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In the riding of Abbotsford West, incumbent Michael de Jong (Liberal) is seeking his sixth term in office.
Elected in 1994, de Jong has been in provincial politics for almost 20 years and in that time has held diverse portfolios including minister of health, attorney general and minister of finance.
Gill is a longtime Abbotsford councillor, having served the city since 1996. O’Shea is a musician and an events organizer, while Redekopp is a community support worker and part-time actor. Dhami has lived in Abbotsford for the past 15 years and helps to run his family-owned farm and nursery.
Tell us what is important to you in the upcoming election.
Michael de Jong
Incumbent Michael de Jong has served as a Liberal MLA since winning the seat for Abbotsford-Mount Lehman in a 1994 byelection. In 2009, he was re-elected to the new Abbotsford West riding.
De Jong, raised on a Matsqui Prairie farm and a graduate of W.J. Mouat Secondary School, practised law in Abbotsford and served as a school trustee before being elected to the legislature. He said it has been an honour to represent the community he grew up in, and feels he can continue to support Abbotsford.
De Jong said he is proud to have played a role in local initiatives such as the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre, as well as the Campus of Care and the Discovery Trail network. He said recent upgrades to two new secondary schools, as well as gaining university status for the University of the Fraser Valley, have significant gains for education in Abbotsford. He also said improvements to the Abbotsford International Airport and the recently secured funding for the Vye Road overpass and Sumas Way widening are among substantial accomplishments made possible by working with all levels of government and community partners.
“No one does this alone. We’ve accomplished these things as a community because we work together.”
De Jong said constituents are telling him their main concerns are about the economy – especially important in Abbotsford, which “is free enterprise country.” He said a key to helping the economy is cultivating international markets for locally produced goods and services. Looking ahead, de Jong said there needs to be a focus on transit linkages in the Fraser Valley, and on seniors’ housing and support.
De Jong was named minister of finance and government house leader in September 2012, making him the first finance minister from Abbotsford. He previously served as minister of health, public safety, aboriginals relations and reconciliation, labour, and forests, among other roles in the legislature.
De Jong said it is integral that the government shows it is a responsible steward of taxpayers’ money, saying “for people in Abbotsford, being a responsible steward means balancing the budget.”
De Jong said his experience as MLA shows his commitment to the issues that matter to Abbotsford.
“I ask (voters) to look at my record as an employee.”
Sukhi Dhami became involved in local politics during the P3 water proposal in Abbotsford, joining the Water Watch campaign. He didn’t support the private-public partnership proposal and felt that all levels of government were not working in the interests of the public. By running as the NDP candidate for Abbotsford West, Dhami hopes to work in the interests of his community.
“I think Abbotsford is a great place, but we can bring some positive change here.”
The 28-year-old full-time farmer works for his family business, which runs Everbloom Farm Market in Abbotsford, as well as other businesses, growing shrubs, cedars, berries and vegetables. He is married to Hardeep, a teacher.
Dhami grew up in Abbotsford, graduating from W.J. Moaut Secondary School. He received a bachelor of science in biology from the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).
Agriculture is important to the Abbotsford community, and Dhami said that while the prices of commodities are stable, the price of farming has grown. Dhami said the NDP has pledged to increase funding to help grow, feed and buy B.C. products, and he hopes to create a more competitive market for agriculture.
Dhami said that for Abbotsford, the incinerator is an important issue and the NDP will not support anything that affects the airshed.
Dhami said addressing the issue of hospital wait times is also important to him, saying that despite Abbotsford’s new hospital, people are still forced to wait too long to receive care.
While campaigning, Dhami said he has met many young people who are home in the day due to unemployment, even though many have an education. He said supporting skills training would help young people find work.
He also added that Abbotsford has a lot of potential to realize. He said the Abbotsford International Airport could become more prosperous with an airline that can compete with flights from the United States. He said that UFV is at 130 per cent capacity, and since Abbotsford is lucky to have a university, more should be done to support it.
Dhami stressed the importance of increasing the middle class and creating a more equitable society. “We proposed a tax increase on the wealthy two per cent that can afford it, to help the 98 per cent of British Columbians that could use more services.”
Moe Gill, independent candidate for Abbotsford West, says his years of experience in the Abbotsford community have helped him understand the needs of the city.
A city councillor for 16 years, Gill said he is not afraid to stand up for what is right for Abbotsford.
“As an independent, I will be the voice for the people of Abbotsford, not an echo.”
Gill, 69, grew up in India and arrived in Canada in 1955, moving to Abbotsford in 1975. That year, he and his father purchased a farm that they continue to own, growing brussels sprouts, broccoli, strawberries and raspberries. With his son and daughter grown up and moved out, Gill and his wife Jagdish have since leased out the farm and gone into retirement.
“My retirement is from farming, but not from serving the community.”
Gill continues his work as a councillor, sitting on eight different committees and volunteering with various community organizations.
Gill said a great concern for constituents is access to health care and hospital wait times.
He said he hears many stories from constituents of long waits to receive medical treatment – an issue that cannot continue. Gill said when a person is sick or in pain, “You want to get something done right away. You can’t wait six to eight hours.”
Gill said the issue of transit is key to the Fraser Valley. He said people want better transit access and more options to get to Vancouver and surrounding areas.
Gill adds jobs to the list of top priorities for constituents. He said job creation is integral to the Abbotsford region, and that means bringing more light industry to the city.
The proposal to build a garbage incinerator is an issue, said Gill, as it will impact the air quality of the Fraser Valley.
He is opposed to the incinerator being built in the Lower Mainland, and if it were to be built elsewhere in the province, it must be approved by the people of that region.
He said if successful as an independent candidate, he would work with the government to represent the needs of his community.
“I am basing my platform firstly on the needs of the Abbotsford West riding… secondly, on the needs of the province.”
Paul Redekopp decided to run for the Conservatives in Abbotsford West because he was tired of just talking politics with friends – he wanted to “stand up and make a difference.”
Encouraged by his wife Esther and family and friends, the 42-year-old former president of the Abbotsford West Conservative riding association decided to enter the race.
Redekopp works with the Langley Association of Community Living as residential support worker, assisting people with developmental disabilities. He said he is disturbed by government budget cuts for people with disabilities and those who work with and support them. Redekopp wants to see the funding allotted for those with disabilities get to the people who need them.
When Redekopp speaks to constituents, he said one of their main concerns is the possibility of a garbage incinerator being built in the Lower Mainland.
The Conservatives have said they will not allow the project to go forward, and Redekopp said he will do whatever it takes to stand against it.
“We live in a fragile airshed, here in Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley, and we need to protect that and not pollute it.”
He said he is bothered by Metro Vancouver’s lack of consideration for the residents of the Fraser Valley.
“Metro Vancouver doesn’t own the Fraser Valley. This isn’t their backyard to come play in. This is our community, this is our backyard.”
Redekopp noted that many residents of Abbotsford West are commuters, and they are concerned about toll fees for the Port Mann Bridge, which leave residents bearing the brunt of the cost.
He also said eliminating the carbon tax is a priority, as is respecting taxpayers and ensuring government programs are essential, effective and affordable.
Redekopp said he has enjoyed meeting members of the community through his campaign, and has been knocking on doors six days a week.
“People know that it’ s time for a change. They are not happy with the current government and when I show up at their doorstep, they are very happy to see me.”
Already an active volunteer and community organizer, Stephen O’Shea decided he “could be put to better use” by running as the Green candidate in Abbotsford West. An Abbotsford resident since 1989, O’Shea said he hopes to give back in a more public way.
O’Shea has supported the Green party and its environmental policies for over 10 years, but said there is more to the platform than just environmental causes.
“We’re much closer to the centre than most people think. We’re a free enterprise party first and foremost.”
O’Shea is also committed to social justice causes, saying he understands the community’s concerns about poverty, access to health care and education, and providing a sustainable future for Abbotsford.
O’Shea is known for his involvement in the Abbotsford band You Say Party. He serves as a board member of the Devon Clifford Memorial Foundation, an organization that funds music lessons for young adults who can’t afford them. He is also a lead organizer of Abbotsford’s Jam in Jubilee Festival, which provides all-ages entertainment in downtown Abbotsford.
The 31-year-old works with the Bethesda Christian Association, as a supportive care-giver for people with developmental disabilities. O’Shea lives in Abbotsford with his wife Becky Ninkovic, and their newborn daughter, Vera.
O’Shea said he has always been interested in politics and social justice, and decided to run after being approached by the Green party. He said the birth of his daughter made him realize the importance of working for a sustainable future.
O’Shea said Abbotsford is “a city of conservationists,” and when he speaks with residents, they say the preservation of the environment is a key issue in the upcoming election. He said the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, gravel mining, and a possible garbage incinerator in the Fraser Valley are the top environmental issues that impact Abbotsford. O’Shea said as an MLA he would focus on balancing the economic interests of the area with protecting the environment.
“Everyone is concerned about the economy first and foremost … I think that we’re doing a good job, but I think we can do a better job without selling out the environment just to make the economy grow at all costs.”
Kerry-lynn Osbourne, the Abbotsford West candidate for the BC Excalibur Party, cites health care, the economy and education as her top priorities in the upcoming election.
The 39-year-old mother of five has lived in Abbotsford with her husband for the last three years.
Osbourne stated in a candidate questionnaire sent out by The News, that although hospitals, drugs and doctors’ services take up the largest share of health dollars, with an aging population, more health care providers are needed. She said the Excalibur Party will work towards the right for people to make their own health care choices, including seeking alternative health practitioners, such as naturopaths, homeopaths and chiropractors.
Osbourne said it is important to support teachers with aides and provide affordable education for all.
Osbourne did not make contact with The News for an interview by press time.
In her questionnaire responses, she said she is concerned with environmental issues and hopes to look for practical solutions that save the planet.
“If elected, I will always be available for my constituents and will always make time to listen, and I will do all within my power to help.”