Yesterday, I had a long and interesting brunch with the amiable Nicholas Chernen of the Cedar Party. Nicholas is running for Council, while brother Glen Chernen is the party’s candidate for Mayor.
I was obliged to note that the Cedar Party had never once been mentioned in any political conversation I have had with anyone in Grandview. Nicholas noted that they had been trying to get to as many community events as possible, and will do more to get their name out there on the street.
When asked about the Cedar Party position on the traditional left-right continuum, he said that they were as centrist as they could be. He said that Glen was a little right of centre, while Nicholas is a little left. He denied they were an NPA spin-off or hoping to be brought in to the NPA empire.
I think they are genuinely anti-Vision (it was Vision’s antio-democratic handling of development proposals that gave Glen his moment of conversion to municipal politics) and are seeking to create a non-majority Council. They will have five Council candidates plus Glen for mayor. They are also keen on running School Board and Park Board candidates.
They say their first priority is to remove the “developer-first” mindset at City Hall. In both their platform and in Nicholas’s discussion with me, they are willing to say all the right things – put neighbourhoods first, bring back City Plan or similar (he was not clear on all the details), and was supportive of an independent Neighbourhood Engagement Office.
They are very keen on legislating the CAC system: making CAC’s mandatory, with a published scale from which planners are not allowed to stray. [I suggested we should replace CACs with mandatory inclusive zoning, and bring back bond issues for infrastructure].
Their other priority is the creation of an Anti-Corruption Office and to “clean up” the procurement system used by the City. They also feel that Mayor and Council have a right to discuss and lobby for anything that happens in the city even if it is not officially their jurisdiction (better schools, better Mental Health services, etc)
The Cedar party platform also includes a reduction in property taxes and a concomitant savings in City budgets through “efficiencies”. I argued against reducing property taxes as Vancouver is on the very low end of property-tax assessment rates in North America) and various governments (Kansas, for example) have recently shown that cutting revenues is a disaster in the making. He suggested they were re-visiting that plank.
They are opposed to demolising the viaducts (just another sweetheart deal for developers, they say), opposed to the Interim Arterials development policy (another developers’ giveaway), and not keen on too many more bike lanes.
All in all, Nicholas Chernen came across as someone willing to listen to and discuss ideas not yet formulated. We know that his brother comes across with more of an ego-driven, I need to be Mayor, attitude; but I suspect that in the end they are interested in putting together a pragmatic cross-party slate that will ensure Vision does not get another majority and that will see the Chernens working at City Hall in some capacity.
I’ll be interested in seeing a lot more policy development so that we can see where they really stand on important issues.