A chicken coop was a modest beginning for my life in Abbotsford, but I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities this great city has provided. It is a city that has given me much, and a community I want to serve; to give back to out of appreciation.

My mother and father were refugees who fled the southern Ukraine in 1943, ending up in a refugee camp in Germany. From there the Mennonite Central Committee chartered 3 ships to take 5,000 Mennonites to Paraguay, which is where my parents married and where I was born. I was 3 1/2 years old when I arrived in Abbotsford. I was afraid. I had no voice. I was a young child who couldn’t speak the language, who did not understand the culture, and who did not have a clue then what a phenomenal adventure life in my new home would be.

The early years were hard and whatever money my father earned barely covered the family necessities, food, clothing and shelter (no family car, just a bicycle). I became painfully aware of this at the grand opening of the Centennial Pool; I was 8 years old and wanted to go with my friends and asked my mother to buy me a bathing suit. I can still see the sadness in her face as she told me that we had no money to spare. Determined to go, I went with my friends and didn’t think swimming trunks were that different from my underwear and so I stripped down and jumped in the pool. Much to my embarrassment, I discovered that underwear and water do not go together. Everyone laughed and I went home crying. I have never forgotten those early years as I watched my father work long and hard so that his children could buy the things that we take for granted today.

Maybe that is why I have always wanted to help those who do not feel they have a voice, the men and women who are marginalized by society. I have learned to listen more carefully to them. In doing so, I heard from many in our community who can barely make it from month to month, especially some of the elderly on fixed incomes. They may have a place to live, but they can barely afford the cost of living, never mind the cumulative effect of taxes, fees, levies and, yes, water charges. Some of these costs are increasing at percentages far above that of their indexed pensions, or the salaries of working folks (many of whom haven’t had a raise in 2 years).

Although my decision to vote “No” on the water referendum was based on the mind-boggling referendum question and the flawed assumptions built into the City’s forecast models, I also listened and heard the anguish of many who will be burdened with the real cumulative costs of a Stave Lake Water Project. If elected, I am committed to stop the ever increasing cost of doing business at City Hall wherever possible. The trajectory of the last few years is unsustainable for many of our citizens. If elected, I will be an advocate for those who are afraid and feel they have no voice. Why? Because I know what it feels like to live in a chicken coop, unable and too afraid to speak.