Unanimous vote on Vancouver tenants’ rights is a game changer

puzzle-house-oilpaintOn Tuesday, December 4, COPE Councillor Jean Swanson tenants’ protection motion finally came before city council for a vote.

In the week leading up to the vote, more than 300 tenants spoke eloquently to council about the need for protection when landlords decide to renovict them. See my last blog (Secure tenants make for a better Vancouver) to learn why changes are so needed to the city’s Relocation and Protection Policy to better protect renters. Bottom line: Councillor Swanson’s motion gives tenants the right to move back into a suite after renovations and — more importantly — at the same rent as when they left.

In the lead-up to the vote, all eyes were on council as this would be their first major decision. Without any one party having a majority, it was anybody’s guess how the vote would go.

In the end, Councillor Swanson’s motion, although amended, received the unanimous support of council. An historic moment for tenants’ rights in Vancouver!

While it’s to be expected that the numerous housekeeping motions that frequently come before council will receive unanimous support, it’s highly unusual for council to be unanimous on what’s usually perceived as such a highly political issue. To their credit, even the five right-of centre NPA councillors voted in favour.

This type of unanimity is what Vancouver’s electorate has been waiting for for a long time.

Throughout Vision Vancouver’s 10-year grip on city hall, divisive politics became the norm. We’ll never know, but I suspect that Councillor Swanson’s tenants’ protection motion would have been defeated had Vision still reigned.

During my six years on city council, I experienced the highest level of satisfaction when I was able to obtain support from all the parties at the council table for two motions I put forward — one to create Vancouver ‘s Food Policy Council, the other to initiate the city’s ethical purchasing policy.

When councillors work together across party lines, the result is an initiative much more likely to survive any future change in council’s makeup after voters weigh in again in subsequent elections. It means the change you’ve been working on so hard as a representative of the people of Vancouver gets embedded more solidly. Since it has multi-party support, it can better withstand the twin tests of time and electoral whims, and make a lasting difference.

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