Cannabis users, cyclists, and sex workers all have a stake in stopping Wai Young from becoming mayor

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      Last night, I thought about what might transpire in Vancouver if former Conservative MP Wai Young were to win the mayoral election and have a majority on council.

      And the only conclusion I could draw was that it would be horrific news for medicinal cannabis users, cyclists, and sex workers—three groups that don't always turn up in large numbers in municipal elections.

      Keep in mind that Young was an MP in Stephen Harper's Conservative government, which eagerly retained cannabis prohibition.

      It's only the election of a Liberal government in 2015 that opened the door to legalization this October.

      Under provincial legislation, local governments will have a big say in this issue.

      Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has repeatedly said that the approval of locations of cannabis stores is up to municipalities.

      These local councils can even prevent government-owned cannabis stores opening in their communities.

      If Young and any Coalition of Vancouver councillors want to halt the sale of cannabis through retail outlets, they can do so if they have a majority.

      Moreover, the province says that police departments must consider the priorities of the municipal council as they develop their own priorities. And the mayor chairs the Vancouver police board, which is the boss of the police chief.

      Here's one question to consider: is Coalition Vancouver going to take a hard line on cannabis-impaired driving, even though cannabis can stay in the bloodstream for days after consumption and remain in body fat for months afterward?

      Quite likely. This means anyone using medicinal marijuana could face a greater threat of being arrested for drug-impaired driving every time they get behind the wheel, even if they're not high at the time.

      Cannabis users, including those who rely on the plant for medicinal reasons, need to vote intelligently on October 20 if they want to reduce the likelihood of this happening.

      In the October 2017 council by-election, which had very low turnout, weed diva Mary Jean Dunsdon, a.k.a. Watermelon, attracted 1,737 votes. 

      In a close mayoral election, that could make the difference between a win and a loss for Young. Every licensed dispensary worker should keep that in mind.

      This is especially so, given the possibility that Young's group could put their employers out of business by changing the licensing rules. A Coalition Vancouver majority could pass a motion banning legal cannabis retail outlets in the city. As chair of the police board, Young could pressure police to crack down on existing dispensaries.

      The number of cycling-related injuries has gone down in areas where separated bike lanes have been built.
      Stephen Hui

      Cyclists and pedestrians face greater perils if Young wins

      Cyclists who enjoy the safety of separated bike lanes must also consider the possibility of a Young victory.

      She's pledged no new bike lanes and she'll ensure that the 10th Avenue route is not separated, even though it's one of the busiest nonprotected cycling thoroughfares in the city.

      The separated route along the Cambie Bridge will be removed, too. This is despite the city documenting the high number of injuries on the increasingly crowded east side of the bridge where cyclists were travelling for decades alongside pedestrians, including parents with strollers. 

      There were more than 80,000 bicycle trips in July 2017 along this shared space.

      In the 18 months leading up to July 31, 2017, the number of minor walking and cycling injuries per kilometre on the Cambie shared sidewalk was five times the number recorded on the seawall over the same period.

      This separated bike lane on the Cambie Bridge was about $600,000, which is less than $1 for each resident of the city. It will cost a significant amount of money to remove it. 

      For what? To ensure there are higher hospital costs for the rising number of injuries that will occur as cycling and pedestrian traffic inevitably continue to increase over the bridge? It doesn't make financial sense.

      This chart shows the growth in minor cycling and pedestrian injuries on the east sidewalk of the Cambie Bridge.
      City of Vancouver

      It's also a war of sorts on pedestrians because if there aren't separated bike lanes, more cyclists will resort to the sidewalks rather than sharing road space with cars and trucks.

      But realities like this don't always matter to know-nothing voters pandered to by politicians. Demagogues target the emotional centres of these voters' brains rather than their more rational side.

      Politicians who play this game, like Trump, sometimes use false statistics.

      In Young's case, she repeatedly claims that only two percent of commuters ride a bike in Vancouver. In fact, according to the City of Vancouver, 10 percent of the trips to work and school are made by bike nowadays.

      That's thanks in part to the expansion of safe cycling opportunities. This, in turn, leaves more space on the road for vehicles, reducing congestion.

      The red umbrella is the international symbol for sex workers' safety.
      Charlie Smith

      Sex workers have reason to worry, too

      Now, let's move on to why sex workers should care about the Vancouver mayoral election.

      Many of them already know that in 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three prostitution laws—keeping a common bawdy house, banning communication in public for the sale of sex, and living off the avails.

      In her landmark ruling, the then chief justice, Beverley McLachlin, noted how these laws made it easier for serial killer Robert William Pickton to terrorize marginalized sex workers in the Downtown Eastside.

      "The prohibitions all heighten the risks the applicants face in prostitution—itself a legal activity," McLachlin wrote in a decision backed unanimously by the other judges. "They do not merely impose conditions on how prostitutes operate. They go a critical step further, by imposing dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky—but legal—activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks."

      What did Young's Conservative government do? It introduced new legislation, Bill C-36, that criminalized the sale of sex and imposed many new hardships on sex workers. It had the effect of pushing the sex industry further underground in many areas of the country.

      “C-36 means sex workers will be forced to continue to operate in clandestine areas to avoid police and will severely limit sex workers’ access to critical police, health, and social services,” Kate Shannon, director of the gender and sexual health initiative at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, told the Straight in 2014. “Unfortunately, the Conservative government continues to blatantly disregard evidence and a unanimous decision by our highest court. After decades of missing and murdered women, C-36 is a devastating policy disaster and a complete disregard of human rights of some of the most marginalized women, men, and transgender individuals in our society.”

      Fortunately, Vancouver police have not gone Rambo on sex workers in the wake of the former Conservative government's legislation. But a Coalition Vancouver majority on council could push the cops to take a much harder line, which would place sex workers in greater jeopardy.

      Make no mistake: Young has gone into overdrive in her efforts to bring Christian fundamentalists into her Coalition Vancouver fold. Socially conservative Christians who oppose the provincial sexual orientation and gender identification policy in public schools are actively supporting Young.

      These are not people overly concerned about the labour and constitutional rights of adult sex workers who want to ply their trade safely and consensually with clients.

      That's why sex workers who don't want to face more interference should register to vote and cast ballots on October 20.

      Wai Young and her former boss, Stephen Harper, both adopted a hard line against sex workers after a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

      Do the math: Young could conceivably win

      I can hear some readers saying at this moment: "Why worry? Wai Young doesn't have a chance of winning the Vancouver mayoral election."

      The same people probably had similar thoughts about Donald Trump's chance in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We just saw Doug Ford win a large majority in the Ontario provincial election.

      The far right is on the move in North America. And they're being motivated to show up in Vancouver with Young's clever slogan that she's "100 percent for the people".

      It just so happens that those 100 percent include people are religious fundamentalists, owners of homes valued at more than $3 million, and those who think cannabis is a dangerous scourge. These people are highly motivated to vote to change the status quo. If there's a low turnout on October 20, they'll have even greater say in the outcome.

      Young has been attracting large crowds to her fundraising events. She has high name recognition from her time in Parliament. She has a base of support among federal Conservatives in Vancouver.

      Most importantly of all, she can win this mayoral election if she gets lucky on how the vote splits among her opponents and if the NPA support craters, with many of its traditional supporters backing her.

      Let's say, hypothetically, that mayoral candidates Kennedy Stewart, Shauna Sylvester, and Hector Bremner collect 65 percent of the votes, with the remaining 35 percent divided among the other 18 candidates.

      Then let's say Stewart and Sylvester each attract 22 percent, with 21 percent going for Bremner.

      It would reflect the electorate's hostility to traditional civic parties. Then, let's say that Vancouver First's Fred Harding and ProVancouver's David Chen each attract two percent, and the NPA's relatively unknown Sim picks up seven percent. Sim doesn't have a single council candidate who speaks Chinese or Mandarin, so he's going to have trouble communicating with the Chinese-language media, creating a vacuum for Young to fill. Another one percent could be divided among all the other fringe mayoral candidates.

      That would leave 23 percent for Young—enough for her to squeak out a narrow victory. 

      Now, let's look at the federal Conservative results in Vancouver in 2011 on a riding-by-riding basis:

      * In Vancouver East, Conservative Irene Yatco attracted 18.9 percent of the votes, nearly 44 percent behind the winner, New Democrat Libby Davies.

      * In Vancouver Centre, Conservative Jennifer Clarke won 26.04 percent of the votes, just five percent behind the winner, Liberal Hedy Fry.

      * In Vancouver Kingsway, Conservative Trang Nguyen won 28.1 percent of the votes, nearly 22 percent behind the winner, New Democrat Don Davies.

      * In Vancouver Quadra, Conservative Deborah Meredith collected 38.64 percent of the votes, less than four percent behind the winner, Liberal Joyce Murray.

      * In Vancouver South, Conservative Wai Young won 43.31 percent of the votes, nearly nine percent ahead of her nearest competitor, Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh.

      In that election, the high-water point for Stephen Harper, the Conservatives had one first-place finish, two second-place finishes, and two third-place finishes in Vancouver. The vote wasn't divided very much between the Conservatives' opponents in the two seats snared by the NDP. Clarke was a whisker away from coming second in Vancouver Centre.

      Compared to these numbers, 23 percent isn't out of the question for Young, should the stars align for her and if many traditional NPA voters veer sharply to the right.

      The winner could easily be determined by turnout. Forget about the polls and pay more attention to which candidates and parties are more likely to get their supporters out to vote.

      Low voter turnout generally helps more right-of-centre candidates, whereas progressive forces do better when there is a higher turnout. That's because their supporters are less likely to show up and vote unless they have sufficient motivation.

      Barack Obama's victories were rooted in high voter turnout. Reduced voter turnout killed Hillary Clinton's chances.

      That's why political organizers for candidates such as Stewart, Sylvester, and even Bremner must not forget about medicinal and recreational cannabis users, dispensary employees, sex workers, and cyclists during this campaign. That's to say nothing of the nearly 2,000 homeless people in Vancouver, who will face tougher barriers gaining access to temporary modular housing should Coalition Vancouver win a majority.

      In the end, they could all swing this election and keep Young's hardcore conservative base from taking over Vancouver City Hall.