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Election: Parent group founder goes it alone in Richmond

Dong Pan, one of the organizers of grass roots group Parents Care, wants to draw attention to school board's proposed LGBT sensitivity policy
Dong Pan
Dong Pan is running as an independent candidate in the riding of Richmond North Centre.

One of the organizers of a parents group that challenged the Richmond School Board’s proposed LGBT policy is running as an independent in the upcoming provincial election.

Political newcomer Dong Pan is taking part in the May 9 race for the new Richmond North Centre seat, partly to draw attention to what he calls the board’s “lack of consultation” over its controversial sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) sensitivity plan.

Richmond resident and dad-of-two Pan — who, as well as being one of the founders of Parents Care, is a product manager in Richmond with global software company SAP — recognizes that the remit of an MLA doesn’t usually involve school board policy-making.

But he told the Richmond News this week that, as well as being motivated by economic issues in B.C., he’s been so “disturbed” by the school board’s actions, that he felt compelled to step up.

“Nearly 6,000 people signed a petition (presented to the board in opposition to the SOGI policy), but there has been next to no dialogue and no real consultation,” said Pan, who plans to take some vacation days to focus on his self-funded campaign.

“There seems to be an oppression of different viewpoints. If (the viewpoint) is not in the mainstream, they’re shut down and feel intimidated.

“This is not the only reason I’m running, but it is a social issue that demands attention. We need to have free speech; we can’t have the thought-police running Canada.”

Pan — who will be up against the BC Liberal’s Richmond Centre incumbent Teresa Wat and the BC NDP’s Lyren Chiu, also a political rookie — said the fact one of the parents associated with Parents Care was “heckled and hissed” at the last school board meeting is a “worrying sign” that needs to be addressed.

“Disagreement doesn’t mean discrimination. We live in a very multicultural city and multiculturalism means different viewpoints.”

Pan said that, if elected, he would, “encourage (school trustees) to have real dialogue with the parents and a real democratic process that reflects different views.”

Pan’s fellow Parents Care organizers, Colleen Howu and Flora Wen, told the News last month the SOGI policy, which is in the draft stage, is “discriminatory” and unfair to other minority groups — citing autistic kids and victims of cyberbullying.

Another concern raised by the group was the protection of “family values” and an apparent need for more scientific evidence on SOGI.

Howu added that a SOGI policy could potentially convert otherwise heterosexual students.

Away from the SOGI issue, Pan said all three of B.C.’s main political parties have, when it comes to the economy, housing and education, “betrayed” voters’ interests and values.

“Their values don’t align with that of many people,” added Chinese-born Pan, who has worked all over the world, before settling down in Richmond in 2011.

“There doesn’t appear to be any long-term solutions; all we get from the government are Band-Aid solutions.”

Pan said the B.C. economy cannot sustain the current real estate market growth and the foreign-buyer tax only “provides temporary relief to the over-heated real estate market in the single-family house section,” adding that “such a market distortion is not the permanent cure.”

“The government must play a vital role in increasing the supply of housing; otherwise the home price will continue to rise inevitably,” Pan states in his blog.

Building a geographically, multi-centered economy in Metro Vancouver, so people do not have to commute all the way to downtown Vancouver for well-paid jobs is one of the solutions offered by Pan.

In terms of education, Pan cited the chronic “under-funding” of the province’s education system and that the B.C. government’s over-reliance on energy-based industry is an Achilles heel that also needs attention, adding the focus should switch to a technology base.

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