Melanie Mark: Stop Clark. Vote Mark.

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      By Melanie Mark

      Vancouver-Mount Pleasant voters understand adversity.

      If you’ve fallen on hard times, have no secure housing, or are maybe struggling with a disability, mental health issue, or addiction, you might be barely surviving on underfunded and uncertain social services.

      If you’re a renter or homeowner, you probably know the anxiety of making sure your paycheque stretches to cover your rent or mortgage.

      If your family includes students in public school, you might feel frustrated class sizes and composition may be preventing your child from receiving every opportunity to thrive, and you’re crossing your fingers that your neighbourhood school won’t be closed before your child graduates.

      If you’re a senior or have elderly parents, you know rising costs of prescriptions, housing, and home care can create a stressful quality of life as retirement savings diminish.

      If you’re in college or university, paying high costs in tuition fees, books, transit fares, food, and rent, you may wonder whether a precarious job market will provide a salary that’ll cover your student loan.

      I know these issues all too well.

      I was raised in social housing in East Van. I moved more than 30 times in my life. My mother, now 10 years sober, struggled with addiction living in the Downtown Eastside. My father died in the same community of an overdose when I was 23. I’m a single mother of two daughters, 12 and 5 years old. I’m Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree, and Ojibway. If elected, I’ll be the first First Nations woman to serve in the B.C. legislature.

      I don’t come from money or privilege, but I’m very fortunate. I achieved a degree in political science at SFU after attending several different schools, including Van Tech.

      I’ve had a successful career as an advocate. From volunteering in organizations like Big Sisters and as president of the Urban Native Youth Association, to working with the Native Court Workers’ Association, Covenant House, the RCMP in Hazelton as a summer student, and as the national aboriginal project coordinator for Save the Children Canada’s–Sacred Lives Project, I built on these experiences to take on leadership roles in our community.

      When police left Frank Paul, an indigenous man, to die of hypothermia in a downtown alleyway, I worked with youth, community activists, and the VPD as the cofounder and past president of the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre to stop this injustice being repeated.

      The last eight years I worked in the B.C. Office of the Representative for Children and Youth with Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond. In 2013 I became her associate deputy and witnessed truly tragic failings of this provincial government.

      With that experience, I’m ready to take this next step and be a strong voice for all residents of the diverse, vibrant, and talented community of Vancouver–Mount Pleasant.

      The neglect of youth in care is sadly just the tip of the iceberg. Whether it’s housing, health care, education, environmental sustainability, transit, local economy, jobs, or democratic accountability, the B.C. Liberals failed residents of Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, and all British Columbians.

      Some may think it’s not the role of government to make life easier for people, but it certainly isn’t government’s job to make our lives harder.

      That is what Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have done, year after year.

      While giving away tax breaks to B.C.’s richest, Christy Clark increased burdens for everyone else.

      We’re doing more with less.

      MSP premiums doubled under the B.C. Liberals, and they hiked ICBC and B.C. Hydro rates almost 30 per cent in the last five years. Count in tuition fees, transit fares, rent, and child care (to name a few), the hardship is real.

      We need progressive leadership, not regressive taxes. We need solutions, like a poverty-reduction plan, an affordable-housing strategy and an ecologically sustainable economic vision that keeps the interests of our grandchildren and their grandchildren at the centre.

      We need real leadership and respect for indigenous people in the B.C. legislature to shake up and change the narrative, and to carry out the important calls to action for our murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, and those impacted by Canada’s residential schools, as so strongly illustrated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report.

      We deserve a brighter future, and a better B.C.

      I’ve been a fighter my whole life. I’ve met and overcome adversity, just as you do every day. Our community has led the fight for social justice.

      Help me take that fight to Victoria.

      Melanie Mark is the NDP candidate in the Vancouver–Mount Pleasant by-election on Tuesday (February 2).