Taqdir Kaur Bhandal: Why diversity on city council is necessary for a 21st-century approach to politics

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      By Taqdir Kaur Bhandal

      Summer in Vancouver is a celebration of many intersectional experiences and identities. The city’s roads, lamp posts, billboards, businesses, and buses become bright, animated reflections of the people who live here. Coming out from under umbrellas and winter hibernations Vancouverites are attending festivals that showcase representations of unity in diversity. In the fall, I am hopeful that the results of the municipal election mirror the city’s diverse population.

      On October 20, 2018, eligible voters in Vancouver will elect 10 councillors and one mayor who make up city council, seven parks board commissioners, and nine school board trustees. If you choose more than the set number of candidates for each position your vote will not count, so be sure to only select the maximum amount or less.

      There are several sources available online where you can find out how and who can vote. The ballot will be giant and for the first time ever, not in alphabetical order. The most informed voters will have to memorize 27 names but cheat sheets are allowed at the voting booth. 

      Excitingly, candidates running for all positions have dynamic intersectional identities that range across ethnocultural background, sex, gender, sexuality, ability, age, and political party affiliation. While there have been no shortage of diverse candidates in the past, the at-large voting system in Vancouver makes it difficult for people who experience various marginalized identities to win.

      If I receive the top 10 number of votes for councillors, I will be the first South Asian woman ever to have a seat at city council in Vancouver. Briefly, my platform centres the connection between social justice and environmental justice. If elected, I plan to bring the following agenda items to the city council table:

      1. Drastically increase supply and access to rental housing.

      2. Grow transportation that works together to include pedestrians, bikes, transit, and cars.

      3. Promote social equity and safety that reflects the ethnocultural diversity of Vancouver.

      4. Take better care of the health of our local natural environment and earth.

      5. Work with Vancouver Public Library, school board, and park board to increase the number of childcare spaces at a subsidy for lower-income families.

      I think many of us can agree that politics, planning, and progress in Vancouver are at critical historical moments. Heat wave warnings suggest massive changes are required toward renewable energy.

      Moves toward digital, green-focused jobs suggest a continued re-imagining of sustainable industries in the city. Inflated housing costs suggest a efficient strategy to provide basic human rights to our city’s population. The use of opioids for trauma and pain management, and legalization of cannabis suggest promoting harm reduction and other mental health affirming activities. Finally, intersectional community organizing suggests that political power must be equitably distributed.

      In my view, these difficult challenges require reconstructing Northern and Western perspectives with Southern and Eastern, and Indigenous worldviews and strategies. We require our collective ancestral knowledge and dedicated, nonpartisan teamwork to movement forward in innovative ways. With this frame in mind, eligible voters can directly contribute to 21st-century ways of tackling some of the toughest issues facing Vancouver and cities across the world.

      October 20, 2018 is an important date to mark in our calendars. An equitable, sustainable future of the city is at stake.