A young professional’s thoughts on the BC election

By Herman Thind,
Special to The Post
Growing up in rural Saskatchewan and Alberta, I always had a sense of what is fair, just, and decent.
Raised in a liberal home, we embraced values of tolerance, equality, and evidence-based policy. 
As I became more involved in the political process, my small ‘l’ liberal ideological side weighed heavily. I was part of the founding group of campus Young Liberals in university in the late 80s. I held several elected party positions in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC. My latest involvement was as communications director for the Liberal Party of Canada in BC (not to be confused with the BC ‘Liberals’).
Along the way, I stood up for minority rights at every conceivable junction. I was involved in the RCMP turban debate against some very unpleasant Reform Party (i.e. Federal Conservative) activists on campus. I opposed the war in Iraq. I also stood as first speaker in support of the Liberal Party of Canada’s same-sex marriage resolution (it was adopted as policy).
As someone with a background in science, I have always favoured evidence and policy based on evidence and expert opinion. Show me the unbiased research first. Don’t gloat about ‘reports’ done by industry insiders, or partisan ‘think-tanks’. As such, I’ve always favoured parties with a liberal ideology.
As an adult, I’ve worked in the tech sector, service sector, as well as in the oil and gas industry in Calgary, the ‘heart of the new west’. I’ve worked in middle management positions in the corporate world, AND served as a union shop steward as a communications worker. I’m currently a small business owner, working exclusively with small businesses. I also work in the alternative energy sector, serving as a communications liaison for a green tech startup.
Like many of my generation, I have a family. My wife and I have a 5 year old daughter. Through her we’ve had the fortune of working with incredible teachers, and amazing recreation centre staff. We've also met some of the greatest doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff anywhere. As parents, these things make up the core of our existence. They matter.
What drives our generation's discussions, are affordability, healthcare, and education. These are not just important issues for us, but for all professionals and members of what author Richard Florida calls the ‘creative class’. We are the thinkers, innovators, researchers, social activists, artists, artisans, and other creators. We write the apps you use daily. We build the websites you browse. We design the buildings you live in. We plan the parks your children play in. We brew the craft beers you sip on. We fuel the world’s most dynamic urban power centres.
Regions like New York, Boston, the SF Bay Area, and Cascadia succeed for specific reasons. They succeed because they have the services, planning, and infrastructure to attract and engage people like us. They have affordable housing options, and urban plans that encourage creativity. They have great centres of research, progressive neighbourhood and workplace planning. They have access to the best accessible education anywhere. 
In the past 10 years, and longer, people like us have not seen this in the Lower Mainland, and to be honest, anywhere else in BC. Rather than fuelling the economy and jobs of the 2020s, we seem to be stuck in a time-warp pitching the economy of the 1920s. While we sit pat, the world has been passing us by. Many American states have adopted more progressive approaches to policy. They have managed to shore up entire new sectors for employment and GDP growth. 
Our rush to fund one industry has seen cuts to education - the exact place you want to spend the most, particularly when planning for the future. As parents, we are forced to organize fundraisers for textbooks and field trips. We also have to live in fear of the next earthquake, since there are over 180 schools in BC deemed seismically unsafe, which have yet to see any upgrade work.
Our myopic future planning seems to be based on the whims of a single industry. We need a serious look at what we can offer with our strongest resource - our people. Our proximity to Seattle and Silicon Valley have resulted in some growth in the local tech sector. The election of Trump has provided companies with a few more skilled staff, yet we fail to engage local companies on major projects. As one industry insider put it, “the tech sector has grown by itself, with little government leadership”. She added, “the government seems to prefer awarding contracts to American companies, ignoring the local shops”. Local tech workers end up focusing on short-term contracts for small projects working with local businesses, while the Oracles, IBMs, and Microsofts swoop in and take long-term, good-paying government contracts. Many of these contracts end up employing foreign workers - not locals.
BC has generous wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal resources, yet we fail to include these in any discussion of ‘resources’. The green tech sector are left to feel like a third-wheel. They end up working directly with municipalities that see a real need for the technology. The opportunity to employ thousands of welders, electricians, general construction workers, engineers, and other labour in green tech is completely untapped. In the 80s and 90s we emerged as a global leader, with companies like Ballard. Since then we’ve fallen far behind. We chose to run with the last remnants of the fossil fuel sector instead.
Not only are we focused on the wrong industries, but our preference for ‘boom & bust’ economies has led to unaffordable living conditions for most of our generation. Constructions jobs are great, but they just don’t offer the salaries required to live in Metro Vancouver affordably. Workers end up couch-surfing, or living in their trucks. Based on the average salary in Greater Vancouver, the average home price is technically out of reach for most of us. Without affordable living space, we simply won’t attract the creative class, the builders of great cities. BC has focused on the boom economy, and when it busts, our generational cohorts are just expected to pick up and move to Alberta or Ontario to chase the jobs… as we’ve done for decades. 
We’ve also ignored the needs of young families, when it comes to childcare. A family in Metro Vancouver has to ensure they have $2000 or so kicking around for childcare services, just so parents can work to pay their mortgages. Many choose to live with parents in large homes, to avoid the cost of childcare. People complain about ‘mega-homes’, but lack of affordability and childcare is just one of the reasons why inter-generational mega-homes exist. In Vancouver we have friends who are forced to find nanny-shares to mind children after school. Nannies are also getting hard to find, since they can’t afford to live here either.
As a parent, an owner of a tech-based business, these shortfalls are troubling. My kindergartener has a passion for science. She has built a solar-powered robot. She’s started programming in Scratch. She’s studied laminar flow and tidal power (okay, she’s spent a lot of time on a particular Science World display). She’s ready for the new economy. So are all our kids. 
The foundations laid out by progressive governments in Ottawa in the 1970s and 80s led to the ability to handle the growth of the 90s and beyond. Education, universal accessible healthcare, and affordability were policy mainstays. We became a better society for those ideas, but we’ve lost our way. 
My liberal convictions seem to have become stronger since the birth of our child. I not only want what’s best for her, but also for the greater society around me. Classic liberalism is not just a ‘brand’ or label that one can affix to a party. It is an adherence to principles and ideology that works to benefit all society, the environment, and the economy. 
We will be voting in this election. I will cast my ballot for the party that best reflects the ideology of true small-l ‘liberalism’ I’ve described above. It won’t necessarily be the one that uses the name ‘Liberal’.


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