City councillor will take on veteran Liberal Linda Reid in the new Richmond South Centre riding
Alan CampbellRichmond NewsCurrent City of Richmond councillor Chak Au said he decided to run for the NDP because of the Liberal government’s ‘arrogance’. Photograph By fileThe last big piece of the B.C. election jigsaw in Richmond has fallen into place in the shape of the NDP’s final local candidate.Current city councillor Chak Au will soon be installed by the BC NDP in the new Richmond South Centre riding and will be up against veteran BC Liberal Linda Reid.Au was expected to officially seek the nomination today (Friday) but, as he’s the only nominee, will be acclaimed the candidate.His surprise entry into the provincial political fray could also cause a shake-up at the municipal level, as a victory in May could trigger a by-election at city hall.Asked why he decided to take the plunge into a bigger arena, and with the NDP, Au — who also works full-time for Vancouver Coastal Health in Richmond as a family therapist and program leader — said he was partly influenced by the “arrogance” of Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal government.“Our current MLAs (in Richmond) have become detached from the people,” Au told the Richmond News.“I want to offer people in Richmond a real choice. The NDP hasn’t had much success in Richmond in recent years and I feel that this Liberal government has neglected Richmond; just look at the hospital, social services and transportation. “Richmond has been shortchanged by Christy Clark…I have heard from so many Richmond residents that their lives are becoming more and more difficult.”Given the riding is new, ensconced in the heart of the Chinese-Canadian community and is also fresh ground for long-time MLA Reid — who made the former Richmond-East riding her own for more than 25 years — this race could be more competitive than before.And being a Chinese immigrant, who has made it his mission to build bridges across cultures in Richmond during his time on city council, Au believes he has a good chance.This map shows the boundaries for the new ridings in Richmond, including the Richmond South Centre district that Coun. Chak Au and Linda Reid will compete for“This is a new riding, so anything can happen; previous records won’t count for too much,” said Au, also a former Richmond School Board trustee, who immigrated to Canada in 1988.Au added that it’s “hard to tell” if his background from China and being fluent in Chinese will give him any edge over the likes of Reid in the election.“I haven’t really studied the demographics properly yet (for the riding),” he added.“But I think it will help me bring the different voices of the community to the province.”According to the City of Richmond, there are no restrictions on incumbent elected officials either running for MLA or, indeed, doing double-duty, should they win a seat in Victoria.“I will have to talk to the mayor; I intend to continue with my councillor duties,” Au said, adding that he hadn’t yet thought far enough ahead what he might do if he were to win in May.“I would take advice from the mayor. No matter my decision, though, it will be made with the best interests of the people in Richmond in mind, it won’t be for my benefit.”Should a by-election be triggered, it wouldn’t be the first time in Richmond. After former mayor Greg Halsey-Brandt became an MLA in 2001, Couns. Malcolm Brodie and Derek Dang ran for the mayoral seat, vacating their councillor roles.Au said his membership within the Richmond Community Coalition (RCC) — which has links to the BC Liberals, including RCC president and former Richmond Centre Liberal MLA Rob Howard — would, for the time being, continue, as the RCC was a coalition, not a party.“I joined that group because it was a coalition of people with views across the political spectrum,” Au told the News.“What we had in common were the values of transparency and accountability; many of the members held very different views on certain issues.”Au said that independence has been played out over the years on city council, with him voting differently many times from his fellow RCC member Coun. Ken Johnston.BC NDP leader John Horgan said in a press release that Au “has what it takes to build a better B.C.“He has the leadership experience and community connections needed to stand up to Christy Clark. He has been a strong and respected voice for Richmond and we’re excited he wants to be a part of the BC NDP team in Richmond.”The new Richmond South Centre riding is the second smallest, geographically, in the province, second only to Vancouver-False Creek.It’s bound to the south by Francis Road, to the north by Granville Avenue — and a little section further north to Westminster Highway — to the east by No. 4 Road and to the west by No. 2 Road. By 2014, the three former Richmond ridings had, on average, 24.5 per cent more voters than the average riding — so the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission decided to give the city an extra seat.However, the area, historically, has low voter turnout with the former Richmond Centre riding, at 43.65 per cent, having the worst turnout in all of B.C.