Let’s take a moment — to step back from the political dramas roiling away in Vancouver. Let’s instead take a peek at the Right To the City Conference in Barcelona.
Sprung from the movement The Global Platform for the Right to the City, established in São Paulo in November 2014, its purpose is to build an international movement to fight for progressive policies around housing, its financialization, and the problems this has brought to cities around the world, including Vancouver.
The main premise is that housing is a basic human right. David Madden, author of In Defense of Housing and a sociology professor at the London School of Economics, spoke at the conference on May 10 (as did Price Tags contributor Andy Yan, Vancouver’s “Duke of Data”), and has summed up the issue as such:
“Housing is never just about housing, but about ideology, power, race…it can be used as a tool to resist and transform an unequal society or to reproduce the status quo“.
Read more of Madden’s ideas in this short presentation What is Housing For?.
Which quickly brings us to Vancouver, where the struggle for leading the political charge on housing lurches between two dominant parties, a few fringes, and a mixed bag of independents…as the fall civic election draws ever closer.
Who will resist and transform, and who will represent the status quo?
It’s hard to know what’s going on with the NPA. Maybe the current defections, smoke and noise are a simple distraction from the real work happening at PCGalore, the used computer business owned by NPA’s Prez Gregory Baker.
Maybe a clever plan is unfolding behind the scenes, involving a stellar mayoral candidate and an air-tight platform that will bring relief to a city population stressed-out over housing. Maybe.
So far, it does seem that the NPA has resisted the attempt by a large, young cohort of members to bring a focus on housing to their civic platform. It seems they’ve decided to double down on their roots — the status quo — where bike lanes must be vilified, and the word “rezoning” must never be uttered. It’s hard to conclude anything else.
Clearly, the resistance has spawned serious friction, with accusations of social media nastiness and racism, stern denials of any wrongdoing, and new Facebook page Not My NPA that reminds me of the late and lamented attack blog City Caucus, except less restrained or polished. What it sounds like is finality — a major split between the NPA and those concerned with housing, with no going back, and no clever plan to save the day.
Time will tell how their next-level plans will play out. Perhaps the master plan is for Glen Chernen to cruise around again in his muscle car, gunning the engine, flapping the platform slogan: “Housing Shmousing — TEAR OUT the Point Grey Road bike lane”. Ya gotta admit, it’s a smokin’ photo-op.
Amid apparent losses of NPA board members (Natasha Westover and Sarah Weddell no longer appearing on the NPA website), several pro-housing candidate defections, plus various public accusations and counter-accusations, we now see some media analysis of the situation.
Gary Mason reviews it all as a gong show, in this Globe and Mail article:
The [mayoral] field is getting congested, with the possibility of the so-called progressive vote splintering in all directions. This could open the door to a winner from the centre-right Non-Partisan Association.
That is, if the NPA wasn’t in the process of imploding.
The party is now enveloped in an ugly controversy involving Hector Bremner, who currently sits on council under the NPA flag. . . .
Mr. Bremner’s supporters believe there is something else afoot. They say the board has been stacked with supporters of Glen Chernen, someone who is also seeking the party’s nomination for mayor.
Mr. Chernen is an interesting fellow, to say the least. He ran for mayor in the last election under the banner of the fringe Cedar Party, which he founded. He was a non-entity. He became best known for launching frivolous lawsuits against Mr. Robertson. In the last election, he was anti-development, anti-rapid transit (he was against the Broadway subway) and all about lowering property taxes. In other words, he was the Back to the Future candidate.
. . . . Sure, there might be some bluebloods on the city’s west side yearning for the good old days who might fall under the thrall of Mr. Chernen’s status quo, let’s-give-the-city-back-to-the-people message. But he couldn’t win the city. Not a chance.
Devon Rowcliffe in the Tyee
Perhaps an equally feasible reason for Bremner’s disqualification from running for the NPA’s mayoral nomination was internal opposition to an upstart youngster who wanted to steer the party in a radically different direction. The NPA’s voting base has traditionally been landowners in detached houses in Vancouver’s West Side who likely wouldn’t react positively to Bremner’s vision of mass upzonings across large swathes of the city.
Political veteran and NPA park board commissioner John Coupar, perhaps seen as Bremner’s main opponent for the NPA’s mayoral nomination, publicly scorned Bremner’s reformist housing agenda. . . .
A veritable who’s-who of former and current NPA politicians threw their support behind Coupar’s nomination bid, suggesting that the party’s old guard was not ready to let a young reformist take the lead.
Another significant – and new – faction in the NPA was also hostile to Bremner’s housing plans. Its unofficial leader is Glen Chernen . . .
But regardless of whom becomes the NPA’s mayoral candidate, the young, urbanist, millennial vote will now be next to impossible for the NPA to recapture.
For me, the next issue in this electoral swirl is: where will the housing-focused ex-NPA hopefuls, with their powerful messages, supporters and voters, ultimately land?
A new party? An existing party? Latching onto an independent mayoral candidate like Shauna Sylvester or Kennedy Stewart? Could they simply lead the charge on housing, and become makers of mayoral royalty? Or are they lost sheep, ever struggling for visibility and a voice?
And, most importantly, where can I get the money shot of the slogan-bedecked Camaro?