I’ve done a lot of different work in my adult life, and the thread through it all has been organizing. Organizing people and strengthening communities, around issues that matter to them, to amplify their power, increase their effectiveness, build social solidarity, and create meaningful change.
Running for city council is one logical progression. I’m not an organizer who aspires to a lifelong political career. I am an organizer who knows we need city hall on our side to create a city for everyone.
And as I head deeper into this campaign, it matters to me that I stay true to the values that have guided my work to date. So I started a list of reminders to myself—something I could turn back to over the coming months and maybe years. It is written with thanks to the folks I’ve seen model these things in their leadership.
An imperfect list of reminders to myself about what matters when campaigning and governing:
⦁ Prioritize better policies and more participation. The first priority is better lives for all people. This is possible, and it looks like: accessible and affordable housing, strong and compassionate public services, increased and meaningful community participation, diverse representation, real climate action, and more. Never let ego, or personal grudges, or optics for the next election get in the way of these.
⦁ Campaign and govern in a way that allows others to see themselves. The second priority is to do this work so that more people from underrepresented communities consider the possibility that they could run one day too. Not just more women, but more racialized women, more Indigenous women, more queer and trans leaders, more leaders with visible and invisible disabilities, more poor people, young people, creative people, and gentle people. In the service of this goal, be vulnerable, and honest, and human.
⦁ Always seek to redistribute power to those who have less of it. Open up government. Ask who benefits most. Allow communities to have real input but ensure that processes never allow communities with more social or economic power to exclude or override those with less. Lift up the voices of those most impacted and those least heard from. The point isn’t just to win an election, or win on a couple issues, the point is to challenge and change the whole imbalanced landscape.
⦁ Be open to critique and try not to take it personally. Not everyone is going to like or agree with you all the time. Get over it, but don’t entirely write them off. Allow people the space to change.
Particularly when people and groups you admire say that a proposal isn’t bold enough, or that not enough is being done, try not to get defensive or disheartened. Remember that social change requires people pushing from the outside, to create space for bolder policies and politicians. Insist on being on the same team as people, even when they want you to do more.
⦁ Work harder than ever. It is an honour and a weighty responsibility to be elected, to get to represent people and communities in halls of government. Don’t feel burdened by the work, and never take the job for granted. It is in the service of people, and it won’t last forever. Be worthy of the role, be humbled by it, and do it well.
⦁ Set boundaries, turn off Twitter, and insist on having a life. No one is well served by elected leaders who are cynical and burned out and defensive. Play on the floor with the kids, go outside, cook real food, make eye contact. Enjoy the things that make life worth living, so that you remember what the work is about.
There’s my unconventional to-do list. It’s my hope to practise politics differently, because in the midst of the overlapping crises we face, what we need is to rebuild social solidarity. To get there, I’m going to need your help.
Our shared work is to rebuild social solidarity and trust
The social contract between Vancouverites and local government is fractured, and we’re not unique. Trust in politics and trust in government is low across the globe, thanks to the control that big money wields over important decisions and the people making them.
British Columbia’s campaign finance reform gives us a chance to change that, but it’s not going to change easily. Rebuilding Vancouver’s social contract is going to require us to get involved. To create a political culture where we are learning and figuring it out together—elected leaders and communities. And to create a political culture where many, many more people participate.
OneCity Vancouver has spent the past few years hosting listening sessions with experts and people with lived experience in affordable housing, arts and culture, addictions and harm reduction, climate justice and more. We’d love your help.
Politics isn’t just about elections. The city is political, and our lives within it are too. Let’s create a city for everyone.