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On Ken Sim’s So-Called “Swagger” and ABC’S Class War

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:

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.


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:

The Vancouver Critical Mass bike ride is back and here’s why.

Stop the Sweeps documentary shows community resistance to decampments.

Red Umbrella March celebrates history of Vancouver sex workers.

You don’t listen to renters’: Vancouver Tenants Union disrupts housing announcement.

And stay tuned for another edition of Refund Vancouver!

There are 8 comments

  1. “. . . this is a city of swagger” NYC Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams, Jan 3rd, 2022.

    It’s bad enough that Sim and Ford throw the word around like a couple of divorced dads trying to be cool at their kids sports day, but it’s peak cringe that they stole it as well.

  2. I think the reason Sim is getting away with all this is because people want him to get away with it. Sometimes when things move contrary to what collected data says is the right thing to do, it says more about who collected the data than it does about the results. I was studying poli sci at SFU when the safe supply issue really hit full steam, and it felt like we were all on the verge of witnessing revolutionary drug policy. But how things have stagnated.

    The issues BC is facing have no right and wrong answers, but I was in Taiwan when news broke that a Taiwanese Canadian police officer was stabbed to death by a film maker living in a park. The national news in Canada painted a picture of a struggle artist forced to live in a tent, tired from his battle with mental illness. But from Taiwan, an advanced and very liberal country with zero tolerance for drug abuse and less affection for bad boys and crime, it seemed insane.

    For people in Vancouver, from around the world, we’ve all heard about the cause of the most at risk and the addicted, and we all collective ask now, what about the rest of us? The police have had their turn being antagonized, but now it’s time for a little broader perspective – why should people who work 7 days a week to survive in this city have to worry about being stabbed? Being pushed down stairs? Being shot?

    I get it – there are legit victims on the street, and I’m sure the guy who walked into my vintage furniture repair shop at 2am one morning to harrass my wife and try to steal stuff while we work probably had a rough up bringing. But here’s the thing – so did we. And now I sleep on a garage floor and shower at the gym so I can afford warehouse rent. That gives me very little tolerance for people who want to hurt me or steal from me. If some jackass smashes my windows and I lose my damage deposit, then is he a bad guy? Or am I just an evil capitalist, expecting others to grow up and have some responsibility?

  3. Responding to Stefen: Not sure which national news painted the guy who stabbed the cop as a struggling artist forced to live in a tent… I must have missed that.

    You and the guy hypothetically smashing your windows are both victims of class war and it suits the wealthy if you fight among yourselves. This doesn’t justify any hypothetical bad actions such as window smashing.

  4. Is this the AI chatbot Sean or the real unelectable Sean? Anyway, still the same tiresome ‘down with capitalism, tax everybody but me’ schtick I see.

  5. Stupid Ken is raising everyone’s tax so much. Making Vancouver more expensive. Not good for small business or residents. Ken even owns a small business which is silly why he would want to increase tax it pays.

  6. Sun-Tzu — ‘In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity’
    But I don’t want to live in Sim City.

  7. The thing that I have yet to see from the opposition to ABC is the lack of acknowledgement that their ground game leading up to this election was an absolute failure. Only 36.3% of eligible voters participated in the election, historically, municipal elections see the lowest turnout even though they have the greatest impact on your daily life. In 2022, turnout was even lower than 2018.

    Kennedy Stewart was non-existent, NPA was dogged by in-fighting a shell of itself and who knows what One City was doing. Greens benefitted from the advantage of being an incumbent and the fact that they were known commodities.

    You know who was out there and highly visible? Mr. Vibes aka Ken Sim.

    So blame those who didn’t vote and start organizing for 2026.

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