VOTE: General Election Candidate Q&A (Spencer Chandra Herbert BC NDP)

Candidate Name: Spencer Chandra Herbert

Party: BC NDP


Social media: Twitter Instagram Facebook

Other Contact Information: campaign office 604-690-8993

  1. Why should West End residents vote for you?

I’ve had the honour of representing the West End for many years and worked hard to make sure the needs of our community were being heard in Victoria. It was a huge change to suddenly be in government instead of opposition as of 3 years ago, and more has been done for the West End and for our Province than was done in the previous 9 years! Some examples are: a new urgent primary health care centre downtown, major reforms to protect renters, new childcare spaces (including at GNH), and real action on homelessness, and support to address mental health challenges (also at GNH!)

There is still so much work to be done and I want to continue working closely with you and a strong government in Victoria. I will continue to be accessible and responsive to folks who get in touch with me at my office or see me out on the street – all of your feedback and suggestions allow me to be a better representative for this community, thank you so much.

2. In a recent survey, Gordon Neighbourhood House members identified housing as their top concern. We applaud the recent acquisition of the Buchan Hotel and other properties in the West End for supportive housing with complimentary supports. Despite these recent openings, we still face a shortage of supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness. Additionally, many millennials and seniors have marginal or fixed incomes that have not kept up with the rising cost of living. How are you committed to housing those in need, and preventing others from becoming homeless?

Affordable housing has been something I’ve worked on for years. I helped found the Vancouver Rent Bank to help folks with unexpected crises, and chaired the Government’s Rental Task Force. Over the last few years I’ve worked to decrease massive rent increases by banning geographic rent increases, and closing loopholes for fixed term leases. I also pushed for an enforcement unit of the Residential Tenancy Branch, which was created recently and has helped people with serious ongoing tenancy disputes.

A re-elected BC NDP government will freeze rents until 2021, including any rent increases you might have received in August or September. We are promising a $1000 COVID-19 benefit for families ($500 for individuals), and a $400 rebate for renters. Home owners get grants, so renters should as well!

We will continue to fund affordable housing, including supportive housing, to bring people indoors and provide them with the support services they need, including by:

  • continuing to build new supportive housing, towards a goal of 5,000 new supportive homes through our 10-year plan;
    • developing new, Complex Care housing, providing an increased level of support   – including more access to nurses and psychiatrists – for the most vulnerable who need more intensive care than supportive housing provides; and
    • investing in rent supplements, to help those who have stabilized in supportive      housing and are ready to move into the private rental market, creating space in existing supportive housing to help more people experiencing homelessness who need on-site supports.

3. The Opioid Crisis has now claimed more than 3,000 lives in BC at a rate of almost 5 people every day. As an organization, we believe that substance use disorder is a public health emergency and not a criminal justice issue. What are you committed to doing to prevent overdose deaths due to illicit drug toxicity, and what will you do to support neighbours struggling with substance use disorder?

Before the pandemic, our efforts to tackle the opioid crisis were making a difference, and we saw the first drop in the rate of overdose deaths since 2012. We had a lot more to do, but things were heading in the right direction. When COVID-19 hit, and the crisis escalated, we responded across the full continuum of care – opening new treatment facilities and doubling youth treatment beds, increasing overdose prevention services, providing more outreach teams, and giving people greater access to prescription medication alternatives.

There is more work to do to tackle these challenges and get more people the treatment and healthcare they need, but continuing our work to help prescribers separate more people from the toxic drug supply through safe prescription alternatives is a key part of our overall efforts.

Our election platform includes many different items to work on this strategy, as there is not a one-size fits all solution. We need to make significant investments in the supports needed to address the impacts of the housing crisis in our communities.

This includes:

  • New Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams in communities to provide on-the-ground care for people with severe mental health challenges and help reduce interactions with police.
    • New funding for more mental health and community social service workers to ensure there are more frontline workers to respond to needs in communities, and take pressure off police so they can focus on serious crime; and
    • Providing $100 million in grants for local governments to help support them in responding to community concerns around street disorder and community safety.

4. As an organization we are committed to supporting the leadership of Indigenous people, and implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What is your party doing to support Indigenous peoples, and centre Indigenous knowledge and voices in your provincial public policy?

Our government was proud to be the first jurisdiction in Canada to bring the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People into law. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act is an important step in the journey of reconciliation, but there is much more to do. As our platform lays out, priorities for a re-elected NDP government would include:

  • Moving further towards long-term agreements that provide greater self-determination: The Province’s relationship with Indigenous peoples will continue to move from short-term transactional arrangements to long-term agreements that recognize and support reconciliation, self-determination, and economic independence. We know that land will play an important role in these agreements.
  • Partnering with Indigenous peoples through evolving shared decision making: The 2019 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act has set the table for more meaningful shared decision making. As we move forward with key decisions on regional land and resource use allocation, we will partner with First Nations, providing a clear, stable and sustainable path for everyone to work together. An example of how this can lead to better outcomes for everyone is the work done with local First Nations around the Broughton Archipelago.

5. What are your specific plans, including actions and timetables, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a substantial amount, and how will you fund and implement them?

BC NDP are proud to have brought the CleanBC plan to our province. Developed together with Dr. Andrew Weaver, CleanBC is both a climate action plan and an economic plan. It is about putting British Columbia on the path to a cleaner, better future – with a low carbon economy that creates new, clean-energy jobs and opportunities for all while protecting our clean air, land and water. CleanBC is the strongest climate action plan on the continent. It will reduce our emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 2007 levels. That is an ambitious target but we know we must go even further. That is why our 2020 platform commits to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. To get there, our platform doubles down on the CleanBC plan with specific measures to strengthen and expand it.

Our 2020 platform expands and strengthens our CleanBC plan to reduce our industrial emissions, including in the oil and gas sector. A re-elected BC NDP government would:

  • Ramp up CleanBC’s industrial emissions strategy: We’ll provide additional funding for our CleanBC industrial emissions strategy so that more mines, pulp mills, oil and gas processing plants, and other industrial facilities can reduce harmful emissions and move to cleaner operations.
  • Expand CleanBC and our zero-emissions vehicle program to industrial vehicles: With heavy vehicles being a large and growing source of harmful emissions, it’s essential we move now to green-up BC industrial transportation. We will expand CleanBC’s SUVI program to get more trucks, buses, ports, airports, and marine vessels off fossil fuels.
  • Employ best-in-the-world emission detection: To make sure our reduction goals are being met, we’ll employ world-leading regulations and technologies to detect and reduce harmful methane emissions.
  • Fast-track our industrial electrification strategy: By working with the federal government and BC Hydro, we can expand electrification infrastructure to make it easier for industries to go green.
  • Reviewing royalties from an environmental lens: We will conduct a comprehensive review of oil and natural gas royalty credits

6. Prior to COVID-19, Gordon Neighbourhood House operated the largest Food Hub on the downtown peninsula, which provided hundreds of neighbours with emergency food access. We recognize that food banks are a temporary solution, and that poverty is one of the main causes of food insecurity. What will you do to address poverty and inequality in our community?

In addition to our investments in housing to help those experiencing homelessness already, our actions to reduce poverty, improve access to employment and education, and increase opportunities for marginalized communities will help to reduce the chances of people ending up homeless in the first place. The effectiveness of the prevention actions taken to date, and the development of additional opportunities to prevent homelessness in the first place, are being guided by team in the new Office of Homelessness Coordination, put in place as part of our poverty reduction strategy, which is responsible for the bi-annual province-wide homelessness count, and is assisting government to identity and address the root causes of homelessness in our province.

7. What is your favorite memory or personal experience in the West End?

One of my most precious memories of the West End for me is when my husband and I brought our almost newborn son out for our first walk as a family through the neighbourhood, and down to Stanley Park. It felt like everyone we passed, no matter if they were a stranger, or a friend was a family member, wanting to meet the newest addition to our community’s family. And offering their support to us as a new family. Even still one of the questions I get most from West Enders is about how our son is doing- (the answer is, great!). Community is one of the most important things we have.