Kerrisdale Village enjoys a new colour on the main shopping block–orange.
When I enter the new NDP office in the former Thomas Hobbs gift store on 41st Avenue at West Boulevard, I am greeted by the candidate Nicholas Scapillati, his wife Kas Shield, who works as the candidate scheduler and event coordinator, and Michael Kushnir, the campaign manager, who, interestingly, looks like a young Thomas Mulcair.
Their constellation reminds me of the U.S. series The Good Wife, about the wife of a democratic candidate, who is regularly in conflict with her husband’s campaign manager. However, the trio said they haven’t seen the show.
The room smells of fresh paint and is eerily empty, as if calm before the storm. On the wall orange party posters and elegantly framed black-and-white photographs of former NDP beacons like Jack Layton, Tommy Douglas, who introduced North-America’s first universal health care program, and Scapillati’s mentor Jim Fulton, the late NDP member of parliament for Skeena.
The three young people look happy and excited, as their office will be opening officially on Saturday with an open house party between 1 and 3 p.m.
They got a big boost on Friday with a blitz visit by federal NDP leader Thomas (Tom) Mulcair, who went for a spontaneous walk with Scapillati to meet and greet Kerrisdalers.
Scapillati, 40, moved to Vancouver from Ontario in 1995, after earning a degree in biogeography at McMaster University.
He travelled the B.C. coasts with the David Suzuki Foundation and worked closely with the Musqueam Band to redefine Musqueam Creek as a salmon-bearing stream.
He is the executive director of Farm Folk City Folk, a non for profit society working on food security, and lives on Vancouver’s West Side with Shield and their dog Sitka.
Sitka will have her own place in the election office and will most likely be a stress-reliever for Scapillati and his team of volunteers.
What makes Scapillati tick?
I wondered what sets an environmentalist like Scapillati apart from the Green Party candidate for Vancouver-Quilchena, Damian Kettlewell.
“I would consider myself one of the greenest candidates running in this election,” said Scapillati. “I dedicated my career to conservation and environmental sustainability. And not only provincially, nationally, but also right here in Quilchena. Compared not only to Damian, but also to Andrew Wilkinson, is that they both are good candidates, but they don’t have as much experience working on environmental issues or working directly in this community and that’s something that I have.”
Orange wave to roll into Vancouver-Quilchena?
Vancouver-Quilchena is a liberal stronghold, and an NDP candidate has yet to win the riding. So what makes Scapillati think he can beat Andrew Wilkinson, the liberal candidate?
“I think the people of our province, but also the people of Quilchena are ready for change. And after 12 years, the Liberals are out of a lot of ideas. You can see they have been out of touch with Enbridge, giving our right to environmental assessment to the federal government,” he said.
“Andrew is part of the party, he was the party president, and he is part of that old party ideas.
“I think that the orange wave can roll into any part of British Columbia, especially Quilchena, with the right candidate.”
So what does he have to say to youth, many of whom are apathetic about the elections, as recently stated in a Langara Voice article?
“We are going to heavily invest in skills training, and we are also going to freeze tuition fees and bring back a grant program,” Scapillati said. But he thinks a more convincing argument for youth is the promise to protect the environment.
Another issue students are interested in is pot legalization, so where does Scapillati stand?
“I think there is a great opportunity for us to do that, mostly for me, from a health perspective,” he said. “For controlling the substance and allowing people to access it for health reasons, like for medicinal reasons. But because people are inhaling it, we should monitor it like we do tobacco smoke.”
No time to watch B.C. movies
Scapillati said he has friends in the film and animation industry, and was impressed by the positive energy of film industry workers when he attended Adrian Dix’ announcement that an NDP government would raise the tax incentives for labour in the B.C. film industry from 33 to 40 per cent.
“It’s actually helping people,” he said, “And that’s one of the reasons I got into politics; to find other ways to help people.”
When I asked him to name some of the last Canadian or B.C. movies he saw, he can’t remember any recent ones, but he said he is looking forward to see the new Superman movie, which was partly shot at the same sound stage where the announcement was made.
His wife, however, loves the new Nintendo game Luigi’s Mansion, created by B.C.’s Next Level Games. “It’s the buzz of the video game world,” said Shield, who is more into playing than her husband.
Musqueam Creek salmon return a great achievement
When I mention new fry is swimming in Musqueam Creek, Scapillati gets all excited. The fry are the same lineage of salmon that has been spawning in that creek for over 4,000 years, he said with a touch of pride in his voice.
“Last winter was the largest run in recent memory and there were over a hundred returning salmon.”
So what was his personal highlight of week one of the election campaign?
That was undoubtedly the official start of the campaign on Tuesday, including a Musqueam welcome in the Museum of Anthropology, said Scapillati.
“That was really special for me, because one of the reasons I wanted to be part of this, in this election, was that I could be a representative for this community and a big part of this community is Musqueam.”
Will he grow a moustache to be as successful as Thomas Mulcair and Jack Layton? “No he won’t,” shouts Shield from the other side of the room, and Scapillati quickly jokes he wants to look as “dapper” as Tommy Douglas.
Finally, I checked how close Scapillati is to the NDP party line according to the questions raised in the CBC Vote Compass survey, so I randomly tested his opinion about different B.C. issues. Scapilatti, who said he hasn’t taken the survey yet, did, indeed, comply with the NDP, and was often a touch more extreme in his opinion.
Does B.C. need more immigrants?
“I strongly agree that we need more immigrants, Canada was founded by immigrants,” said Scapillati. “I think it’s the strength of our country that we are open to cultures from around the world coming here, enriching our communities and bringing skills and ingenuity to our economy. That’s one of the things that makes Canada great.”
Should the Northern Gateway pipeline be approved?
Should treaties with aboriginal people be put through a referendum?
“Absolutely not . . . A province-wide referendum is disrespectful to the (B.C. Treaty) process and also to those nations.”
Reported by Katja De Bock