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2017 Vancouver By-Election Wrap-Up: Judy Graves

2017 Vancouver Civic By-Election VanRamblings Wrap-Up, Part 2

Last Sunday over brunch two of VanRamblings' friends (yes, we have friends ... sheesh) indicated their strong desire and inclination to put their names forward as candidates in the October 20th, 2018 general municipal election in Vancouver. VanRamblings was none-too-enthusiastic about the prospect of either of our friends running for political office (causing no little consternation on the part of our friends). What is the basis for our lack of encouragement of our good-hearted, socially conscious, very bright friends to put their names forward for office, which when you get right down to it is the single most civically-minded activity one could possibly consider?

The answer is simple: hurt. Politics in this latter age has become an ugly and vicious business, entirely oriented to toxic identity politics and the politics of personal destruction. The electorate is bitter, disillusioned, cynical and spitting mad angry at our elected officials, no matter their party or political orientation. Even Justin Trudeau's "sunny ways" and entirely open and forthright style of governance meets daily with vicious pointed commentary from persons comprising the spectrum of political thought.

Whereas Donald Trump is entirely deserving of the social and mainstream media opprobrium to which he is subjected daily, such should not — and we would suggest — must not be the case with the hard-working and dedicated persons of conscience who are associated with and put their names forward for office under the banners, locally, of Vision Vancouver, the Non-Partisan Association, the Green Party of Vancouver, OneCity Vancouver, or for that matter any of the independents who choose to run for office — such as the entirely tremendous Jean Swanson, or Adi Pick.

VanRamblings is concerned with the state and nature of politics in Vancouver, and across British Columbia. When did the vast majority of the population become so cynical, alienated, apolitical and generally turned off to the decision-making that affects the quality of their lives on this planet?

In the coming year(s), VanRamblings will seek to address the issue of anomie in the political sphere, both as an academic consideration, but more importantly through action to ensure respectful democratic engagement.

Judy Graves, OneCity Vancouver Council candidate in the 2017 Vancouver By-Election

PART TWO: THE MISGUIDED CANDIDACY OF JUDY GRAVES

Judy Graves (pictured above) was the affable, socially-conscious OneCity Vancouver candidate nominated to fill the Vancouver City Council seat left vacant when Vision Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs resigned his seat on Council to take on the position of Chief of Staff to Premier John Horgan.

From 2002 on, Ms. Graves was the homelessness advocate at Vancouver City Hall, a humanizing force of nature bent on service to Metro Vancouver's indigent population, and a strong advocate for social housing and services to the most vulnerable among us. Little wonder, then, that the nascent OneCity Vancouver civic party (largely an amalgam of principled, younger New Democratic Party-oriented persons of conscience) chose Judy Graves as their progressive values candidate for Vancouver City Council.

Too bad, then, that Judy Graves' OneCity Vancouver candidacy turned out to be a misguided candidacy, that effectively denied the progressive voice of Jean Swanson a very-much-needed place on Vancouver City Council.

On October 14th by-election night, Judy Graves secured a paltry 13.71% of the vote, while Jean Swanson — with whom Judy Graves had worked closely over the years — who ran as an independent candidate for Council, and whose election team had moved the sun, the moon, the earth, the stars to secure the endorsement of OneCity for Jean Swanson, garnered 21.36% of the vote, and a near-win, second place showing in the polls.

From the outset Ms. Graves had no chance of securing the vacant Council seat, and OneCity knew it, well before the campaign got underway.

From day one of the 2017 by-election campaign for Council, Ms. Graves was the subject of a take down campaign the likes of which Vancouver has never previously experienced — Vision Vancouver's Mike Lombardi, running for a third term at School Board, and to a somewhat lesser degree, COPE School Board candidate Diana Day, suffered a similar 'take down campaign', ensuring their loss at the polls, but nothing quite so vicious as was experienced by the otherwise recommendable Ms. Graves.

"Judy Graves, bought-and-paid-for: don't waste your vote" was the clarion message voters on the left and the right heard throughout the campaign.

COPE was upset with Judy Graves' candidacy (COPE endorsed Jean Swanson: VanRamblings seconded Alicia Barsallo's motion that COPE not run a candidate, and instead endorse Jean Swanson). Vision Vancouver was none-too-pleased, either, when the Vancouver & District Labour Council endorsed Ms. Graves over Vision candidate, Diego Cardona. And Jean Swanson's campaign team? They were apoplectic at Graves' candidacy! The NPA weren't happy with Ms. Graves' candidacy ("Vision. Boo, hiss."), but took succour from the probability her candidacy would "split the left", and thus secure a seat on Council for their candidate, Hector Bremner.

As the campaign for Council got underway in early September, word lit up social media and spread like wildfire that "Judy Graves is Vision Vancouver light, so developer-friendly that she puts Vision to shame, her consistently strong, entirely wrong-headed and vocal advocacy of any development that comes before Council containing even a bare component of social housing sure to garner her unthinking and fulsome support."

Neighbourhood opposition to the proposed Beedie and Boffo developmens in Vancouver

Many Vancouver citizens resident on the eastside, and particularly those in Grandview-Woodland and Chinatown, worked assiduously against Ms. Graves' candidacy. Grandview-Woodland residents who have long opposed the controversial Boffo Development at Venables and Commercial Drive — and have consistently derided Graves' support for the out-of-character, neighbourhood destroying, thin-edge-of-the-wedge market condominium tower development — worked overtime to ensure Graves' defeat. Same thing was true of the organizing team opposing the long controversial Beedie Development at 105 Keefer — which Graves initially supported, and only changed her mind on when she became a candidate for office, and thought better of her support for a development so widely opposed. For the folks working with the Chinatown Concern Group, Graves' conversion to opposing the Beedie Project was viewed as a matter of too little, too late. One only has to take a look at how Graves polled in Chinatown — or Grandview-Woodland, for that matter — to know just how much opposition there was to her candidacy in these two Vancouver neighbourhoods.

Vote Bike in the 2017 Vancouver City By-Election for Council

The 'active transportation' / bike folks were none-too-thrilled with Graves' insistence on the campaign trail that Vision Vancouver's 'bike lane advocacy' was just as wrong-headed as wrong-headed could be, and that the tens of millions Vision has spent constructing bike lanes would have been better spent building social housing for the thousands of our most vulnerable citizens who are in need of safe, secure and low-cost housing.

The icing-on-the-cake (or the shiv in the back, as the case may be) that ensured a no better than distant fourth place finish for Ms. Graves was the absolutely devastating Mainlander article titled, Rethinking Judy Graves: On Charity, Xenophobia, and Class Collaboration, as withering a take down piece as you'd never want to read.

"Judy Graves' candidacy seems to reflect OneCity's policy of silent support for the governing party and non-criticism of Vision policies, and longtime Vision luminaries have likewise supported the Graves campaign. Where Jean Swanson has directly challenged the 'common sense' tax-cutting agenda, Graves combines a charity approach and a class collaboration approach that has long been popular with developers and the wealthy.

In establishment circles, Judy Graves has been touted as Vancouver's Mother Teresa. Over the decades, Graves has emerged as an establishment figure, who has worked to individualize the fight for housing, and deny the larger forces that create homelessness and evictions on unceded Coast Salish territories. Phrases such as "hard to house," and related concepts that pin homelessness on homeless individuals — including the dominant framing of mental health and addictions — are indelibly associated with the Graves name and legacy.

Graves has been a mainstay on the side of government efforts to close down shelters and disperse tent cities, playing a continuous role in the City's yearly spring closure of homeless shelters, while standing by the intolerable evictions "relocating" people into substandard, unsafe, or non-existent housing.

We don't feel that Judy Graves represents the kind of transformative politics Vancouver needs. The current housing crisis provides an opportunity to radically re-think the foundations of the system — but instead Graves wants to bring back a discredited 'dream' that has consistently failed our most vulnerable citizens. Graves' candidacy pushes for the status quo. We believe it's time for something radically different."

David Chudnovsky, who has a long history of radical politics dating back to the 1970s — VanRamblings remembers when David, as President of the Surrey Teachers' Association, was considered 'too radical' by even the most left-wing folks in the BCTF; it is this very same David Chudnovsky who worked to create the principled, left-of-centre OneCity Vancouver.

Left-wing community activist Charles Demers, who is very much involved with OneCity and is just about as radical as they come (VanRamblings wants to live in a realized society imagined by the humanist Mr. Demers) worked closely, and is best friends, with Derrick O'Keefe, one of the key organizers of Jean Swanson's campaign for office. How is it that Derrick was unable to influence his friend sufficiently to ensure his bff's unadulterated and enthusiastic support for Jean Swanson's candidacy?

Surely Mr. Chudnovsky and Mr. Demers could have foreseen from the outset what the outcome of the 2017 Vancouver City Council by-election would be if OneCity refused the entreaties of the Jean Swanson campaign team to support their candidate: the election of right-of-centre NPA candidate Hector Bremner to Vancouver City Council. We know that neither one of them wanted Bremner to ascend to Council, but that's exactly what happened — and more's the pity for that deleterious election outcome.

OneCity Vancouver, the newest civic party on Canada's west coast

No doubt the good folks at OneCity felt it necessary to run a candidate for Council, in order to raise the profile of their nascent civic party and give their very fine candidates for School Board — Carrie Bercic (who, in fact, secured a seat at the School Board table) and her running mate, Erica Jaaf — a better opportunity at the polls on election night, October 14th.

VanRamblings believes that should OneCity have supported Jean Swanson's energized, near-winning candidacy — in the process requiring the Jean Swanson campaign team work to ensure their full support for the two OneCity candidates for School Board — the outcome on by-election night might very well have seen Jean Swanson elected to Vancouver City Council, and both Erica Jaaf and Carrie Bercic seated at the School Board table at the inaugural meeting of the new Board this upcoming October 30th, 2017.

VanRamblings' Part 3 By-Election Wrap-up Coverage, the Vancouver School Board, On Its Way

One more column to go on VanRamblings' wrap-up coverage of the 2017 Vancouver civic by-election: the new Vancouver School Board, from the political novices to the experienced politicos. We believe, for the most part, our newly-elected Vancouver Board of Education trustees are comprised of a thoughtful, and overall not-too-partisan group of folks who mean well, and will work in the best interests of our children, and grandchildren.

Part One of VanRamblings 'by-election wrap-up' may be found here.



Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 18, 2017 11:56 PM in 2017 By-Election

   

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