photos: Jean Swanson press conference Megaphone

Downtown Eastside advocate Jean Swanson running for city council

Longtime anti-poverty activist looks to fill Vancouver council seat in upcoming by-election, promising a rent freeze and ending homelessness

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By Stefania Seccia and Aurora Tejeida

2016 Order of Canada winner Jean Swanson wants to take on city hall from the inside after more than 30 years of trying to change it from the outside—with a plan to run in the upcoming by-election to fill former Vision councillor Geoff Meggs’ now-empty seat.

A by-election has been called for October, and Swanson says she will put policies in place such as a rent freeze and take necessary steps to end homelessness. She also intends to "evict" developers from city hall.

For the proposed four-year rent freeze, Swanson says "it's not acceptable that the average rent is the total monthly income of full-time minimum wage." At the press conference announcing her candidacy, she passed out a petition supporting the freeze.

In an effort to end homelessness, an issue she has been advocating for, for 40 years, she says she will tax the rich and build 2,138 modular units for the homeless people in the city. She calculates the cost to be $160 million, noting $20,000 will be saved a year from what taxpayers spend on an individual homeless person cycling through the justice, shelter, and mental health systems.

Swanson says she wants to expand the sanctuary city policy to provide more protection for those who need it.

To help pay for her projects she intends to tax the rich, which will also help her fund a $5 transit pass for transit users, similar to Calgary's $5.15 pass for people experiencing poverty in that city.

"I'm on the side of the 99 per cent," she says. "I don't care about the one per cent, they can look after themselves."

Swanson says she will resign from her coordinator position with the Carnegie Community Action Project so she may run for council.

She was once the national chair of the National Anti-Poverty Organization. She is the author of Poor Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion.

She’s the recipient of the 2007 Carleton University’s Kroeger College Award for Citizenship and Community Affairs.

Swanson founded the End Legislated Poverty, a provincial coalition that works to make governments reduce and end poverty through organizing and educating.


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