Positioning his youth as an advantage, Jaeden Dela Torre aims to better represent the younger generation should he win the Steveston – Richmond East riding. (Photo provided)

Richmond, British Columbia

Filipino-Canadian teen looks to make a difference in this year’s Federal Elections

By Carlo Javier

The round-framed spectacles, the parted, wavy hair evoking scholarly sensibilities. If the look is of any indication, Jaeden Dela Torre can confirm it. Growing up, he wanted to be Harry Potter. “I wanted to be the hero, but I didn’t feel like I could be because I didn’t look like him,” he says. “It was very hard for me to relate.”

Yet now, the 18-year-old FIlipino-Canadian is making a name for himself as the NDP candidate for the Steveston – Richmond East riding at this year’s Federal Elections.

Dela Torre graduated from Steveston-London secondary in 2018 and continues to live in Richmond.

The youngest of three siblings, Dela Torre studies political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Dela Torre’s entry into politics was borne out of an organic curiosity. Students in the BC K-12 system often learn about the levels of Canadian Government in Grade 11 and for Dela Torre, education were quickly translated into action. He immediately found volunteering opportunities and instantly relished the opportunity to visit houses door-to-door. “Honestly, it was actually door-knocking that inspired me the most,” he admits. “I remember before I got into politics, I just thought it was kind of boring, it’s just people sitting down on a desk, but when I went canvassing, that’s when you kind of learn the issues affecting people on the ground.

He further adds that popular media often focuses on illustrating press conferences and rallies, but tend to eschew scenes of the interaction between politicians and voters. And it’s through these intimate, face-to-face interactions where Dela Torre came to find his own leanings regarding the political spectrum. That’s when I realized that this is what happens when you have a government that implements policies that are not helping anyone or are either helping out a small group of people, but they’re leaving out the rest of us,” he said.

His fondness for canvassing has also been a boon to his ongoing campaign, considering it as among the more exciting aspects of the process. Though he admits that the ground he has to cover on a daily basis was initially a bit of a shock, especially since his previous experience often only involved one or two days of canvassing per week.

Despite the grind, Dela Torre says that having his family be active in supporting and engaging with his campaign has helped his mentality throughout this election season.

It is easy to look at Dela Torre’s youth and inexperience as red flags for his candidacy, but the hopeful politician sees his youth as among his greatest strengths. “Because I am a lot younger than my other opponents, it’d be easier for me to connect with people my age,” he says. 

jaeden dela torre

Dela Torre is no stranger to hearing his youth be deemed an obstacle in his political aspirations. Last year, he had hoped to make a bid for Board of Education, but was ruled too young for the election. “I was basically shut out,” he said. “The timing was terrible. That was a sting because I really wanted to run and represent young people.”

At the time, he was just two weeks short of turning 18.

In terms of issues close to the interests of the younger generation, Dela Torre notes housing and climate as two stand outs. “For the past four years, the government has been inactive or 50/50 on the issue,” he says, We need more affordable housing because it’s a growing crisis, it’s a growing issue.

According to Dela Torre, the NDP plan on investing in affordable housing by building 500,00 affordable housing units within the next decade – while aiming to complete half of the goal within the next five years. Dela Torre also states that there are plans to invest in more co-op housing programs to help ease the financial strains on young families.

As many Vancouverites saw with the climate march last month, the passion towards the perils of climate change is also evident with Dela Torre. “We hear from the conservatives, their whole thing is balancing the books – well that’s great, but if you think about it, who really cares about the books being balanced if there’s no planet to live on?” he says ominously.

Dela Torre is especially critical of big oil industries and looks at green technology and green economy as not just means of preserving the environment, but also to boosting jobs. “Invest in creating sustainable industries, because these jobs in oil, fossil fuel, and gas, they’re jobs in the 20th century, but we need jobs in the 21st century.

Lastly, Dela Torre is cognizant of another point of pressure that stands with his campaign. Filipino-Canadians in the Canadian political landscape come so few and far between. His engagement in itself, can be a point of pride for the diaspora. “Everytime I did something I was very subconscious that I’m the only Filipino guy there with a bunch of older people who i can’t relate to, it felt really awkward,” he says. 

These days, Dela Torre is all about embracing that identity.