Note: This piece was written and submitted by a group of individuals who are all involved with the Coalition of Progressive Electors. Ilana Shecter and Talon editor Urooba Jamal are COPE candidates in the upcoming election. Alex M, also a Talon editor, is on the COPE Executive Committee. Roshak Momtahen and Shawn Vulliez are active COPE members.
Vancouver is in crisis.
The first is the affordable housing crisis. Because of lax taxation rates and corruption at city hall, Vancouver’s rental rates are some of the highest in the country. While average rents are increasing, we are losing more and more affordable housing every year. The minimum wage in Vancouver is only a little more than half of a living wage, and youth are forced to scrape by, cut corners, and pay more than half of their income on rent to continue living here. This is not an inevitable outcome or chance predicament. These are problems that can be mitigated through sound municipal policy, authentic public consultation, and by emulating successful rent control measures used in other major cities.
The second is Vancouver’ systemic corruption crisis. Our current elected officials are in the pockets of development and real estate financiers, and closed-off from public consultation. They are incapable of representing the people of Vancouver while at the same time representing the monetary interests of the groups and individuals who fund their campaigns. City hall takes money from developers and at the same time mandates the by-laws and permits that developers require. We are seeing this conflict of interest play out in the doublespeak-ridden policies that Vision tries to pass off as solutions. City hall has turned into a place that is not for consultation, democracy, and the public good. Instead, Vancouver has become a place where it costs 25k lunches to have your voice heard and green-washing is the most common form of “public engagement” we see.
We believe that a better Vancouver is possible.
Over the next 15 years, while the population of Vancouver is slated to increase by 23%, youth aged 20-34 are the only age group who will see a decrease in population. Youth are being pushed out of this city, unable to afford the luxury condos that are built to replace their favourite arts venues. Vancouver is becoming an unfriendly and unrecognizable place, where communities are losing their ability to make decisions that affect them and the transit police have become an armed and militant force against the poor.
As young people, we have been forced to find creative solutions to the housing crisis. We live in basement suites that are a health hazard. We live behind ad-hoc partitions to give the illusion of privacy. We cram extra people into our house so our rent can be just a little bit cheaper. We commute two hours to the city and live with our families in the suburbs. These are solutions that we are forced to live with but they are also, crucially, our call to action.
Vancouverites, especially young renters, are turning their backs on the politics of doublespeak and corruption that dominate the civic scene. We know that when youth look at city hall, they see a body that doesn’t consider their opinions, interests, or needs. We seek to address this.
We are tired of political parties that use youth as ‘decoration’, political parties that surround themselves with young people to seem ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ all the while implementing policies that jack up our rents and push us out of the city. If this continues, there will be none of us left for you to tokenize.
Though politically-motivated youth are often called “naive and idealistic”, the only thing that is “naive and idealistic” is believing that our current path is sustainable or desirable. We do not and will not accept that there is no alternative to the status quo. We do not and will not accept that we don’t belong in civic office, advocating for ourselves and representing the people of Vancouver.
We call on the youth of this city who are tired of Vision Vancouver’s green-washing and developer-minded politics to stand with us as we claim a space at city hall to advocate for youth concerns and the rights of renters. We endorse any effort to educate, inform, and empower young people to imagine, design, and create a better future. We endorse any effort to include youth in the democratic process.
On these unceded Coast Salish territories which we call Vancouver, advocating for the right to the city also means that we recognize the right of Indigenous people to this land. It means that we fight alongside social movements of Indigenous resistance. We stand with and behind Indigenous peoples in their fight for reparations. We will struggle with them for the redistribution of both wealth and land in Vancouver.
We believe that representatives who act with compassion, integrity, honesty, and for the benefit of others will heed better results.
We refuse to condone the corruption of others or participate in any form of corruption ourselves.
We believe that a diverse city council will provide results that are best for everyone.
We want to shape the future we will inherit.
We believe that you should join us in our fight for a more just and compassionate Vancouver.
We are Youth Rise Up.