Why I'm Running

I live in a one bedroom apartment in East Van 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. We’ve learned the ins and outs of Renfrew Collingwood. We’ve gotten to know other families at the park, at Collingwood Neighbourhood House, and in the shops along Kingsway where we pick up groceries. We love our neighbourhood and we care about our neighbours.

What’s troubling, though, is that a lot of these friends have moved out of the neighbourhood and out of the city because it’s hard to raise a family in Vancouver. Whether they move just across Boundary Road to Burnaby, or all the way to Maple Ridge or Calgary, they’re making the difficult decision to uproot and leave behind friends and family to try to have a better life for their children. That’s a decision we don’t want our friends, family, and neighbours to have to make. It’s a decision that we don’t want to be forced to make.
Vancouver is increasingly becoming two cities: one for the wealthy, and one for the rest of us. We in OneCity are building a political home where young people, working families, new Canadians, marginalized people and older generations can come together, talk about the issues that affect us, and work to make our city a better place.

There is plenty of work to do. Under the Vision City Council our rents are going up, not down, not holding steady. Out of control condo developments undermine the character and diversity of our neighbourhoods. Finding affordable child care is a challenge for many families, including mine. And rising rents are eroding independent retail and industrial spaces, which means that fewer jobs are available, and artistic and cultural sectors are threatened.

We need to stop subsidizing developers and create affordable housing for middle- and low-income residents. We need to support the $10 a day child care plan, and make affordable childcare a priority. Public transit is critical to building a healthy, sustainable city — but a subway project in only one part of it won’t help people whose buses are already at capacity right now. That’s why I’m running for City Council.

I’m also running because I believe we need to do a better job of listening to one another. Council’s current development policies don’t align with what neighbourhoods want. Across the City — in Marpole and Grandview Woodlands and the West End and the Downtown Eastside and Oakridge and Mount Pleasant — people are frustrated and angry with City Council. Of course the city needs to grow, but it needs to do so through genuine community engagement. We need to be able to have difficult conversations, to compromise, and to listen. And we need a City Council that supports and facilitates that process respectfully.

I’m running because I can imagine a city where democracy isn’t just a slick marketing exercise, and where our shared values of community, collaboration, creativity, and respect are expressed in the actions of our elected officials.

I can imagine a city strengthened and united by equity, affordability, and diversity, where young people can find jobs that provide a living wage so they can plant their roots here.

I know I’m not alone when I say I’m frustrated by what I’ve seen happen in the last few years in Vancouver. Are we better off than we were six years ago? Have we made progress in addressing the affordability crisis? Or homelessness? Is it easier for young people and families to make a home in this city? For my family, the people in my community, the answer to those questions is no. Are things getting harder for you, not easier — for your children, for your friends and neighbours? Then perhaps you share my frustrations.

I believe there is something special happening right now in municipal politics. We named our party OneCity because we believe in one Vancouver, for everyone. I believe there are thousands across all parts of our city who share my concerns and who want better. If we join together, we can make a change. Join us.

-RJ Aquino

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