Vancouver city council candidates discuss equity concerns

Hot Pink Paper Campaign outlined eight key priority issues after consultation with community

This is a photo from the SFU public square event where city council candidates are sitting at tables in front of an audience.
The panel conversation was followed by resident discussion and reception. PHOTO: Pranjali J Mann / The Peak

By: Pranjali J Mann, News Writer

On September 26, SFU Public Square and the department of gender, sexuality and women’s studies hosted a forum for Vancouver city council candidates to discuss issues of equity in the city. The event was moderated and organized by Ginger Gosnell-Myers and Women Transforming Cities (WTC): a “grassroot community of intersectional feminists.” 

Under WTC’s Hot Pink Paper Campaign, the organization has outlined eight key policy issues for candidates to address in their campaign. WTC’s campaign aims to amplify “the voices of communities who are otherwise not heard in the election process.” They work to hold the mayor and council accountable to the commitments they make. Key issues were centered in the conversation with the council and mayoral candidates. The issues discussed included the opioid epidemic, tenant’s rights, trans rights, and more.

Social Justice Programs 

Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) started off the evening discussing funding and council budgeting of social justice programs in Vancouver. Nancy Trigueros from COPE said it’s important to have a participatory budget process wherein the community and local organizations can give their input. “In budgets we need to do more, we need to serve the community and the priorities are very clear. We have people in the streets, we have women without houses.” This response and urge for participatory budgeting was echoed by other candidates as well. 

Housing Crisis

The next question related to the downtown eastside housing crisis. The conversation focused on single-room occupancy (SRO) accommodations in Vancouver. SRO’s are privately owned small one-bedroom hotels or non-market residence buildings that are made affordable for low-income individuals. On this, Morgane Oger from Progress Vancouver stated, “The situation in SRO’s in Vancouver is untenable. We have a significant number of people who refuse to participate in the SRO system because the servers are unsafe, and it’s just inhuman to ask people to go into dangerous situations when they’re safer outside.” She added, “We’re going to ask the city to set up the Vancouver Civic Housing Commission, which is going to act as a landlord and buy up land and make it available for rental in the mixed affordability model.” 

Tesicca Truong from Forward Together also built on the need of creating affordable housing by stating their party would work “with other levels of government, whether that be federal or provincial, to get some long term housing.” She added, “Being homeless is not a crime, and for too long we’ve been criminalizing poverty.”

Rebecca Bligh, incumbent councilor and returning candidate from A Better City (ABC) Vancouver highlighted the need for collaboration between various levels of government to work on the deep rooted housing crisis in Vancouver. 

Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Vancouver candidate, Melissa de Genova, also echoed the demand for collaboration between government levels and hoped to create low barriers to housing and opening newer avenues for social housing. 

Indigenous Reconciliation

VOTE Socialist and Green Party of Vancouver were asked to present their views on the issue of Indigenous self-determination and reconciliation, particularly for Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. VOTE Socialist was represented by Sean Orr, who said, “I notice this is a colonial system that we’re working in [ . . . ] And we need to decolonize that.” He suggested some potential steps including giving Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples the right of first refusal for every land and stock sold, and returning Indigenous lands back. Orr expressed returning authority to Indigenous owners as a solution and stated, “Return that land [and] let the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples build on that land however they see fit.”  

On behalf of Green Party of Vancouver, Devyani Singh said, “it is their land and they should have the right to say and be part of the economic development of this land which has been denied to them [ . . . ] I understand what it is like to be colonized.” She said the party will work alongside the community to “find innovative ways to include them at all levels of government, decolonize and truly work with them to make use of these opportunities.” 

Community Safety

TEAM for a Livable Vancouver called for “due diligence, accountability, and oversight” on the problem of community safety in the city. Their candidate Grace Quan, recommended having the position of a commissioner within the city police which would provide an “ombudsman approach so that people who are not getting the right responses from the traditional forces or different services, they have someone they can go to.” An ombudsman approach would include having a person in-charge to represent them and provide solutions outside of the institution’s existing hierarchy. This approach has been used in Ontario.   

Climate Change

The panel concluded with a question on climate emergency and “zero carbon mobility,” which was answered by candidate of Vision Vancouver, Lesli Boldt. She noted that under the city’s climate emergency action plan, work needs to be done to both “support transit enhancements” and green buildings. She declared that if elected, they would “extend the Broadway subway out to UBC so that students and folks on the West side can come in.” 

OneCity Vancouver’s candidate Iona Bonamis proposed placing amenities for residents closeby to enable less use of transportation, thus cutting carbon emissions. She said, “When you’re planning all types of uses to be located close together, you’re enabling people to walk or bike. [You could] transit to those places much more easily without having to get into a car, and so the climate emergency plan calls for 90% of people to live within an easy walk or [bike to] their daily amenities.”

You can get more information on the candidates and their campaigns, here