By Cara Ng
Founding member, OneCity Vancouver
As a feminist living in Vancouver — on the unceded territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Squamish peoples — I am proud to support OneCity, and its impressive candidate, RJ Aquino, for City Council.
It’s easy for those who believe in the principle of equality to become disenchanted with the often cynical game of electoral politics. It’s a game rigged in favour of those with money and power. To be honest, I often feel that way myself.
For those of us from the left, electoral politics has a way of breaking our hearts. Despite its progressive veneer, the current City Council — whose policies have accelerated homelessness, poverty, and unaffordability — has offered its fair share of heartbreak.
Despite this unfortunate state of affairs, there are still occasional windows of opportunity — moments that break away from the usual narratives of market triumphalism — to make a difference in the electoral process. I’m writing this in the hopes of convincing you that we’ve arrived at one of those moments, a window of opportunity, here in Vancouver in the lead up to the election on Nov. 15.
As someone who proudly identifies with feminist principles such as gender, ethnic, and sexual equality — and who appreciates the importance of economic fairness to rectify the stark class imbalances that plague our society — I believe that OneCity’s policies — and RJ Aquino — are solidly aligned with my values.
For starters, RJ Aquino does not fit the profile of a typical politician: he strongly identifies, and can empathize, with the challenges of a great many of us who live in Vancouver:
“I live in a one-bedroom apartment on the east side of Vancouver with my wife and two young kids. While my wife and I are both professionals with good jobs, the ever-increasing cost of housing in this city and our monthly child-care expenses have kept us in the same apartment for the past 10 years.”
That his experiences align this closely with so many Vancouverites means that he will not act on behalf of those with money and prestige (like the developer interests who have dominated the agenda for the past six years). He will, however, fight for social and economic fairness, among many other things.
If elected, RJ will put forward policies that would go a significant way toward rectifying asymmetries that mean large segments of our population (women, indigenous communities, immigrants, refugees, the poor, working class, and increasingly the middle class) live in precarious situations, and are denied that most basic right to be full and equal participants in our community.
The 20 Over 5 Housing policy addresses the soaring costs that have become bound up with our idea of what it means to live here. The 20 Over 5 plan would ensure that 20 percent of all new developments with over five units would be reserved for low and middle-income people (single mothers, indigenous and racialized peoples, immigrants, and other marginalized communities, are, not surprisingly, disproportionately represented in lower income groups).
Our definition of affordable, unlike Vision’s, derives from the widely accepted definition of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, pricing out at no more than 30 percent of household income.
OneCity would work to implement the $10-a-Day child Care Plan. In a society where there is both a shortage of childcare provision, and where that provision is embarrassingly unaffordable, women — for cultural and systemic reasons — are more likely to perform the labour of unpaid childcare. The $10-a-Day Plan would help create an environment where women are given more freedom to decide whether they want to return to paid work outside the home. Many families, such as Aquino’s, pay more for childcare than for housing.
Given that studies have shown that societies that invest in early childcare produce positive economic outcomes, and provide myriad social benefits to those who will be the future of our community, this reality is utterly unacceptable.
What Vancouver needs is more hope, more equality — more feminism — a way forward that will ensure we will no longer be subjected to future Vision-related heartbreak. We have the tools to challenge the outmoded, neoliberal agenda of City Hall. Let’s use them.