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Arts, culture and heritage: Where do Coquitlam 2022 candidates stand?

Coquitlam Heritage is hoping the next council can bring more attention to the sector, claiming it brings in twice the tourism money for the growing community.
Kaleidoscope Arts Festival 5 Coquitlam 2018
The annual Kaleidoscope Arts Festival at Town Centre Park in Coquitlam.

Will the next Coquitlam city council commit to investing more time, attention and funding to the city's arts and culture sector?

That's what Coquitlam Heritage Society recently asked local candidates ahead of the 2022 civic election — set for this Saturday (Oct. 15).

The organization claims council of the last four years chose to spend more taxpayer dollars on sports, parks and recreation facilities.

Coquitlam Heritage also says its sector brings in twice the amount of tourism money compared to sports each year.

As the city continues to grow in population and diversity, the group believes more funding is needed to share different cultures and experiences, and create a "sense of belonging" for all through mental health and anti-racism initiatives.

With that in mind, Coquitlam Heritage posed the following questions to candidates:

  • How do you understand arts, culture and heritage as a priority for the City of Coquitlam?
  • How might you approach prioritizing culture spending in the future?

As of this publication (Oct. 12), 16 out of 25 candidates have responded, which have been published online.

Their answers are as follows (in alphabetical order):


Adel Gamar

Question 1

"Growing up, the arts were central to my immigrant family, grounding me in culture and community.

"Coquitlam is a multi-generational, multilingual, and multicultural city. It is important that all residents see themselves reflected and celebrated across our city. Building a city for everyone includes creating belonging, tolerance, and understanding for all residents. Coquitlam has an unprecedented opportunity to invest and form a Coquitlam cultural and heritage district.

"As Mayor, I will champion Coquitlam’s diverse and vibrant arts and cultural sector. This requires meaningful outreach and proactive learning that starts with the leaders of our city and invites participation from all residents by:

  • Celebrating the cultures that make up the diverse fabric of Coquitlam through
  • inclusion and equity initiatives.
  • Ensuring representation of Indigenous peoples.
  • Engaging with community members, advocacy groups, and equity practitioners on
  • topics relevant to the planning and development of city spaces.
  • Amplifying the voices and stories of underrepresented residents of our city.
  • Empowering artists to create and connect across our neighbourhoods."

Question 2

"Prioritizing arts, culture, and heritage in our city means we must provide space, funding, and opportunities for outreach.

"It also means working closely with the organizations that provide arts, culture, and heritage services because they can best evaluate the ever-changing needs of residents while developing and implementing quality programming.

"Prioritizing culture spending includes:

  • Dedicating one per cent of annual municipal capital budget to commissioning public art projects,supporting venues and facilities, and building social infrastructure for arts and culture organizations.
  • Coordinating private resources to align with and supplement public funding."


Rob Bottos

"We must have a higher priority placed on culture in our community.  

"Historically our proximity to larger population centres has allowed us to rely on them for many of the arts and culture amenities which would generally be expected in a city of our size. As we continue to grow to more than 200,000 residents over the next decade, if Coquitlam is going to be a thriving community in its own right rather than a mere bedroom community, we must make some key investments. Firstly, we need to invest in our Coquitlam Heritage, and especially those aspects of our history that distinguish us from our Lower Mainland neighbouring communities. Much like the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Historic Site in Steveston, I envision a destination heritage site within Coquitlam, attracting people to learn about our unique past. Secondly, I believe we need a larger performing venue in the city. As more people are working at home and trying to avoid travel due to cost and environmental impacts, I would like to see a minimum 500-seat venue in our city. 

"This investment in culture will help ensure we remain a community that people who are in demand like family doctors choose to practice, rather than forcing us to commute out for service.

"The first step in this change is to commission an update to the current Arts, Culture, and Theatre Strategic Plan published in 2017 to reflect the changes which have occurred over the interim."

Phil Buchan

Question 1

"I worked in the Glenbow Museum in Calgary in the 1980s, so arts, culture and heritage have been very important throughout my life. I think arts, culture and heritage are very important priorities for our city. Our city needs to foster an environment where arts, culture and heritage are appreciated. Culture and arts help show the diversity in our community and brings everyone closer together and help them learn about other cultures. They also lead to people understanding other cultures and create a bridge between cultures. As for heritage we need to teach all generations about the past so we can move forward in the future. Coquitlam has a rich Indigenous history and we should be highlighting it and having exhibitions about it in our museums and galleries. We need to enable residents of our city to express themselves through art and culture."

Question 2

"I would prioritize cultural spending by consulting with the various stakeholders and learn more about the programs and services we presently have and future plans. I will advocate for the needed funding for culture because it is what makes our city the great cultural mosaic that it is and it brings tourists to our city and has great economic benefits. A strong cultural foundation makes our city a better place to live and strengthens the bonds between people in our community. It also enriches our lives and helps us learn about these cultures in Coquitlam. We need to work on giving more funding for education programs to combat the racism and discrimination that is occurring in our city as well."

Mohammad Darwish

Question 1

"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have my say on heritage in Coquitlam.

I am reminded by Funakoshi’s words, 'To reach for the old is to understand the new.' I believe we need to celebrate the artists, culture and heritage of our beloved Coquitlam to build a more vibrant future."

Question 2

"Cultural programs help build a healthy community by giving everyone a sense of belonging. That’s why we need a holistic approach to investing in cultural programs. We can find innovative ways to fund our programs over and above city funding by partnering with enthusiastic donors and the federal government. When the Hon. Pablo Rodriguez, former Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, visited Coquitlam, I helped organize a soirée at Mackin House, where residents engaged in lively conversations about culture among other topics. The possibilities are endless."

Matt Djonlic

"Arts and culture play a huge role in our city. They promote vibrancy, outside-the-box thinking, and foster a sense of community. Priorities for me over the next term would be to continue advocating for more library resources, plan for a new space for Place de Arts, and open up space for Coquitlam Heritage to be able to have exhibits and programs near Mackin Park. For our arts and culture to thrive we need the physical space to be able to host events and build on existing programs."

Craig Hodge (incumbent)

"Arts, culture and heritage are a top priority for me. I’m a past president of the Heritage Society and when first elected to council in 2011, I advocated for the city to establish a city archive and to buy the historic Booth Farm House. Since elected, I have been advocating to create a heritage strategic plan and worked with developers to save 23 heritage buildings in Maillardville.

"Most recently I lead the initiative to buy Trev’s store and the property across the street from Place des Arts. This key acquisition may present opportunities in the future to look at a possible expansion of our arts and heritage facilities which I believe should stay in Maillardville.

"I also helped to save the Riverview artifacts and archival material which I hope will someday be displayed in a permanent Heritage Centre."

Steve Kim (incumbent)

Question 1

"I’ve long been a strong supporter of arts, culture and heritage, in our city and beyond. So, I believe it's very important for the city to continually invest in our arts, cultural and heritage facilities and programs. The city’s cultural partners all play a vital role in the community, so it is imperative that our city continue to invest in, and provide continued support to arts, culture and heritage."

Question 2

"Where do I begin? I continue to support having the Major Recreation and Culture Facilities Roadmap as an ‘A’ Priority. As part of this, here are some high-level thoughts for the city’s cultural partners:

  1. Coquitlam Heritage - As an organization that is busting at the seams, I support the need to invest in facilities and accommodate growth for this organization.
  2. Place des Arts - I support the need to invest in facilities that accommodate growth for this organization.
  3. Evergreen Cultural Centre - I support the need to invest in facilities that accommodate growth for this organization.
  4. Coquitlam Public Library - I support the need for additional space so that its services can meet the needs of all across our city. Of course, the key piece here is timing. The pandemic disrupted timelines and extended priorities over more time, so my concern is to keep plans moving forward without further delay."

Paul Lambert

"I strongly agree that the City of Coquitlam has not supported arts, culture and heritage enough in recent years.

"I would like to offer four solutions to address this weakness in city policy.

  1. Increased funding
  2. Focus on community hubs for the arts, culture and heritage
  3. More events, especially cultural events
  4. More concerts and outdoor music

"First, we must always be careful with our city spending but clearly it is worth supporting arts, culture and heritage financially.

"Second, I propose we focus on making sure the three new community centres currently under construction: Maillardville, Burquitlam and Northeast Coquitlam, also become community hubs for arts, culture and heritage.

"We must also talk about Place Maillardville that was displaced from its longstanding facility when it was replaced with the Maillardville Community Centre.  I believe we need to continue to support Place Maillardville and ensure the organization is successful into the future.

"Third, I think we have a great opportunity to host more events in Coquitlam. The recent Dumpling Festival is a good example. I would also like to see the Blue Mountain Music Festival return to Coquitlam.

"Fourth, we have a beautiful new outdoor stage at Town Centre Park. I would like to see a weekly concert series from June through September. I would also like to see an indoor concert series at Evergreen Cultural Centre throughout the rainy months of the year."

Sean Lee

Question 1

"The role of culture and heritage is an important one in everyday entertainment and relaxation in the City of Coquitlam. Given that mental health crises are foreseeable in the near future, the imperative nature of such leisure activities should be acknowledged in promoting the quality of life, welfare, and mental health of our population. As well, culture and heritage facilities are an excellent source of community programs that provide community bonding, and multicultural experiences, cultivating sensibility and raising cultural sensitivity, for Coquitlam residents at all stages of life."

Question 2

"Because responding to the mental health crises is one of my major campaign pledges, the role of culture and heritage and the expansion of those facilities are of utmost importance. Thus, I will advocate for municipal support for culture and heritage programs and facilities and the organizations operating out of those facilities is of paramount significance in terms of promoting the mental health and well-being of Coquitlam residents at all stages of life."

Trish Mandewo (incumbent)

"Since I was elected in 2018, I have been advocating for arts, culture and heritage at the council table. I feel that as a city, we have not made arts and culture a priority. We have done some great things but overall strategy and action plan needs more work. We are a diverse community, rich in culture. We not only need a cultural centre that has a big theatre and has place for art displays, sound-proof space for musical instrument and choir practices and Coquitlam Youth Orchestra practice. We also need a museum; our heritage museum is way too small. We need to commit dollars to arts, culture and heritage. I also believe that we need to collaborate with our Indigenous neighbours as part of reconciliation in this work."

Dennis Marsden (incumbent)

"I support the advancement of an updated heritage master plan to identify the opportunities and needs for investment to support our heritage and culture.

"Currently, the facilities that we have available for both displays and storage of artifacts falls short of need and I believe are prohibitive in acquiring new assets.

"I expect that the completion of the heritage plan will include a vision and a path forward in terms of specific investment needed to address the current shortfalls and the role that celebrating our heritage can play in advancing inclusivity in our city.

"As you are aware, the Parks Rec & Culture Master Plan did identify some specific needs in the 2015-2020 window for funding to bring heritage up to a “basic service level” consistent with many other programs in the city, that said, I believe that we can and should do more.

"The creation of a capital reserve fund which I championed, has seen approximately $21 million of non-tax dollars set aside for investment in priority areas, one of which will be heritage. This may take the shape of new facilities on the recently acquired Brunette Avenue property and I welcome the discussion around the value of heritage as a stand-alone component of any facility versus being lumped together with the arts as some might suggest.

"I trust that this gives a high-level indication of my support and I look forward to continuing our discussions in the months to come."

Robert Mazzarolo

Question 1

"Arts, culture, and heritage is just as important as our city's parks, and recreational facilities. Arts, culture, and heritage have the ability to bring people together, educate, and foster sparks of creativity in our minds (especially in young ones). Building a complete city must include a vibrant arts, culture, and heritage sector. Coquitlam is fortunate to have a rich history from which residents can learn from and celebrate. Furthermore, provided Coquitlam's diverse and multicultural population, residents can celebrate and learn from the different cultures from around the globe that have chosen to call Coquitlam home."

Question 2

"After essential services such as water, sewer, etc., arts, culture, and heritage must be a priority for the city. Moreover, our city's arts, culture and heritage sector deserves advocates that not only advocate during municipal election campaigns, but also during the budget process where city decisions are made."

Leslie Roosa

Question 1

"My support and commitment for arts, culture and heritage has evolved through authentic experience and through the viewpoint of my profession as an educator. My authentic experience evolved in my youth as I was a dancer who received scholarships to and attended the San Francisco Ballet. As an educator I understand the importance of arts, culture and heritage as a healthy engagement for fostering well-rounded citizens from youth to their senior years.

"Arts, culture and heritage is a priority for the City of Coquitlam. Art, cultural and heritage activities enhance the quality of life for Coquitlam residents and provide for a more vibrant and healthy community. Arts, culture and heritage is 'the heart' of the community."

Question 2

"I value arts, culture and heritage. Therefore, I would be mindful of advocating for cultural spending within the confines of the Coquitlam city budget. I would also be open to meeting and listening to the arts, culture and heritage community to understand their needs. Furthermore, I would like to understand how the city might assist to provide more opportunities for citizens to participate in a diverse range of cultural, art and heritage activities that would benefit all Coquitlam residents."

Zoe Royer

"As a child, the arts helped me feel included at school, and gave me confidence in my academic studies. I recognize the vibrancy and diversity the arts, culture and heritage provide the community, capturing the hearts and minds of people in a way that welcomes everyone in. This vibe creates a magnet for tourism and our local economy.

"I was elected to council in Port Moody from 2011 to 2022, and chaired the city’s arts and culture committee, heritage commission, and served as library trustee for nearly a decade; noting libraries are important in community building. For as long as I can remember, I’ve championed the arts, advocating for artists, programming, events, and creator spaces.

"I value the preservation and revitalization of heritage assets, and support funding for programming, museums and archives, land use planning to include heritage incentives. Cities have a crucial role in acknowledging Indigenous history and advancing reconciliation with First Peoples. Throughout 2020, I worked in close collaboration with Coun. Amy Lubik (Port Moody) and Kwikwetlem Chief Hall. Our council report adopted in 2021, proposed meaningful partnerships with First Nations, cultural sensitivity training for staff and council, and UNDRIP as our framework for reconciliation.

"As elected leaders, we dedicate considerable effort to financial planning, land use management, emergency preparedness and optimizing our essential services; all fundamentally important in local government. If we ensure the arts, culture, heritage and reconciliation have gravitas at the council table, we will become a much more vibrant, resilient, inclusive and caring community."

Ali Tootian

Question 1

"Coquitlam is known as a multicultural city that respects and values diversity. This quality has invited and continues to attract many families to live in Coquitlam. Many parents would like to raise their children in an environment where cultures meet. They believe each art or culture offers freedom of mind and soul with a different language and approach. Through this positively challenged society, children experience a global-village type of community and belonging. The vision of where Coquitlam goes regarding art and cultural centers, programs and incentives, and cultural education is a priority. The city should adequately support trusted art and cultural organizations that celebrate diversity and educate the public about the heritage."

Question 2

"At the city level, it is possible and sometimes unavoidable to postpone or prioritize projects and spending. However, residents and organizations should experience transparent open-to-public development plans for art and culture. Investing in indoor and outdoor cultural facilities will boost the city’s spirit; therefore, I will plan to collect peoples’ opinions by conducting proper surveys and using the data to design and execute indoor and outdoor facilities for artistic and cultural activities and events. I will stand for a flat dedicated to cultural festivities, art shows, gatherings, and music events in some commercial buildings. I will stand for constant support for art and cultural organizations for their research, staff training, presentations, and public education."

Carl Trepanier

Question 1

"The city is guided by a detailed Arts Culture and Heritage Strategic Plan which augments its Parks Recreation and Culture Master Plan. Both plans are at or past mid-life and require some examination and updating to orient them to present day realities and assess the effect of events like the pandemic. Overall I feel the city places a value on heritage as shown by its support of Mackin House and the employment of archivists on city staff. I believe it could and should do a better job displaying heritage. It is long past time we planned for a dedicated Coquitlam Museum to provide space for a larger display of our heritage including items that are stored at Mackin and the city archives. Arts and culture have some great spaces and the city promotes a number of events that support these areas. I believe Place des Arts should have a new home as it has outgrown its present facility and is limited not by demand but by space to fulfill the demand in the community."

Question 2

"We have a very active and diverse cultural community in Coquitlam. My approach to prioritizing spending would be to continue to draw and support cultural events to make full use of our various existing facilities in the short term. In the medium term, I would work with cultural groups to ensure we are adequately providing for their needs. One instance of this would be to work with the Highland Games group to ensure we keep this event in Coquitlam. In the medium and long term, we need to allocate funds for facilities to encourage our arts and culture groups to program more events and opportunities to engage with the public. We also need to retain and attract commercial arts and culture businesses into Coquitlam. Many are having a hard time maintaining their presence due to unfair tax policies where their buildings are overtaxed due to provincial assessment policies. We need to advocate for fair assessments, or these groups will no longer have a home in Coquitlam."

We will add more candidate responses when they become available.