There are 94 candidates on the ballot for this upcoming municipal election. I have to say that the lengthy list of names can make it quite daunting for Vancouverites to decide who to vote for, find out who's who and what they each stand for. I took a second to research one of the many candidates to gain a better sense of what they have to offer as a prospective City Councillor.
RJ Aquino is one of the 41 candidates seeking to fill one of ten City Council seats in this November 19th's municipal election. Born in the Philippines, RJ is currently an active member of the local Filipino community in Vancouver and works as one of the co-founders of Tulayan—an organization that aspires to help Filipino Vancouverites build positive cultural identity. By working directly with the members of this community, he recognizes the value in building rich cultural relationships though a grassroots approach - the same grassroots ideals that COPE represents.
RJ became increasingly more interested in civic engagement and politics after much encouragement from current Vancouver-Kensington MLA Mable Elmore as they work together to serve the Filipino community. Having established personal connections in all the different municipal parties, he found that his own principles line up most closely with COPE. He believes that democracy should come from a grassroots membership support, where members' voices are heard by their representatives.
Julien Thomas is a young voter who agrees with COPE's stance on grassroots community-building. As a born and raised Vancouverite, SFU International student, and facilitator of Late Nite Art, he appreciates that COPE has a caucus where Vancouver residents can have a say in shaping the policies put forth by COPE councilors and commissioners. This, he believes, "is a unique avenue for true engagement with citizens". Julien also believes that it is beneficial for parties to work in coalition such as the way COPE and Vision Vancouver does, so that they can better represent the diversity of values among citizens.
Working in collaboration with Vision allows for a "strong, progressive presence in City Hall," RJ says. "We are distinct parties for a reason, but we do have many commonalities. When we differ, we do so respectfully." In order to continue creating positive cultural movement in the city, RJ believes that it is important to keep informing people on city politics. He says, "As soon as people start to know, they start to care, and caring transforms into action and that leads to change."
If you would like to find out more about RJ Aquino and COPE's platform you can visit rjaquino.ca or cope.bc.ca. Want to know more about the other candidates running in the upcoming civic election? Visit vancouver.ca/vote.
Check out our feature interview with RJ here!