There are plenty of reasons to distance one’s self from Donald Trump, especially where questions of race are concerned. Just this week, for example, he described racial profiling of Muslim Americans as “common sense”.
But one Vancouver group has embraced Trump’s message and applied it to the region’s debate about real estate and foreign buyers.
It’s launched a website called “Make Vancouver Great Again”, which is a play on Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
“Vancouver has started to become the best place for wealthy foreign investors to park their cash, forcing home prices up (way up) leaving long-time residents in the situation where they can't afford to live here any longer,” it reads.
The website goes on to selectively present information that suggests Chinese people are buying homes in Vancouver with illegal money earned through corruption, are avoiding paying Canadian taxes, and are the primary reason long-time Vancouver residents can’t afford a home in this city.
The website doesn’t have an author’s name on it. But right at the top, it links to a verified petition that was launched by Raymond Wong, who is listed there as a resident of Richmond.
The petition’s sponsor is Kennedy Stewart, NDP MP for Burnaby South. In a brief telephone interview, he maintained he was previously unaware of the website's existence.
"I didn't know about it,'" Stewart said. "If you read the e-petition, it doesn't in any way complement what this site is."
The petition requests that Ottawa collect data on foreign investment in Canadian real estate, study restrictions that other country's place on offshore investments in real estate, and that, "if appropriate", the government "require potential buyers to register with the government in order to buy a home and consider restricting foreign ownership to those who reside in the city for a certain period of time".
Stewart argued the real issue is that lack of data to which the petition refers. He said that's is why he has long called for the government to collect more information, and noted that in March 2016, it appeared to hear that call when it allocated $500,000 to Statistics Canada for the study of foreign money's role in real-estate markets.
Stewart also emphasized that for him, the issue of affordable housing is one of supply, in that government should be spending more on public housing.
At the bottom of the Make Vancouver Great Again website is a line that reads, “Vancouver is Awesome”, which is the name of another website that publishes articles about Vancouver events and entertainment. Its editor-in-chief, Bob Kronbauer, told the Straight that Make Vancouver Great Again is “absolutely not us”.
Backlash against Trump's racist rhetoric has been felt in Vancouver in relation to the tower on Georgia Street that bears his name.
Last April, a Mexican Canadian construction worker from Port Moody hung a Mexican flag in a window at the top of the building. His photograph of the achievement quickly went viral.
In December 2015, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson called for Trump's name to be removed from the tower.
The owner of the tower, Holborn Group, responded with a statement saying it would not comment on Trump's personal or political agenda.