The crowded field of candidates running for Vancouver mayor in the Oct. 20 municipal election will include former Conservative MP Wai Young who says she relishes the competition and that it’s good for democracy.
Young, who served as MP for Vancouver-South from 2011 to 2015, is running with a new party called Coalition Vancouver. Young said she will officially launch her campaign “very soon” but wouldn’t provide a date when reached by the Courier this week.
She could potentially be matched up against half a dozen or more mayoral candidates, including Ian Campbell of Vision Vancouver, Ken Sim of the Non-Partisan Association and independents Shauna Sylvester and Kennedy Stewart.
Others are expected to include NPA Coun. Hector Bremner, who is preparing to launch a new party, David Chen of ProVancouver and possibly Patrick Condon of COPE. Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr has yet to decide whether she will seek re-election as a councillor or take a run for the mayor’s seat, which will be left vacant by Mayor Gregor Robertson when he retires in the fall.
“I think it’s great,” said Young, who spoke to the Courier Wednesday after several requests over the past few months for an interview. “I believe in democracy, I believe in people having a vote, I believe in people coming out to vote and having voters show us who they want to be mayor.”
In a 15-minute telephone interview, Young talked about first wanting to run with the NPA, the city’s affordability crisis and where her new party, Coalition Vancouver, sits on the political spectrum. The following question-and-answer exercise was condensed and edited.
I know that you intended to run with the Non-Partisan Association and that you picked up an application package to become the party’s mayoral nominee. What happened with that?
I did pick up an application package, and then my supporters and I considered where [the NPA] is as a party, and we did not think that we wanted to be with them. We didn’t think that our values aligned.
What would be those values?
I think we’ve seen with all the subsequent activities that transparency is obviously an issue, accountability is obviously an issue. So there are a number of issues and I think it’s an older party that just needs to [long pause]…anyway, I want to talk about us.
OK then, what is Coalition Vancouver and who is Coalition Vancouver?
Coalition Vancouver is a party that is going to serve the people of Vancouver. For so long, I think people are really tired of what’s going on at city hall, they’re tired of the politics happening there as opposed to the service that people are not getting on the ground. So that’s what Coalition Vancouver is all about—it’s 100 per cent for the people.
So who are these people who belong to Coalition Vancouver?
Last year, I had hundreds of people approach me and ask me to run for mayor. So after chatting with my family, and with various community leaders, it took a while but I thought it was time to come out of retirement. It was time for somebody with the experience and with the desire for community service, which I’ve been doing for over 35 years, to give back to the city.
I know you recently spoke out against the provincial government’s so-called “school tax.” You were also vocal about the city’s decision to allow temporary modular housing for homeless people in Marpole. So should the public assume people opposed to the tax and the modular housing are your supporters?
I think that membership in our party is between the party and the members.
So how many supporters do you have?
We have lots.
Lots and lots.
What’s the focus of your campaign?
City taxes have gone up, the cost of living in this city is astronomical to the point where our young are moving out. Just the other day, it was announced that transit fares are going up. It seems that every single time we turn around, gas has gone up over 1.60 [cents per litre] and it’s just costing more and more to live in this city. So there’s got to be some solutions in sight. Continuing to increase our taxes to the point where our city is being hollowed out so that only the very rich can live here is not a viable option for the city that I love.
So how does a city fix this when you know that other levels of government have to be involved? Or, are you saying you lay the reason for the affordability crisis at the feet of Mayor Gregor Robertson and his administration?
There’s over 107 taxes that are on builders, developers—even people who want to renovate their homes. There’s development fees and permits, etcetera, and an excessive wait list that’s been happening where people are waiting three, four, five years for their development permits. So these kinds of things are at the city’s feet. And I do think things can be done by streamlining some of the city departments to reduce permit wait times.
So is that your number one issue—affordability?
I think I want to see my kids be able to move back to the city—absolutely.
Several candidates and potential candidates in this year’s race have pointed to reducing permit wait times. Are there any other solutions you see to the housing crisis? Any other platform planks?
That’s something we’ll be talking about during the campaign.
A lot of people would say that horse has already left the barn—that housing prices are so out of control that no measures by government could cool the market to point where a person doesn’t have to spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. What do you say to that?
Vision Vancouver, the NPA, the existing parties and the councils that have been at the city--they just simply haven’t been creative enough. It was only recently that we saw a housing plan from the city, and even then it’s very limited. So I think we can be far more creative and take a number of different approaches, as well as leverage the number of different partners and bring them to the table. Why is our city in debt when the city of Burnaby is in a surplus?
What are some of the other issues we can expect to see you talk about in your campaign?
Why is nobody talking about seniors in this city? I’m going to be talking about seniors, and aging in place and what we’re going to do for those people.
I wanted to get your reaction to Ken Sim winning the NPA’s leadership contest.
Is it a victory when 900 people [it was 977] vote for you in a closed-door environment, and that person should be made mayor of the city because of big business wanting to buy their way into city hall?
It’s a crowded field of mayoral candidates in this race, no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on. Which side of the political spectrum should the public place Coalition Vancouver?
I would put Coalition Vancouver at 100 per cent for the people.
So not left or right?
No, not at all. It’s time for common sense to come back into city hall—for experience in social policy, in government, in community. That’s what we need at city hall right now—someone who has worked in community for decades, somebody who can rebuild trust and develop real policy and lead the change that’s needed in this city.