I’ve always had a fascination with Vancouver.
When I was a child, I would stare up at the buildings of downtown Vancouver through the car window, on our way from the ferry terminal to my Oma and Opa’s farm in Chilliwack. I knew one day I would call this beautiful and vibrant city home.
I grew up in Nanaimo, well known for bathtub races and Nanaimo Bars. My mom was a hard-working retail employee and my Dad was a heavy duty mechanic -- back-breaking work. My grandparents were immigrants from four different countries. We didn’t have a lot but my family did their best to provide for us.
My childhood was full of playing outside, riding my mountain bike on logging roads and spending lots of time drawing and writing, two of my biggest passions when I was a kid. This love for writing would lead me to my eventual career.
My first job was a paper route, which morphed into a dog walking business, followed by a two-year stint at the “Home of the Whopper” working the closing shift, which included cleaning the broiler -- and the bathroom. I can confidently say this was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had.
After graduating high school in 2001, I worked in retail, at one point awkwardly working in two different department stores in the same mall. I was living in a basement suite near downtown Nanaimo, dreaming of what my future would hold.
That year, around September 11, after being glued to the television for weeks on end watching the aftermath of the tragic events of 9/11, I decided it was now or never -- I needed to go to school if I wanted to be a journalist. I applied to BCIT’s Broadcast Journalism program and was accepted. This is when my love affair with Vancouver truly began.
I moved into a small apartment on Dundas and Lakewood—all I could afford at the time—and worked nights at The Bay, selling dress shirts, socks and belts to put myself through school.
Around this time, I got my first “real” journalism job, weekend web editor at canada.com -- 6am to 2pm Saturday and Sunday. Admittedly not the best hours for a 21-year-old who enjoyed Vancouver’s nightlife, but it was a start.
After graduating from BCIT, I needed a full-time job. Most of my classmates went to small towns across B.C. to work at radio stations -- I decided to head to Winnipeg. I’ll never forget touching down on the vast, flat Prairie for the first time and thinking “what have I done?”
But, it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. As I discovered, working in a smaller city, you get the opportunity to do so much more. It also deepened my understanding of Canada, our vast, friendly, incredibly diverse country, as well as how to properly dress for -40c and the importance of block heaters.
But Vancouver was always calling, beckoning me to return.
In 2008, after four years, I arrived back in Vancouver, working at Global BC as their first web producer. It was a dream come true for me, I grew up watching BCTV and all of the personalities, and now, here I was, helping them figure out this new thing called “Twitter” and what’s up with Facebook anyways? Most of all, working in the newsroom deepened my understanding of our city and its amazing, kind people, as well as the challenges and opportunities.
Around this time, I moved to Gastown, scraping together what I was able to save while living in Winnipeg for a down payment on a small condo at Powell and Main. At the time, Gastown was vibrant and there was so much optimism—young people were moving into the neighbourhood, historic buildings on Water Street were being restored and repurposed—there was a real buzz. It makes me sad when I walk through the neighbourhood today to see how far we’ve fallen.
In 2015, I moved to the edge of Yaletown near the Vancouver Public Library. I love living in the heart of downtown and the opportunity to walk out the front door and head in any direction for a coffee, a meal, or entertainment, all while running into friends and neighbours.
Fast forward to the present, we have seen little to no progress on the biggest issues facing our city: a lack of housing affordability, the opioid crisis, homelessness and declining public safety. Our once vibrant neighbourhoods are on a downward trend and Vancouverites are asking themselves “is this worth it?” Businesses are closing up shop, overburdened with permit delays, red tape and sky-high property taxes, not to mention vandalism and theft.
Many of my friends, born in B.C. and from around the world, don’t see a future here. They are struggling to find good paying jobs, to be able to afford a place one day and start a family. They wonder why the streets are so dirty and why they don’t feel safe downtown anymore. Mostly, they wonder why no one seems to be doing anything about it.
City Hall is out of touch -- instead they are focused on pet projects like city-wide parking permits and congestion charges that would punish those who can least afford it the most. We continue to throw tens of millions at our biggest problems, making the same mistakes over and over again, hoping for a different result.
This is why I stepped forward to run for Vancouver City Council. I refuse to stand by and watch our city continue to slide backwards, without doing something. We are so blessed to live here, in one of the most amazing cities in the world, with endless opportunities at our fingertips. Most of all, I believe in Vancouver and Vancouverites, and I know we can do better, for all citizens. And we will.