On Tuesday (February 2), voters in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant will head to the polls and mandate a big change for our riding.
The big change coming to Vancouver-Mount Pleasant isn’t just the replacing of Jenny Kwan’s 20-year career as MLA since she stepped aside six months ago.
The big change will be electing me as Vancouver’s first Green MLA, and sending a strong signal that East Van is ready to do things differently.
There are other changes coming like the removal of the viaducts, the relocation of St. Paul’s Hospital, Broadway Subway, eastern expansion of downtown Vancouver, vanishing Chinatown, or even the ever-increasing property values that threaten to displace many long-time residents.
I’ve lived here in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant for close to 30 years now, and for the last nine months I’ve been knocking on doors, chatting in grocery stores, and talking on the streets with thousands of our neighbours about the changes that are coming-and the changes they want to see.
When I ran for City Council in 2014 I topped the polls around here, and my volunteers and I are hearing echoes of that support in the community. Then as now, I’ve been offering a local perspective on the issues we are hearing people are concerned about: affordability, poverty and homelessness, good quality transit, jobs, public education, our environment, and climate change. We are also hearing a lot of frustration: that the NDP have taken our riding for granted for too long.
The idea that Vancouver-Mount Pleasant is a "safe NDP seat" hasn’t served our riding very well. It’s been 15 years since the NDP have formed government, and since that time, our riding has been treated as a vehicle for personal and political ambition, rather than given the strong local representation it deserves. The fact that the NDP brass pushed aside local nominees to run a Burnaby resident as their candidate is perhaps the most cynically symbolic representation of this notion.
Voters are telling me that they don’t want a candidate who lives in Burnaby and answers to Victoria; they want an MLA who lives here and answers to the people of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.
As a Green, I’m obliged first and foremost to our riding, even ahead of the party-that principle is a foundation of what it means to be a Green.
I’m a stereotypical East Ender: an immigrant of mixed ethnicity, I’m self-employed in the arts, volunteer in the community, ride a bike, walk my dog, enjoy craft beer and buying local, love my ‘hood, and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
I’ve been especially active in urban issues like planning, development, and housing-issues that have a lot of jurisdictional crossover with provincial politics. I’ve been outspoken on issues surrounding the commodification of housing in our city, how we develop, and for whom. These are issues that I campaigned on in 2014, that I’ve written about here in the Straight and elsewhere, and that need to be brought to the legislature.
Since this is a by-election, it won’t unseat the government and it won’t unelect Christy Clark, so it’s a great opportunity to send a clear signal about the kind of change we want to see.
People sometimes ask what kind of difference one or two Greens can make, and I point to the relentless advocacy of elected local Greens like MP Elizabeth May, Coun. Adriane Carr, and B.C. Green leader MLA Andrew Weaver as proof positive.
Weaver was the only MLA to appear as an intervenor in the National Energy Board hearings for the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and the Greens are the only party eschewing the others’ wishy-washy language about "made in B.C. solutions" or "world class spill response" to call for an outright moratorium on the shipments of diluted bitumen on our coast.
Even more evidence of Greens leading the way-in the last week alone, Weaver’s long standing push to see MSP premiums rolled into income tax has seen the NDP take a long overdue position supporting the same, and the premier is now talking about some relief for single-parent families in the next budget. Even as an unelected, after months of talking up the idea of a renter’s tax credit on the doorstep (I wrote about it here in the Straight), the NDP candidate is now considering bringing the idea to that party’s caucus.
We know that as Greens we can be the change that we want to see in the world, and this February 2, I ask you to be a part of that change and vote for me as your next MLA.