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Ten reasons why you should volunteer for Jean Swanson’s ‘City We Need’ campaign

Darlene Bertholet and Lisa Descary

August 29, 2018

In Vancouver this fall, there’s an inspiring campaign happening. A group of activists running for city council on the COPE ticket are taking a page from Bernie Sanders and Kshama Sawant, and are running on a platform of ambitious reforms that would make life more affordable for working people. This platform is called ‘The City We Need.’ We think you should sign up to volunteer with the campaign. Here are ten reasons why.

1.The City We Need platform includes a four-year rent freeze, as well as other reforms.

Vancouver rents are sky-high, which when combined with low wages makes our city the most unaffordable in North America. So a four-year rent freeze just makes sense; it would be a helpful stop-gap measure while council works on more long-term solutions, like building affordable housing.

2.The COPE candidates are activists, not politicians.

Jean Swanson, Derrick O’Keefe and Anne Roberts are inspiring activists involved in the social movements for affordable housing. (Jean was even given the Order of Canada because of her anti-poverty advocacy.) Elected politicians feel pressure to compromise to appease business interests, but in the case of the COPE candidates, their social movement base can counter that pressure.

3.You’ll meet some famous badass activists!

The campaign includes some great community organizers from all over the lower mainland. For example, Wendy Pederson is well known in the Downtown Eastside for starting the SRO Collective and the Vancouver Tenants Union

4.This election is an opportunity, since many incumbents are stepping down

Many people think that the ruling Vision Vancouver city councilors aren’t running for re-election because they know there is widespread anger at them for failing to solve the housing crisis. With so many of the old guard stepping aside, there is an opportunity for the City We Need candidates to make a breakthrough.

5.If the centre and right-wing parties are unopposed, they will do even more damage

The NPA candidates want to rezone the city to make it even easier for their developer friends to tear down rental units and replace them with high-priced condos that will just sit empty. The best way to oppose the NPA is not to vote for centrists like Vision, who have done little to stop rezoning, but to elect COPE candidates who are willing to take on the one percenters.

6.Gain practical experience talking to people about working-class issues

Socialists argue that it is important to test our ideas by discussing them with working people. There we hear the counter-arguments, and learn how to defend against them when engaging with folks signing our petition.

7.Jean Swanson understands what solidarity looks like

Because this campaign focuses on both climate and social issues, it has begun to bring together activists from these different areas. (We saw this in the court support rallies for Jean.) This is a great opportunity to build bridges between activist silos and make the argument that these really are the ‘same struggle; same fight’.

8.These folks are artistic

This group of activists is creative, committed and makes the campaign fun. Join us, and you can wear original designs, like the hand-sewn rainbow capes with ‘Renters’ Power’ stenciled on them that volunteers wore to march in the Pride Parade!

9.The volunteers are great people

The folks in the campaign will make you feel right at home.

10.This is how real change happens: in an ongoing, grassroots movement

“Elect me, and I’ll fix it for you” is the mantra of so many politicians, even on the left. But socialists and activists know that it is the pressure from the movement that forces governments to make positive change. Be part of this movement, and help us fight for the City We Need!

Darlene and Lisa are members of the Vancouver International Socialists and enthusiastic volunteers for the COPE City We Need campaign. To volunteer, visit

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