Meet the in­de­pen­dents vy­ing for votes V


The Georgia Straight - - Opinion - By

Char­lie Smith

an­cou­ver vot­ers are faced with a be­wil­der­ing num­ber of choices on the bal­lot.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties have var­i­ous ways to let the pub­lic know about their can­di­dates. But it’s not as easy for in­de­pen­dents, who don’t have cam­paign teams and who can’t pool do­na­tions to buy ad­ver­tis­ing.

So in our Best of Van­cou­ver is­sue, we’ve de­cided to shine a spot­light on some of them. These snap­shots should not be con­sid­ered en­dorse­ments—merely guid­ance for vot­ers to be aware of in case they want to con­duct more re­search.

These can­di­dates also rep­re­sent po­lit­i­cal views from across the spec­trum. They’re not bound by any party poli­cies, ei­ther, so they’re not be­holden to shad­owy back­room po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tors.

Keep in mind that if an in­de­pen­dent loses in 2018 but still at­tracts a large num­ber of votes, this per­son could be re­cruited by a po­lit­i­cal party to run in the fu­ture.

We saw that in 2005 when a for­mer in­de­pen­dent coun­cil can­di­date, Ge­orge Chow, was elected with Vi­sion Van­cou­ver.

Chow is now a cab­i­net min­is­ter in the NDP gov­ern­ment. The spring­board for his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer was a strong run as an in­de­pen­dent coun­cil can­di­date in 2002.

So even if you cast a bal­lot for an in­de­pen­dent and this in­de­pen­dent loses, your vote may not be wasted.

Think of it as an in­vest­ment in this can­di­date’s po­lit­i­cal fu­ture, par­tic­u­larly if they gen­er­ate enough votes to put them­selves into a po­si­tion to be elected in a sub­se­quent cam­paign, ei­ther mu­nic­i­pally, provin­cially, or fed­er­ally. Cam­paigns are great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and we ap­plaud all of them for putting their names for­ward in a sin­cere ef­fort to serve the res­i­dents of Van­cou­ver.


A keen en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, Bhandal wants the city to draw upon In­dige­nous and global ap­proaches to de­crease the burn­ing of car­bon and pro­mote zero-waste prac­tices. A PHD can­di­date at UBC, she’s also an ad­vo­cate for a dras­tic in­crease in the sup­ply of and ac­cess to af­ford­able hous­ing.

Bhandal has cre­ated a web­site that out­lines her views. Her PHD dis­ser­ta­tion is on de­colo­nial, in­ter­sec­tional ped­a­go­gies in Cana­dian med­i­cal and nurs­ing ed­u­ca­tion.

“I cut my in­sti­tu­tional teeth at the Dal­housie Univer­sity Global Health Of­fice as a Pro­gram As­sis­tant dur­ing my time liv­ing in Hal­i­fax,” Bhandal states on her web­site. “My work there fo­cused mainly on the Ad­vo­cates in Global Health Pro­gram (AGHP). The Global Health Of­fice at Dal­housie Univer­sity de­vel­oped the AGHP with the aim to pro­vide stu­dents with a holis­tic un­der­stand­ing of key is­sues in global health. This ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar pro­gram is unique in its goal to pro­mote in­ter­pro­fes­sional and stu­dent-fac­ulty col­lab­o­ra­tion to al­low learn­ers to de­velop crit­i­cal anal­y­sis of global health is­sues.”

Dur­ing this cam­paign, she’s given a great deal of thought to how Van­cou­ver can adapt to ris­ing sea lev­els, storm surges, and in­creased rain­fall. She also wrote a com­men­tary on in­tro­duc­ing her­self to read­ers of this web­site and ex­plain­ing her po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties.

You can fol­low Taqdir Kaur Bhandal on Twit­ter @taq­for­coun­cil. She hopes to be­come the first woman of South Asian an­ces­try to be elected to Van­cou­ver city coun­cil.


Per­haps the city’s best-known in­de­pen­dent can­di­date, Blyth is a for­mer park com­mis­sioner and ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Over­dose Pre­ven­tion So­ci­ety. She be­came a hero to many Van­cou­verites when she and Ann Liv­ingston cre­ated a pop-up su­per­vised-in­jec­tion tent in the Down­town East­side in re­sponse to the fen­tanyl cri­sis.

The so­ci­ety that she helped cre­ate is seen as a life­saver by pub­lic-health of­fi­cials and emer­gency re­spon­ders.

“My pri­or­ity will be af­ford­able hous­ing,” Blyth told the Ge­or­gia Straight ear­lier this year. “More hous­ing for the home­less, more coop hous­ing, more mod­u­lar hous­ing, more hous­ing in gen­eral. Be­cause ev­ery­body I know is hav­ing trou­ble.

“And I want to work on be­half of all the front­line work­ers down here [in the Down­town East­side], in­clud­ing am­bu­lance and fire,” she con­tin­ued. “I un­der­stand what they’re all go­ing through right on the front­lines. All the city work­ers and front­line work­ers in the cri­sis and the folks who are in the mid­dle of the cri­sis, I think I un­der­stand what they need. So they would have a voice on coun­cil re­ally push­ing for what needs to be done.”

You can fol­low Sarah Twit­ter @sarah­blyth.


A for­mer Vi­sion Van­cou­ver sup­porter, Cook aban­doned the party be­cause he was dis­sat­is­fied with its han­dling of the hous­ing is­sue.

“I was an­gry at see­ing work­ers leave and com­pa­nies refuse ex­pan­sion. I was an­gry at watch­ing friends and fam­ily move else­where in or­der to start a life,” he writes on his web­site. “How­ever, over the past months, as I’ve met more and more Van­cou­verites and dis­cussed the is­sues with them, that anger has been re­placed by hope and a de­sire to serve this city. I am ex­cited by the en­ergy and pas­sion be­ing shown by res­i­dents across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, and I now know that this time will be dif­fer­ent.”

He’s pres­i­dent of the Hunt­ing­ton So­ci­ety’s B.C. chap­ter and is a project man­ager in the tech in­dus­try.

Cook is not so­lic­it­ing do­na­tions for his cam­paign. In­stead, he’s en­cour­ag­ing sup­port­ers to do­nate to the Greater Van­cou­ver Food Bank So­ci­ety or other worth­while char­i­ties.

He de­scribes him­self as a “young pro­gres­sive” and he’s an ad­vo­cate for sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with First Na­tions.

You can fol­low Gra­ham Cook on Twit­ter @kgra­ham­cook.


Crook is a co­founder of Abun­dant Hous­ing Van­cou­ver and the au­thor of the 5 Kids 1 Condo blog.

A well-known ur­ban­ist and videogame maker, Crook has cre­ated an at­trac­tive web­site of­fer­ing a de­tailed plat­form in a num­ber of ar­eas.

The cor­ner­stone is fast-track­ing and in­cen­tiviz­ing con­struc­tion of hous­ing with com­mu­nity ben­e­fits, such as pur­pose-built rental, land trusts that are im­mune to spec­u­la­tion, co-ops, and build­ings that house se­niors.

He wants home­own­ers to be able to re­de­velop new forms of ac­com­mo­da­tion on their own lots and pre­zone the city’s low­est-den­sity ar­eas.

One of his ideas is an “Af­ford­able Hous­ing Ac­count­abil­ity dash­board”. Ac­cord­ing to his web­site, this would “re­port to Van­cou­ver res­i­dents how the City is im­prov­ing key measures of liv­abil­ity: rental va­cancy rate, empty homes, evic­tions, de­mo­li­tion re­place­ment ra­tio, me­dian rent, pop­u­la­tion fore­casts, hous­ing cre­ation rate and more”.

You can fol­low Adrian Crook on Twit­ter @adri­an­crook.


Founder of the H. R. Men­tal Well­ness Cen­tre, El-rayes is the au­thor of Men­tal Well­ness: A Spir­i­tual Jour­ney and a for­mer Green can­di­date in the pro­vin­cial con­stituency of Van­cou­ver-fairview.

“The City of Van­cou­ver has been go­ing through the worst hous­ing cri­sis ever,” he states on his web­site. “The ma­jor­ity of the mil­len­ni­als are un­able to af­ford buy­ing a home to call their own. The cri­sis has ex­tended from un­af­ford­abil­ity of own­ing to un­avail­abil­ity of af­ford­able

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rental hous­ing. I am cam­paign­ing for an af­ford­able, livable, drug-ad­dic­tion-free city.”

He’s calling for more hous­ing on UBC’S Point Grey cam­pus, which would lead to more rental in­ven­tory in Van­cou­ver. He notes that the cost of do­ing this at UBC is far less than on land in Van­cou­ver.

“About 25% of the city house­holds live on less than $35,000 a year,” he states. “The City is in dire need to pro­tect ex­ist­ing low-rental hous­ing in­ven­tory from demo-evic­tion and establish by­laws to se­cure hous­ing for ten­ants in case de­vel­op­ers re­quest de­mo­li­tion of their build­ings.”

He’s also calling for dis­al­low­ing Airbnb un­til the city has enough rental units to house its res­i­dents and it’s able to en­force its by­law on short­term ac­com­mo­da­tion.

You can fol­low Hamdy El-rayes on Twit­ter @Drhrayes.


He has cre­ated a web­site, pro­duced a cam­paign video, and promised to be the voice of mil­len­ni­als on coun­cil. He’s also an em­ployee of Marine Chrysler, and an ar­dent cap­i­tal­ist, and fea­tures a photo of Stephen Harper be­side him on his Twit­ter feed.

That should give you some idea about where he lies on the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. He makes no se­cret of his dis­dain for so­cial­ism.

“I was born in Van­cou­ver in 1988 and have lived here ever since,” Caud­well writes on his web­site. “As a mil­len­nial Van­cou­verite, I un­der­stand the pain our lower class com­mu­ni­ties, and our younger pop­u­la­tion are feel­ing due to our cur­rent real es­tate cri­sis. I be­lieve most young peo­ple in Van­cou­ver have given up on the en­tire po­lit­i­cal process due to them feel­ing un­der­rep­re­sented by gov­ern­ment. My­self, along with thou­sands of cit­i­zens agree that this is my gen­er­a­tion’s time to step up and take lead­er­ship. In­stead of wait­ing and com­plain­ing, I’ve de­cided to run for City Coun­cil.”

An ad­vo­cate for greater den­sity, he’s tweeted that no mat­ter where a roof is, if it’s un­der three storeys, land is be­ing wasted.

You can fol­low Justin Caud­well on Twit­ter @jace­caud­well.


A for­mer Musqueam coun­cil­lor and for­mer mem­ber of the Van­cou­ver po­lice board, Grant is promis­ing “lead­er­ship that em­braces di­ver­sity”.

His fam­ily is of mixed Chi­nese and In­dige­nous an­ces­try—and on his web­site, he de­scribes the city’s di­ver­sity as “our cap­i­tal that will help us lead the world in fig­ur­ing out how to live to­gether with hope and har­mony for a bet­ter fu­ture, in spite of our dif­fer­ences”.

“My en­tire life, peo­ple through­out the com­mu­nity, my men­tors and my fam­ily have in­stilled in me the val­ues needed to be a leader that ev­ery­one can trust,” he writes. “They have taught me to be a leader who lis­tens with hu­mil­ity, em­braces peo­ple from all walks of life and works dili­gently to build a con­sen­sus. I con­tinue to live and breathe those virtues.”

A fa­ther of two, Grant has re­ceived en­dorse­ments from First Na­tions lead­ers, in­clud­ing B.C. Assem­bly of First Na­tions re­gional Chief Terry Teegee and Union of B.C. In­dian Chiefs vice pres­i­dent Chief Bob Cham­ber­lin.

You can fol­low Wade Grant on Twit­ter @Wade­grant. ABUBAKAR KHAN

A third-year so­ci­ol­ogy stu­dent at UBC, Abubakar Khan hosts a pod­cast called The Cho­sen One that tack­les se­ri­ous is­sues, in­clud­ing men­tal health, ad­dic­tion, racism, and home­less­ness.

His plat­form fo­cuses on end­ing iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness in the city through sev­eral means, in­clud­ing us­ing the prop­erty-en­dow­ment fund to build af­ford­able hous­ing and en­cour­ag­ing in­ter­gen­er­a­tional hous­ing, with se­niors and young peo­ple un­der the same roof. This in­cludes cre­at­ing renter-place­ment plat­forms and by­laws to im­prove safety for se­niors.

Khan also helped or­ga­nize a day against racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in Van­cou­ver, raised funds for the Alma Mater So­ci­ety food bank, and worked with the Sikh com­mu­nity to feed the home­less through his mosque.

“He opened the doors of his re­li­gious com­mu­nity cen­tre to those in need of shel­ter in the freez­ing win­ter storms of 2017, and brought 1,500 peo­ple to­gether in front of a blaz­ing Olympic Caul­dron to rally the City in com­mem­o­ra­tion of in­no­cent lives lost to a lone wolf gun­man,” Khan’s web­site states.

The Amer­i­can-born Khan has also op­posed the caste sys­tem in South Asia. He’s a Ra­jput by birth but in­sists that he has no right to feel su­pe­rior to a Jatt or Pathan. And he’s urged other Pak­istani-cana­di­ans to re­ject these views too.

You can fol­low Abubakar Khan on Twit­ter @khan4­coun­cil.


A for­mer diplo­mat who speaks flu­ent Man­darin, Mcdow­ell is also a keen sup­porter of the arts and a mem­ber of the city’s LGBTQ ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

On his web­site, he prom­ises that if he’s elected, he “will use his me­di­a­tion and diplo­matic skills to en­sure that steady, strong and ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship re­turns to the gov­er­nance of Van­cou­ver City Coun­cil”.

He’s re­ceived hearty en­dorse­ments from three coun­cil­lors not seek­ing re­elec­tion: Ge­orge Af­fleck, El­iz­a­beth Ball, and Tim Stevenson.

Ac­cord­ing to Stevenson, Mcdow­ell helped the LGBTQ ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee bring for­ward sev­eral mo­tions to coun­cil, “in­clud­ing those re­lated to ban­ning con­ver­sion ther­apy, es­tab­lish­ing an LGBTQ archive, a pro­vin­cial pol­icy for rain­bow cross­walks and other LGBTQ rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and the ways our com­mu­nity can as­sist our ag­ing pop­u­la­tion”.

Af­fleck stated that he’s known Mcdow­ell since 1985 and be­lieves that he’s one of the best can­di­dates run­ning for of­fice.

“His abil­ity to lis­ten care­fully, un­der­stand com­plex re­ports and think log­i­cally will help him in this po­si­tion im­mensely,” Af­fleck stated.

You can fol­low Rob Mcdow­ell on Twit­ter @R_m­c­dow­ell.


A long-time res­i­dent of Van­cou­ver, Porter is flu­ently bilin­gual in English and German and is a keen en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist with an in­ter­est in arts and cul­ture. She also runs the West­coast German News blog and has been in­volved in many vol­un­teer ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing with her par­ent ad­vi­sory coun­cil.

A mem­ber of the German Cana­dian Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion, Porter has great sym­pa­thy for small-busi­ness own­ers fac­ing huge chal­lenges with higher prop­erty taxes.

Her cam­paign slo­gan is “clean, green, with an ac­ces­si­ble scene”.

“Busi­nesses that have been around for 30 to 40 years are go­ing un­der and be­ing shut down at alarm­ing rates,” she writes on her web­site. “We need to sup­port our small busi­ness own­ers, es­pe­cially those who are part of the fab­ric of com­mu­nity and make Van­cou­ver the in­ter­est­ing place it is to­day.”

You can fol­low Elke Twit­ter @Elke­porter. FRANÇOISE RAUNET

Raunet is a French-im­mer­sion teacher in Van­cou­ver and ran for the B.C. Greens in Van­cou­ver–point Grey in 2011 and 2013, los­ing to Christy Clark the first time and to David Eby the se­cond time.

Raunet is a pro­gres­sive can­di­date who is keenly aware of the se­ri­ous­ness of the climate cri­sis.

“Ad­dic­tion, home­less­ness and hope­less­ness plague our com­mu­ni­ties,” she writes on her web­site. “Na­ture is cry­ing for help too. Species are go­ing ex­tinct faster than ever. The oceans are fill­ing with plas­tic, and fresh wa­ter sup­plies are dwin­dling. The next few decades are cru­cial if we are to sur­vive the 21st cen­tury.”

She’s calling for re­new­able en­ergy grids, grants for ar­ti­san carts and small busi­ness, and pro­tec­tion for renters.

“When de­vel­op­ers and global cor­po­ra­tions come ask­ing for favours we need a city coun­cil made up of peo­ple will­ing to push back in the pub­lic’s in­ter­est,” Raunet de­clares. “I am one of those peo­ple.”

You can fol­low Françoise Raunet on Twit­ter @Fran­cois­er­aunet. ERIN SHUM

Elected as an NPA park com­mis­sioner in 2014, Shum has worked with and been an ad­vo­cate for chil­dren on the autism spec­trum. She also op­posed higher user fees at the park board, which set her apart from other com­mis­sion­ers.

She left the NPA cau­cus af­ter al­leg­ing she was be­ing bul­lied—a claim that’s been de­nied by her for­mer col­leagues—and is now seek­ing to be elected to coun­cil as an in­de­pen­dent. Shum was the com­mis­sioner who voted against a park­board mo­tion calling for an end to the dis­play of cetaceans at the Van­cou­ver Aquar­ium.

She’s re­ceived sev­eral en­dorse­ments, in­clud­ing from Green coun­cil can­di­date Michael Wiebe and soonto-de­part NPA coun­cil­lor El­iz­a­beth Ball.

Shum’s web­site fo­cuses on sev­eral is­sues, in­clud­ing child­care and se­niors care, safe streets, and com­plete com­mu­ni­ties.

“Erin’s plan for com­plete com­mu­ni­ties in­cludes: re­duc­ing park­ing rates and in­creas­ing park­ing time lim­its in cer­tain ar­eas, ex­pe­dit­ing per­mit­ting for com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial build­ing, ren­o­va­tions, and re­mod­el­ing, pro­vid­ing more fund­ing and au­ton­omy to the Park Board to main­tain, up­date and retro­fit vi­tal in­fra­struc­ture, and bet­ter pre­par­ing our city for emer­gen­cies,” her web­site states.

You can fol­low

Twit­ter @ERINYVR.

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