I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of young people in my jobs as Vancouver city councillor and SFU City Program Director.   You know almost immediately that some are ones to watch.  Someday they’ll be thinking of running for office in their city.  Someday they’ll be running their city.

Like Paul Hillsdon.  He’s running for council in Surrey – one of those Millennials who are jumping over the Gen Xers, aiming for an empty seat.  He’s 28, born and raised in Surrey.   That means he was born four years after Expo 86.  After Expo.  And this is his second run for city council.  Take that, Boomers.

The Expo Generation has come of age, and they reflect the demographic and immigration realities of their generation, more of them with roots in the global south and Asia than Europe.  Paul is half Japanese (his grandpa and family were interned in Greenwood), the only Asian guy in his class with one other South Asian guy. “We were bananas and coconuts, and felt the need to westernize – but still with the sense of being identified with the underdog.”   Today, his husband is South Asian and a Muslim.  He’s running with a party, Surrey First, whose leader is South Asian.

As a Millennial, he reflects on what he sees as his generational values: “Collaboration, getting along with others, seeing other’s perspective.  Relying on evidence rather than authority.”   That’s not surprising for a generation raised in a culture where there are so many other perspectives and so many other kinds of people to get along with.  It doesn’t always work out for the best; social civility depends on culture, and the culture depends on good leadership.

Paul also typifies the meme of his time: thinking global, acting local.  Big issues like global sustainability and climate change (and pipelines) matter a lot to them.  But the biggest one affecting his generation is, of course, local housing opportunities.

Paul, as someone who has actually read policy papers and produced some of his own, is an advocate for density and transportation.  He has to be; it’s his job as South of Fraser Rapid Transit Project Planner, working on LRT as a planner for TransLink. (He’s taking unpaid leave for the duration of the campaign. )  He’s not opposed to SkyTrain in Surrey, but he puts in the qualifications immediately (depends on the costs and benefits) and then moves on to the fun facts.  “Seventy-six percent of those travelling within South of Fraser stay South of Fraser.”  The real priority for transit is not connecting Surrey to Vancouver but connecting Surrey to Surrey.

Paul’s perspective: “We are united by the issues of infrastructure.”


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