Nathanael Lauster, Nazism, and tobacco tactics in housing crisis denialism

“Hitler introduced tobacco control measures,” the tobacco industry propagandists would say. “Therefore, anyone who advocates for tobacco control measures is a Nazi.”

The use reductio ad Hitlerum — a logical fallacy in the form “Hitler did X, therefore anyone who does X is a Nazi”1) — is a common tactic used by the tobacco industry and its front groups to fight tobacco control measures such as smoke-free public places and stronger cigarette advertising restrictions2)

UBC sociology professor Nathanael Lauster tore a page out of the tobacco industry propaganda playbook on Remembrance Day by tweeting that discussion of foreign buyers’ impact on making houses unaffordable to local workers in Vancouver was the slippery slope to “National Socialism”.

For tobacco industry, the use of Nazi rhetoric is a last desperate attempt to stifle government regulations in the face of overwhelming evidence that show tobacco control measures have remarkable public health benefits.

Likewise, the real estate industry is keen to stifle any government regulations that restrict foreign buyers in Vancouver’s real estate market in the face of evidence3) that show measures introduced to tackle global speculation in the housing market have significantly improved housing affordability for local workers.

Lauster, after all, is a leader in Vancouver’s YIMBY — Yes In My Back Yard — movement, whose core tenet is that rezoning as much of the city as possible for market-rate condo and apartment towers will solve the affordability crisis.

As the cheerleaders of the real estate development industry, the YIMBYs are adept at using pure neoliberal sophistry4) to convince public that rezoning for density is panacea for all social ills despite the compelling evidence that building market-rate housing worsens affordability for the working class5) leading to social cleansing social cleansing — the systematic large-scale removal from a region of members of a social class deemed undesirable.

“The argument for density has become entrenched in planning discourse as a solution to many environmental, social, and economic ills,” Dalhousie University’s Meaghan Dalton explains6) “However, the original intent of density may be forgotten, as policies and planners argue for density without supportive evidence, or even contrary to research findings.”

It’s frightening that, Lauster, a man who should know better as an academic at such an august institution, would resort to Reductio ad Hitlerum attacks to stifle debate that could result in BC NDP government tightening rules around foreign property ownership further.

It’s worth noting that Lauster has positioned himself as an expert on the matter, going so far as to provide expert testimony in support of the foreign buyers suing the Province of British Columbia to get the foreign buyer tax repealed.

At the same time, that even such a learned man is unable to come up a better argument than “but the Nazis did it” should make it clear that the denialists have lost the debate over the impact of global money in Vancouver’s housing crisis.

References   [ + ]


How the YIMBY movement made neoliberal social cleansing hip again

Go to any public hearing at Vancouver City Council for a market-rate housing project and you’ll see a group of angry millennial men, dorky in appearance, yuppie in dress and frat boy in behaviour.

They will come up to speak at the podium one after another in a well-rehearsed ritual.

“More,” each will recite. “Build more. Densify the westside. Legalize housing.”

“RS-1 (single family) neighbourhoods are the bane of humanity,” each will pontificate. “Single family homeowners are evil incarnate.”

Ask the YIMBY — Yes In My Back Yard — movement to explain how building market-rate housing helps affordability, and they will swiftly block you1)

That’s because, as Keith A. Spencer explained in his Salon Article, YIMBY philosophy is nothing more than a form a pure neoliberal sophistry2)

As Spencer pointed out, the 2007 San Francisco Planning Commission study3) refutes the central tenet of the YIMBY ideology that rezoning as much of the city as possible for market-rate condo and apartment towers will solve the affordability crisis.

Question the faulty logic that the YIMBYs use to justify densification, and they will immediately label you a NIMBY and attack you mercilessly. Academics, journalists, politicians and citizen activists who are fighting to make Vancouver affordable for the working classes have all come under vicious YIMBY attacks.

The YIMBY movement demonstrate other cult behaviours.

YIMBYs don’t attack ideas — they attack the person. And the YIMBYs fight dirty, even going as far as to carry out of racist smear campaigns against housing activists of colour who call out the absurdity of their logic.

The YIMBY adherents want to hide one ugly truth: market-rate housing actually makes the housing crisis worse for working-class people.

The only beneficiaries of densification in Vancouver are the people in the real estate industry: the developers, realtors, and financiers. They stand to make obscene profits turning working class neighbourhoods into empty condo towers to be used as safety deposit boxes in the sky for the global rich.

As the big developers gentrify neighbourhoods, the working class families will be priced out further and further away into the valley. Some will end up spending four hours a day commuting between work and home, taking away precious time they could be spending with their children.

This social cleansing — the systematic large-scale removal from a region of members of a social class deemed undesirable — accelerated during Vision Vancouver reign, as the City Council rezoned ever large sections of the city for luxury condo towers eroding affordability with each project.

How did the politicians and the bureaucracy manage get away with it for so long?

Dalhousie University’s Meaghan Dalton analyzed 25 planning documents spanning five Canadian cities including Vancouver, and made a frightening discovery4)

“The argument for density has become entrenched in planning discourse as a solution to many environmental, social, and economic ills,” Dalton found. “However, the original intent of density may be forgotten, as policies and planners argue for density without supportive evidence, or even contrary to research findings.”

Why has YIMBY ideology, with such brittle logic, been able to provide political cover for real estate profiteering so effectively?

“The fetish of density may be due to the pervasive forces of neoliberalism and may be the one tool planners feel they can cling on to for potential positive impacts,” Dalton explains in her working paper. “In a climate where governments have rolled back support for public housing, planners may feel they have no direction to turn except for the contested economic argument that greater density (thus more supply of housing) will lead to more affordable housing prices.”

Social cleansing for profit isn’t hip. Neoliberals wanted a find a way to make it palatable to the masses, so, they nurtured the YIMBY movement. The YIMBY white knights to marched in to slay the dragons of logic and rescue the developers in distress. Because the YIMBY web of sophistry wasn’t particularly difficult to unravel, they embarked on a campaign of ad hominem attacks against anyone who dared called out their logical fallacies.

The future, however, looks bright for housing activists who are fighting to make cities affordable for the working classes. Voters overwhelmingly rejected YIMBY candidates — who received generous donations from the real estate industry — both in Vancouver and San Francisco.

But the Vancouver YIMBYs are showing no signs of relenting. They’ve ratcheted up the rhetoric and intensified their attacks against housing affordability activists. The Vancouver YIMBYs are the champions of a 100 billion dollar industry and that’s a lot of money to buy ammunition.

Expect them to fight dirty to the bitter end.

References   [ + ]


China meddling in Vancouver election to protect its billion dollar assets in the city

Vancouverites woke up on Saturday to the chilling news that People’s Republic of China was meddling in the city’s municipal election.

Vancouver Police Department announced an investigation into a vote buying scheme organized by a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) front group was underway1) Canada Wenzhou Friendship, a group with ties to CCP United Front2), was promoting Vision Vancouver, Vancouver 1st and Coalition Vancouver candidates.

Even more frighteningly, Vancouver’s leading mayoral candidate independent Kennedy Stewart had endorsed the Vision candidate at the centre of the scheme, under an agreement signed with Green, COPE and OneCity candidates3)

The same groups ardently pushing to get these candidates elected are also mercilessly attacking my grassroots electoral organization ProVancouver. Their attacks especially harsh against our mayoral candidate David Chen, whose parents migrated here from Taiwan. They’ve also gone after me with a vengeance, because, like David, I have spoken out against the impact of global dirty money distorting our housing market and displacing our families.

Why is China so keen to take over a municipal government in Canada?

Beijing now owns billions of dollars worth of assets in Vancouver with the forcible takeover of the Anbang group last march4) This includes four major office towers and a chain of senior care facilities. The governing federal Liberals, former BC Liberals and outgoing Vision Vancouver all share the blame for doing nothing to protect such valuable assets falling into the hands of a foreign state.

It’s hardly surprising that the Chinese communist leadership would try to meddle in our municipal elections. President for life Xi Jinping and co. simply want to safeguard their economic interests. They want to install government at 12th and Cambie that protects their assets worth billions of dollars while promoting Chinese government interests over those of local taxpaying citizens.

Citizens of Vancouver do not need to accept Chinese Communist Party’s meddling in our democracy as a fait accompli. Citizens can stop this assault on our democracy by turning up in droves to the nearest voting place and casting your ballot for the group of candidates who have a proven track record of standing up for citizens against global dirty money interests.

I’m running for Vancouver City Council with ProVancouver to free Vancouver from global greed and make the City Hall work for citizens again. Please support me by voting for me and making sure you friends also vote for me. I’m the second from last on your ballot.

References   [ + ]


How Vancouver condo offshore presales may be used to launder global dirty money

It’s incredibly easy for transnational criminals to use Vancouver condo offshore presales to launder their dirty money. It can be accomplished in just three steps:

Step 1: Buy a presale contract at an offshore sale using dirty money in the offshore currency and hold on to it for a couple of years
Step 2: Flip it to a Canadian buyer for double what you originally paid for it and get paid in Canadian dollars
Step 3: Pay the developer back and walk away with a clean million Canadian dollars instead of dirty offshore currency

We know for a fact that Westbank, Onni, Concord Pacific and other big developers market Vancouver condos offshore. In Westbank’s case, we know buyers from China are able to get a hold of a presale by putting a 10% down payment in the Chinese currency renminbi1)

We also know that many of these offshore presales are flipped to local buyers2) The prices of these condos have sometimes doubled between the time they were sold in an offshore presales event and the time they’re flipped to locals close to completion.

Imagine the scenario where a transnational criminal who bought a Westbank offshore presale contract for RMB 700,000 (approximately CAD 130,000) in dirty money for a condo worth $1.3M in 2016.

The criminal could easily flip it for around $2.5M, given that condo prices have risen by 35% year-over-year since. After paying back the developer the $1.3 million, the criminal would be walking away with a clean million dollars Canadian. Like magic, a little bit of dirty offshore money has turned into a lot of clean Canadian money.

If it’s child’s play to launder money through presales, just how prevalent is it?

Only the real estate industry knows the answer and they don’t want us to find out. There’s no transparency whatsoever regarding offshore presales at the moment. The industry has a history of trying to silence anyone who dares to even offer a glimpse into the murky world of offshore presales3)

The provincial probe into dirty money in real estate is a major step forward. But it’s time for City of Vancouver to set up a Vancouver Police Department real estate crime unit. We need to thoroughly investigate offshore presales, and all other forms of questionable real estate practices that have turned our housing market into one giant laundromat for global dirty money.

Global dirty money being laundered in our real estate market is a major cause of the housing crisis that heaping misery on hundreds of thousands of our citizens. The sooner stop criminals washing their proceeds of crime in our housing market, the sooner we can make our city affordable to locals again.

I’m running for Vancouver City Council with ProVancouver to free Vancouver from global greed and make the City Hall work for citizens again. Please support me by voting for me and making sure you friends also vote for me. I’m the second from last on your ballot.

References   [ + ]


Over 1,000 new Airbnb listings added in Vancouver within a month of new rules coming into effect

More than 1,000 new Airbnb listings have appeared on the platform within a month of new Airbnb rules came into effect in Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver claimed that the number of listings on Airbnb had fallen from 6,600 in April to 3,742 on September 1, but the scan of the Airbnb website I ran last night shows that the number has crept up to 4,743.

A majority of the listings may be violating City of Vancouver’s short term rental bylaws.

This includes 1,257 duplicate licences, 403 claiming dubious exemptions, 76 obviously fake licenses, and 252 units using invalid or expired licences. Moreover, 2295 units are run by operators who run more than one listing, potentially in breach of the short term rental bylaw.

To meaningfully protect our long term rental market from being decimated by Airbnb and other short term accommodation platforms, we must take the following steps:

  1. Introduce licence auto-verification, so, we can nip unlicensed units and licence cheats in the bud
  2. Introduce a tough new bylaw and agreements that hold platforms accountable for the hosts’ actions
  3. Make Airbnb fines lienable, so that the city can place liens against egregious violators who refuse to pay the fines

At the same time, the City should use fines collected from short term rental violators to help the Airbnb’s greatest victims: the renters.

I believe Vancouver should take care of those who take care of our city and our citizens. I dream of a place where those who contribute to our communities are able to afford to live in the city. I’m running for city councillor to see that dream come true. Please help me by donating and volunteering to my campaign.

Please find me on Twitter, Facebook and Github.

Vancouver election lottery: the winners and the losers

Who got lucky and who didn’t with the random ballot lottery? Here’s my quick analysis.

CandidateAlphabetical OrderRandom OrderDifference
ALM, Kelly119-18
BAINS Brinder (YES Vancouver)237-35
BASRA, Nycki (VANCOUVER 1st)330
BHANDAL, Taqdir Kaur449-45
BLIGH Rebecca (NPA)523-18
BLYTH, Sarah654-48
BOYLE, Christine (OneCity)725
BUCHANAN, Barbara811-3
CARDONA, Diego (Vision Vancouver)956-47
CARR, Adriane (GREEN)1066-56
CAUDWELL, Justin1192
CHAN, Glynnis (YES Vancouver)1269-57
CHARKO, Ken (Coalition Vancouver)1342-29
CHERNEN, Glen (Coalition Vancouver)1457-43
COOK, Graham1527-12
COPELAND, Cord "Ted"1653-37
CRELLIN, Breton (ProVancouver)17170
CROOK, Adrian18612
DE GENOVA, Melissa (NPA)19415
DEAL, Heather (Vision Vancouver)2071-51
DOMINATO, Lisa (NPA)2122-1
EL-RAYES, Hamdy2233-11
EVANS, Catherine (Vision Vancouver)23203
FALLS, Larry2448-24
FRANSON, Marlo25124
FRY, Pete (GREEN)26719
FU, Hsin-Chen2750-23
GOODRICH, Justin P (NPA)2832-4
GRANT, Wade2943-14
GREWAL, David (NPA)3041-11
HARDWICK, Colleen (NPA)311318
HUGHES, Ashley32311
JOHL, Jesse (VANCOUVER 1st)3344-11
KENNEDY, Gordon T3451-17
KHAN, Abubakar3564-29
KIRBY-YUNG, Sarah (NPA)3640-4
KOUTALIANOS, Anastasia371225
KRISTIANSEN, Lisa (ProVancouver)382414
LI, Morning (Coalition Vancouver)3960-21
LIN, James (Coalition Vancouver)40355
LOW, Ken (VANCOUVER 1st)411526
MALUSA, John (VANCOUVER 1st)42384
MCDOWELL, Rob4355-12
MIEDZYGORSKI, Herschel443014
MIRZA, Raza (ProVancouver)452124
MOLLINEAUX, Michelle (VANCOUVER 1st)4652-6
MUSSIO, Penny (Coalition Vancouver)472918
NOBLE, Penny481434
O'KEEFE, Derrick (COPE)4959-10
OSTLER, Stephanie (YES Vancouver)5067-17
PAZ, Tanya (Vision Vancouver)513615
PEROSA, Elishia (VANCOUVER 1st)52475
PETA, Franco (Coalition Vancouver)531835
PORTER, Elke5461-7
QUIMPO, Jojo (NPA)553421
RAMDEEN, Katherine5658-2
RAUNET, Françoise571047
REZEL, Rohana (ProVancouver)5870-12
ROBERTS, Anne (COPE)591643
SHUM, Erin602634
SPARK, John61853
SWANSON, Jean (COPE)634518
TANG, Phyllis (YES Vancouver)643925
TAYLOR, Elizabeth (VANCOUVER 1st)65560
VIRDI, Jaspreet (YES Vancouver)662838
WIEBE, Michael (GREEN)6768-1
WONG, David HT (GREEN)68635
XIE, Jason (Coalition Vancouver)692544
YAN, Brandon 甄念本 (OneCity)70655
ZHANG, Wei Qiao (Vision Vancouver)71629

Elizabeth Taylor (VANCOUVER 1st) emerged the luckiest, moving up 60 places compared to where she would’ve been in an alphabetically ordered ballot. She entered the race lucky with a memorable name. Lady luck must really like her.

Glynnis Chan (YES Vancouver) came out the unluckiest, dropping 57 places compared to where she would’ve been in alphabetical order. But then again, Yes Vancouver has developers altruistically putting up billboards for them, so it should even out the misfortune.

Nothing changed for Nycki Basra (VANCOUVER 1st) and Breton Crellin (ProVancouver) ending up exactly where they would have if the ballot had been ordered alphabetically.

I’m at 70, one from last. In a way, that’s better than being any number between 10 and 65. That’s what I like to tell myself.

My priorities

End global speculation in our housing market

  • Rental-only zoning along transit corridors
  • VPD real estate crime unit
  • Community owned housing on public land
  • Locals-only presales
  • Work with province to tax landbankers

Crackdown on Airbnb

  • Complete ban against Airbnb until Airbnb agrees to:
    • Automatic licence verification
    • Platform accountability
  • Enforce existing $1000/per day fines against all violators
  • Airbnb fines to fund rental rebate

Protect local workers

  • City-wide job seeker database
    • Match companies seeking temporary foreign workers with local workers seeking jobs
  • Local essential workers to be given priority for affordable rentals
  • End privatization of city services

Promote small business and innovation

  • Reduced property taxes for local small businesses offset it by increased property taxes for luxury retailers and chain stores
  • Space reserved for local small business in new developments
  • Create a small businesses incubator
  • Local business-first procurement policy

Please vote Rohana Rezel (ProVancouver) for Vancouver City Council on Oct 20. I’m second from last on the ballot.

[Photo Credit: Gord McKenna]

Authorized by candidate Rohana Rezel ([email protected]).

Urgent: Vision playing dirty to ram rezoning motion through council bypassing public input

After telling people that the backup time for today’s mass rezoning public hearing is tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3PM, Mayor Gregor Robertson decided to suddenly recommence the hearing at 11AM, without any notification to the people who had left home for the night expecting to come back at 3 O’clock tomorrow.

Thanks to a little bit of push back from Councillor Adriane Carr, the mayor came to compromise and now the public hearing will start at 1PM tomorrow. But many people will are unaware that the public hearing is happening earlier than scheduled. And many can’t take time off from work to attend the public hearing at 1PM.

Vision Vancouver’s playing dirty to undemocratically ram mass rezoning through the council. We need your help. They’re making a mockery of a “public hearing” by making it as inaccessible to the public as possible.

We still can stop Vision lame ducks in their tracks. Please turn up en masse to the Vancouver City Council tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1PM and ask to speak. The council must listen to each and everyone one of you who signs up to speak. We need hundreds of people to show up and demand to speak. Please invite everyone you know who are retired or taking a day off tomorrow. Let’s unite as one people to stop Vision’s vile assault on democracy.

[Photo Credit: Tyler Ingram]

Re-open online sign up for mass rezoning public hearing immediately

Update: The City Clerk reopened online sign ups following my complaint.

Katrina Leckovic,
City Clerk,
City of Vancouver
By email at: [email protected]


Dear Madam,

I’m disturbed to hear from citizens who were planning on speaking at the mass rezoning public hearing that you’ve closed online sign ups for the hearing last night, despite having advertised that online sign up would be open till 2PM today. This kind of action to stop citizens from exercising their right to be heard has no place in a democratic society.

It was clear from the beginning that the lame duck Vision Vancouver mayor and councillors were determined to rush this through council and ram these far reaching changes down citizens throats. Starting the public hearing at 3PM, when most people are at work, is just one way to make this happen. But your decision to close online sign ups last night after having told citizens that they had till 2PM today to sign up is plain wrong.

I demand that you reopen the online sign ups immediately and forthwith, and keep sign ups open till 2PM today. Please let me know when you have opened the hearings so that I communicate the news to the hundreds of citizens who’ve prevented from signing up to speak at the event.

Thank you,
Rohana Rezel

Don’t let a callous City Hall bulldoze our neighbourhoods

Update 8:30AM: Vision Vancouver is playing dirty again! The online sign ups for public hearings are supposed to end an hour before the hearings open. But they closed the hearings for mass rezoning the night before. If you haven’t already registered, please go to the city hall in person before 2:30PM and register to speak. Or you can turn up and wait your turn. The council has to listen to everyone who’s there.

Update 9:00AM: The City Clerk reopened online sign ups following my complaint.

The bulldozers are coming for our neighbourhoods. The Vancouver city council will vote today, Tuesday September 18, to make Vancouver a free-for-all for developers who pour millions into Vision Vancouver coffers. This is the final act of depravity of a Vision’s mayor and council that has ridden roughshod over our communities for a decade.

Vision’s vision of Vancouver is a jungle of glass and concrete luxury condo skyscrapers built by the likes of Westbank, Onni, Concord Pacific and Aquilini giving a permanent middle finger to the citizens left despondent by crushing unaffordability. There’s no place in their emerald city for nurses, teachers, police officers and other women and men who serve our citizens with unwavering dedication.

But we have the power to stop Vision lame ducks in their tracks. Vancouver City Council will hold a public hearing before the vote on the 18th. The council is required by law to listen to every speaker who signs up to speak. The council can hear approximately 10 speakers a night. So, if thousands of Vancouverites sign up to speak, we can delay it till the next election.

I urge you to sign up, make your voice heard, and take part in the citizen filibuster to thwart Gregor and co’s last attempt to drive the knife further into our beloved city’s dying heart. If we don’t stop Vision mayor and council from going through with their final act of wanton debasement, we’ll be allowing them to permanently disfigure our neighbourhoods, snuff life out of our communities, and turn Vancouver into one gaudy gambling resort for the global rich.

I believe we should take care of those who take care of us. I dream of a place where those who contribute to our communities are able to afford to live in the city. I’m running for Vancouver city councillor to see that dream come true. Please help me by donating and volunteering to my campaign.