Mayoral candidates in Maple Ridge pitched their platforms at a local high school Friday morning to win students over – not for the official upcoming election on Oct. 15 – but for the school’s mock vote taking place Wednesday of next week.
Hundreds of students in Grades 10, 11, and 12, poured into the gym at Samuel Robertson Technical to hear what the candidates had to say, and to learn more about the democratic process.
Social studies teacher Chris Perger, who organized the event, said one of the topics he covers in class is about government and election processes.
“And I just think that the students hear a lot of theory on it and it doesn’t resonate until they see the actual connection to the community,” he said.
“I think once they see the candidates and understand that they are people that have values and messages, that it gives them a stronger reason for wanting to participate in the electoral process,” he said.
Grade 12 students Gavin Young, 17, Parnavi Kulkarni, 17, Grade 11 student Josh Puffer, 16, and Grade 10 students Karolis Zegunis and Tyler Billing, both 15, were keen to hear what the candidates had to say.
Billing said a big issue for him was climate change.
“It’s getting really bad to where our normal is rain here, and now it’s really, really hot and the heat’s getting out of control over time. I think we should do at least something to stop it,” he said.
Kulkarni was hoping to hear about public safety from the candidates, and how they plan to address crime in the city. She cited the latest robberies at ValleyFair Mall where bear spray was used three times to rob a jewelry store in the mall.
Puffer wanted to hear about the candidates’ plans for housing in the community.
“I feel like we’re getting too many (houses) and Maple Ridge is getting really overpopulated,” he said, adding that too much of the surrounding forests are being removed to make room for townhomes.
Zegunis wanted to hear a message of support for students.
Each candidate got a chance to speak to the students during the assembly. Students did not have an opportunity to pose questions to the candidates.
Incumbent candidate Mike Morden mentioned the importance of the environment and reminded the students that over the last four years of his term his council had parks and playgrounds built across the city, including the new bike skills park in Albion. He also touched on transit, mentioning having dedicated buses from Evergreen Skytrain Station to downtown Maple Ridge and a new shopping mall that, he promised, is coming to downtown.
Candidate Corisa Bell said she knows there is very little for youth in the community and youth should be involved in the conversations and planning and activities so that council knows exactly what the youth of the community wants. She said she would like to have students from all high schools in the community on a council and “actively contributing to the vision of the community”.
Darleen Bernard said she is running for mayor because she is tired of seeing green spaces destroyed and she is concerned about the level of development that is taking place in the city and the negative impacts it is having on wildlife, specifically black bears. She said if voted in she would work for a more strategic development plan and she would also work to bring a wildlife sanctuary to Maple Ridge for “those displaced critters during the development process so they can survive”.
Dan Ruimy said his passion was youth, saying it’s important to have the youth voice at the table.
He added there should be a post-secondary institution in the community.
“In a city of almost 100,000, the fact that we don’t have post-secondary education boggles my mind,” he said.
He also encouraged those in attendance to do their research when it comes to voting because municipal government has the most impact on everyday lives.
Finally Jacques Blackstone he said he didn’t like the last two years with the pandemic, and that he wants to give his two sons, back the free Canada that he grew up in.
“You deserve to have that,” he said to the crowd.
His vision of Maple Ridge, he said, is to turn it into an entertainment mecca of the Lower Mainland – to turn the city into a world-class destination for people to come to.
At the end of the assembly Young, Kulkarni, and Puffer were satisfied with what they heard.
Puffer said they all touched on housing and overpopulation.
Kulkarni liked what candidate Bernard had to say about putting an animal sanctuary in Maple Ridge.
“I think that’s really nice because we need to bring back more of the nature aspect into Maple Ridge,” she said.
Bell’s message resonated with Young, about having a student council.
“Cause ultimately, like, we’re going to be the ones most affected since we’re the next generation, by their decisions and what’s going to happen with the city,” he said.
Young also liked Dan Ruimy and how he addressed flood and fire mitigation.
Neither Young, Kulkarni, nor Puffer said they would be influenced by the age of the candidate.
“It’s good to have younger people and also older people running for mayor so you can kind of learn each perspective, how they’ve lived their life and what they’ve learned from their journey,” said Kulkarni.
Puffer agreed, saying it is good to have perspectives from both older and younger candidates, because they’ve gone through different things in life.
What they would all like to see is more facilities for youth in Maple Ridge.
All agreed, though, that they were going to do more research before their vote on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
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