 11th international conference on AIDS) and has been President and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation. “I loved it purely for the fact that I had been touched by Cancer with my in-laws so it was something that was very easy to be passionate about,” said Mary as we sat in her office on Homer Street.
The Vancouver-False Creek riding is brand new, as the downtown core has now been split with Vancouver West-End taking the other half, so I really wanted to find out if Mary truly had a feel for her riding. Having lived in Yaletown with her husband for well over a decade, she’s watched the area grow up around her. “I love it because it’s become better than I ever expected,” said Mary. “There are more families, diversity in age, ethnicity, we walk everywhere — it’s just great.”
I asked Mary about how she’s been using social media in her campaign and she pretty much said it was a given. “This is the new way that we have to do things… …My riding is 6kms squared, that means it’s all up – and for me to reach out I cant just knock on doors.” The False Creek area being densely populated with condo developments and apartment towers. “The average age is 37, they don’t have landlines. They’re on Facebook, they Twitter… so the only way you can ‘meet’ the voter to let them know who you are and what you offer — and to encourage them to get out and vote — is through social media.” McNeil was fairly new to social networking sites (but not blogs, since she’s got a mommy-blogger in her family) and admits she’s loving the learning process. “You have to be careful as you do with anything and you have to be sensible but it’s the only way to get out to the younger crowd.”
When it comes to the main issues for her constituents (aside from hyper-local concerns with schools and parks) she said it’s got to be the economy. “People are worried about the economy first and foremost – after that it’s crime, health care, and the environment.”
The Vancouver False-Creek area has grown from 23,000 residents to 43,000 over the last 12 years and McNeil is excited with the boom. “They’re all moving here for the same reason we did: you can live work and play in your neighbourhood,” however that’s not to say she hasn’t noticed the growing pains. “I don’t think anyone anticipated the families to gravitate towards downtown like that have.” The typical notion that you live downtown during your bachelor years then move to the suburbs when you start a family is no longer valid, and that’s evident given the rise in the number of families living in the area. McNeil noted that the number of families jumped from 4,600 a few years ago to 12,000 and it’s only going to go up. “It’s more than a choice it’s a deliberate decision to stay here.”
Naturally, she said the one of the biggest community challenges going forward is the lack of school space. “When you have facilities like elementary schools and parks you’re able to walk to downtown to your job and spend more time with your kids because you can get home faster.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, I had the opportunity to meet with Damian Kettlewell, BC Green Party for Vancouver-False Creek as well, but I had to cancel. He was more than willing to meet up and I would have also been joined by Vanessa Violini, the Green candidate for Vancouver-Fairview. I was meaning to contact Jordan Parente from the NDP so I could equally cover this riding but I have simply run out of time. Please visit Damian Kettlewell’s website or Facebook group for more information and also check out Jordan Parente online to learn more about his campaign.
Please remember to VOTE tomorrow, May 12, 2009.