By day, Graham Cook is a mild-mannered project manager. By night, he’s running as an independent for public office
More than 40 candidates are vying for a seat on Vancouver city council in what promises to be one of the more hotly contested municipal races in recent memory. Among the dozens of hopefuls is 24-year-old SFU business grad Graham Cook. By day, Cook is a project manager at tech startup Mobify, which builds apps and web pages, mostly for e-commerce. Originally from Surrey, he’s lived in Vancouver for several years, where his disappointment with multi-unit rental housing swelled into a political campaign.
6 a.m. It’s an early start for Cook, who likes to mix it up by following a carrot muffin (“it’s more or less a piece of carrot cake; it’s very unhealthy”) with a trip to the gym. He rises before the sun for standing calls with many Mobify clients–British telecommunications giant BT Group, for example–across the Atlantic. After putting out any international fires, Cook, who follows a strict no-politics rule at the office, schedules some campaign-related social media posts.
10 a.m. Cook turns his attention to East Coast customers before tackling domestic issues. As a project manager on the partner success team, his job boils down to keeping clients happy, whether that’s troubleshooting their app or site or reviewing the latest numbers.
Lunch Hoping to improve his technical skills, Cook tries his hand at Codecademy—an online platform that teaches computer coding—while scarfing down his pre-made sacchettini with vegetables.
3 p.m. Internal meetings take up much of the rest of the day in what Cook calls a “casual work environment”–so much so that he didn’t formally bring up his bid for office. “Most people have found out and just said, ‘Hey, that’s really cool.’”
For Cook, that attitude squares with how Mobify does business: “It’s very collaborative; it’s not like, here are the five things you need to do today. It’s here’s the end goal. What’s the best way to get there, in your opinion?”
5.30 p.m. Time for Cook to don his cape. On this hot August evening, he leaves his downtown office for a non-partisan gathering in Railtown called Dear City Council, where citizens can exchange ideas in the lead-up to the October 20 election. En route, he spots Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate Ian Campbell heading the other way.
“I was really mad,” Cook says of why he’s running for council. “Housing is the big thing for every young person,” the ever-smiling Trout Lake resident adds. “And just feeling like we didn’t have this seat at the table, that city hall and council didn’t understand where we were coming from.”
7 p.m. At the event, Cook speaks enthusiastically about his role as a board member of the Vancouver chapter of the Huntington Society of Canada and about dealing with the tech industry, whose members tend to “think they know everything,” he says. “How do you bring a willingness to hear ideas into that community?” Cook is also eager to confront the opioid crisis (“throwing people in jail isn’t the solution”), support bike lanes (“biking has one of the lowest societal costs of any transportation method”) and champion municipal electoral reform (“this mayoral election is probably going to be one of the best case studies in the failures of first-past-the-post that we’ll ever see in this city”). But real estate promises to be the main sticking point in this campaign. “Even if there wasn’t a housing crisis, for me it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to say, ‘All these neighbourhoods have to be single-family homes,’” Cook argues. “That has its roots in keeping poor people out, it has its roots in keeping people of colour out, and it has its roots in an electric streetcar that no longer runs in this city.”