DTESCOPSHOP

As part of the city’s Digital Strategy, the City of Vancouver is planning to build a Technology Centre in the heart of the DTES. The Technology Centre is a strategic gentrification catalyst that will put thousands of low-income housing units at risk. The Digital Strategy is on council’s agenda today, April 9th, 2013, as Homeless Dave enters his 19th day of Hunger Strike demanding housing and social justice at the former Police Station.

City planners and politicians are currently proposing that the city-owned building at 312/324 Main Street be used as a Technology Incubation and Acceleration Center. The former police station building is vacant following the VPD’s move to the former Vanoc building near Boundary Road in January, 2013. Moving expenses alone cost the city $10m of taxpayer money, and yet the municipal government is considering further subsidies to incoming entrepreneurial tenants at the 300 block of Main Street.

 COPE AGM

Yesterday COPE members voted in favor of a slate of candidates pledging independence from corporate parties like Vision Vancouver in next year’s municipal elections. Over four hundred COPE members attended the party’s annual general meeting at the Maritime Labour Centre. In addition to selecting a full slate of Independent candidates for COPE’s executive, members passed a motion confirming that in 2014 COPE will nominate a mayor and majority of candidates on parks board, school board and council. This decision opens many new possibilities for residents and organizers from diverse communities across the city to run for up to 27 positions next year.

The meeting saw the largest turnout for a COPE general meeting in recent history. At the June 26th meeting in 2011 – where the first organized ‘COPE not Vision’ campaign was initiated – there were 200 members in attendance. The following year the party’s AGM brought out 300 members. In the month leading up the meeting, COPE staff were forced to move the AGM location due to a surge in membership, and over 400 people filled the Maritime Labour Centre yesterday.

cope

This weekend, Vancouver’s left-wing municipal party will hold its annual general meeting at the Maritime Labour Centre. Before hundreds of Vancouverites file into the 600-capacity hall, I want to reflect on “what now” and “what next” for COPE. My hope is to place COPE within the larger history of Vancouver’s political struggles — in particular the unnamed struggle between the political masses and the rich who oppose them.

Brief history: 1968 — Present

The Committee of Progressive Electors (COPE) was formed in 1968 by organized labour, tenant organizers, and socialists. In 1993 the party was was renamed the Coalition of Progressive Electors, signaling the entry of social movements emergent since the 1960s, including feminist, anti-racist and peace movements rooted in Vancouver.

Throughout its history, the party has been known for its fight to defend public funding for transit and housing, rent control in the 1970s, radical demands for full employment in the 1980s, and more recently, a Sanctuary City policy to confront Harper’s policing and anti-immigrant agenda.

Mass-based and membership-driven, COPE brings together social movements, organizations and communities from across the city. In that spirit, COPE has also struck electoral agreements with Greens and the civic NDP since 1980. At the turn of the 21st century, however, groups within COPE began to argue that the principle of coalition-building should be extended to Vancouver’s business community and developer class.

Raise the Rates

On Wednesday, March 27, residents across the city joined together to walk 14.5km across Vancouver for Welfare Justice. The walk was organized by the Raise the Rates coalition to highlight the need for a significant increase in welfare rates as well as a comprehensive anti-poverty plan in the lead-up to the provincial election this May. The walk commenced at Christy Clark’s office on West 4th Ave in Kitsilano and ended almost 8 hours later outside Adrian Dix’s office at the Joyce Street skytrain station.

Homeless Dave joined the walk for Welfare Justice on the sixth day of his hunger strike against displacement and gentrification. Welfare and housing are intimately connected and as Vancouver’s low-income housing stock erodes, people on income assistance are being hit the hardest. In 2012 alone, 426 SRO units in the DTES became unaffordable for people on welfare. A recent article by Seth Klein shows that despite government press releases, the actual increase in the social housing stock in BC has been negligible since 2006.