An all-candidates mixer hosted by the Self Advocates of Semiahmoo this week was a reminder to candidates who are vying to represent White Rock to not discount the impact people with disabilities can have at the polls.
It’s “to show the candidates that people with disabilities are very much voters, and very much interested in the cause,” SAS chair Alexander Magnussen told Peace Arch News Monday – just six days before the provincewide civic elections – as group members and others mingled with mayoral and councillor candidates.
At least a dozen candidates turned out for the 90-minute mixer, which was held at Semiahmoo House Society’s South Surrey clubhouse and opened with five SAS members speaking to five issues of concern – housing, transportation, accessibility, employment and community.
Madison Van Oene said the community is “in desperate need” of accessible curbs, bus stops and beach access.
“It is extremely hard and frustrating for people with mobility issues to safely get to the beach,” Van Oene, who relies on a power wheelchair, told the crowd.
She said yellow paint along curbs would help people with mobility issues distinguish between the curb and road.
“I believe the community we live in needs to be for everyone,” Van Oene said. “To be part of the community we have to get there and to get there we need safe access points.”
Sierra Dean spoke to the importance of having opportunities to be in the community, while Krista Milne said she likes being independent and having responsibilities such as a job and volunteering. Manjeet Ghangass said financial independence enables her to “have the freedom to make my own choices on what I need and want in my life”; and West Bosma said volunteering and giving back to the community “makes me proud.”
Magnussen said the mixer “really brought everybody together.”
The candidates were invited in advance to provide printed responses to questions on the five issues. Copies of the responses received – not all candidates responded – will remain at SHS until closing Friday (Oct. 19) for anyone interested, SAS involvement co-ordinator Jill Glennie told PAN.
She described voting as “one of the really level playing fields.”
Some candidates who attended tweeted from the event, expressing appreciation for the opportunity and stating it was great “to learn more about the work that SAS members do in the community and how the next city council can help” and “hear the needs of a part of community that is often overlooked.”
Advocates PAN spoke to said voting was important to them to “help make the community better.”
Magnussen, a Surrey resident, told PAN Saturday’s election will mark his second time going to the polls.
“I started last year because I was unaware that people with disabilities should vote,” the 30-year-old explained.
“Everyone should vote.”
He noted SAS did not host a similar event for Surrey candidates due to the sheer volume of people – eight for mayor, 48 for eight councillor seats and 27 for six school trustee positions – running for election in that city.