Vancouver council candidate Jean Swanson endorsed by addiction expert Dr. Gabor Maté

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      Independent candidate Jean Swanson's campaign for council has been attracting a flurry of media coverage, thanks to the efforts of a boisterous and dedicated group of young supporters.

      Much of the attention has resulted from her radical proposals to level the playing field between the haves and the have-nots.

      Swanson, a long-time antipoverty campaigner, has recently called for a rent freeze and a mansion tax.

      She's also been an outspoken proponent of reconciliation with her calls to make public land available to Indigenous people for housing.

      Yesterday, Swanson received an endorsement from high-profile Vancouver physician and internationally renowned addiction expert Gabor Maté.

      He's the author of several books, including Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction.

      For several years, he treated and counselled addicts while working for the Portland Hotel Society.

      "For decades Jean Swanson has been an admirable, tireless advocate and organizer for a fair and just society," Maté said in a statement. "I am glad she is running for office; her candidacy has my enthusiastic support."

      Swanson has also been endorsed by former park commissioner, former city councillor, and former Vancouver East NDP MP Libby Davies, who once worked with her at the Downtown Eastside Residents' Association.

      Dr. Gabor Maté's has received widespread acclaim for his scientifically grounded and compassionate advocacy for people in the throes of drug addiction.

      Swanson justified mansion tax to house the poor

      On September 23 Swanson and a bunch of her supporters gathered in front of the Point Grey home of billionaire Chip Wilson.

      In a transcript of her speech below, Swanson explained why she supports a mansion tax:

      "We’ve been working on this policy a lot lately and the more I think about it the more I like it and the more I realize it’s absolutely necessary.

      "We’re in the middle of a real crisis. Over 2,000 people in Vancouver are homeless and, dying at half the age of other folks.  

      "The average 1 bedroom apartment rents at over $2,000 a month—or more than what someone working full-time at the minimum wage earns.

      "The city itself says that more than 18,000 city households are now paying more than 50 per cent of their income on rent, and we have about 4,000 living in unhealthy SRO hotels.

      "That’s about 22,000 facing housing insecurity. Families are moving out of the city because they just can’t afford to be here.

      "We need a change. We need truly affordable housing. We need social and co-operative housing.

      "We need quickly-built modular housing units for every single person without a home. This is the housing we need. And today we are here to take a step toward the revolution we need.

      "The money to build the housing we need is there. In fact, a chunk of it is right here. Isn’t that right?

      During a June protest in the Vancouver council chamber, Jean Swanson sat in the mayor's chair as community activists introduced motions to house the poor.
      Against Displacement

      "The province and feds can tax income. And when they tax it, they have different rates depending on how much income you have. The more you earn the higher the rate you pay.That sounds right, doesn’t it?

      "The city can’t  tax income. It can only tax properties. But here’s the problem: our property taxes are a flat rate.

      "Chip Wilson’s $75-million home is taxed at the same rate as a $300,000 condo. That’s not right. Don’t you agree?

      "We need a progressive tax on property. That’s what I’m proposing and this is what the Mansion Tax looks like.

      "If you own a home worth less than $5 million, you won’t be taxed more than you already are. For the value of a house between $5 million and $10 million, we’ll add another one percent of the assessed value to the taxes. For the value over $10 million, we’ll add another two percent.

      "The city could get about $174 million a year by doing this.

      "We’ll use that money for what we need. We’ll build social and co-op housing to meet the needs of 18,000 Vancouverites currently spending over 50 percent of their income on rent.

      "We’ll immediately build 2,138 modular homes, one for each homeless person counted in Vancouver. Each modular home costs only $75,000 so ending homelessness will cost $160 million—less than one year of Mansion Tax revenues.

      "And we’ll work to put real teeth in reconciliation.

      "Tomorrow is the reconciliation walk and I hope everyone can attend. I want to use some of the money from this mansion tax for housing and land for indigenous people.

      "For example, with this policy the threat of condo desecration at the Musqueam midden could have been stopped right away and the city could buy the land and return it to its rightful owners.

      "This is the revolution we need. And we can’t let ourselves be discouraged by those who will criticize this. I was on CKNW the other day to talk about the Mansion Tax and I got some of the most cliched questions justifying not taxing the rich more.

      "The radio hosts said wealthy people work hard for the money.

      "And I responded that rich property owners are earning more twiddling their thumbs and letting their property appreciate than by working and that people who clean toilets, care for the elderly, or work at MacDonald's work hard too, very hard, and they don’t have the luxury of sitting on a piece of appreciating property because they can’t afford to buy one.

      "Then they asked me if the wealthy might take all their money and move to Seattle because of the taxes.

      "I called this fear-mongering. And besides, in Seattle their city council also voted for a Tax the Rich policy this summer, pushed by councillor Kshama Sawant. And she has already come up here to endorse our campaign. If Seattle can tax the rich, Vancouver can tax the rich too!

      Socialist Seattle city councillor Kshama Sawant has endorsed Jean Swanson.

      "They asked me about poor elderly retired people who just happen to live in a mansion but don’t have enough income to pay the taxes.

      "I said very few have mansions over $5 million. And we’re only taxing the value over $5 million, so if their home is worth $5 million and one dollar, this will only cost them a single penny.

      "But if somehow their home is worth $10 million, they can either get a reverse mortgage and live the rest of their lives in their home, or they could sell their home and live in luxury for the rest of their life, options that the rest of us don’t have.  

      "These are cliche questions that have been propping up capitalism, propping up a world where the richest 5 men own more than the poorest 3.6 billion people. We can’t let these questions waste our time any longer.

      "Let’s tax the rich to house the rest of us.  

      "So my campaign brought you here today to a  $75-million house. You can see what it looks like—on the beach, a fortress, cameras all over, buzzer systems at all doors, beautiful landscaping. I can’t help but contrast this scene to another one I saw a few months ago—a woman on Hastings street sleeping in a suitcase with only her feet and ankles sticking out.

      "Why couldn’t someone who lives here in a mansion afford to chip in for social housing for this woman and the rest of us?

      "Chip in Chip!

      "This campaign is about starting a political revolution, and building a movement that can start at city hall and push the other levels of government until they make housing a basic human right, not a commodity.

      "The market has caused the housing problem. It won't solve it. This means we need to get the funds to acquire land for the public realm, and to dramatically boost the percentage of housing in our city that is beautiful, secure, affordable, comfortable social housing for everyone.  

      "If I get on city council this is what I’ll push fiercely for, with your help. This movement won’t stop until we win the things we need.

      "Thanks so much for coming everyone and let’s tax the rich to house the rest of us."