Jessica Van der Veen is the NDP MLA candidate for the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding, standing against current Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Ida Chong in the May 14 provincial election. This is the second time these two candidates have faced each other, as Van der Veen stood in the 2009 provincial election and lost to Chong by 561 votes. Van der Veen is running on a platform of support for post-secondary education and technical training, greater support for seniors and greater environmental stewardship.
Van der Veen started her public work in 2007 by founding LANDS! (Let’s Agree Not to Dispose of Schools!), an organization dedicated to stopping sales by the B.C. government of public school lands and public green space across B.C. While working for this organization, Van der Veen earned a master’s degree in public administration from UVic.
Her first promise, greater support for post-secondary education and trades training, would be funded by reinstating the 2008 tax profile that the B.C. Liberals abolished on banks. This reinstatement would raise an estimated $100 million annually. She says this money will be directed at universities for more generous student loans and needs-based grants.
“When you apply for a student loan, you will get a combination of student loan and grant money. What that does is it removes barriers so that you can start university in the first place. Then you know you won’t be saddled with [. . .] horrendous debt,” said Van der Veen.
This is particularly important as the Research Universities Council of B.C. recently released a labour market profile saying B.C. will have a skilled labour shortage starting in 2016, with a shortage of 18 800 post-secondary graduates by 2020. Regardless of the current economic situation, however, Van der Veen is extremely optimistic about the future of B.C.’s economy.
“We are not done building this country. We are not done building this province. It’s exciting,” said Van der Veen. “We have to work together. We have to stick together and be united in our determination to make this province better, and we will.
She is also confident in the NDP’s ability to budget responsibly. According to Van der Veen, the NDP costs their budgets (takes into account all financial costs for electoral promises) to make “effective and strategic choices,” and has decided to focus provincial resources on target areas, the top choice being education and trades training support.
The second pledge is based around greater homecare support for seniors to allow them to stay in their homes if they wish.
“Adrian [Dix] has made a specific commitment to more homecare support. We have been calling for a long time for a seniors’ representative, like the children’s representative. And this is something that we have called for, and the Liberals finally agreed that this was a good idea, but they failed to deliver,” said Van der Veen. “There are a lot of seniors in Oak Bay-Gordon Head that need their care stewarded and need services available and need to be able to afford their meds.”
The third pledge, greater environmental stewardship, is centred on creating a B.C.-tailored environmental protection plan to replace the current reliance on regulations set by Ottawa.
Van der Veen says an NDP government would provide a stable business environment. “Business is highly creative, but what business needs is stable ground to stand on . . . with things like health care, education, public services, good transportation services,” she said.
Van der Veen has a dim view of the effectiveness of the B.C. Liberals’ job plan, saying, “I think it’s a government that is out of gas. No one would have liked the B.C. Jobs Plan to have worked more than us, but it is a lot of hot gas, smoke and mirrors, and it’s not working.”
As for the possible future, Van der Veen says until election day, she is wholly focused on campaigning, winning and representing the riding as a receptive and effective MLA, not spending time thinking about a possible cabinet post in an NDP government.