Well, party people — this is the week we slip in under the 30-day countdown to the BC-wide municipal elections.
Vancouverites will soon get their first look at the new, random order ballot, which will benefit some; for others, a high rank may not make much difference, due to the lack of a suffix after their name. Party brand.
Does it matter this election? Is it reasonable for policies and personalities alone to outshine party affiliations?
We’ve been trying to figure that out by asking four independent council candidates a series of questions — on housing (Part I), transportation (Part II), and their decisions to run for public office (Part III).
Today — in a nutshell, why should we care about them as candidates?
How do you differ from other candidates in how you approach issues?
Considering my experience in health-focused non-profit organizations, I approach politics and relationship building through compassion and care, not hostility and pre-judgement.
Coming from an academic background in biology, health policy and now studying social justice, I’m acutely aware of how global processes affect people’s health and the health of our city on a smaller level.
So from this perspective, I will approach solutions to municipal issues that promote health and well-being across the intersections of income, gender, sex, ethnocultural background, abilities, citizenship and age in our communities.
I’ve been very successful with advocacy, and I think it’s because of experience. When someone comes to me with a problem, I can walk them through what they need to do, be honest with the timeframes, who to talk to, how to get things done. Because I’ve done both sides of it.
In this election, we really need to think about who has experience, because if they don’t have experience to begin with, it’s hard to expect that they’ll just learn on the job immediately. Who has experience in really helping people, and a track record?
I think people say, “She’s been an advocate, I’ve seen her push as hard as she possibly can and get through some really tough issues on behalf of people and be successful.” I would hope that they would think that I could do that for them when I’m in city hall and tough things come down.
I’m going to let the public know what’s really going on, and what I think really needs to be done, or what the community is telling me, and be able to get up there and kick some ass. I think people lack someone that can just get up there and say it like it is.
Everyone’s got their own approach to issues that are largely rooted in their values. So I don’t know if my approach is any different — I have values, and my platform articulates those values. A lot of it is around complete communities, creating diversity in neighbourhoods, social equity issues, and that sort of stuff.
I think what differentiates me as an independent candidate is the fact that I’m able to support other people’s positions no matter what party they’re in. What bothered me about the brief time I spent trying to exist in party politics is you had to take knee-jerk, oppositional positions to other parties’ proposals, even when some of it overlapped with stuff that you would support, all other things being equal. And that just doesn’t seem like the way to work together.
Obviously, I have friends in a bunch of different parties, and I like the fact that I can still show up and support them. So I can be at a Shauna Sylvester event supporting a lot of what she’s doing. I went to Leo Heba’s event for his Park Board launch. You can pick people that you know are good people and you want to support, and do that without running afoul of party lines. So I think that’s what differentiates independents in general. There are some higher profile independents, so maybe they have a chance this year. We can actually come out and support each other, and support other parties when it makes sense to do so.
Hopefully, if any of us make it in to council, we can continue that level of working with other parties, without getting into a Vision-NPA kind of dichotomy, where the NPA is just the unofficial opposition to everything that Vision put forward, which is not a healthy relationship for municipal politics. You’ve got a level of tribalism that doesn’t really belong in municipal politics. Municipal politics is way less about ideology than federal or provincial politics would be. Municipal politics is about nuts and bolts issues, like sewers and infrastructure, stuff that shouldn’t fall on a left or right spectrum. I understand the financial stuff does often fall on a left or right spectrum, but not much else does.
So having this party friction back and forth doesn’t make any sense. It’s nice to stand outside of that and just support good people and good ideas.
One of the strongest ways that I differ from other independent candidates, and also a lot of either the newly established parties, is not wanting to bring somebody down. A lot of people in politics these days seem to be motivated by a, “We’ve got to give those people what’s coming to them, we’ve got to punish Vision for their crimes” approach. That’s really not useful thinking. That doesn’t really resonate with me at all. I don’t care, honestly.
What matters to me is that the ideas get implemented. So whatever we can do to get the ideas in an ensure that government is making the right policy choices — that’s what we need to do. That may mean listening to somebody who’s your absolute, ideological opponent on some other issue. But if we can see eye to eye on the thing that’s before us, then that’s what we need to move forward. And it doesn’t mean you’re giving up your principles. It’s just getting the job done for the betterment of everybody.
When you think about the traditional left-right political spectrum, I don’t really fall comfortably anywhere along there. I grew up in a very pro-labour household; my dad was a labour organizer. My parents used to pull me out of school for solidarity marches and stuff. But as I got older, I actually found my views, particularly on labour issues, moving a little bit more to the centre from what I’d been raised in.
I’ve seen the government pendulum swing in my voting lifetime. The NDP were in power in the ’90s, and then the Liberals were in power in the 2000s, and it didn’t really change that much; both were still maintaining the status quo. Traditionally, parties see government’s role is to support labour or to support capital, with the BC Liberals being more on the side of supporting capital, and the NDP being more on the side of supporting labour. I actually think governments shouldn’t be supporting either one of those; government needs to be the fulcrum, if you think of a seesaw. Government has to keep it all balanced, and make sure that everybody in society is well-served.