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Rob Duncan

Independent for Victoria Council

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ROB DUNCAN is a former academic social scientist with a PhD in Developmental Psychology (Waterloo, 1999). From 2012 to 2016, Rob was working on a second PhD in Political Sociology at UVic (until the financing became impossible). Rob is a social and environmental activist, feminist, amateur bass player/singer, gardener, birdwatcher and amateur naturalist, and a lifelong socialist. Rob is unofficial caretaker of a public native plant garden at Begbie and Belmont in Fernwood. Rob has been involved with climate action groups including Greenpeace Victoria, Extinction Rebellion, and Leap Victoria. During the Stephen Harper and Christy Clark governments, Rob organized an anti-family poverty campaign known as Clowns Against Child Poverty. As well as academia, Rob has worked in a variety of areas, including homeless shelters and low-barrier supported housing. Among the many important contributions Rob will be able to make on Council is his expertise on research methodology, including both statistical and nonstatistical design and analysis. Rob was born and brought up on traditional Coast Salish territory in Victoria, and lives with his cat Eddie (who would really prefer just to be left out of this whole thing) in a small apartment in a big old house in Fernwood.

Reason for running

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Victoria needs Councillors who will start tasking the housing crisis and the climate crisis seriously, with substantial, meaningful action.

The most important problems facing Victoria are the HOUSING CRISIS and the CLIMATE CRISIS.

Victoria’s HOUSING CRISIS is actually a number of different crises, including a rental market crisis and a homelessness crisis, among others.

As a way of addressing the problem of soaring rents, if elected to Council, Rob would work to persuade the provincial government to introduce VACANCY CONTROLS limiting rent increases on residential units when tenants move out. As well as limiting increases in rent, this would also reduce unnecessary renovictions. Without vacancy controls, rent controls are ineffective.

Rob is also in favour of extending the City of Victoria’s INCLUSIONARY ZONING policy to require inclusion of affordable units in a wider range of multi-unit residential developments.

There has been some degree of controversy recently in Victoria around a “missing middle” housing initiative that was being considered by Council. The term “missing middle” refers to multi-unit housing such as duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, rowhousing, and townhouses, housing suitable for families that is more affordable and attainable than the traditional single-family house. Among other questions, it was not clear whether the missing middle initiative that was before Victoria Council would result in the kind of affordability that is critical under current market conditions, or would instead produce more high-end housing while actually reducing the amount of affordable housing. Fortunately, the matter has been postponed, to be considered by the newly-elected Council after this election.

Housing is a HUMAN RIGHT, and people without housing are people whose human rights are being VIOLATED. Victoria’s homelessness crisis should be addressed with PURPOSE-BUILT housing rather than converted motels, which are poorly designed for supported housing, creating avoidable and unnecessary problems. The federal government is making considerable funds available for this sort of housing through the Rapid Housing Initiative.

In a community as affluent as ours, people shouldn't be resorting to camping in parks or sleeping rough on the streets. They need housing, in keeping with their basic rights as human beings. The small number of people who don't want housing should be accommodated with a purpose-built facility, a supervised and regulated municipal campground with washrooms, showers and possibly an outdoor cookery (to avoid the need for stoves and cooking fires in tents and other dangerous places). Land for a facility like this is an obvious issue of course, but if this was to become a civic priority, the land could be found. There are plenty of possible sites. One site that might be suitable, just as one example, is the SJ Willis playing field at Hillside and Blanshard.

It’s important to acknowledge that the private sector, with its requirement for profit, will be able to make only a limited contribution to addressing most aspects of Victoria’s housing crisis – especially where affordability is concerned - and that the bulk of the housing that is needed will have to be publicly financed and created. An important responsibility for Council in the near future will be working with other levels of government to make public funds available for meeting our community’s housing needs.

Rob also supports a variety of initiatives to address the CLIMATE CRISIS, including:

- extending fare-free bus transit (currently available to school-age children living in the City of Victoria)

- electrification of transit buses

- transit signal priority technology, which allows a bus driver approaching a traffic light to keep the light green long enough to let the bus through (greatly improving the efficiency of buses for commuting purposes)

- encourage and expedite installation of publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations

- an end to building new fossil fuel related infrastructure (as called for by, for instance, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

- promote development of a walkable community, with the goal of eventually making it possible for residents to walk to work and school, to get groceries, to access services, and for other transportation needs

- protection and enhancement of green space and urban trees throughout the City

- a ban on gas-powered leaf-blowers, lawn mowers, weed-wackers, and other kinds of two-stroke engine garden machinery (which are astronomically high in hydrocarbon emissions)

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> a municipal AFFORDABLE CHILDCARE program, beginning with working single-parent low-income families

Market pricing for childcare is completely unrealistic for many families. Victoria needs affordable childcare.

Many families pay more for childcare than for any other household expense except housing (and in some cases, even more than they pay for housing). Market pricing puts paid childcare completely out of reach for low-income families.

Like so many other communities across the country, Victoria has a childcare crisis, a crisis so severe that it affects, for example, local businesses’ ability to hire and retain employees. Victoria needs a MUNICIPAL AFFORDABLE CHILDCARE PROGRAM, beginning with working single-parent low-income families.

Childcare organized and delivered by municipal government is not a new idea in Canada. Municipal childcare programs exist in Vancouver (since the 1970s), in numerous places in Ontario, including Toronto (since the 1950s), Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, Thunder Bay, Perth and Brockton, and in Alberta in Jasper, Beaumont, and Drayton.

Victoria’s childcare crisis urgently requires rapid action, not the decade-long program roll-outs talked about at other levels of government. The City of Victoria should secure the funding available from the federal and provincial governments, and step into the gap with a clear plan to start alleviating our community’s childcare crisis in a more timely manner.

> a municipal LIVING WAGE policy, covering (1) City of Victoria employees and (2) other workers who work on City property - i.e., those workers covered by the living wage bylaw that has been in place in the City of New Westminster, BC, for over a decade - plus (3) employees of businesses that have contracts with the City. Under a municipal living wage policy, workers in these three categories would all have to be paid a living wage. Currently the living wage for Victoria is $20.46.

> advocate and support WORKER-OWNED CO-OPS. Businesses that are closing or going up for sale can be taken over by their employees, to be run as worker-owned co-operative businesses. The City can identify ways it can work with the provincial government and other organizations to facilitate and assist with this process. Worker-owned co-ops reduce inequality, poverty, and worker alienation, and keep profits in the local community.

> to help address the OPIATE CRISIS, Rob would advocate for greater availability of and faster access to DETOX programs, combined with relocation to appropriate housing (that is, not the person's previous accommodation and social situation) on exiting a detox program. Rob also supports the establishment of a SAFE(R) SUPPLY, which would involve making medical-grade opiates available to those who are dependent on them.

> inclusion of a NEW SEAT on both Victoria Council and the CRD board RESERVED FOR THE URBAN INDIGENOUS POPULATION, similar to what New Zealand currently has in its parliament.

> in favour of exploring possibilities for the use of regularly-scheduled CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLIES with PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING. Let's look at expanding the scope of municipal democracy.