The youngest declared candidate thus far in the provincial election locally plans to run as an independent in Kamloops-North Thompson.
Brandon Russell, 19, announced his MLA bid on Thursday afternoon (Oct. 1) outside the Chris Rose Therapy Centre for Autism in North Kamloops — while live streaming the event on Tik Tok.
Russell said the lack of youth representing his generation in the legislature spurred him to enter the race, noting the youngest elected MLA is 35-year-old Bowinn Ma from North Vancouver-Lonsdale.
“We need to see more youth and have more youth voices heard,” Russell said, adding he will be the third-youngest candidate running in the Oct. 24 election, based in confirmed candidates to date.
The deadline to file nomination papers with Elections BC is Friday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m.
Russell said having more young people seeking election is “especially exciting today because we are the change that B.C. desperately needs in politics.”
The lifelong Kamloops resident noted a list of items he intends to fight for if sent to Victoria, including increasing funding for schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and, afterwards, for special education programs. He also wants to end the Site C Dam project and a dedication from government to renewable and sustainable energy.
Addressing climate change and enhancing education are two of the main reasons Russell — who has helped the Chris Rose Centre with fundraising in the past — entered the political fray.
“People are fundraising for basic educational rights. If elected, I will help ensure that more funding is placed back into the hands of educational programs and not tax cuts for fossil fuel-emitting companies,” Russell said.
If elected, he also plans to submit a private member’s bill, calling for the creation of a standing committee on animal safety and justice.
He plans to fight for the assurance of stability and support for small businesses and economic stability for small, medium and large businesses during and directly after the pandemic.
Russell called for better management of the pandemic in B.C., criticizing Premier John Horgan for calling an early election at a time when the premier should be dedicated to protecting British Columbians, rather than consolidating power in the legislature.
Describing himself as centre-left on the political spectrum, Russell said he initially considered running for the Greens, but after speaking with their leadership, opted to seek office as an independent to be able to focus on local needs.
He said too often B.C. MLAs are forced to work within a party platform and feels it’s important Kamloops elect someone focused on the needs of the area.
Russell graduated from Valleyview secondary in 2019 and took a year off to figure out what he wanted to do, leading him to a decision to seek out politics.
He said he has always had an interest in politics and climate activism, having attended his first climate protest at eight years of age. He has also been a regular at model United Nations conferences during the past six years.
Russell is still seeking signatures to get on the ballot in Kamloops-North Thompson. The requirement is 75 signatures and he needs about 40 more by Friday at 9 a.m., and anyone interested in adding theirs can contact him by phone at 250-572-7654 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.