Tea & Two Slices is a long-running local news round-up by NEEDS frontman and veteran dishwasher Sean Orr, who lives Gastown, deeply aware of his privilege.
After six months hiatus …I’m baaaaack!
Dan Fumano: Six months in, does ABC Vancouver risk alienating the big-tent coalition it built? Spoiler: yes. We warned you about this. This is straight from the Extreme Centre’s playbook: co-opt progressive language around affordability and equity, and appear as a moderate alternative to the increasingly far-right NPA. We warned you when, in an unprecedented move, they were endorsed by the Vancouver Police Union. We warned you when they accepted Chip Wilson’s “dark yoga money”.
They campaigned on platitudes and empty rhetoric (emember their promise to make data-informed decisions?) yet when presented with data showing that school liaison officers make schools unsafe, the Vancouver School Board ignored it. Probably not surprising since their own Councillor Brian Montague sports the historically racist and divisive thin blue line patch.
I listened to ABC Councillors spout rhetoric around equity and inclusion, only to turn around and violently and illegally rip people from tents and throw their belongings in the trash – an action condemned by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Pivot Legal, Women Transforming Cities, The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, The Federal Housing Advocate, and the former U.N. Special Rapporteur. Hell, even his own Campaign Manager feels betrayed. It turns out that even ABC knew there weren’t enough beds for the campers and lied about it. This is illegal.
Not only did they kill the Renters’ Office and Living Wage, but they also dismissed the Climate Justice Charter, which included a robust equity framework. They also passed a motion to effectively muzzle non-profits by demanding members be “respectful.” They refuse to spend the $1.8 million the province gave them for school lunch programs. They refuse to track ‘demovictions’ along the Broadway corridor. As I wrote in the Georgia Straight, it seems that “Ken Sim = Class War” is no longer hyperbole.
On top of all this, their decision to retroactively give billionaire developers $3.8 million of revenue that was already collected is an uppercut to everyone struggling in the housing crisis. This tax has generated more than $115 million in net revenue since it was implemented in 2017, and acts as a deterrant to speculators leaving homes empty. Of course, what we need is a Progressive Property Tax, a Georgist Land Value Tax, or you know, a normal Property Tax Rate. We could have been building social housing this whole time, but we’re too afraid to upset the West Side. We could be spending money on not-for-profit housing, but instead ABC has decided to fast-track condos. How is this different from any other previous council? It’s just more crony capitalism. More nepotism. More status quo. All while our mayor is lounging on a fucking yacht.
Rent is skyrocketing. We have a net loss of housing. Grocery stores, like Loblaws, are jacking up prices and making record profits, making it exhausting for anyone living on minimum wage. A quarter of Canadians support euthanizing poor people. NIMBYs are trying to sue the city. Bloodthirsty developers are gunning for the DTES. Beedie is back in Chinatown. And what does Ken Sim want? A Chief fucking AI Officer.
On top of all this, there is a coordinated attack on harm reduction spurred by far-right teacup, Aaron Gunn. Perpetuating the myth that big cities are more violent than ever and that the reason for this is our lax drug policy of *checks notes* saving peoples lives. They try and make it all about treatment, but as I’ve said a million times before, you can’t get treatment if you’re dead. What this really is about is controlling peoples lives by demonizing their decisions to dehumanize and displace them. We know they don’t care about drug users actually living:
“Talking about how many drug users are dying is not going to be an effective way of countering the conservative agenda because drug users dying *is* the conservative agenda”
— Marcel Rambo (@vee9zee) May 27, 2023
It was well predicted that PWUD and the homeless would be the next target of the Far-Right. Never mind that ‘safe supply’ barely exists. Or that ‘dillies’ have always been diverted (uh, Pill Corner anyone?) Or that the real crime wave is in rural Canada. Or that the treatment industry they’re promoting is toxic and has zero oversight. Facts don’t matter in their ideological crusade against progressives. Neither do the root causes. As Dustin Godfrey notes in their two-hour takedown of ‘Vancouver is Dying’, the root cause is neoliberalism.
Our mayor is the perfect poster boy for it: yachts, Landmark, AI, and UFC. His new alt-right fanboy, Chief of Staff Trevor Ford, calls it “swagger”. I call it ruthless indifference. You can’t run a city on photo-ops. The shiny techno-utopian facade will crumble under the weight of inequality and climate disasters. We are already becoming a national joke: When cities applaud dismantling bike lanes, we are going backward.
Today, Chinese seniors fought their hearts out outside city hall to stop luxury condos from being developed at #105keefer. Meanwhile, while the most divisive gentrification project in Vancouver moves forward, mayor @KenSimCity decided to spend his day with BC Lions cheerleaders. pic.twitter.com/Vue2FBZEYm
— Ben Ger (@ben___ger) June 13, 2023
Of course, all this just means we will have to fight back together. And there’s some amazing people doing just that. Here are a few examples:
And stay tuned for another edition of Refund Vancouver!