Jean Swanson is in.
The COPE city councillor announced Thursday that she will seek a second term at city hall in the October municipal election, if her party agrees to nominate her for another run.
“I've been wondering for a while, should I retire? Sometimes, it seems tempting,” Swanson told reporters via a Zoom call.
"Or, should I keep working for housing, renter protection, ending homelessness, Indigenous and racial justice, climate action and supporting low-income folks and workers in the city? I've decided, basically, these things are too important to me to stop working on them.”
COPE hasn’t decided how many candidates it will run this year, or whether the party will nominate a mayoral candidate. Those questions are expected to be answered at a general meeting in April, according to COPE co-chair Tristan Markle.
Swanson now joins Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the other nine councillors in bids to keep their seats at city hall. All previously told Vancouver Is Awesome they plan to seek re-election, but not everyone has decided whether they will run as independents or with a party.
Asked why she wouldn’t run for mayor, Swanson said: “I'm more of a trench person. I'm not so much of a figurehead chairing meetings — that kind of person. I just want to get out there and work for vacancy control or rent control, ending homelessness, working with folks on the ground.”
Swanson told reporters she stands by all her votes on housing this term, including those where she voted in opposition to projects that included affordable units.
“I generally think that my role is to try and push for more affordability, and that's what I try to do on lots of housing decisions — trying to get developers to put in more of a higher percentage of affordable units,” she said. “And part of that is sometimes voting against projects where I think they don't have enough affordability.”
In her opening remarks, Swanson pointed to council’s decision in December to bring in “vacancy control” for single-room-occupancy buildings as one of her achievements.
Swanson fought for years prior to being elected for such a policy, which limits rent increases when tenants leave or get evicted.
“This is a huge victory that will protect thousands of tenants from being evicted, slow the loss of low-income housing and prevent homelessness,” she said.
If re-elected, Swanson said she will continue to push for a “mansion tax,” which targets homeowners who own properties worth more than $5 million. She pointed to Lululemon founder Chip Wilson and his Point Grey home, which has been assessed at more than $70 million.
“We have to tax Chip Wilson and his mansion and Amazon and Walmart at the same rate that we tax a $400,000 condo owner or a small coffee shop owner,” she said. “It's just not fair. While workers are struggling with COVID and layoffs, people who own property get rich by doing nothing.”
Swanson has not shied from controversy as a councillor, having helped hand out heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine last summer to drug users as part of a protest to push governments to increase the “safe supply” of drugs.