Pete Fry has a lot invested not only in the Green party brand.
As a resident of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant for over 25 years, he also has a lot invested in the constituency, which includes the Downtown Eastside.
Fry is coming from the direction of someone who has lived and worked in and advocated for the community for a long time when he says that Matt Toner has got it wrong.
“From what I’ve read of Matt Toner and his thoughts about the Downtown Eastside, I don’t think he gets it,” Fry told the Straight in a phone interview today (April 9).
Fry was talking about the 2013 B.C. NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek, who officially announced on April 7 that he is seeking a provincial Green nomination for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.
In an interview with the Straight’s Travis Lupick, Toner said that he looks at the constituency “through a bit of a different filter”.
“I think it’s very easy to fall into the traditional narrative for Mount Pleasant, which is focused more on the problems, I think. The Downtown Eastside, gentrification, a community that seems stuck—not even in transition but stuck in not a great equilibrium,” Toner said.
In another interview, this time with Metro’s Emily Jackson, Toner said: “We’ve heard that kind of sob story out of the Downtown Eastside—it’s true, there’s big social problems there, don’t get me wrong—I don’t think the story has to stop there though.”
Fry, a self-employed designer, web developer, and communications specialist, offers a different narrative for the constituency.
“The neighbourhood has a lot of challenges,” Fry said. “But a lot of those challenges are a direct result of provincial issues.”
He cited the ongoing privatization of Stamps Place, a social housing complex owned and operated by B.C. Housing.
Fry, who ran for city council with the Vancouver Green party last year, also noted that welfare rates need to be raised because social assistance has a “direct bearing on the health and wellbeing of this riding”.
“Those ‘sob’ stories, those are the responsibility of the provincial government,” Fry said.
“I’m not sure what part of the Downtown Eastside he considers a sob story but I think...it’s a flippant comment that really belies the ignorance of the realities of the Downtown Eastside,” Fry said, referring to Toner.
Fry is offering himself to B.C. Green members in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant as a choice for candidate in an expected by-election to replace outgoing long-time NDP MLA Jenny Kwan, who is running for MP in Vancouver East.
It’s not as if Fry made a last-minute decision. On March 31, he told the Straight by phone that he was thinking of representing the B.C. Greens in the constituency. Fry mused on that day that Greens may be able to make a breakthrough in Vancouver through Mount Pleasant.
Fry is transitioning out of his role as campaign manager for Lynne Quarmby, federal Green candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour.
It’s not clear how much groundwork Fry has laid out for the nomination.
When Toner sent out an embargoed news release about his desire to be a Green candidate, the material contained praises for the tech entrepreneur from B.C.’s only Green MLA, Andrew Weaver, and the party’s interim leader, Adam Olsen.
In Fry’s official announcement on April 9, there was quotes from neither Weaver nor Olsen.
Fry’s media release also indicated that Saturday (April 11) is the deadline for membership sign-ups. It’s a tight window leading to the April 25 nomination.