On doorsteps, street corners and all-candidates events, voters have been asking me, "What can one councillor do at Vancouver City Hall? How can you make a difference?"
I am, after all, the lone candidate for a new party called OneCity -- or "One Dude" as a Province columnist put it -- in Saturday's municipal election. But I'm not lonely. I have a lot of good people backing my candidacy and this wider movement for positive change in Vancouver.
OneCity has experienced people who have served at all three levels of government and we have fresh, new voices, too. Half of our founding members are women under 40.
Our slogan is "Many Voices, OneCity," and that is my answer when asked about what one councillor can do at city hall: I will use my voice to speak for residents, communities and neighbourhoods when decisions are made about the future of Vancouver, about how our city evolves over the next four years. Because one thing has been made clear in this election: Those voices are not being heard now.
Take the Downtown Eastside. The current redesign has not engaged or even taken into consideration the needs of current residents. I believe this unique neighbourhood -- a viable low-income community for decades -- must be engaged in any change in the place that they call home.
People who live and work in -- and love -- the DTES need a full and accurate account of the City's plans and data for their community. As they defend their homes and neighbourhood from the steady march of the million-dollar condos, they need to know their voices will be heard at city hall, that someone will advocate for zero-displacement and put forward innovative, practical solutions.
OneCity has proposed a range of achievable measures that will make a difference, including an anti-renoviction by-law, a guarantee that demolished rental units be replaced with living spaces that have the same number of bedrooms at the same rent, and our 20 Over 5 plan to build affordable housing into every new development over five units.
And it's not just the DTES. We need to respect and empower neighbourhoods throughout the city. That's why I have proposed elected community councils funded by the city so that consultation becomes a useful tool rather than a slick public-relations exercise.
OneCity, which does not accept donations from developers, has also taken the lead on campaign finance reform because to make our residents and neighbourhoods heard again, we need to get big money out of city hall and out of our elections.
We have made a commitment to release our donations list annually. All the other parties in this election only release donations for campaign periods, meaning many donations stay in the dark and never see the light of day. That has to change, and I will also be one vote on council pushing for a ward system that will put elected representatives closer to our neighbourhoods.
With more balance on city council, one vote and one councillor can make a difference at city hall. I will put affordable housing and child care at the top of the agenda, and I will work everyday to speak up for the many voices of Vancouver.
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