After more than eight years of shouting from the sideline, a well-known community activist is bidding to burst onto Richmond’s political field at next month’s municipal election.
Kerry Starchuk has been the grass-roots force behind the push for mandatory English on business signs and, among other things, lobbied for clampdowns on birth tourism and short-term rentals in the city.
However, according to Starchuk, she has had enough of being disregarded by city council, many of whom, she said, have been in office for too long.
And she now wants to step up and emulate the civic roles her great grandfather, William Bridge, once held as a former reeve (mayor) and school trustee.
“I’ve reached a point where I can’t go any further,” Starchuk told the Richmond News, just before dropping her election papers at city hall on Tuesday afternoon.
“If I can get on the inside, I can’t be dismissed (by city council) any more. I’ve been blatantly dismissed so many times, especially on the signage issue and been given the runaround.
“A lot of these people have been on council for a long time and I’ve thought I was voting for the best person. But it usually ends up being a huge disappointment.”
Starchuk said she has no issue with city staff, who’ve been “very approachable and very helpful,” it’s the politicians that have “been very narrow-minded.
“I got the same treatment on the birth tourism and short-term rental issues. I keep getting told that (birthing home operators and illegal hotels) are not doing anything illegal. But (council) are not doing everything they can to work with all levels of government to tackle these issues.”
Starchuk said there isn’t a day that goes by without a member of the public contacting her about the aforementioned issues.
“I do the best I can for them, but I need to get on the inside,” she added.
“I’ve been doing this for eight years now from the outside. I might be able to achieve more on the inside.”
Starchuk, who describes herself as a mortgage-free “full-time activist” with “a few cleaning jobs,” said she’s also tired of being told by councilors to just “take the money and run” out of Richmond, if she dislikes it that much.
“This is my home, though, I don’t want to run. And if I did, where do I run to?” she said.
“When I was looking at the archives, I realized how much Richmond meant to my family and myself. So I guess there is a sense of duty.
“My family is born and bred here, we live here, I’m doing this for future generations.”
Starchuk said, if elected, the first thing she would tackle would, unsurprisingly, be the language used on business signs across the city.
“Let’s get that sorted, once and for all. I would look to bring in a language bylaw for signs,” she said.
“As for short-term rentals, the city needs to get pro-active, rather than rely on complaints from the public to act. More resources need to be poured into it.
“I’m paying more taxes than ever, so where is all the money going? The Oval?”
To tackle the booming birth tourism industry in Richmond – whereby non-Canadians are understood to come specifically to gain citizenship for their newborn children – Starchuk admitted there are some “tough decisions that people will need to make.”
She has, over the last few years, enlisted the help of two Richmond MPs, the Conservative Party’s Alice Wong and the Liberal’s Joe Peschisolido to petition parliament to tackle birth tourism.
Indeed, Starchuk is very soon expected to dispatch the latter of the two MPs to Ottawa with the latest petition.