Imtiaz Popat: Jean Swanson's second-place finish can't be ignored

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      Mayor Gregor Robertson admission that Vancouverites are frustrated with his party's handling of the housing crisis is a direct result of the strong second-place finish of independent housing activist candidate Jean Swanson, who finished only seven percent behind NPA winner Hector Bremner, eclipsing Green Party hopeful Pete Fry. 

      Swanson's shoestring grassroots campaign on the housing issue struck a chord with voters that nobody could ignore. Even Bremner was campaigning on housing, which is not a traditional NPA issue. Her candidacy was not taken seriously by many, yet if it were not for vote splitting under a first-past-the-post electoral system, she could have won the election. 

      Critics thought that she could only get votes from the East Side. But clearly, she had widespread support and could have won under different conditions.

      This by-election was not friendly to low-income voters because pollings stations on the East Side were farther away from the Downtown Eastside. There was no polling station at the Carnegie Centre at the corner of Main and Hastings streets. That alone could have been a factor in winning or losing the election. 

      Hundreds of campaign volunteers were chanting " Jean 2018" at a "victory party" when the final results came in, showing a strong second-place finish. Her campaign is energized to get Swanson elected in next year's citywide election.  

      In the meantime, her strong second-place finish sends a strong message to the Vision Vancouver-controlled council to respond seriously to the concerns raised in this campaign or otherwise risk losing even more ground in next year's election.

      Imtiaz Popat is a social activist, environmentalist, and former candidate with the Coalition of Progressive Electors.