Meet Vision Vancouver city council candidate Tony Tang

Vancouver 2011 Municipal Election: Vision Vancouver's newest face says he's in it for a chance to improve his community, even if he can't make all of them happy all of the time.

Photo of Tony Tang by Jenny Uechi.

Vancouver 2011 Municipal Election: Tony Tang is working inside his bustling Vision Vancouver campaign office on Yukon street when I arrive. He greets me with a wide, enthusiastic smile and a handshake. When I sit down across the table, facing him directly, he hesitates a bit at the “formal” feeling created by this position, and seems almost ready to change seats.

I don't like to be so formal,” he explains with a quiet laugh.

The ice broken, we get busy talking about how Tang became his party's newest candidate.

Challenges of being a new politician

Since the campaign began, Tang has been bombarded by emails and calls from both journalists and constituents wanting to know more about him. It's no surprise – his face is prominently featured in Vision Vancouver's promotional materials. In one pamphlet called “Introducing Tony Tang”, which hit mailboxes across the city, he stands in a two-shot with Mayor Gregor Robertson. But printed materials aren't enough, he says.

I wish I had more time,” he sighs, exhaling a deep breath. “Not for myself – but to talk to more people.”

In the past three weeks, Tang's days have run from 6 a.m. to past midnight as he works to establish his name as a successor to Vision's popular, outgoing council member George Chow. But he says he's happy to put in the hours. “If you describe me the way my wife does, I'm a work ant,” he says. “I like working -- I can't sit still.”

An engineer focused on affordable housing

Tang was born and raised in Hong Kong – a “sleepy village”, he calls it, compared to the gigantic metropolis it has become today -- and immigrated to Canada in the late 1960s. An engineer by training, he worked in home construction for more than 20 years. He is fluent in both Cantonese and Mandarin, and was a board member of the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners' Association for five years between 2001 and 2006, before serving for two years on the city's Board of Variance, which hears appeals on zoning and bylaw issues.

Although Vancouver municipal blogger Frances Bula described Tang as a “doppelganger” of Chow, he insists that there are key differences between them.

Both of us are engineers, so a lot of our thinking [is] similar,” he says. “But I tend to talk a little bit more; I tend to be more assertive because I want to get things done. I think [is] because for the last 20 years, I’ve been in home building and in order to get something done, you really have to push hard and you really have to be consistent.”

Seniors feeing the pinch

Tans says that of all the issues facing Vancouver today, housing is the one that he feels most strongly about, and is one of the main reasons why he joined politics.

I think one of the most important things is senior housing, and affordability is a big concern for me,” he says. “I think there is a lack of options for senior housing right now.”

Tang praises Vision Vancouver's recent commitment to build culturally appropriate homes for senior citizens, addressing a growing need among Chinese seniors.

It's not just Chinese,” he is quick to point out. 

Some people say it's segregation, but it's not about segregation,” he explains, stressing his point. “When seniors grow old, their brain regresses, and Chinese seniors -- they start to forget English. They want to eat congee, the food they ate as a child, not Western food. It's also about giving those seniors a sense of dignity.”

Tang says he's also concerned about the lack of healthy and affordable homes for young families, and offers up numerous stories about his experience in the housing industry as he talks.

I had a young carpenter who worked for me before, he was from Latin America, and I saw him cough all the time. I drove him home one day and saw that he and his family lived in a really damp basement. I said, 'Do you know your place has mould'? So I encouraged him and helped him move out to a drier place. But it was hard to find.”

Tang believes there should be more reasonably priced housing available to Vancouver residents, but when it comes to regulation of overseas buyers who are often blamed for the skyrocketing home prices, Tang doesn't believe there is a quick and easy fix.

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honest

Sounds like a pretty honest guy. I don't like veteran politicians normally because they're full of empty talk. This guy at least is in it for the right reasons.