In-Depth: Interview with Jean Swanson

Dec 26, 2019

In-Depth: Interview with Jean Swanson

Vancouver city councillor and long-time anti-poverty activist opens up about life on city council, its frustrations, and possibilities

Long-time housing and anti-poverty activist and author Jean Swanson was elected to Vancouver city councillor just over a year ago. On December 20, 2019, I sat down with her at Waves Coffee, a block from Main St and East Hastings in Vancouver’s downtown east side, to ask about her experience working inside the machine. Our conversation focused on housing, but we also touched on transit, getting land back to Indigenous nations, and climate justice. The interview is lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

David Gray-Donald: How are you doing?

Jean Swanson: I’m fine. I’m glad we’re having a break. We’re still working, but we don’t have any council meetings, so that means we don’t have to read our huge agenda packages. But I’m still getting lots of emails I have to deal with from people.

How did you find the recent debate on the city budget? Did you get some things you wanted, some things you didn’t want to see?

I didn’t want any cuts to housing, culture, or climate; so that happened. I did want cuts to police; that didn’t happen, except for a tiny bit, and I had a motion to cut the police [budget] and put that money into housing. [The police are] getting 25 extra officers and 11 extra civilians and I wanted to cut that increase. It wasn’t an actual cut, it was just stopping an increase. I tried to stop that but I only got one extra vote for that [on the 11-person city council]. But we had a lot of speakers on it, and they were pretty eloquent.

Were those speakers talking about how policing doesn’t make the city safer?

Even the police say a lot of their work isn’t about crime, it’s about mental health and it’s about homelessness. So if we could get people into homes, that would help a lot. It would be a lot cheaper in the long run than paying for salaries for police to move people from door stoops. It’s ridiculous.

The budget initially had $1 million for Oppenheimer Park [the site of a large tent city in the downtown east] but that amount was cut in half. What is that money going to be used for?

I was concerned about the reduction in that and I asked the [city] staff about it, and they said the $1 million was for police, fire, and other services, and that the $500,000 was just for services for homeless around the park. So I felt okay voting for it, because what was being deleted from that amount was the police. The quality of the services [in that community] is sometimes an issue that the city has to get on top of.

Some media and city councillors have tried to paint you as being against affordable housing because you’ve voted against some supposed affordable housing motions. Could you explain what’s going on there and how you’ve had to navigate the real estate developer agenda at city hall.

Me being against affordable housing options depends on what your definition of “affordable” is. The city has a definition of affordable that’s in the Development Cost Levy bylaw, and I can’t remember the exact numbers but it’s something like: to qualify for a Development Cost Levy waiver, developers have to build “affordable” units that cost something like $1,600 something for a studio on the east side and $1,800 something for a studio on the west side. And it goes up for one and two and three bedrooms. So to me, that’s not affordable. Before I got elected my entire monthly income was about $1,600.

So I’m always trying to get more from the developers. For example, we just had three projects council approved last week that were called MIRHPP (Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program). These are projects where the developer gets extra density and doesn’t have to pay community amenity contributions and doesn’t have to pay development cost levies, but does have to put in 20 percent of the units that are allegedly affordable. This definition of affordable is that people whose incomes are between $30,000 to $80,000 can afford to rent. Which means the lowest rent for a studio would be $950. Twenty percent of the units would be for people whose income is above about $30,000 a year. Zero percent of units would be for people under that, which is about 32 percent of renters. And 80 percent of units would be for the 28 percent of renters whose income is over $80,000.

So I’m thinking two things. If we’re giving all of these goodies to the developer, they need to provide more that 20 percent [of units] for moderate income renters. And B, what is the impact of the 80 percent that can be whatever the market will bear? For example this one in Kitsilano that we just passed, they were saying it could be $4,000 a month for a three bedroom. What is the impact that is going to have on the surrounding community in terms of gentrification? So I know for example when Woodwards [in the downtown east] was built, even though it has a lot of low income – 125 shelter rate units in it – because it had expensive housing in it, it gentrified the whole surrounding area. So the rents in the SROs (single room occupancies) went up from the shelter rate to $1,100 for a single room occupancy hotel with a bathroom down the hall and no kitchen.

So I voted for the ones on Renfrew. I don’t know if I should have. I don’t think there’s a gentrification impact there. And I voted against the one on Larch Street because I think there will be a gentrification impact because all the evidence we have is that Kitsilano is a rental area, 72 percent of the people there rent, and a lot of the rents are in basement suites and carved up houses and those rents are way lower than what this new development would charge, so I was afraid of the gentrification impact. Plus, just the DCL waiver would amount to $100,000 per – there were only 13 units of the moderate rate, right? – so the DCP (Development Cost Levy) waiver [to the developer] would amount to, it was $1.2 milion, so it’s almost $100,000 per unit. Plus, these units, the cheap units have lower standards than the rich units. Like 325 square feet for a studio. That’s smaller than the modular housing unit at Olympic Village. And for the three bedroom units they allow bedrooms with no windows.

The fact is that the private sector won’t build the housing that low income people and middle income people need. You need about $75,000 for your household income before the private sector will build for you. And I think if we’re going to be giving goodies, like DCL and CAC (Community Amenity Contribution) waivers and extra density, we should be giving it to non-profits. So that’s where I’m coming down.

What exactly does “density” refer to for real estate developments like these?

Zoning is the big power that cities have that other levels of government don’t have. It’s why developers like to contribute to city politicians, which they aren’t supposed to do now [in Vancouver], but anyway. So if there’s a piece of land that’s, say, 100 feet by 100 feet, and the cities says “all you can do is cover 50 percent of the land, it’ll have one amount of value.” But if the city says “oh, you can cover six times the square footage of the land,” that would be a density of twelve, then the value increases by the amount of units you can collect rent from. So it’s a tremendous power that the city has to create value. And I’m saying that if the city uses this to create value, that it should capture that value for the community, not for private developers.

Marc Lee at the CCPA had a study out about non-market housing.

He’s saying 10,000 units we need [in Vancouver].

Ya. And others have called for non-market rental housing. Is that something you’re working on and how will that go at city hall do you think?

I campaigned on the idea of a mansion tax. Our idea was if we had a mansion tax, that wouldn’t affect anybody with a house worth less than $5 million. For [those with a house worth] $5 million, we’d add an extra percent onto their [property] tax, and if it was over $10 million we’d add another two percent. We figured we could get enough – at that time, it was almost build enough permanent modular housing to house everybody who was counted in the homeless count, which was about 2,000. Now the price have the modular have gone up, so I think it would take two years of that tax to build housing for all the homeless. And then we could start using it to build social housing for renters; housing that was outside the market. So I think that’s still a good idea. We need a source of revenue for housing. The province thought it was a good idea too. And they did it – with their so-called speculation tax they levied on mansions [worth] over $3 million – but they kept the money.

But we have to build a movement before we can get that, which is kind of the theory behind my campaign. It’s like, I’m on the inside, but I’m useless unless there’s people on the outside. So we’re talking about the strategies around that. One is, should we go for a property transfer tax, like Toronto evidently has one. The problem is in order to get these sources of revenue, we need a charter change, which means the province has to agree to it, and they have a tendency not to agree to anything unless they get the dough. So, anyway, we’re working on it.

Another thing I’m trying to wrap my mind around is how to get – the city gets hundreds of millions of dollars in development contributions called Community Amenity Contributions, like just for the Cambie corridor, just over $300 million over a period of around a decade or so. But how can we make it so a higher percentage of those community amenity contributions go into housing for people [with income] under $50,000, instead of into chandeliers?

(Note: a $4.8 million dollar chandelier was hung up under a bridge in Vancouver as a piece of public art, paid for by a developer as part of its contribution to the city.)

What you’re talking about seems to mostly be about catching some of the revenue or fees that are charged either on existing properties or on developers as they’re developing properties, but in terms of proposals to build non-market rental housing, my understanding is Vancouver doesn’t have a housing corporation, like Toronto or other municipalities have that can build housing. So Vancouver tends to rely on private developers to do the proposals and the building. What would it take to build non-market rental housing in Vancouver?

Vancouver has a thing called the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency and it has a thing called Vancouver Affordable Housing Endowment Fund. They’re not fully developed yet, and the problem with the Affordable Housing Agency, in my mind, is that it doesn’t actually build housing, which is what I would like [it to do]. And I think there are a few – at least there’s one other councillor – who would like that too.

The [Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency is ] like a facilitator [now]. It puts together non-profits with governments with private with funding sources, and maybe the city throws in some free or low-cost land, that kind of thing. And I’m thinking it would be better if it actually built housing. But I mean, the city does provide land – not enough in my opinion. And then non-profits try and scrabble together money from senior governments (provincial and federal), which is not nearly enough. Especially the feds are despicable in the amount of money they’re putting into housing and the amount they’re talking about how they’re putting money into housing as though it was a lot.

So these non-profits try to get these small pools of money to try to build some non-market housing?

And then what happens – and this is another definition issue – the city’s definition of social housing, and I remember fighting it back in 2014 before I was elected, is that 30 percent of the housing in a building has to be at HILs (Housing Income Limits), which is a BC Housing term. $51,500 for a studio. If your income is $51,500 [or less], you can afford the studio by paying just 30% of your income. So HILs could be under that [income level], but there’s a tendency for the non-profits to pick the high end of HILs because that actually pays off their mortgage better. So, only one third have to be at HILs, so there are lots of people who are in need who can’t even afford a HILs unit. And this is the definition of social housing. And then two thirds of the units can be whatever. So the definition is really bad and needs to be changed.

I have a feeling I’m giving you too much detail.

No, it’s a good amount of detail. I think a lot of municipalities are struggling with this question of how to develop housing without it being done by developers for profit. I was living in Regina for the last few years and city council is very developer-friendly there, and I grew up in Toronto, and city council is very developer-friendly there too. On lots of city councils and in tenant associations, some people are trying to push and figure out how to get affordable housing built.

It’s very developer friendly. Did you see my article in the Georgia Straight? This one was about an amendment a few weeks ago. We had a report from staff on the rental housing incentive program. There was a big long list of stuff to approve, and one of them was a pilot project with Landlord BC, which is the big landlord lobby group, where they would get $1.5 million of provincial money and $1.5 million of city money to work with landlords to do environmentally good retrofits of apartment buildings. So I’m like, I’m not big on it being administered by a lobby group, right? But I thought okay, we need this. So I just made an amendment that if an owner got a government subsidy for this, that they would have to agree to vacancy control. Vacancy control is when landlords can’t raise the rent as much as they like just because a tenant leaves. I thought if a landlord gets money to upgrade, and the upgrade actually reduces their costs over the long term by reducing their fuel costs and their utility costs, then this is fair, right? You don’t want them to get rid of tenants so they can raise the rents. These old buildings have lower rents in some of the units but what happens is as soon as somebody moves out they raise it up to market [rate rent]. We don’t want this to happen, we want it to stay affordable. So anyway, I made this motion [on vacancy control], and I was completely shocked it passed. And a few minutes later we got an email from Landlord BC saying if we went ahead with this, they would pull out of the project. And then one of the councillors raised a point that he wanted to rescind the motion, and it was rescinded.

That quickly?

Ya, the whole thing happened in about an hour. The same day I got another motion passed, I was shocked by this too, it was very interesting. The city, the previous council, put in a policy that if a rental housing building is demolished, it has to be replaced by rental housing. It’s called the Rental Housing Stock Official Development Plan. And this covers about 70 percent of the city, but it doesn’t cover the other 30 percent. So I put in a motion to expand the Development Plan to cover C2 zones, which are mostly arterial [roads], like Kingsway, Broadway, 4th, Arbutus, or West Boulevard. And to my shock, it passed. And now we’re getting letters from developers saying ‘oh this is atrocious, you shouldn’t pass this, it’ll lower our property values.’ So I’m afraid that when the staff brings back the motion to actually implement this, that will be rescinded too. We’ll see. It’ll show us how powerful the landlord and the developer lobby is in the city.

If it were passed and it were implemented, and you owned a business – the arterials mostly have businesses on the bottom [floor] – with three strata units above, you wouldn’t be affected by it. Or say you just had a business with offices, you wouldn’t be affected by it. If you had a business that had rental above, if you destroyed the rental, you’d have to put rental back, so that’s all. It’s not like a huge thing.

What are the most surprising thing you’ve found about the job, having been in it a bit over a year now, having gone from the community activist side to city councillor side?

How slow everything goes. How hard it is to get anything done. And also how frustrating it is when you don’t have a majority [on council].

What is slow, why are things slow? Or how are things faster outside of council?

Well, here’s an example. Nothing moves fast when you’re not on council either. I mean, it’s always slow to get anything actually done. In the early part, when I was first elected, a mushed down motion protecting renters from renoviction/demoviction was passed. And about half a year later the staff came back with a report on how to do that, and there were some changes to the Tenant Protection Policy. But the changes don’t really do much. They pay people more to leave, but there’s still no place for them to go at their current rent! Right? So, it didn’t do much. It would have been better if they had passed the original motion that I wanted, rather than mushing it down. (Pauses) The reason I’m having so much trouble telling you is so much stuff is confidential, I’m sorry. I’ve got all these examples in my head but –

Is that a challenge as well?

That is. It’s very frustrating. It’s very frustrating.

I can only imagine.


Do you find the job bogs you down in fine-grain details, like parking and bylaws, and you have less time for big picture work?

My perfect example of that: when I first got elected, one of the councillors made this motion that we have weddings at city hall. And you know I had to vote on that.

They already have weddings there or –

No. Her thing was to allow them. So I have my friend Anne Roberts, who used to be on council. She helps me a lot. So I’m sitting there texting Anne, “Anne! Am I in favour of weddings at city hall?” (Laughs) And she texts me back “Re: weddings. I don’t believe in them at all. Romanticizing…” – I don’t know, it was really funny what she said. She didn’t help me at all. I forget how I voted. There’s a lot of stuff like that.

(We’re briefly interrupted by someone asking for change. We give some, but decline to buy the shades the person is trying to sell.)

So ya, there’s lots like that. I mean and there’s some people that have – like this one woman. I’ve been going back and forth with staff, because she’s having trouble deferring some property taxes because of an error. So I’m trying to straighten that out, right? So, it took me a while but I’m prioritizing now to people who are homeless, renters, young people, lower income people, people of colour, Indigenous, I’m just trying to prioritize so I represent their interests as much as I can.

How do you do that prioritizing? How do you find the time outside of the grind of the daily demands, how do you find time for the bigger picture work?

Well there’s lots of people out there -- right? -- that are coming to me. Like, okay here’s an example, [the union] UNITE HERE [Local 40], which was organizing hotel workers, they came to me and said “our members are being sexually harassed in hotels.” So together, and with the help of some councillors in Victoria, we drafted a motion and they all came up to city and talked about this. It was really powerful. By myself I could have done nothing. But they came up and we got a little motion passed, which I have to follow up on.

There was help from city councillors in Victoria?

They had passed one similar. They passed a motion calling for places with liquor licenses to have training around sexual violence prevention and to have audits of workplace safety focused on sexual violence, as a condition of a business license. That’s where the city came in, right? The whole point of it was to get public exposure to the fact these women were being sexually harassed, and going into negotiations and then [the union and the hotels] couldn’t reach a collective agreement, and they had a strike, and I went down and supported them on the picket line. They were so great. They were dancing on the picket line. I kept getting these emails from people saying ‘those strikers are so noisy, the city should make them –‘ because they had drums and they had a PA – ‘the city should make them shut up.” And I was like, ‘get earplugs!’ Anyways, so that was good, and [the union] eventually won. That was a way of – it’s not just me, it’s everybody.

Like, right now I’m working on a motion to really have an effective “access without fear” policy in the city. We have one, but people with precarious immigration status are telling me it’s not effective. So, we’ve been meeting with groups, all kinds of groups from those communities and I’m hoping to have a motion in March, and we just got support for it from the [Vancouver & District] Labour Council. You know, it’s a matter of building up support and trying to get something through, something that they want, not something that I concoct, right?

How is the colonial audit of parks going?

I think it’s a really interesting idea. The city staff and council are really into the idea of having a good relationship with Indigenous people. We’ve had council-to-council meetings with three host nations, which have been very nice meetings. I’m kind of worried – and the city has taken a good stance on the Trans Mountain Pipeline and things like that. I’m kind of worried that the collaboration – and the city has taken a good position so far on the Squamish development in Kitsilano, saying that ‘that’s theirs.’ But I’m kind of worried that it’s not going the next step, which is: what can we do to give them their land back? So I was thinking with this property transfer tax, could some of that go back to the host nations, if we could get something like that. I don’t know. Everything is such a long haul, to try and get public opinion for that, is a long haul. I’ve looked at a summary of the park board colonial audit, and I’ve talked to folks at the city about whether we should do a colonial audit.

For the city writ large?

Ya. At the park board, one of the things that came out of it was the idea of stewarding land, rather than using land as an asset. I think that would be so good if the city got that. Because right now the city keeps considering all of its land as financial assets to barter, and, you know, use for future generations, but still, the price of it is so high.

What happens with the colonial audit?

I think it’s supposed to direct [the park board’s] policy. Like, the city has an alleged equity strategy right now. And I’m like “oh, why can’t we apply the equity strategy to development decisions.” But I’m saying that in my brain, I haven’t said that in public yet. (Laughs.) So it’s like how do get these big concepts and then apply them to everything? And I think that’s the idea of a colonial audit.

To at least take stock of what’s going on and figure out how to start communicating some of that –

And actually implementing it. … For example, the city allegedly has this access without fear [policy], and the park board actually has this policy of access leisure pass, so if you’re a low-income person you can get a pass that says you can use the pools and the rinks for free. But can you really get that pass if you have precarious immigration status? Right? So what we’re trying to do is actualize that. What I’m hearing is it’s only happening in one place, and not in the other centres.

You wrote the book Poor Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion, published in 2001. What updates would you make to it now if you were to revisit it?

The editor wants me to do a new edition, but I haven’t, just because it’s so much work to write a book.

So without having to actually do it –

I’d put of a racialized focus on it, more of an Indigenous focus on it. And probably do some Green New Deal stuff, a climate perspective too.

What do you see as the Green New Deal or climate justice intersection with housing?

Well, here’s an example, you know that amendment that I told you about with the retrofits for the apartments?

That the landlord lobby was behind?

Ya. So, Christine Boyle, who’s a pretty progressive person, she was one of the people that – and she’s really good on climate – she voted to rescind that motion.

When the landlords pushed back?

Ya. Because she wants the retrofits. And I’m like, “we need to have a climate strategy that has equity in it.” Equity is when landlords who get government subsidies can’t evict their lowest rent paying tenants, or rents can’t be raised to prevent other low income tenants from coming in. So that’s one example where equity and climate come in. You can’t make a bunch of expensive climate change investments and then just have people who have high incomes benefit from it, especially if it excludes the rest of the people.

Let’s try some rapid-fire questions. What should be done about the Amazon development? (Note: a large Amazon office is under construction in downtown Vancouver.)

Oh boy, I’m worried about that. I’m really, really worried about it. One of the problems I’m really having is I don’t have enough staff. I have a half-time person who does scheduling and my FOIs (Freedom of Information requests) and stuff like that. She’s really competent, it’s great. I have another political assistant and she’s half time and she’s great. I went and visited Kshama Sawant (Seattle city councillor since 2015, and member of Socialist Alternative). I did some canvassing for her prior to her [election], that was fun. She’s in ward three [there]. She’s accountable to 80,000 people. She has five full time staff with expense accounts. Anyway, I need some –

Is this a budget constraint for you? The city doesn’t fund staff for you?

Well, they fund part of my half-time staff, and I top it off with my salary. So, what is the impact of Amazon? I could get a motion asking staff to come back and tell me what the impact of Amazon is going to be, and they’re just going to say ‘oh they’re going to bring in all these people who have high incomes.’ But Amazon [staff] doesn’t always have high incomes, right? And in Seattle we know it’s terrible, the rents have just gone way up. While they say ‘oh there’s a vacancy rate in Seattle,’ the vacancy rate is at the top end [of price], it’s not at the bottom end. And their rents are about the same as ours. I know because I was knocking on doors of those apartments and asking people what the rents are. I’m really afraid of that.

I’m also really afraid of this – you know there was a recent story in Bloomberg about how these big investment companies are coming. In Toronto they just bought 40 apartment buildings for $1.7 billion. And the rationale for buying them was rents were 30 percent below market, so because they don’t have vacancy control, they know they can raise the rents as soon as the tenant leaves. Plus, because there’s no vacancy control, there’s a profit incentive to evict people. So the landlord can say ‘oh, we need your unit for the caretaker,’ or ‘oh, you have too much stuff,’ or whatever, and get rid of people. So this is really dangerous. There’s actually a movie about this called Push, which is coming here in February, with Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing. This is happening all over the world. Huge financial companies are buying up apartment buildings that have below market rents as an investment for very, very rich people. And then they’re evicting people. It’s happening all over the world, and I’m really afraid it’s happening here. And this one company that spent $1.7 billion in Toronto does have a building on Haro Street here. I don’t know if they have any other ones. So I need to do the research to find out to what extent are these massive financial companies buying up apartments buildings in Vancouver. To me it’s a real warning of what happens when housing is a commodity, rather than a right. And it’s a real signal that we need to have a large percentage rate of non-market housing.

On that note, what should be done about Little Mountain?

I used to work with those people. One of the people who lived at Little Mountain, Margaret Mitchell, was the one who taught me – although she didn’t live to know that I understood her – that social mix isn’t always the best way to go. So, it should obviously be non-market housing for all incomes. Whether we can do that or not, I don’t know. The biggest problem is our expropriation laws require whoever expropriates to pay market rate. And the city has already re-zoned that. So the city has already said even though its vacant lots mostly now, that they can build huge towers on there. So the value is… if the city would expropriate it would cost a fortune. What we need is for the three levels of government, or the two levels of government to get together to figure out what could possibly be done. I don’t think Holborn will relinquish it without a huge fight. But it would be nice. I was there at the rally. It would be nice.

So how was that different from the Sahota hotels expropriation?

The Sahota hotels are in court now, right? The city wants to acquire them to put in social housing for low-income residents.

And you were quite involved in putting that in motion?

Well there were some people in this community who risked their lives for it, basically. The conditions in those hotels were terrible. Everybody knows that. One of the guys who lived there, Jack Gates, his mattress had mouse tunnels, and it was a foam mattress, it had mouse tunnels in it! And they wouldn’t replace it. We put a bow on it, took it up to [then-mayor] Gregor Robertson, plunked it in front of his office. So what’s different is the cost. The city had a consultant figure out the market value of the two [Sahota] hotels was $1. And that’s because they would have to be demolished, which would cost a bunch, or they would have to be renovated, which would cost lots. Anyway, that’ll be fought out in court. But it won’t be $360 million like Little Mountain would be.

What should be done about the chandelier?

(Laughs) Well, I’m thinking Melody Ma wrote a really good article about that. There’ve been a couple really good articles about that. I suggested it be put up in Oppenheimer Park. But I think what needs to happen is developers shouldn’t be able to choose how to spend the public art money that they contribute. Because, when they do, it just goes to increase the value of their assets. And those decisions should be made around public benefit, not around benefits to a developer. I think that’s the change that needs to happen. I mean, people have suggested that we all go and throw shoes at it. I don’t know. To me, it’s a symbol of wealth. A chandelier is a symbol of wealth. I don’t like it.

Are there people you’re working with around reducing transit fees?

Ya. I got a motion through, earlier, calling on the city and TransLink and everybody to work towards free transit for kids, and a sliding scale for low-income people. And that is now mired in metro group bureaucracy, with the response being it’s a good idea but the province has to give us the money, and the province hasn’t given any money. So the next step is to call for a pilot program using city funds, like Victoria has done. I can’t do this by myself. I need other people. I’m working with the All On Board Coalition and we’re aiming for March for the resolution. So, to have staff report back on the pilot program that would include sources of revenue, like parking revenue, congestion pricing, and things like that so the city could do it on its own.

On the bus this morning I was thinking – I was sitting on the wrong side of the bus but if I had been sitting on the other side – I wanted to make a video of the bus in the bus lane zooming past all the stalled cars; ‘why we need more bus lanes.’ I’m going to do that one of these days. We need free transit. Transit should be free for everybody. We’ll just take a little step. Pilot project. Kids. I think we can build it up.

For that and other projects, how much is the balance of power a hinderance at city hall? I’m assuming a lot of the time as a minority voice you’re able to bring some of these ideas, but how does it go from there?

Well, it’s very frustrating. I mean the transit motion – you usually can get a motion passed for a report back.

The city staff will bring a report on an issue?

Ya. And then the report back usually confirms a position I don’t like. That’s why I need to get a lot of people behind everything. Like tenants behind tenant protection. People in precarious immigration behind the sanctuary city motion. People in All On Board behind the transit motion.

Why do the staff reports come back with those findings?

For one thing, we have a very mixed council, so some of them are still doing what the previous council told them to do, that hasn’t been finished yet. And it’s not clear, or it is clear that the current council is to the right of me. So that’s kind of what they bring back.

So the staff bring back reports that the old council –

I don’t know. You know, I think they try their best. I don’t think they’ve gotten clear direction. Or the direction they do get is not the direction that I would give them. I don’t want to trash them. I think we should be a good employer.

Ya. And that direction, I’m assuming the mayor has some –

He has a lot of power in that, ya.

How are you getting along with the mayor?

Okay, I guess. I don’t know. I’m frustrated a lot. Sometimes we’ll vote together.

He seems to not have followed through on a lot of the affordable housing promises while campaigning. Is that frustrating to see that that sort of momentum stopped after the campaign?

I didn’t really expect [a lot of follow through] because of the Burnaby demoviction issue. While he was the MP in Burnaby, South Burnaby, there was a huge demoviction issue, and he was pretty quiet on that, and it really needed some vociferousness to stop it.

I think those are all my questions.


Any other thoughts you want to share?

Nope. Send me a link if you get something done


David Gray-Donald is a member of the Media Co-op's editorial collective, and was until recently publisher of Briarpatch Magazine in Treaty 4, Regina, SK.

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