In this penultimate post, diving deep into the positions and ideas of four independent candidates for Vancouver City Council, we get to the question that inspired this series in the first place.
Misconceptions. Coming into this final month, I wondered if independents would be especially prone to lost votes on the basis of critical misconceptions about their candidacy.
- With Sarah Blyth, it was the idea that she would, now and forever, be identified with issues judged too ‘uncomfortable’ for mainstream voters — such as the stigmas of drug addiction, homelessness, and life on the downtown east side.
- For Adrian Crook, it’s the broken nomination process and infighting that drove this former NPA member out of the party, and into the housing fracas where he has somehow been saddled with a reputation for being a developer shill (quoth the Twitterverse: “Nevermoar!”).
- Then there’s Françoise Raunet, former BC Green MLA candidate in a ‘damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” bind — stay close to the Greens despite the lack of nomination, or disassociate herself from a party oft-accused of…not being very green?
- Lastly, Taqdir (Taq) Kaur Bhandal, a virtual unknown at the age of 27, and pushing for ‘intersectional diversity’ — a still-obscure term, itself prone to misconception, and thus possibly too risky for some voters.
Yet, all four candidates are knowledgeable about the issues, strongly opinionated, high in energy and, to borrow the words of one, deadly serious.
So, onto the question.
What’s The #1 Thing people will misunderstand about your candidacy?
I tend to go towards people who are more vulnerable or populations that aren’t heard, but I think it’s equally important to make sure that everybody’s comfortable living in the city. And I want to work with everyone across the city.
A lot of the work that I like to do is to take away some of the misconceptions about the way that we do things. I really do believe that we drastically need a Vancouver that everybody can live in, and there are ways of making it a harmonious place. Nobody wants to live in a city where people are living in such extreme poverty. It doesn’t feel good to anyone. I think a happier city is a city where our most vulnerable populations are not living in a desperate situation, and other populations are able to afford where they’re living, and have nice places to go.
There’s work to do, and it doesn’t have to be more expensive. You just have to think out of the box and have different ideas on how to do it, and to be open to them. Sometimes the way that we’re doing things isn’t always the best way. Like the criminalization of drugs — we’ve done that for so long, and it’s not done anybody any good. It just puts drug users in prison. Vulnerable women are doing survival sex trade. The fact is we’ve just policed these things — we’re spending money in places that we shouldn’t. We’re spending more money than we need on some things that we could be spending on housing and a better life for people. If we can help them in the beginning, then we won’t have to help them long-term.
Sometimes people want to put you in a certain camp — I’ve been called a Vision stooge, an NPA stooge, a developer stooge. So you get people with that type of worldview who want to put you in a bucket like that.
But I’m not. I’m a guy with five kids who wants to raise them in a city that is safe and healthy and welcoming and sustainable, and a city that can welcome them into the workforce later on, and maybe even home ownership one day. These are all things I want not just for my kids, but people today and their kids.
So there’s not really an ulterior motive. I think most people want that healthy city. Hopefully what I’ve put forward is a platform that represents steps towards that. It’s not meant to reward special interest groups.
I think everyone comes at it with their own bias, and I understand that. People are going to draw whatever conclusions they like through whatever frame they want. I started 5Kids1Condo not because of the money — there’s no money in it, I never made a dime off it — but because I believed in a certain way of life, that cities are a good place to raise families and have kids, and there are certain ways they could be better. It’s literally just a position I believe in passionately and advocate for,.
When I co-founded Abundant Housing, it was because I believed in those very same things. And again, there’s no money in that. We’ve never taken any outside money; in fact, it’s cost me money.
I’m not an enemy of developers, but I’m not a friend of them either, because I’ve never, through those two entities, taken any money from them. People come at it with their own understanding, and all I can do is represent who I authentically am, and let them decide what that means to them. I think the larger electorate is more straight-forward and they have good faith, and they’re more likely to just accept you as a human being who’s trying to do good. And they’re not on Twitter.
If you look at my Twitter audience, they’re three times more likely to be interested in politics than even the regular Twitter audience. We love this discussion around politics and urbanism and all this stuff, but with that comes the people who are looking at it through a different lens.
Somebody on Facebook commented on my stuff the other day, he’s like, “So are you going to rip out bike lanes? And I replied, “Why would I do that?” And he said, “Well, you’ve lost my vote then.” I’m like, “Okay, well what else are you passionate about? Is that literally the only issue that you’re passionate about? Because I’m pretty sure we agree on more than we disagree on.” Who’s to say. It’s really bizarre.
But I am — I’m deadly serious. I have kids, and I have their future to protect. This is real for me. I do want to see myself on council, and if I’m not there, then I want to make sure that my ideas are.
Since I started my campaign, I’ve been foregrounding the reality that Vancouver is one of the most ethno-culturally diverse cities in the world, and yet this diversity is not represented in municipal politics.
I’m one of the few women of colour running, and I hope to be the first south Asian woman elected to city council. The last person of south Asian ancestry who was elected was in 1972 —Setty Pendakur, who was born in Karnataka in India, and was a professor in the school of planning at UBC for many years — despite the fact that folks of south Asian ancestry have been living here the early 1900s.
So on that note, settlers from the global north and arrivals from the global south have been living on the river delta for more than 150 years. The ancestral caretakers of this land, the Coast Salish indigenous communities, continue to put their bodies, minds and spirits on the line to remind us to take good care of our little patch of earth that keeps people surviving and thriving here since time immemorial.
Canada’s history of settler colonialism has been central to drafting my campaign platform, and people tend to think that bringing up the contemporary existence of ethno-cultural inequities means that I’m focusing on identity rather than the “real issues”; however, what they don’t understand is how interconnected affordable housing, social safety, childcare, sustainability and transportation are to the intersectional social context of the City of Vancouver.
The position of de-colonial, intersectional research and practice gets warped all the time. So I’m sure that will happen, and I welcome people challenging that perspective so that I can respond to it and hopefully work in a collegial way to come to a mutual understanding that taking an intersectional approach, taking a de-colonial approach doesn’t just benefit folks of colour and indigenous communities.
In fact, the approach centres the earth, which is what allows us to be here in the first place, with all communities working together to uplift the environment that keeps us all here.
I guess what people might warp or misconstrue is that my perspective is just saying that one group has to be taken out of the centre, and another replacing it. But that’s not it at all. It’s about sharing power equitably so that we can all continue to be healthy and live a sustainable life together.