Still plenty of work ahead for New West's Jaimie McEvoy
The incumbent is serving his fifth term on council
If there was a title for the councillor who most enjoyed coffee to connect, it would probably go to Coun. Jaimie McEvoy.
We're meeting in the council office he shares with Daniel Fontaine and Paul Minhas, but before we begin, he offers me a coffee from the legendary City Hall cafe. (I pass—I'd forgotten about McEvoy's love for coffee and had a massive lunch before making my way to City Hall.)
Later he tells me he actually prefers to drink coffee outside his home, and that he's always up for a cup o'joe with anyone—whether or not they agree with his politics.
"Sometimes I change my mind [about a topic after talking to someone]," says McEvoy.
McEvoy walks me through the hall where councillors work. The history buff isn't short on facts—telling me there's a washroom in this corridor that was built for one of Queen Elizabeth II's visits to our city.
But as we sit down to chat, he's reflective of his most recent campaign, which he says was a bit of a struggle.
"I was pleased [with the results] because I had some trouble campaigning this time: I can't hear people as well, and I have arthritis in my spine. My usual door knocking wasn't as high as it has been in the past," he tells New West Anchor.
Tying that into the previous elections, McEvoy remarks that he's never lost any votes—he's actually gained them—and he thinks there is a correlation between the votes and his work.
"I think honestly that that speaks to good community service. I've always been involved in the community," explains McEvoy, who points to his time at the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, along with his participation on a variety of boards.
While you may catch McEvoy in the community having coffee with constituents, there's another space you can find him—and it's online. He admittedly struggles to keep up with the variety of social media options, but notes that during the pandemic, he enjoyed posting updates to Facebook, because he thought of it as a service.
I have been posting daily updates on my Facebook. Detailed, accurate, informed information in one place, local, provincial, national, international. You can see them here: facebook.com/councillor.mce… #NewWest
— Jaimie McEvoy (@JaimieMcEvoy)
Apr 23, 2020
"I don't like participating in angry political debates online, and I don't think that's a useful way to communicate about political views, right? I don't do much politics on Twitter. Why would I write it out, sit down, and think out some thoughtful thing to say and have people reply," he says, noting that the limitation of 240 characters can create problems.
"I'm more interested in deeper dialogue. So, if I can put things out that are sort of information oriented, I feel that's an inclusive way ... to include everybody ... everybody's in, but it doesn't mean everybody gets their way."
Despite McEvoy being proud of all the work he's done in the past on council—he was part of the group that managed to create rules that would deter the practice of renovictions—he says he's still got lots ahead, much of it around housing.
"[For renovictions] we had to sit down in New West, and we actually told the staff and ourselves we wanted to have an attitude of, 'What can we do?' Figure that out, and then from that we came up with the out-of-the-box thinking that we could business license landlords. Can't we? Aren't they a business?"
While that's one for the win column, he admits there are some instances where that hasn't always been the case. After asking him about Holy Trinity Cathedral—the project proceeded without social housing—McEvoy says there is an opportunity for the city to be more aggressive.
"Our lobbying of the feds, we usually do through the [Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities] and New West has been active bringing motions to the UBCM, but ... we do need to have more meetings outside of New West with more government officials to press this issue. We've had some great potential projects in New Westminster that didn't qualify for funding only because there were too many applicants, not because there was a flaw in those proposals," he explains.
As for whether he's concerned about having newer councillors as part of chambers, McEvoy says he's not worried at all, noting that it's a good group that brings different perspectives to the table. "The new councillors will be getting briefings to learn more about access to senior management, to ask questions, and learn things," says McEvoy, who plans to brush up on some of the procedures through these meetings, too.
But what about the differences? While McEvoy is joined by three other Community First councillors, there are also two new members from the New West Progressives: Daniel Fontaine and Paul Minhas.
"I think the community-at-large wants us ... to get along to work well and wants to have a sense that everybody at the table is doing something for the good of the city. That's not going to happen if we just have a bunch of shenanigans back and forth ... or Joe Biden's word, malarkey," McEvoy notes with a smile. "There will be malarkey, of course—it's only natural, no matter what level of politicking you're doing."
By the way, history isn't his only hobby. McEvoy enjoys learning languages—once speaking Japanese to a presenter at a city council meeting—he's also a bit of a gamer, noting that Skyrim is one of his favourite games.
"If I've had a tough day, I'll go home, turn on my computer, and play," he says, adding he also enjoys dabbling in The Sims.
McEvoy has learned some American Sign Language (ASL)—some of which he's done during council meetings. He also knows Scots Gaelic and French—the latter of which he's used to speak to African immigrants.
"I feel like if there's an opportunity; English should not be the only language on council."