In response to deteriorating living conditions and a rising cost of living, the Katarowki Union of Tenants in Kingston, Ontario is running a slate of candidates for mayor and council. People’s Voice spoke with mayoral candidate Ivan Stoiljkovic about the campaign.
PV: In your People’s Platform you say you are going to end homelessness. Do you really think this is possible to do without help from provincial and federal governments?
IS: Politicians like to deflect blame and their go-to answer is always to point to another level of government. Between the phrases “we can’t” and “it’s not us, it’s them,” you pretty much have the art of traditional, mainstream politics covered.
In municipal politics, the majority of candidates act as if decisions about parking signs and potholes in the roads are the biggest issues.
Why run for public office if “we can’t” is the motto? Of course, we can end homelessness. It’s all government policy. Political decisions have been made at the municipal level to benefit real estate developers and other capitalists in the housing game. If development applications were denied or if developers were made to provide RGI housing as part of their for-profit project, they wouldn’t be as wealthy and there wouldn’t be as many homeless people on the street.
But where are you going to get the money?
The problem is not that there is no money. The problem is that almost all of it is being handed over to large landlords and developers for their for-profit developments under this guiding principle of supply and demand, trickle-down economic theory.
Mainstream opinion is that we need to get more housing built and then prices will drop.
Vacancy rates and increasing market supply is a landlords’ and developers’ talking point.
We now see that when supply increases, so too does rent. Landlords and homeowners are hoarding housing and speculate that they will see returns on their investment, driving rents higher and higher all the time.
I don’t actually see homeowners as “the enemy.” They are looking out for their future in a situation in which the social welfare state is failing us and our public pension funds have been depleted. For a lot of people, owning a second home is their retirement. The system is pitting people against each other and forcing people into landlordism which in reality functions as social murder. One person’s child’s college fund or retirement plan is another person’s homelessness, suffering and premature death. That’s why we need universal and public services for all.
You are running on a slate with other people. Why should people vote for you as mayor and for the others to be city council?
I am not friends with Kingston’s large landowners and developers. I’m a tenant and all my friends are tenants. I’ve been poor and working class my whole life and I’ve always been outspoken about injustices perpetuated by our economic elites and their representatives at all three levels of government. My friends and I at Katarokwi Union of Tenants are the reason why some of the housing money is actually being spent on actually helping people and managing homelessness. We are some of the people who have done most to prevent people who are on the streets from freezing to death and helping people who are living with bedbugs and who are living in fear of being evicted and who are being evicted and constantly moving. These are my friends whose kids are going hungry.
The current council is out of touch with the reality of working-class peoples’ lives. All their friends are very well-off businesspeople, landlords and developers. They drink at the yacht club and at the country club. Their concerns are not the concerns of ordinary people.
My friends and I are all tenant and housing rights activists. We feed homeless people through our food program and supply them with things like tents and batteries and firewood that they need to survive out in the cold, we help other tenants deal with their landlords, we fight evictions, we work with community legal clinics. We write, research and expose the wrongdoings of the City and the landlords and we develop alternative policies that are in the interest of tenants.
For more information, visit the campaign website: www.tenantsunite.ca/peoplesplatformforkingston
To assist with the campaign or make a donation, email firstname.lastname@example.org
[Photo: People’s Platform candidates Alexandria Liu, Ivan Stoiljkovic and Jacob Wynperle]
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