Most recently, someone on Twitter asked me, “what was your ‘aha moment’ that made you want to run as a Liberal candidate in an NDP riding?” I was happy to receive this question because I thought of the long road and hard work my team and I have travelled in this campaign, which began with a single thought I had back in September 2014—Vancouver East can do better.
It was painful for me to watch East Van slipping back and slipping back hard. The death rate of those living in SROs in the Downtown Eastside is more than eight times higher than the national average. The homeless population had doubled in 2014. I would hear people say they felt neglected in terms of social housing, health care, senior facilities, child care (the list goes on). Businesses were leaving East Van or were shutting down and certain industries, like the garment industry, were also leaving or being forced to shut down.
When I was invited to speak at a local East Van high school, I was told children come to school hungry. The flame of hope and optimism following graduation was not burning bright in the eyes of those kids, it was snuffed with worry and a sense they could not get ahead because they were from a “poor area”. I was one of those East Van kids. I knew the road would be hard, but I had hope and I knew I could get somewhere in life with hard work and perseverance.
This hope and optimism has changed for our young people and families today. This hope and optimism has changed in how we function as a community. Simply put, the status quo is not good enough. The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives—on health care affordable housing, infrastructure, homelessness, mental health, education and the local economy—we have been slipping back in East Van. The elected leaders in East Van have not been able to affect real change. It is time we move the agenda forward.
As a trial lawyer for the past 24 years, I believe in the core principles of the Liberal Party. The rights and freedoms we enjoy today are because of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Mr. Pierre Trudeau brought to Canada under a Liberal government.
The Liberal Party was responsible for a new Human Rights Act that afforded Canadians greater protection against discrimination. A new Immigration Act was revised under Pierre Trudeau's government—the first since 1952, which eliminated discrimination and promoted national economic, social, and cultural goals.
On the international front, it was Lester B. Pearson, a Liberal, who spearheaded the development of peacekeeping—something that all Canadians to this day are known and respected for internationally. A Liberal government also took on the fight to ban landmines and changed international law with the Ottawa Treaty in 1997. Justin Trudeau announced a few months ago that Canada should accept 25,000 Syrian refugees (this was before it became such big news in the past few weeks). This showed foresight and leadership.
In the realm of women's rights, it was under a Liberal government that the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons and the first female justice in the Supreme Court of Canada were appointed.
The Liberal Party brought to Canada justice, fairness, equality, and the freedoms we as Canadians hold near and dear to this day.
Moving forward, we need to create affordable housing for the homeless, individuals and families with extremely low incomes, for those trying to get into the rental or ownership market and for those who have a home but may lose it because of the high property tax assessments. A Liberal government, under Justin Trudeau, will invest $20 billion for new investments in affordable housing and seniors’ facilities. There will be a renewal of current co-operative agreements and the building of new co-ops. I will bring this money to East Van to build a seniors’ centre and to ensure there will be affordable housing for everyone.
Moving forward, a Liberal government will quadruple investment in public transit. I will advocate to extend rapid transit along Broadway to Arbutus. Accessible, reliable public transit is essential to maintaining our overall quality of life.
Moving forward, we need to invest in our future, our young Canadians. I will bring our portion of the $1.3 billion the Liberal government will invest in young Canadians so they can gain the skills and work experience they need to have a strong start in life and thrive. This includes creating 40,000 youth jobs every year for the next three years and investing $40 million annually to help employers create new co-op placements.
This election is about getting the job done and not just talking the good fight, but fighting the good fight and winning. Winning means making a real change in your lives.
Pierre Trudeau had remarked, “The past is to be respected and acknowledged, but not to be worshipped. It is our future in which we will find our greatness.” The past should be respected but we should be bold and seek something greater for our future.
Being identified as the federal riding with one of the “poorest postal codes in Canada” is the status quo. I want to change this. My vision is to make Vancouver East a success story in Canada—a place to be known and recognized for its prosperity, talent, perseverance, diversity, unity, and community which stretches from the Vancouver Harbour to Grandview Highway, all the way from Boundary Road to the Downtown Eastside, and every person and every voice in between.
I believe this vision—our vision—for a better tomorrow can be made a reality with your help. On October 19, I ask you to stand with me, Edward Wong, and vote for real change. I know with your vote, together we can move the agenda forward in Vancouver East.
Thank you for your support.