Serving You: Spencer Chandra Herbert
For Spencer Chandra Herbert, being an MLA means meeting people where they're at
You & Me BC
April 5th, 2022
In this series, we talk with elected representatives from across BC, getting to know them and the issues they care about most.
In this entry, we talk with Spencer Chandra Herbert Vancouver - West End MLA, Deputy Speaker of the provincial legislature, and lifelong lover of his community.
Spencer Chandra Herbert Quick Facts:
Hero: My husband Romi - he's not only a great husband and father, he founded BC's first gender-sexuality alliance at 16 in Maple Ridge, which took so much courage
Favourite location: Stanley Park
Hobbies: Karaoke and history
Favourite movie: Children of Men - a message of hope among horrible conditions
Favourite food: Sushi
Interesting fact: I'm a twin! I've also worked as a pyrotechnician, a landscaper, and an artist.
How did you get involved in politics?
Spencer: I was raised to be a volunteer – my parents said if you want to change something, then go help.
I wrote my first letter to the editor of a paper when I was 10, about the need to protect dolphins and other sea life.
After many years of volunteering, people suggested that I run for the park board. I did that, and somehow I got elected at age 24.
Then after three years on the park board, people encouraged me to run to be the MLA in the West End. Seeing homelessness, and the impact of climate change and mental health challenges, I decided to give it a go, and at 27 was elected MLA.
What do you consider the most important issues for the West End?
Spencer: Short-term, with long-term implications, is affordability. Can people manage to live a good life, together with their families, where they're at now?
Longer-term, but with an increasingly evident impact, is climate change. We’re seeing food prices go up as a result, which impacts affordability, and this happens in a province that's still very unequal.
Poor people and vulnerable people are impacted by these things much worse, and we have to address that.
Happy Family: Romi (left), Dev (centre), and Spencer (right)
What are your goals for 2022?
Spencer: I think my goal's to find better ways to get people the things they need to live good lives and achieve their dreams.
That’s pretty broad, but for the West End it means building more affordable housing, getting rent supplements, and getting more mental health supports in place.
To do this we have to ask how we make mental health support and supportive housing actually work for some of the most challenged people in the area. West Enders see the impact of people dealing with issues like this that have been neglected for too long.
With all your work in Victoria, how do you keep a close connection to the West End?
Spencer: The best way I find is to be available in the community. That means not requiring people to book an appointment 20 months out for a chance that I'll speak with them for a few minutes on the phone.
I like to just stand out on the corner and talk spontaneously with people. I work for them and being approachable is part of being in this role. I want to reduce gatekeeping as much as possible.
Spencer taking to the streets to meet his West End constituents
What's so special about the West End to you?
Spencer: There’s so many people together in a small area, that it has forced us to find ways to live together that others may not have. When you're this close, virtually every little thing your neighbours do impacts you.
We value our parks, public areas, and community spaces even more because of it. I think it’s led to more community, but it can also lead to less if we don’t work together, and that's why keeping our sense of togetherness is so important here.
What are you proudest of in your career so far?
Spencer: I'm not ready to choose a specific one, but it feels good when I've helped someone get into housing and years later I see them doing well.
I'm also proud that we've helped renters by getting rid of fixed-term tenancy, freezing rent increases for 2 years, as well as cutting rent increases.
Supporting the arts is another big one for me. Increasing arts supports to the highest levels they've been is something I consider an accomplishment.
But I'm not retiring yet, and I think to really answer this question properly I'll need to look back on my career when it's over.
To learn more about Spencer Chandra Herbert, visit spencerchandraherbert.ca
To get in touch with Spencer van Vloten, editor of You & Me BC, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org