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Harris pushes environmental issues in North Van-Lonsdale

Janice Harris sees a lot of issues in North Vancouver Lonsdale -- homelessness, scarce rental housing, affordable daycare -- but the big issue that brought her into the election campaign is the environment.

The longtime North Vancouver District councillor and mayor was halfway through a four-month trip to her native New Zealand when New Democrats in Lonsdale invited her seek the nomination. She cut short her visit and flew home.

"Talking with Shane Simpson made me think he should be environment minister," she told The Tyee in an interview last month, "and I wanted to be part of an environmentally sensitive government."

Some criticized Harris for running in Lonsdale, which covers North Vancouver City, when she built her career in the District. She said she doesn't feel she's parachuted into the riding.

"I live just north of the Lonsdale boundary," she said, "and I've worked with the City on many common issues while on District council."

Harris saw some urgent issues in the riding: scarce rental housing, homelessness, child poverty, and the lack of affordable daycare. She was unhappy about Victoria's refusal to support the operating costs of a new youth shelter.

She saw some missed opportunities for jobs in North Van Lonsdale: "I wish the new ferries had been built at least in part in North Vancouver shipyards. And I wish North Vancouver District had put a new bus depot on the old BC Rail land. It would have meant more jobs, and a boost for local businesses."

Harris noted that her Liberal opponent, Naomi Yamamoto, argued before the District council for putting a Costco on the BC Rail site.

"That would have meant thousands more cars" in the area south of Marine Drive, she said. The Costco proposal was eventually rejected.

Harris liked the bus-depot idea because it would have promoted public transit, and she said she's "very concerned" about North Shore environmental issues such as rebuilding salmon stocks. She supported protecting the Maplewood Flats Wilderness Conservation Area, but also backed the industrial park next door to it.

Lonsdale has always been the one North Shore riding where New Democrats have had a chance, but Harris predicted it would be a battle. The riding's demographics are changing, especially thanks to the new condos in Lower Lonsdale. Voters there, she admitted, aren't sympathetic to the NDP.

"But the riding now includes Norgate and the First Nations reserve," she pointed out, "and they're supportive."

Harris's campaign manager Sam Schechter told The Tyee he's very optimistic about the campaign:

"We had over 100 people here on Wednesday to welcome Carole James," he said. "They filled the office and flooded into the street."

Schechter said the campaign is also seeing NDP lawn signs in neighbourhoods that haven't been supportive in past campaigns, and new volunteers have been coming in. "This is a very competitive seat," he added.

Schechter also said he was surprised that Naomi Yamamoto hadn't turned up for a recent all-candidates' meeting at Carson Graham, which Harris had attended.

The Tyee received no response to repeated requests to the Yamamoto campaign for an interview with their candidate.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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