Except for B.C. Liberal Celyna Sia Sherst, the rest of the candidates in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant have something to say about the protests outside PiDGiN restaurant.
Picketed regularly by antigentrification activists since February 5, the Downtown Eastside establishment is in the electoral district that B.C. NDP MLA Jenny Kwan has represented since 1996.
The Straight asked Kwan and her challengers by phone what they think about the pickets. “Since 2001, British Columbia has not had a permanent affordable-housing program in place and people are feeling very pressured,” Kwan said. “There’s no question about that, and people are expressing this point of view by way of protest.”
It’s a complicated issue, according to Barinder Hans of the Green Party of B.C. “I’m a small-business owner and I always encourage other business and development in the community, especially if it can bring money into the Downtown Eastside,” Hans said. “But at the same time, I think the PiDGiN protests are indicative of a larger frustration with gentrification.”
Peter Marcus of the Communist Party of B.C. said that the protests are misplaced: “The restaurant is not the issue. It’s the class cleansing that’s going on in that area.”
PiDGiN prices are affordable, much like in a Denny’s, William Austin of the B.C. Marijuana Party noted. “I don’t think they’re a big evil,” Austin said about the restaurant. “So the short answer is that they [protesters] should stop.”
Jeremy Gustafson, an independent, said: “I support the philosophy of what they’re [protesters are] trying to say. But I don’t think they’re going about it correctly.”