Opinion: Why a well-known activist joined Mark Marissen's Progress Vancouver team

Oct 4 2022, 11:54 pm

Written for Daily Hive Urbanized by Morgane Oger, a tech leader, renter, (trans) mom of two, human rights advocate, and Progress Vancouver candidate for city council who believes adequate housing is a right.

“How could you be working with that person?”

This question keeps coming up from progressive friends wondering about why I am at Mark Marissen’s side, running for Council with Progress Vancouver.

I’ve gotten to know Mark Marissen quite well as we negotiated how to work together as partners in Progress Vancouver to bring a progressive alternative to Vancouver. He came to me with a proposal to bring together a politically diverse team centred on BC NDP and Federal Liberal values and wanted to know if I’d come in to strengthen the left side of Progress Vancouver’s political spectrum.

Mark Marissen is a dedicated Federal Liberal who’s worked as a highly effective political strategist for many years. He helped his ex Christy Clark get elected, and Clark was an opponent in much of my advocacy work.

Partners of public figures will tell you they walk a complex fine line between the public eye and the private sphere. Helping your family member meet their aspirations is the right thing to do.

Nevertheless, it was no small footnote to me that Mark had very close ties to someone whose name is so closely linked to past battles with public-service unions including the BCTF and Hospital Employees’ Union. I dedicated much of my organizing and political advocacy “politely nudging” the Clark Government and the Federal parties to do the right thing by protecting Transgender persons from harm. Like my Labour friends, I also remember the searing political battles of the past and celebrate our shared wins.

I ran in the 2017 BC general election on a commitment to roll back some of Christy Clark’s policies. Although I did not personally get the result I hoped for, I am so proud of the many wins the New Democrats brought in since taking power. By the end of their first term, our New Democrat Government had delivered on 87% of the promises I remember making when I ran in Vancouver-False Creek. Many of those wins were locked in while I served that party as vice president, including bringing in laws designed to keep big business and big labour out of election funding.

My own cross-partisan approach was instrumental in getting the wins on campaigns for change I successfully organized. That’s why I agreed to consider working with Mark Marissen in spite of my initial misgivings. I knew It would be impossible to join any project that doesn’t uphold the values that are close to my heart, so I explored whether Mark and Progress Vancouver were reliable partners and after careful consideration, I became satisfied that this was good. With a Progress Vancouver majority in Council, I am confident we will deliver on our commitments.

As a passionate BC New Democrat, there is a lesson I learned hearing about Jack Layton’s story. When working towards the greater good it’s best to have a diversity of viewpoints on your side. That’s how we get to the best version of what good looks like. Diverse views make it possible to have the difficult conversations with trusted allies to work out the rough edges in our policy.

Studies tell us diverse teams give better results, and that’s why I work with everyone in my human rights advocacy. And that’s what we are striving for in Progress Vancouver. Our team of three BC New Democrats, two Liberals, and one conservative is just about as diverse as I have ever seen.

Once I committed, Mark and I worked together with the Progress Vancouver leadership to broaden and update the platform. It needed to better reflect our shared values and at first, there were real gaps that we had to address. And now after a lot of work with really smart people dedicated to a thriving Vancouver, I can tell you that I’m truly proud of what we put together.

We want to bring a Vancouver that is thriving, where justice matters and where people live in safety with dignity, and it’s thanks to our diverse slate that we are getting so much traction because we’re able to work with anyone who’ll work with us.

On housing, for example, we are following the example set by the very-successful Mole Hill Housing Society in the West End, where I live. The Vancouver Civic Housing Commission that we previously announced will build housing that reflects the city’s priorities and interests and will do it without increasing taxes. Our city needs to get more of the kind of housing Vancouverites need built, and the VCHC will get this done at the price renters can afford.

And on homelessness, we’re taking the advice of the Greater Victoria Coalition To End Homelessness and listening to why people are staying away from SROs. We’re committing to offer temporary encampments so unhoused people can wait for the Province to build housing in a safe space with storage, washing facilities, and access to services they need.

That’s the kind of leadership Vancouverites need, and that’s why Progress Vancouver is stepping up. We’ll use all the tools at our disposal to bring the change Vancouver needs.

Mark’s federal connections and Andrew Weaver’s endorsement demonstrate diverse political support. With my own close ties to the BC NDP and to grassroots and nonprofit groups, we’ll already enjoy the trust that’s needed to engage effectively with all stakeholders.

And today we are here for you. We are running together because four more years of Kennedy Stewart will lead nowhere, and four years under Colleen Hardwick takes us backwards. Ken Sim is all over the place proposing nonsensical ideas and gimmicks.

This is why I’m with Mark Marissen and Progress Vancouver. We are aligned on values and we are ready to work with everyone to deliver on our commitments. It’s the outcomes that matter to us, and we believe that Vancouver needs far more collaborations like this.

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