First Thoughts On The Day After

October 21, 2018

My immediate reaction was disappointment; only 12 of my 27 picks were successfully elected yesterday.

The new party I had pinned some hopes on — ProVancouver — put on a decent campaign but their mayoral candidate (my choice) finished 7th, and the most successful of their Council candidates collected less than 9,000 votes, coming in about 46th in line. And while COPE managed to get Jean Swanson onto Council, the vibrant insurgent candidacies of Derricke O’Keefe and Anne Roberts could only manage 14th and 16th places.

Moreover, on Council, the power of the party slate showed itself to still be the key factor, relegating all the independents to the nether regions.  This is no advance in democracy, just a shifting sand.

However, to look  on the bright side, there are potentially six progressive votes on Council against five for the NPA, and hopefully that need for majority can move Mayor Stewart away from his VIsionista leanings toward significantly more progressive and community-minded policies.

Even more satisfying is the virtual elimination of Vision (left with just a single School Board seat), the failure of OneCity to take Vision’s place, and the utter destruction of the build4greed proponents, YES and AHV Vancouver. Ten years of that nonsense under Robertson was quite enough for the sensible citizens of Vancouver.

The big lesson?  The right wing parties simply cannot afford the splits that we saw this year (in Vancouver and Surrey), and we on the progressive left need to keep encouraging them.



Vancouver Elections — Final Endorsements

October 10, 2018

Advance polling for the Vancouver municipal election begins today. It is time, therefore, for me to make my final decisions on who to support.  There have been few changes since last I write about this.

I have read and listened to as much of the politicking as I have been able and consider myself a reasonably informed voter.  My choices are based on one simple principle:  I will not vote for anyone who is not what I would consider a progressive or who is beholden in any way to developers, the NDP or BC Liberals.  That immediately disqualifies anyone from NPA, YES, Vancouver First, and Coalition Vancouver.

Anyone who has read this blog at any time over the last many years knows that I do not consider Vision to be genuinely progressive, and their destructive history speaks for itself. So they, too, are discarded along with the Visionista clones Kennedy Stewart, Shauna Sylvester (who apparently said last night that she favours gentrification of all neighbourhoods) and OneCity (though see below for an exception).

That leaves COPE, Green, ProVancouver and some independents to choose from.

I know Pete Fry (Green) and worked on civic issues with him for several years. He is solid.  I know Derrick O’Keefe (COPE) and appreciate the work he has done through Vancouver Tenants Union. I am a big fan of Anne Roberts (COPE) who was forced out of Council when Larry Campbell and Vision cut the legs out from under COPE a dozen years ago. She stuck to her views and refused to go along with Vision’s sellout.  She has the right views and Council experience.  These three get my core support, but they need companions.

I have some reservations these days about Adriane Carr (Green), but she will be a useful voice of experience and is almost certain to be elected regardless.  I am also going with Jean Swanson (COPE) and Sarah Blyth (independent) because it will be both interesting and useful to see how progressive front line activists react to having a seat at the table.

I will also support Raza Mirza and Rohana Rezel (both ProVancouver) who I know mainly from their Twitter posts, and which have impressed me.  I have met Rob McDowell (independent) a few times over the years and he is a thoroughly decent man and deserves support.

And my final choice for Council, I will vote for Christine Boyle, even though she is from OneCity. I have heard her speak at two meetings and she is clearly on top of her game. Given her views, she could easily be running for COPE or as a progressive independent.  She is a star of the future and I’m happy to see her on the Council.

This will be the third election in a row that I have sought a Council that does not have a single party majority. Such an animal requires a common sense consensus-building chairperson as Mayor. I believe that person this time around is David Chen (ProVancouver) and I wholeheartedly endorse him for that position.

If we can get a non-majority Council in 2018, I believe we will be on our way to ridding the Vancouver municipal scene of all political parties. It is vital at the local level (at least) that elected officials are beholden to the electors who elected them, rather than to the interest groups that selected them.  Let’s make sure the 2018 elections are a start along that road.

The Election: One Month To Go

September 26, 2018

It has been about 10 days since I published my first list of favoured candidates running in the Vancouver municipal elections. Ten days is a lot of all-candidates’ meetings, opinion pieces, and general media coverage, so I thought I’d take another look at the choices.

Pete Fry

My key three are still Pete Fry (Green), Derrick O’Keefe (COPE) and Anne Roberts (COPE).  It is vital that we get a thorough progressive shakeup that brings the power from the corporations back to the people (which is why you will not find any Vision, NPA, Vancouver First, YES Vancouver, or Coalition Vancouver candidates on this list). Pete and Derrick are articulate modern movers and shakers, and Ann brings the wisdom of progressive experience. With these three at the core of a non-majority Council, I can see interesting floating coalitions created with an intent to actually solve an issue.

Obvious accomplices in these efforts would be Jean Swanson (COPE), Adriane Carr (Green), and Sarah Blyth.  Adriane Carr is, of course, a very well-experienced Council member, while both Jean and Sarah would allow front-line workers the opportunity for a voice at the table.

Christine Boyle

If we can get six progressives willing to work together, that’s all we need. However, to fill out the roster, I am currently leaning toward Christine Boyle (OneCity), Rob McDowell, Raza Mirza (ProVancouver) and Rohana Rezel (proVancouver).  I was impressed with Boyle from the speech she gave to a COPE meeting earlier this year. However, her messianic cheerfulness is a bit cloying.  McDowell seems to have been around a while; an NPA type, but decent for all that. Mirza is a frequent tweeter, so his views are easily known.

For mayor, I am still leaning towards David Chen (ProVancouver). However, reports from meetings sometimes make him out to be a little unclear — which really surprises me — and his poll numbers are not improving. I am clearly NOT going to be voting for the Stewart – Sylvester duo of Visionistas, nor the blandness that is Ken Sim, nor, god forbid, the snake oil salesman incarnate Hector Bremner. Of the rest, I am immediately impressed by Sean Cassidy‘s ideas but need to know a lot more about him.

One month to go; we’ll see what changes.


Important Dates: Local All-Candidates’ Meetings

September 25, 2018

The Grandview Woodland Area Council, along with a number of other neighbourhood groups and associations, has arranged a series of meetings at which local residents can discuss policy and values with as many Mayoral, Council, Parks Board and School Board candidates as possible.

The first of these, for mayoral and Council candidates, will take place on Monday 1st October, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm,  at Gym D, Britannia.

Different from most other meetings this election season, the format will be what is known as World Cafe style. “Using the “world café” format, the events will offer individuals and representatives from each party an opportunity to speak for three minutes and then, after these short speeches, the balance of the time will be spent at tables, with 10-15 community residents in a 15-minute dialogue with a single candidate. After 15 minutes, candidates will rotate tables. Each table will have a moderator and a note taker, and the notes will be shared with our community through various platforms.”

It is a bit like speed dating, but a lot of ground can be covered in a reasonable time.

The second Mayoral and Council candidates’ meeting will take place at Ray-Cam, 920 E. Hastings, from 5:30pm to 9:00pm Wednesday 9th October.

Meetings for Parks Board and School Board candidates will take place from 11:00am to 3:00pm on Saturday 29th September at Britannia, and at Strathcona Community, 601 Keefer, from 6:30pm to 9:30pm on Friday October 12th.

The Election Races Forward

September 17, 2018

I seem to have been writing, on and off, about the 2018 Vancouver municipal election for months. But now we finally find ourselves with the full list of registered candidates and only just about a month before the big day.

We finished up with a record number of contestants for this election: 21 people standing for the Mayor’s job alone (with only one winner), along with 71 wannabe Councillors (just 10 to be chosen), and another 33 each vying for Parks Board and School Board, which have 7 and 9 seats respectively. There will be a lot of disappointed candidates come October 21st, but at least Vancouver’s voters will have been given a wide choice — no bad thing.

Just to make things a little more complicated, the candidates for each position will not be listed in alphabetical or party order. Apparently it was thought that candidates with names beginning with “A”, “B” or “C” have an advantage over those with names starting with “W” or “Y” or “Z”.  Therefore, the candidates will be listed in random order in a draw to be made soon.

I understand the reasoning for this change, but I don’t agree with it.  Listing the candidates in random order — especially when there are so many in each category — guarantees that name recognition and/or party slate voting will play a larger role than it should.  I believe the dangers of that are at least as great as having to deal with lazy voters who don’t look beyond the first half of the ballot.

My selections may change over the next month, but as of today, my plan is to support David Chen for Mayor and the following Council candidates (in alphabetical order):

  • Sarah Blyth
  • Christine Boyle
  • Adriane Carr
  • Pete Fry
  • Lisa Kristansen
  • Rob McDowell
  • Derrick O’Keefe
  • Mirza Rezel
  • Anne Roberts
  • Jean Swanson

Although I recognize their importance, the fact is I just don’t follow School or Parks Board, so I don’t feel comforable selecting favourites.

Beware The Resurrection of Andrea Reimer

September 12, 2018

The thing about Dracula is that he never really dies. It doesn’t matter how long he lies cold and dusty n his stone tomb, there is always some idiot who will come along and somehow set him free again to wander the earth on his deadly journey.

That image — stark and fearsome — came into my head last night as I read that, with the sudden withdrawal of Ian Campbell from the Vancouver mayor’s race, Ms. Reimer was contemplating putting herself forward for the job.

I wrote the following about a year ago when Reimer’s retirement from Council was announced. I think it bears repeating.



I came across Charlie Smith’s hagiography of Andrea Reimer from the Straight. It was a hard read for me because my experience of Reimer was so different, so negative.

We started off badly, back in early 2012, when I spoke before Council in opposition to the design of the Baptist Church’s proposed building at First & Victoria. In her self-proclaimed position as Councillor for Grandview, she asked me a few questions after I had had my allotted five minutes. She was arrogant, assumed I knew little of Grandview, and the tenor of her questions clearly indicated a predetermined yes vote for the development regardless of any arguments that might be presented. Things only got worse when the Grandview Woodland Community Plan process began.

A central paragraph in Smith’s column asks us to remember

“Reimer’s credibility with the environmental community, her appeal to residents living in the Commercial Drive–Trout Lake area, her stunning work ethic, and political radar that may only have been matched on council in recent years by Geoff Meggs, who’s left municipal politics.”

Problem for me was that I didn’t recognize any truth in most of those statements about her.

I wondered whether my early experience with Reimer had clouded my opinion of her, allowing me to miss the good she was doing. So I asked a number of my friends and acquaintances whether they had opinions on her years as Councillor. By the time I am writing this, more than half have responded and they are all overwhelmingly negative in their judgement.  Many described her as “manipulative,” and as “an opportunist … only interested in her own career.” None believe that she ever genuinely represented any constituency here in Grandview, and that her demeanour was often “officious” and unpleasant. I share all of those views.

When City Planning’s “Emerging Directions” document became public as a draft Community Plan in the spring of 2013 an uproar of complaint erupted from the residents of GW, most especially as “Emerging Directions” included dozens of pages on rezoning the neighbourhood that had never been raised or discussed in any of the public meetings over the previous eight months. While Mayor Robertson admitted the process had not been a good one, and Planning boss Brian Jackson considered it a disaster, Reimer was still giving interviews praising Vision’s handling of community planning.  At the massive community meeting held in early July that year to protest the Grandview Plan, Reimer came late and hid in the back of  the crowded room. When finally shamed into speaking, Reimer ignored everything residents had passionately spoken about for an hour or more, asking for understanding as she was currently being evicted (which, it later turned out, was something of a permanent status for her).

She was an instigator and heavy supporter of the benighted Citizens’ Assembly process deliberately designed to exclude the majority of Grandview’s residents from participation in a vital community project. On the several occasions that I spoke to Council during the Community Plan period, Reimer (along with Geoff Meggs) generally led the attack on me and GWAC or whoever else I was speaking for. She argued against community representation, calling local groups irrelevant and claiming them to be “unrepresentative”.

When the final Grandview Community Plan came before Council, it was Reimer who proposed a last-minute amendment that — against the professional advice of Planning — granted several extra stories to the highly controversial Boffo Tower monstrosity proposed for Commercial and Venables.

And it wasn’t only Grandview she screwed. After years of discussion and community debate, the DTES Community Plan was brought before Council for approval. It was loyal Vision foot soldier Reimer who, again at the very last hour, showed up with a lot of scribbled pages that changed substantial and substantive portions of the Plan, that no-one had a chance to digest before Vision voted it through …

Wherever she ends up I’ll be glad to see the back of her (except, of course, the Mayor’s chair).

David Chen: A Possible Mayor

September 6, 2018

I have for some weeks now been leaning toward supporting David Chen of ProVancouver in the upcoming mayoral election.  I have been impressed with his ideas and I am even more so now that I have listened to a very useful 30-minute interview he had with Business in Vancouver and which they have released as an audio.

There are certainly some issues on which he and I would have differences of opinion, but far fewer than I would have with any one of the other nine or ten candidates, I am sure. But the important part of this interview is that any reasonable person listening, without endorsing any of his policies, would agree that this is a solid serious candidate.  As a newcomer with a new party, that’s a vital first step.

With Chen as mayor and with a Council majority made up of ProVancouver, COPE, and Green councillors, perhaps Vancouver can finally start hoping for better and more compassionate days ahead.

GWAC’s Next Meeting

August 27, 2018

The next monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council is on Monday 10th September in the Learning Resources Centre under Britannia Library at 7:00pm.  The meeting carries the title “Hot Button Civic Issues and Primer for October’s All Candidates Meeting” and the purpose is described as being …

“to create a list of priority issues about which candidates’ opinions could make a difference.”

This should be a useful forum for discussing issues that will come up in the series of all-candidates’ meetings organised for late September and early October in cooperation with Britannia, Ray-Cam, and other community groups.


Saying NO to Yes Vancouver

June 29, 2018

Hector Bremner, the NPA councillor so conflicted that even the NPA won’t have him any more, has formed his own municipal political party which he calls Yes Vancouver.

A number of problems are already obvious with this party which is partly ego-driven and partly a front for the Rich Coleman side of the BC Liberal Party (yes, the same Rich Coleman who is currently hiding from the media who want to question him about money laundering):

  • First, there is already a fine local organization called Yes Vancouver. It is a non-profit which raises money for Dress For Success. They are non-partisan and support no political party;
  • Second, people searching quite reasonably for actually get taken to a website for a Toronto Real Estate firm; ironic as Bremner’s “party” favours build build build as the only solution to our problems.

So, these folks who want to run our City after the next election cannot do a simple name search for their party, and cannot do a simple web search for suitable urls.  Imagine the chaos if we want them to do something that actually takes some thought?

Finally, a question we need to keep asking Bremner whenever he puts his head above the wall:  during his council campaign last year he promised to donate his Council salary to a worthy charity. Did he do that? And if so, what organization was favoured with the donation?

We need to send a resounding NO to these wannabes.

COPE Candidates On the Drive Saturday!

May 25, 2018

COPE hopefuls for nominations in this fall’s municipal election will be front and centre at a meet-and-greet tomorrow, Saturday 26th May, at The Drive Coffee Bar, 1670 Commercial, between 1pm and 5pm.


Come along and meet some really committed folks who are looking to make our city a better place.

COPEing With Housing Policy

April 9, 2018

Making policy democratically can be a messy business; it is always cleaner and more efficient to dictate policy from the top and simply have the underlings sign off on it. But that is not democratic, and COPE is nothing if not democratic. And so it was that I spent a couple of hours watching membership rather messily go through Housing Policy proposals on Saturday morning at the WISE Hall.  Policy development, though arguably the most important part of politics, is not a “sexy” enterprise to many and there were fewer than three dozen members in attendance. However, they more than made up for the small numbers by their enthusiasm and passion for the topics discussed.

Co-chair Connie Hubbs began by noting a number of dates that are of interest. The Vancouver District Labour Council is holding a “mediated” meeting on May 6th in their continuing attempt to create an alliance between COPE, the Greens, One City and Team Jean. I’m guessing Vision may also be invited even though their mayoral candidate — laughingly called an “independent” — has made it clear she doesn’t want to meet with COPE.

In the meanwhile COPE and Team Jean are continuing to meet with Patrick Condon who, in my opinion, would make a very good mayor; I suspect he would be attractive to the Greens too.

The COPE nomination meeting is set for June 10th, with more details to follow. If you are interested in participating, you need to be a COPE member thirty days prior.

Then, onto policy. A long document was circulated with a number of different proposals.  It was revealed later in the meeting that some of the proposals had already made their way to the Policy Committee and had already been incorporated into their document which will be brought before the membership. This meeting was dealing with a very wide range of topics from Housing through Economy, Transit to Indigenous Relations. I was only able to stay for the Housing segment.

The first set of proposals from a member, included a call to increase the cost of CACs and DCLs “to reflect true benefits to developers,” a luxury of “mansion” tax on super-expensive homes, a moratorium on condo building and gentrification in the DTES, an immediate moratorium on demolition “in single and multi-family zones”, a major push in rental construction, rent controls on “large developments”, and changes to regulations to make in-house suites easier to build.  This was such a large and complex set of proposals (I have merely traced the high points above) that it was clearly destined to be referred back to the Policy Committee for refinement and further consideration. (see my comments at the end of this review)

A second proposal from a member concerned a city-wide plan and neighbourhood consultation prior to re-developments, including a final veto by neighbourhoods.  There was some serious discussion about the problems with a city-wide plan, and no-one seemed to recognize that if a neighbourhood can say “no” to development then Shaughnessy and Point Grey and others could just as easily say “no” to social housing. This motion, too, was referred for more work.

A proposal to increase use of co-ops was approved.

Team Jean submitted a number of proposals including a four-year rent freeze (approved), and making rents tied to each unit rather than to each tenancy (approved).  Team Jean also proposed a mansion tax, the stopping of renovictions by giving the right of return at the same rent to any tenant displaced, better checking of rental condition by City Building Department, moratorium on demolition of rental properties when vacancy rate is below 4%, a proposal to end discrimination against pet owners in rentals, the building of 4,500 affordable units per year for the next four years, and the development of a progressive commercial property tax to assist small business owners.

Proposals from others also included allocation of foreign buyers’ tax and speculative taxes to purchase of land for affordable housing, and upzoning all city owned land.

Unfortunately, we were just going through Team Jean’s proposals when it was decided to refer to the Policy Committee’s updated document. This meant essentially starting again. What eventually brought discussion to a halt was a proposal by Policy on the allocation of speculative tax revenues which included, at the very end,  the notion that some funds should be used to “start the process” of returning indigenous land to the indigenous people.   No one was opposed to the principle but the meeting got bogged down in semantics and a discussion about indigenous rights.

By the time this had gone on for a while, I had used up all the time I had and I had to leave.  There were some valuable discussions at the meeting but I was struck by a few things.

  • There seemed to be no recognition that developers do not pay the CACs — they pass them on and the end user pays, thus adding to the already unaffordable prices.  The calls to increase CACs will not harm developers, but simply make things worse for all of us.  I have stated often enough my belief that CACs should be dropped entirely (this immediately lowers the price of housing) and we should return to the highly successful and democratic process of bi-annual bond plebiscites to determine what community assets we are willing to pay for through property taxes: let the people decide, not the developers in cahoots with Planning;
  • Other than a rent freeze (which leaves things in the sorry and expensive state they are) and a vague call for rent control, there was no discussion about affordability of new rentals. In fact, there was a call for just the building of more rentals as if that will solve matters.  We need to build more rentals, it is true, but we also need to amend Rental100 so that incentives are given to developers ONLY for rentals that can be afforded by the median and lower income earner with at most a 30% of median income limit;
  • The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has already produced an excellent set of principles for consultation and neighbourhood consultation and approval of new development. Why re-invent the wheel?

I am glad to have gone and wish I could have stayed longer.


A Progressive Unity? Maybe, But ….

March 11, 2018

It was a busy day in the world of Vancouver politics, with at least three meetings — the Vancouver Greens AGM, the COPE unity conference, and the GWAC AGM — all within hours of each other, and each overlapping.  The most important, perhaps, was the COPE meeting.

Meeting downstairs at the Russian Hall, COPE invited the Vancouver Tenants Union, Team Jean, One City, the Vancouver Greens, and the Marpole Students for Modular Housing to each give 10 minute speeches about their organizations and their thoughts on a unity left position for the next municipal election.

Before the speakers began, the COPE chair was firm in noting that no decision has been made on anything approaching a unity slate, and that “left unity” is just an aspirational phrase. She quite specifically noted a separation with Jean Swanson and Team Jean. The sole purpose of the meeting, she said, was to talk and to listen, and that later COPE members would be allowed to decide which way they should go.

Derrick O’Keefe of the Vancouver Tenants’ Union kicked it off with a rousing speech. He announced they already had more than 1,000 members and that renters now had somewhere to go for legal assistance and a clear political voice.  The Union was pushing for a 4-year rent freeze, rents to be attached to suites rather than tenancies, and for a lot more social and public housing.  He closed off with a passionate call for unity to ensure that developers were no longer in power at City Hall, and to make the city a movement leader.

Jean Swanson spoke next, thanking COPE for its endorsement and support during the last by-election. She also approved the idea that the City and its structures should be used as a movement generator, and noted that a rent freeze was a centrepiece of her by-election campaign. She called for a return to door-to-door voter registration (to register as many tenants as possible), and for easier access to polling stations in the election period. She also had much to say about using the city to better embrace and further indigenous reconciliation.

One City split their time between two speakers. Christine Boyle was a founder of One City having been a longtime COPE member. She said their campaign would concentrate on renters and affordable housing, including a realistic definition of “affordable.” They supported a rent freeze and she thought Once City’s “luxury tax” was similar enough to Jean Swanson’s “mansion tax” to bring them together. They approved the idea of all public land being devoted exclusively to social housing. She aligned herself with thoughts of making the city a movement leader, and specifically suggested using the City structures to beef up the Tenants’ Union. She called for a coalition.

The other One City speaker, their co-chair Alison Atkinson insisted that the market was the problem not the solution to the housing crisis. She also reminded the meeting that the Vancouver School Board was a vital target for this election. She declared herself “scared” that NPA developers would take over control of the City. However, she said that discussion of “a combination” should hang fire until the unity discussions organized by the Vancouver District have been completed (see below).

Ishman Bhuiyan of the Marpole Students for Modular Housing announced that he was too young to vote, but showed himself a great speaker. He went through the history of the Marpole project and how the students had come tigether to help — and continue to welcome the new residents. His message to loud applause was that activist students need to be taken seriously.

Pete Fry of the Vancouver Greens arrived straight from the Greens AGM. Regular readers here will know that I am a great admirer of Pete’s but his message wasn’t I believe what we needed to hear. He made it clear the Green’s were not open to any form of coalition. However, he mentioned several times that a motion from the floor at their AGM has suggested Adriane Carr as the “consensus” mayoral candidate. On each occasion the most charitable view of this meeting’s reception to that idea would be “impassive.”  Pete warned the meeting that the developers always played divide and conquer with the progressives, and that there are massive loopholes in the election financing legislation.

The best part of the meeting was seeing half the 100+ audience under thirty. The talk of unity and supporting policies was great. But there was a disappointing lack of actual concerted action.

The dark horse in all this is of course the Vancouver District Labour Council (VDLC) which was first mentioned, in passing, in the COPE chair’s introduction and the backroom dealings of which were confirmed by One City’s Atkinson.  From what I can gather, the VDLC is actively pursuing an alliance between One City, the Greens, and the remnants of Vision Vancouver. It is hard to believe that a genuine and progressive COPE Board would be in favour of giving Vision a break, but who knows what might happen if the unions press hard enough.

One can almost smell Geoff Meggs behind all of this, and a possible Don Davies mayoral run. Depressing.

COPE Meeting: 11th March

March 6, 2018

A special COPE General Meeting will be held from 1:00pm, on Sunday 11th March at the Russian Hall, 600 Campbell Avenue.

The first half of the meeting will include speakers from Vancouver Green Party, One City party, Team Jean [Swanson], Vancouver District Labour Council, Vancouver Tenants’ Union, and the Chinatown Action Group.

Members will then be asked to consider the following:

  • Should COPE run a Mayoralty Candidate in this year’s municipal election?
  • What is the right number of candidates for COPE to nominate for Council, School Board and parks Board?
  • Should we endorse candidates not running with COPE?
  • What would need to be the basis of electoral cooperation with another electoral organization in terms of policy and platform?

In other words,  they will be fixing their position regarding a progressive unity slate to face the boisterously optimistic NPA in October’s municipal election.

Unfortunately, this meeting partially clashes with the GWAC AGM.  I hope to spend the first hour at COPE and then wander back to the Drive for the remainder of the GWAC.

The NPA’s Meet & Greet

March 3, 2018

I attended the NPA’s meet and greet session at the Drive Coffee Bar this morning , and what can I say?  The coffee was great!  [I am still practising with my new camera so the following is the only half decent shot I got!]

It started slow, but by the time I left the place was packed.  Most of the crowd were clearly NPA caucus members, their friends and families. Obviously there were a few interested civilians but perhaps not as many as they would have hoped for.  Much of the NPA’s time was taken up with talking among themselves.

I was disappointed not to see George Affleck there; he’s always fun to chat to.  However, I did spend some time chatting with long-time Parks Commissioner John Coupar who complained bitterly about the huge cut in City funding that Vision imposed on the Parks Board.

I was with a Twitter buddy who has serious concerns about housing affordability for professionals like himself, and he asked John about it.  Coupar propounded what I assume will become the NPA line:  a history lesson that the beautiful Vancouver we all grew up to know and love was created by NPA Councils and that only the Vision reign has caused the problems.  He, of course, skipped over the fact that this current sequence of disasters actually started with the NPA and Sam Sullivan’s infamous Eco Density project.  Vision fought and won their first election with a campaign against Eco Density. However, as we all now recognize, once in power they actually fed massive steroids to the same policy and got us to where we are today.

Prospective NPA mayoral candidate Hector Bremner was there, surrounded by his acolytes from AHV and elsewhere, several of whom seemed keen to look like mini-Bremners. Unlike an old pro like John Coupar who was working the tables, Bremner mostly stayed where he was and had people brought to him. Noblesse oblige, I guess.

The other prospective NPA mayoral candidate, Glen Chernen showed up around 11 and did his best to meet and greet. However, the tiny space was so packed with Bremner’s people that it was hard to get around.

If they have more of these types of events, they have to do one of two things:  (1) use a space that is not long and very narrow; or (2) have their reserved tables near the back of the space rather than blocking up the front.


Election Review #2

February 27, 2018

We are now less than 8 months away from the next Vancouver municipal election and the line up for both Mayoral and Councillor seats are still unclear. I will start with a discussion about Councillors because getting a majority of those is what counts in our system.

George Affleck

Both Vision Vancouver and NPA are in disarray. Vision has lost all but two of its incumbents, the rest having run for the hills unable to withstand any further scrutiny of their ten-year reign of disaster. The NPA, who should be shoo-ins with the collapse of Vision, have a couple of problems. First, the hated BC Liberals have embedded themselves in the party, and now an outsider is forcing a contest for the mayoralty. Besides that, their most popular and best-known Councillor, George Affleck, is retiring.

This confusion among both Vision and NPA should open a door for the genuinely progressive left to move en masse into Council.  But there is a catch: if the various progressive parties and independents each run under their own banner, they will — guaranteed — split the vote and allow the NPA to take over. There needs to be a unity alliance, not just in policies but in the candidates that are run.

My own hope is that a progressive alliance runs for all 10 seats under a single brand, and I would suggest a breakdown more or less as follows:  3 Greens, 2 COPE, 1 OneCity, 1 YPP, and 3 independents.  If they can get six elected, we are on the path to salvation.

Gregor Robertson

Gregor Robertson is finally bowing out, with his failed legacy dragging along behind him, and so there is plenty of talk about who is going to run as Mayor. Raymond Louie is a non-starter given that he would have to wear Vision’s past almost alone; I suspect they will not run a candidate this year (or, probably, ever again).

Libby Davies has been loudly touted as a favoured choice of the left. But seriously, much as I respect her, how many Gen X and millennials have even heard of her? Her candidature would come across as the last nostalgia-laden kick of the can for the boomers scrambling to hold on to power.  If we need an

Adriane Carr

NDP warhorse, then surely a younger and more active Dave Eby would be a better choice.

I am hoping that Adriane Carr stays as a Councillor, mainly because her popularity guarantees that seat, but she would definitely make a fine mayor too.

On the centre right, it looks like a battle between the BC Liberals under Hector Bremner and the anti-corruption crusader Glen Chernen for the NPA nomination. Whoever wins that campaign will probably have a lot to say about who runs for the NPA as Councillors, and whether the NPA drifts to the center or moves even further to the right.

It is time for the progressives to act. We cannot wait much longer before raising the flag of a united brand.



The Politics of Deliberate Exclusion

February 24, 2018

As we begin to gear up for the Vancouver municipal election in October, it is good to be reminded that most of what we consider to be voter apathy is in fact the politics of deliberate exclusion. Dave Meslin explained it well eight years ago:



The Vancouver Election Starts Now

January 11, 2018

In exactly 40 weeks’ time, a new Vancouver City Council will be hatched. And just like any pregnancy, while it may start off in a quiet way, we all know — or should know — that the more preparation we can do before the fast-breaking activities on the big day, the more likely the event itself will be a joyful experience.

Vision seems in disarray with Robertson, Meggs, Reimer, and Vdovine no longer available, a terrible by-election result behind them, and the big promises of homelessness and affordability shoved aside by the greed of their financiers.  But they are a real full time party with more than a decade of dark money behind their operation. I’m sure that Joel Solomon and his big money buddies will do their best to attract what Solomon calls “extraordinary world class candidates” and, with an established GOTV operation in place, with a more than friendly Meggs-driven NDP government in Victoria, and helpful nods from Trudeau looking for Vancouver votes, Vision could pull off another victory, but …

The NPA seem likely favourites going in this time. Although popular George Affleck is stepping down, they have the new found weight of BC Liberal organizers, and the renewed interest of businessmen such as Peter Armstrong behind them this year. The newly drafted electoral financing rules might cause some dismay but, with the blatant third-party spending loopholes, I’m sure their Postmedia buddies will make sure their message gets through. And what will their message be?   George Affleck laid out one line of attack — an end to “excessive” taxation due to “wasteful” spending. Meanwhile the progressive-minded Glen Chernen is running a far more attractive platform, though it is doubtful that Armstrong et al would be happy to see him as their candidate. On the other hand, I’m sure we will see and hear a lot more of newly-elected snake oil salesman Hector Bremner pushing some supply-side trickle-down Reaganism as the panacea for all our ills. That could be enough.

And what of the Greens?  I would love to see the Vancouver Greens hammer out an agreement with Jean Swanson, COPE, and perhaps some other independents and go for broke, seeking both the Mayoralty and control of Council. Unfortunately, the history of progressives working together has shallow roots in Vancouver municipal politics, though, and in 2018 I am guessing the best they could achieve would be a controlling three-way split on Council; but that would be infinitely better than either a Vision or NPA majority.

The real point to this is that if we want to ensure the developers and businessmen have their control of Vancouver City Council ended, we need to get organised NOW.

Lack of Vision on Broadway

December 4, 2017

As we approach the 2018 municipal election, my supposition is that Vision Vancouver will run its campaign based on two primary issues: their so-called Housing Strategy, and the Broadway subway.  The “Housing Strategy” is no doubt the number one priority, and I will have plenty enough to say about that in the weeks and months ahead. But for today, I want to revisit the arguments against the massively expensive and very limited underground subway that Gregor Robertson and his developer pals are keen to foist on us. It is imperative that we revitalize the campaign against the Broadway subway to nowhere as early in the campaign as possible.

To begin, here is a piece I wrote before the 2014 municipal election. Some references may be dated, but the facts remain, and while I might change some details today, the conclusion is fixed and firm.


A Lack of Vision On The Broadway Corridor

Vision Vancouver, the developer-funded incumbent regime at City Hall, have decided to make a subway under Broadway, from Commercial to UBC, a major plank of their re-election campaign. Apparently it is beside the point that they don’t have the money to do it, nor any control over the funding, and that it is a bad and unimaginative idea, suited only for the profits of the regime’s crony partners. A subway we shall have, they say.

Let’s begin by looking at some of the yawning gaps in Vision’s proposal.

First, to claim this is a subway to UBC is simply false.  The subway, as currently proposed, will be dug from Commercial & Broadway only to Arbutus where westbound commuters will have to leave the subway, climb up to the street level and then wait for a bus to UBC to complete their journey, one way.  So, any commuter time savings discussed must take into account the time and inconvenience needed for this transfer. And, of course, the same inconvenient transfer will be necessary when leaving UBC to travel eastwards.

Second, all expert opinion suggests that putting the financing together and then building the tunnel will take eight years at least before delivering one second of improvement.  I suppose we must hang around in long lines waiting for an already-crowded 99B Line for another eight years, as there are no plans to improve the service before then.


In fact, under Vision’s plans for Commercial & Broadway, the commuting situation will get much worse.  They plan to add about 10,000 more people to that neighbourhood, mostly housed in huge 30+ storey highrise towers at the intersection, without any increase in transit. Those 10,000 people will simply add to the congestion and line-ups that already annoy so many travelers; and which can only be aggravated by years and years of subway construction work.

Third, what would this new commuter paradise look like?  Under Vision, there is little doubt Broadway will consist of islands of massive towers separated by barren wastelands between the stops.


Even the pro-subway Urban Land Institute, in their Final Report in July, warned that Vision had gone hog-wild over towers. It is worth noting that there will still need to be street-level buses to move people between the stations and their high-rises; so the subway becomes not a replacement, but simply a very expensive addition.

Finally in this review, let’s take a moment for an overview of this $3 billion, 8-year project: Question: did you ever see a government-run mega project go over-budget and/or over-schedule?  I can’t think of one that didn’t.

So, after all that complaining, are there alternatives?  Yes, of course. And there are alternatives whether the $3 billion falls like manna from heaven or whether we have to do this without such largesse.  The prime failure of Vision’s plan is its lack of imagination.

For example, should that kind of money be available, Patrick Condon (who elsewhere has pointed out the contradictions in Vision’s plan) has already described the magnificent transit system we could have all across Vancouver for the same cost of $3 billion that Vision wants to waste on a single line between Commercial and Arbutus. Why would we not want to improve service everywhere rather than service a small slice of our needs?

What else?  We could move large sections of UBC to, say, the Post Office building downtown, and the Emily Carr site on Granville Island.  This would spread the transit load geographically and, at least in the case of the Post Office, would build upon existing transit infrastructure.

And/or we could insist that UBC and the high-tech companies the Mayor and Geoff Meggs have said will dominate the Broadway corridor move to flex-time scheduling, thus spreading the traffic load across the system throughout the day and thus reducing “rush hour” congestion.

And/or we could divert automobile traffic off Broadwayto 4th, 12th, 25th and 41st, for example.  Personally, I would be happy to see the entire Broadway corridor become a pedestrian/transit/cycle-only street.  A mix of short-haul and express buses would speed along their own dedicated lanes, as would bicycles, feeding retail along the entire street rather than just in towering shopping centres.

Finally, we can consider alternative technologies for moving people along Broadway.  An at-grade Light Rapid Transit system, costing about a third of the tunnel project but going all the way to UBC, is an obvious candidate.


There are plenty of other ideas floating around.  What we know is that the three billion dollar hole in the ground is the least viable, the least effective, and the least neighbourhood-friendly option and, besides, it cannot be ready for almost a decade at best.  It is time to be creative and make better decisions for our commuters and our City today.

* * *

I note again that this was written in 2014 and there was an 8-year timeline suggested for building the subway — thus to be in operation from 2022 or 2023. No major work has progressed since the last election, and so we can assume the project is now aiming for 2026 or 2027.  Do we really want to wait that long to solve a traffic management problem just so developers, builders and real estate merchants can increase their profits while doing nothing for affordability?