OUR FUTURE YOUR PATH | Meet Katrina Chen
MLA, Mother, Immigrant
Katrina Chen is extremely proud to be one of 29 women of 57 New Democratic Party (NDP) members of the Legislative Assembly, sworn in during a virtual ceremony on November 24, 2020. It is the first provincial governing caucus in Canadian history to have a majority of women. She has every reason to be proud. Nobody understands better how important it is that women are represented at the political table than Katrina, herself a mother of a young son and an immigrant to Canada at 17.
Katrina Chen was elected as the MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed in May 2017 and re-elected in October 2020. She was sworn in as the Minister of State for Child Care in July 2017 and has made inclusive universal child care a reality in BC with the comprehensive Childcare BC plan. “Affordable childcare gives children a strong foundation for the future and keeps our economy and communities moving by giving parents the option to return to work, go back to school or pursue other opportunities,” she says.
Why Politics? To Change Policy!
Her work has paid dividends. The recent BC Budget 2021-2021 announced that child care spaces under BC’s $10-a-day program are doubling to 3,750 over the next three years. Also, wages for early childhood educators will be enhanced by $2 an hour, doubling the amount announced in last year’s budget. “The news is significant,” she says. ”It is vital for women to have equitable rights to the economy. Affordable childcare will empower more women to work, and the policy changes will benefit thousands of families going forward.”
Being able to influence policy is what drew Katrina into politics. She understands firsthand what numerous research papers reflect: women’s participation in politics affects the range of policy issues and solutions proposed, emphasising the priorities of families, women, and ethical and racial minorities.
Working as a Constituency Assistant in both provincial and federal constituency offices for more than ten years, she witnessed the impact of government policies and funding cuts. Single-parent and visible minorities households were particularly affected by health care, education, affordable housing and senior care. Her belief that access to equitable, quality education is the foundation of a democratic society defined her focus. Before being elected as MLA, Katrina served as a Trustee on the Burnaby Board of Education.
“My political goal is to contribute to a more equitable society by investing in the crucial services we need and impacting policies.” On a more personal note, she adds: “My child gives me the experience of growing up in Canada and the beautiful community of Burnaby. I see hope in the children around me, and my wish is that they grow up to be bold and to believe in themselves.”
What I Know Now!
“We all have a blind spot–a lens that sees the world through our particular set of privileges or prejudices, and that is why we need a diversity of representation at the political table forming policies. I know now that my political participation represents an intersection of gender, race and youth and serves democracy. It is this knowledge that gives me confidence and fortitude to be a young woman in politics”, says Katrina.
What after Covid?
Recently, Katrina has been serving on the Cabinet Working Group on COVID. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a lot of inequities in Canadian society. The federal government estimates that during the pandemic, at least 16,000 women are out of the job market altogether, while the male labour force has grown by 91,000 over the same period. Almost half a million Canadian women who lost their jobs still hadn't returned to work as of January 2021. By addressing childcare, Katrina hopes to support their return to work.
“The opportunity is to have the tough conversations about the challenges we face,” says Katrina. “COVID gives us a new perspective on what is important in our democracy. It has impacted people and exposed them to the gaps in our health care and senior care systems. We have seen that women and people of colour have been more adversely affected by the pandemic for many social and economic reasons, and we can and must do better. Going forward, I hope we will become a more compassionate nation, and the lesson will be to value the strength of our diversity and democracy.”
Katrina is one of the panelists for the FireCircle gathering on May 29, 2021 that launches an innovative, inviting, and inclusive comprehensive engagement and preparatory program for women and non-binary people who may be interested in running a political campaign in the next one to five years.
The virtual FireCircle is a Saturday morning gathering hosted and championed by individuals who have held or are holding public office for individuals interested to learn more about public office and explore the possibility of preparing for it in the future. The FireCircle is designed to convene, inspire, and mobilize women and non-binary people to consider expanding their leadership through this unique and inclusive opportunity - OUR FUTURE YOUR PATH - to potentially prepare for public office.