Port Moody-Coquitlam: Suburbs focused on families and community set for razor-thin re-match

Both Nelly Shin and Bonita Zarrillo say they’ve learned lessons from their razor-thin 2019 match up, which saw Shin, the Conservative candidate, elected at final count by just 153 votes (31.2 to 30.9 per cent).

“You just have to be be yourself,” Shin, a recording artist and former teacher, who is running again, told CTV News. “Focus on your vision, focus on what your party is offering.”

Zarrillo, a business analyst and three-term Coquitlam city councillor running again for the NDP, said she took away how generous people are with their time.

“Nobody does this work alone,” Zarrillo said. “When a call goes out for this community, they’ll come and help.”

Shin and Zarrillo will face off against Will Davis, a small business owner who ran as the Liberal candidate in New Westminster-Burnaby and came in second, to the NDP’s Peter Julian.

“It’s important to continue to be genuine. It’s important to tell the story that you believe in,” Davis said.

(The Liberal candidate, Sarah Badiei, received 29.1 per cent of the vote in 2019).

All three candidates say they believe families are at the heart of their riding, which includes Port Moody, western parts of Coquitlam, as well as Anmore and Belcarra.

Shin, the first Korean-born MP in Canada, says she’s uniquely able to connect with hard-working immigrants and understand their stories.

Zarrillo, who describes herself as a champion for women and working parents, points out she has deep roots, with four generations of her family in the community.

Similarly, Davis points to his five children, raised in the riding, along with years of neighbourhood contributions coaching sports and on schools PACs.

The People’s Party of Canada, which received 1.5 per cent of the vote in 2019, is running Desta McPherson, a construction project co-ordinator and electrician.

And Roland Verrier, who received 0.1 per cent of the vote in 2019, is once again the candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party.

The Green Party, who does not have a registered candidate, received 7.2 per cent.

For the purposes of this story, the Conservative, NDP, and Liberal candidates were all individually asked the same questions.

Their answers have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.


CTV News: How would you describe Port Moody-Coquitlam and the people who live here?

Will Davis, Liberal candidate: Our riding is an exciting, multi-cultural, multi-dynamic riding, with many different socioeconomic realities. It’s beautiful, it’s fast-growing, it’s home.

Nelly Shin, Conservative candidate: My riding is very beautiful with both people and nature. The people are very compassionate. They’re very caring about the environment, and they’re very thoughtful.

Bonita Zarrillo, NDP candidate: It’s really a family- and community-based riding with diverse ages, cultures, genders, gender diversity, and it’s an amazing, amazing riding.


CTV News: Why are you the right person to represent it in Ottawa?

Shin: I feel that I have the integrity and the moral courage to get things done, and say what I have to say and do what I have to do. A lot of representatives when they’re elected are there to help solve problems in our community and our country.

I feel that I have the ability to communicate with other members and those in the chain of command, other government representatives and stakeholders in a way where we can come together to resolve an issue. I’m very much a people-centric representative.

Zarrillo: This is a community, but it’s a group of small, small communities. There are so many pockets of different cultures, seniors and young families. And I have been on every doorstep, I want to say, in Coquitlam and Port Moody over the last eight years that I’ve been on (Coquitlam) council. And one of the things that I believe that was missing in Ottawa, was this connection to the people that are in the riding, the people that we serve.

Our community is desperate for clean air, clean water, for trees, we love nature out here. Our community is desperate for more affordable housing, for families to be able to move in here, for families to be able to stay where their parents and grandparents are. And I don’t see the Liberals or Conservatives understanding what is really going on here.

Davis: I’ve lived here 20 years, almost 20 years. I’ve been involved in my community at the schools levels in parent-advisory councils. I’ve coached up to three dozen sports clubs. I really love this community. I raised my five children in this community.


CTV News: What are one or two key issues you think matter most to voters here, and why?

Zarrillo: We’ve had a tough year. We’ve had a tough 17 months. What I’m hearing now is we’re in a crisis situation on two key issues: the climate and housing. The climate is something the NDP has been championing since Jack Layton’s time. I’m going to join with that voice. I’ve been working here, right here in this community. I was the person that brought the intervenor status for the City of Coquitlam to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, when it was still the Kinder Morgan pipeline. We can’t be expanding fossil fuels. I’ve been working on that initiative for years. And we’re going to do everything we can to act now on climate change.

Davis: I’m hearing on a very local level about affordable housing, about the need for us to continue to keep our community from becoming out-priced. I want to take my grandchildren to the same soccer fields that I brought my children to.

Also, this is a climate crisis and I believe people need to see leadership on that front. We need to see more investment in green tech, we need to see more investment in the battle against climate change and protecting the earth for our children and grandchildren.

Shin: One of those things is making sure that we come out of this pandemic safely, that everyone is in a place where they can be safe and not be afraid to leave their house.

I also feel that the environment is very important as well. We have lots of issues as well, specifically a file that I’ve been working on: in Coquitlam there’s sewage overflow when there’s torrential rainfall that goes into Stoney Creek. There’s a salmon run that comes every year. I feel responsible as a representative. I’ve been on it and active and trying to solve problems.


CTV News: What is this election about?

Davis: It’s about the fact in 2019 we didn’t have this pandemic on the ballot. We have new data, we have new information, we have a new reality and I believe that Canadians should have the opportunity to choose where they want to move forward and how they want to move forward.

Shin: These are uncertain times, and it’s not the best time to have an election. What’s more pressing are the fires in B.C. that need to be dealt with, from all tiers of government, including federal. We have the Afghanistan situation where I have constituents reaching out to me to help their family members of friends of family members come here from Afghanistan. So that requires attention. But I know that it’s daunting. And if the minister is having to campaign like the rest of us, it really does reduce the resources. So I don’t think that was wise.

Zarrillo: It’s about people, it’s about our kids and our grandkids, that’s what I’m hearing the most. I’m hearing from seniors in our community that have grandkids, that want their grandkids to have the things that they had were young: parks, greenery, and the other thing is the housing. We really need family housing. And we need subsidies and some affordable housing. The federal government, the Liberals again, continue to not invest in housing in any meaningful way. We need to do that.

I met a woman the other day who’s been an EA - an education assistant - for over 40 years in our community. And she’s concerned her next home is going to be a tent, because she’s at the point where she can no longer afford the rent that she’s paying, and she can’t see herself being able to afford anything that’s being built.


CTV News: How or why do you stand out among the other candidates in this race?

Shin: My goal is to focus on what I can do, my vision, and what I’ve done: helping our businesses get through the pandemic, helping individuals when they’ve reached out for support. There are a lot of mental health challenges people faced, and I’ve done what I could in the house, raising issues on mental health.

I’m a problem solver. I like to get things done. And I like to do things in a way where people come together.

Zarrillo: It’s about people and that connection to the community. I have a deep-rooted connection to this community. I have four generations of my family in this community, of all ages. We have a small business in this community. And I’ve been a city councillor for almost eight years. That’s how I stand out.

Davis: I believe that our plan, our Liberal plan, is one that’s dedicated to families. I’ve raised my five children in this riding. I believe it’s important that we take on the responsibility to hand them, the next generation, the same great opportunities we had.

And so, it’s important that young families have the opportunity to buy affordable housing. It’s important that we lead in the fight against the climate crisis. It’s important that we work now for generations forward on the Indigenous file. Those are the priorities for us.


CTV News: Which opponent or party do you think represents your biggest challenge and why?

Zarrillo: I think about people and I think about the needs of people. And I always fall back to the NDP. The values of this community are rooted in the NDP. As far as another party goes, I’m focused on the NDP. I’m focused on getting out to every door that I can get out to to let people know that if they’re worried about affordable housing, if they’re worried about the climate crisis, it’s the NDP.

Davis: This is a two-party race in this riding. I believe our opponent is Nelly Shin. We have two choices here in Port Moody-Coquitlam. We can either move forward and invest in families and invest in the economy. Or we can go back to Harper-era austerity and tax cuts.

Shin: I think it’s always been a three-way race, so it could be any of them. I like to focus on what I’m doing and helping our constituents to see what I’ve done.


CTV News: Who is Will Davis? Nelly Shin? Bonita Zarrillo?

Davis: Will Davis is a proud son of two hard-working wonderful parents, originally from Quebec. I am a proud, bilingual Canadian. I am a proud father of five and someone who has always been part of his community and a leader in the community.

Shin: Nelly Shin is an artist, an educator, and someone who likes to help people. I’m also the first Korean member of Parliament. There’s something about hard-working immigrants when they they have a voice in Ottawa, across the country. It gives them hope and encouragement that they’re heard. It has a ripple effect, and not just within the Korean community. They know I understand their story, their immigrant story.

Zarrillo: I’m a mother first, but I’m also a working mother, and that’s how I got involved in public service. I went into public service to have local business be more successful, so there would be less commuting. And we’re still not there.

I’m a champion for women. I’m a champion for working parents.


CTV News: Please complete this thought however you’d like. “If elected, I…”

Shin: If elected, I would be honoured to continue serving my constituents in getting through the next phase of the pandemic, and working through some of the local issues with the environment, and helping our small business get back on their feet.

Zarrillo: If elected, I am going to take the concerns of this riding to Ottawa. And when I say that, I mean that if elected, I’m going to be strong enough and be courageous enough behind the Jagmeet Singh team that has been courageous and really get to work and get things done.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen the NDP MPs be the ones that pushed the Liberal government to take care of people, to take care of the climate, and I’m going to add my voice to that team.

Davis: If elected, I will be a champion for the middle class, for our families. I will prioritize affordable housing. I will prioritize growth in the green-tech sector and in jobs and infrastructure in our community


CTV News: What’s the one thing you want voters to know about you?

Zarrillo: I want voters to know that I’ve been a climate champion here for the last seven years. I’ve been the one on council fighting for our rights around the table, trying to have a voice on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

And I want people to know, when it comes to affordable housing, I’ve been the strongest voice for people that need assistance, that need affordable housing in this community, that want to raise a family in the community. I’ve been the loudest voice on Coquitlam council on preserving that value and quality of life and building community here.

Davis: That I’m from here. That I’m part of the community. That I’ve put myself forward time and time again for almost 20 years for the betterment of our community, for the betterment of our schools, for the betterment of our social networks, the betterment of our environment, and that’s what I want to do for them in Ottawa. I believe this is a job to serve.

Shin: Me serving the community here and serving our country is not about politics, it’s about the people. It’s about giving them hope and helping them to see that there are solutions, that they don’t have to be discouraged by the way things have been done in the past or in the present, where politics and bureaucracy get in the way. I will fight for what is right.