As most of you will have heard by now, City Council voted 6-5 to not move forward with City staff’s proposals for a city-wide overnight parking fee and the establishment of a “pollution tax” on high-emission automobiles. The proposal claimed to be a key element of the City’s Climate Emergency Action Plan but even the Mayor — who usually votes in lockstep with the Vision 2.0 coalition of One City and the Greens — thought it was ill-thought out.
The result emerged after many hours of debate with scores of residents speaking their piece. What was clear to me after all that was that staff had made a strategic mistake. They love to dump multiple items into Reports that are so long they recognize that most working folk will not have time to read them. On this occasion, though, they would have been much more successful had they introduced two separate motions: one on the parking fees, and another on the pollution tax. I suspect that many people like me opposed the proposed version of the first but support the principals of the second. I can hardly remember a single speaker referring to the pollution tax during the debate — the entire argument was over the parking fee. Staff’s decision to link the two consigned both to defeat.
Of course once the vote failed, the faux progressives immediately claimed that this was a disaster and had set back Vancouver’s efforts to face up to climate change. That is nonsense of course and it astounds me that anyone could actually think the parking fee would have made a significant dent in emissions. It would have applied to a minority of vehicles in Vancouver and it would have charged people for parking, not driving. It’s effect on emissions would have been less than zero.
I am told that I am missing the point; that the purpose of the tax was to shift people out of their cars and onto bikes or walking or transit. However, the proponents also claimed (as a debate selling point) that it would come at minimal cost to residents. They failed to explain how something with virtually no cost would shift attitudes in the way they suggest.
Much of the talk last night was about freeing up public space on the roads and yet the City bans parking on front yards and most new multi-family developments Council approves these days come with very restricted parking requirements; thus forcing more cars to park on the streets. Some might suggest that the parking fee was a revenue stream caused by policies already passed.
Councillor Boyle, after the debate, was vociferous in her criticisms of those opposing the plan. She claimed that we were simply being negative and had offered up no alternatives. Either she hadn’t been listening to the vast online discussion over the past week or she was choosing to misrepresent. Many of us have proposed putting the pollution tax (the far more important part of the plan) through ICBC. They are already set up to administer such a scheme and so no additional layer of city bureaucrats would be needed. It is true that this would require the City along with UBCM to lobby the Provincial government both to implement the program and to equitably share the revenues. Apparently Councillor Boyle didn’t like the idea of that kind of political hard work.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the three Green Councillors, who were aghast at this loss, had a chance to make a real difference back in January but chose, all three of them, to approve the purchase by Translink of additional high-emission gas buses rather than pushing for an electric option. Success in that venture would have made a far bigger dent in emissions than dinging a working Jane or Joe for parking their car on a city street overnight.