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Johnston, Au join new political slate

Veteran councillors Chak Au and Ken Johnston will be running under the Richmond Community Coalition banner for the November election, they announced during a press conference on Monday in the plaza outside the Richmond Cultural Centre. - Martin van den Hemel photo
Veteran councillors Chak Au and Ken Johnston will be running under the Richmond Community Coalition banner for the November election, they announced during a press conference on Monday in the plaza outside the Richmond Cultural Centre.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

Couns. Ken Johnston and Chak Au will run under the banner of the newly-formed Richmond Community Coalition.

At an announcement Monday afternoon in the plaza outside Richmond Cultural Centre, Sylvia Gwozd, candidate chair of the coalition, introduced the veteran politicians as the group’s first candidates.

“There is one area that I’d like to see improved and that drew me to the coalition,” Johnston said. “Civic engagement and voter turnout. It’s been a disappointment.”

Richmond’s voter turnout reached a low of 22.1 per cent in 2008, with just 27,709 residents casting a ballot. In 2011, that number jumped modestly to 23.7 per cent, with 31,126 ballots cast.

Johnston, formerly with Richmond First, said he’d like to see better engagement with residents between elections as well.

“We’ve already had one town hall meeting. There’s another town hall meeting directed towards youth who are really the future of this city, and there will be other town hall meetings.”

Au said he joined the coalition because he also wants better engagement with the public.

Originally from Hong Kong, Au said he holds a degree in social working and a doctorate in counselling, which means he’s a good listener.

“In a way I was trained to listen, because that ‘s my job,” he said. “Listening to other people is part of my nature. I think this is very important for a community like Richmond, where we have people coming from all over the world...coming with different experiences and lifestyles.”

Au won his first council term in 2011 with the Richmond Independent Team of Electors, or RITE—a banner he also ran under for four terms on school board.

According to organizers, the Richmond Community Coalition is vetting prospective candidates before endorsing them, requiring them to fill out and sign a 40-page document as well as complete an interview process.

As other candidates surface who meet its criteria, the coalition will announce support for them. That could occur in the next few weeks, according to Gwozd.

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