Serving You: Pete Fry
Vancouver city councillor Pete Fry
You & Me BC
April 6th, 2022
In this series, we talk with elected representatives from across BC, getting to know them and the issues they care about most.
In this entry, we talk with Vancouver city councillor Pete Fry about life in the city, community advocacy, and the time he fired Nickleback.
Pete Fry Quick Facts:
Hero: Spiderman - I am inspired by everyday people doing extraordinary things
Favourite location: Spanish Banks with my wife and dog when the tide's out
Hobbies: Illustration and cooking
Favourite song: Underdog by the Dirtbombs
Favourite food: Love food but if I had to pick one - okonomiyaki!
Interesting fact: I’ve been self employed in the arts most of my life. As a graphic designer in the grunge-era nineties I did a lot of rock and roll type work as “Pete Digiboy”. Occasionally I'd have to fire an especially bad client, and one of them was an intolerable band from Alberta, who were primadonna hair rockers and far too demanding for a second-rate bar band that was never going anywhere. That band was Nickelback.
How did you get into politics?
Pete: I guess my first foray into politics was the Vancouver Park Board’s Dog Strategy Task Force from 2006-2008.
But after my good friend and neighbour was struck by a car crossing an overly busy and thoroughly unsafe street in our community, I became more active in community organizing and ultimately local politics.
Unfortunately my friend Paul suffered a significant brain injury and never fully recovered, and he died in 2015.
What do you consider the most important issue for Vancouver?
Pete: It sounds a bit hackneyed - but livability. It's a bit of a catch-all that covers the gamut of the very real issues we have to deal with.
There's housing scarcity and affordability, cost of living and getting around, adequate greenspace and amenities, resilience to climate change and extreme weather, public safety, good jobs and complete communities; and supporting our vulnerable communities.
It all comes back to livability, literally, but of course livability means different things to different people.
For Pete, everything comes back to livability
What has the city been doing right?
Pete: Most of my first term in office has been spent dealing with the impacts of COVID. It’s been an extraordinary and unprecedented time and brought us a number of challenges. I think all things considered we've done a good job, especially our frontline staff.
There’s a notion that because there's no majority on council, there's some sort of stalemate because we don’t agree on things - on the contrary though, I think this council reaches consensus more often than not, but we do spend a lot of time getting there.
What does the city need to improve?
Pete: One of the challenges over COVID has been how we manage our time - in particular, since we allow virtual attendance.
In the past if a member of the public wanted to speak to something at city hall they'd have to attend chambers in person and often wait hours to speak.
Now, we allow folk to call in and the barriers to access are almost negligible - it has meant double, even triple the number of speakers and that adds a lot of time onto our workload.
Public safety's an area Pete wants improved
Of course, the more pressing issue for improvement's the state of our city, in particular the feelings around community safety.
Cities around the world are grappling with a profound impact on mental health as a result of the pandemic - and we see that manifest in issues around safety, street disorder, even the vitriolic bifurcation of opinions in the public commons and on social media.
We need to make our city, streets, and public spaces safe and welcoming for everyone - and that means addressing the concurrent crises of the pandemic, toxic drug supply, climate change, affordability, and mental health proactively.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
Pete: I like constituency work and helping people - I think I’m pretty good at it. Of course I want to get re-elected but I don’t want the election to get in the way of my work.
Already we are feeling a bit of a freeze from staff, and as we head into “silly season” we can expect more performative political antics that only serve to distract from the very important business at hand.
Frankly, as we are hopefully heading into pandemic recovery we have an opportunity to build back better - and I'd hate to see us collectively blow that opportunity amidst election posturing and populism.
What's special about Vancouver to you?
Pete: I grew up here. I’ve spent most of my life in Vancouver, so my life experiences are rooted here.
The sights - streetscapes, buildings, views, parks - even sounds and smells and weather patterns trigger memories and remind me why I love Vancouver.
You mother's Dr. Hedy Fry, Canada's longest serving female Member of Parliament. Has she influenced your work?
Pete: It’s interesting, a lot of people assume I got into politics because I grew up around it. In fact, my mom didn’t get into politics until I was an adult, and at the time we didn’t have much of a relationship at all - I was busy being an artist and activist.
If I had grown up around politics I would likely have run screaming in the opposite direction when the council bug bit. It’s a tough job, involves a lot of sacrifice and a fair amount of abuse - had I known that in advance I probably would not have pursued it.
But I love the work, and me and mom get along fine nowadays… though best really if we don’t talk shop, makes family dinners far more enjoyable.
Dr. Hedy Fry
What are you proudest of in your career so far?
Pete: As a councillor I've pushed a lot of animal issues. These haven’t especially been a priority with councils in the past but it's something that matters to me and my constituents.
Thanks to my work we are the first city in North America to have animal welfare in our ethical procurement policies, we’ve added new laws to prohibit feeding wildlife, and changed legislation around how dangerous dogs are designated and rehabilitated.
We've also shifted from rodenticides, called for a ban on “no pet clauses” in the tenancy law, mandated that at least 20 percent of our food procurement's plant-based, and banned consumer fireworks.
If I had more time I'd be pushing for a comprehensive companion animal strategy - but that will have to wait until next term!
Spencer van Vloten is the editor of You & Me BC. To get in touch, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org