When Katrina Chen came to Canada as a student 17 years ago, she liked what she saw.
“There was so much support for people. I thought, Canada is a beautiful place.”
But Chen saw that slowly change over time. Her work as a constituency assistant for NDP MP Peter Julian brought her face to face with some of our society’s most vulnerable: seniors, immigrants, the unemployed, and people lacking the resources or education to help them navigate increasingly costly and complex systems.
“I saw firsthand how that hurts families,” says Chen. “That’s been my experience as a union member for past 10 years working on the frontlines.”
But her work with residents, workers and families in Julian’s Burnaby-New Westminster riding also showed her how good policy can change people’s lives for the better. “I helped them address issues, apply for benefits, get a bus pass. I helped them find solutions.”
It was her desire to make a difference that motivated Chen to become a politician “I believe policy should work for people. I feel government should listen more and ensure local residents’ issues are addressed.”
It was her belief in supporting workers and their families that made the NDP an obvious choice; in turn, the party chose her as their candidate for Burnaby-Lougheed. “Workers values are Canadian values. I want to make sure we in the NDP work hard so that everyone is protected in our communities.”
Chen is no stranger to hard work. In fact she works three jobs – including her part time gigs as Burnaby School Trustee and immigration consultant – not to mention her biggest job of all as mother to her three-year-old son.
As a working mum, Chen faced the same struggle as many British Columbians in her search for affordable childcare. This is why she and the NDP support a $10 a day childcare plan, she explains. Chen also identifies with many other young families facing the high cost of living and an impenetrable housing market. The NDP’s pledge to fund co-operative housing is one way to address that, she says.
Chen’s experience as a school trustee strengthened her conviction that education is the foundation of a happy, healthy society. “And also becoming a mum. I want my child to have a proper education. I came to Canada for education. But I’ve been seeing how the chronic underfunding of the education system in this province has really damaged not just K-12 but also post-secondary.”
“The current government talks about jobs and the economy, but they’re not investing in the most basic thing – education,” Chen comments. “When you support people, when you give them an education, they all contribute back.”