No vision for Vision in progressive alliance

On Sunday, March 11, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) held a meeting to begin looking at what an alliance of progressive parties might look like in the upcoming October 2018 municipal election.

The event was very well attended — in fact, it was the largest turnout for a COPE meeting in quite some time. Over 150 people were there in spite of the gloriously beautiful weather.

A number of organizations and political parties were invited to sit on the presenting panels, including Jean Swanson, Pete Fry of the Vancouver Greens, Ishmam Bhuiyan from Kitchen on a Mission, Christine Boyle and Alison Atkinson from OneCity, and Derrick O’Keefe from Vancouver Tenants Union.

I am very pleased to note that Vision Vancouver was not invited.

Jean Swanson spoke eloquently at the meeting.

One of the items that came up for discussion was whether or not Vision should be part of the united progressive alliance. I’m pleased to note that Jean Swanson spoke strongly against this and her comments generated strong applause.

If we look back over Vision Vancouver’s last ten years in office, we see the record of a developer-backed party. They received millions of dollars in election donations from developers over the years. I’ve been quoted in the past and it’s worth repeating again that Vision Vancouver is basically the NPA with bike lanes.

The two individuals representing OneCity spoke in favour of Vision forming part of the future alliance. Their argument, and I am paraphrasing here, is that while OneCity does not support many of the decisions Vision has made on city council, nevertheless there are lots of good people who vote for Vision.

I found this argument wanting. Using such logic, one might observe that there are many good people who voted for Christy Clark and the provincial Liberals. But surely this would not mean that progressive organizations would invite the provincial Liberals to be part of a progressive alliance.

Any party should be assessed by its voting records. At the end of the day, all that politicians can do is vote, so we must determine whether or not we support a particular politician or party by analysing their voting record.

Overall, though, I am cautiously optimistic that we will witness the coming together of many progressive municipal parties and organizations in the run up to the October 2018 election. And I am adamantly opposed to Vision Vancouver being invited to be part of any such cooperative effort.

Watch the archived livestream of the event

Facebook event page

[All photos courtesy of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE)]

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, COPE, developers, gentrification, Green Party, homelessness, People Power, social justice, solidarity, Vancouver, Vancouver election, Vision Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Getting to first base with basic income

It’s been two weeks since the provincial budget was released. Many of you may be unaware of the fact that the new budget contained $4 million to “test the feasibility” of a guaranteed basic income for all British Columbians.

The basic income movement has been around for many decades. In the 1970s, the federal government under Pierre Trudeau initiated a pilot project in a small town on the prairies in which everybody was guaranteed a basic minimum income. (It’s been so long I had to look up the name of the town — it’s Mincome, Manitoba if you also want to look it up to see what happened!) Bottom line: The results were very positive. Lower crime rates. Less reliance on social services. Less cost to government as it eliminated the bureaucracy that supports conventional welfare.

The basic income movement has become much stronger as of late, which is no doubt due, at least in part, to the ever-widening gap between upper income earners and the rest of us.

In three Ontario communities, a pilot project kicked off last year to provide an unconditional income to people struggling on poverty-level welfare payments or with low income wages.

The basic income movement was recently successful in having this initiative put to a referendum in Switzerland. Although the vote ultimately failed, more than 40 percent of Swiss voters were in support of making it a nationwide policy.

As technology and automation continue to take over larger and larger swaths of the workforce, many futurists are predicting that within the next few decades, only a minority of the population will be working. Even Elon Musk has stated that universal basic income will be needed as robots take over jobs.

The devil, of course, will be in the details as the concept is explored here. How much should a guaranteed basic income be? Would the implementation of a basic income be coupled with defunding of provincial agencies such as BC Housing? What social programs would be eliminated?

I am very excited by the possibility of British Columbia implementing a guaranteed basic income for all. At the same time, I’m also wary that such a policy might be used by organizations such as the Fraser Institute to successfully argue for the elimination of much-needed social programs. Done the wrong way, a guaranteed basic income could actually end up putting BC’s poorest individuals in an even worse position.

Let’s keep an eye on this issue, and steer it in a positive direction.

[Infographic courtesy of the Green Party of Canada]

Posted in British Columbia, Canadian politics, economy, education, equality, fiscal responsibility, social justice, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Getting to first base with basic income

Calling the federal budget “progressive” doesn’t make it so

Many have suggested that Tuesday’s federal budget was a progressive one. I am not so sure. While it contained many welcome initiatives, such as improved parental leave and significant increases in funding for indigenous issues, I was very disappointed to see three critical items omitted.

First on the list is a national childcare program. I was hoping to see an announcement modelled on Quebec’s childcare system. No matter how progressive the changes to parental leave, if we don’t have an adequate childcare program, a disproportionate number of women are still affected negatively. BC recently announced some significant improvements to our childcare program here — improvements that could have been extended much further with federal funding.

Another glaring omission in the federal budget was housing. We have a national housing crisis, but this was not always the case. In decades past, the federal government, primarily through CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a Crown corporation started after World War II to help returning veterans find affordable housing), funded the creation of tens of thousands of residential housing units. Many of these were through a program that helped cooperatives turn plans into reality. My point is this: Housing is a very manageable issue. All that’s required is adequate commitment, something sorely lacking in the recently announced federal budget.

The third glaring omission? Climate change — the defining issue of our time. Without adequately addressing climate change all other issues become moot. There was absolutely no mention of climate change in the budget. To start, how about funding for a national program to assist homeowners make their homes more energy efficient? Initiatives like this were nowhere to be seen.

A government truly committed to meeting Canada’s international commitments on climate change would have laid out a detailed plan in this week’s federal budget. I’m sad to note this is not the case.

With three such important issues not receiving attention — childcare, housing and climate change — is it really possible to describe the federal budget as progressive? I think not.

Posted in Canadian politics, climate change, economy, equality, fiscal responsibility, Liberal Party, National Housing Strategy, social justice | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Calling the federal budget “progressive” doesn’t make it so

Thanks for the memories!

Last Thursday, February 15, COPE held a tribute for me as I step away from the front line of civic politics and COPE’s executive after more than 30 years. It was a night I will never forget.

I want to share some of my reactions to that special night and extend my deep appreciation to so many people.

First, a huge thank you to Connie Hubbs and the great COPE team around her who did such a fabulous job organizing an event that meant so much to me. It was held at Fraserview Banquet Hall — one of my favourites — and the food was absolutely fabulous.

I’d also like to thank all the wonderful people who came out. Those who told stories about my past reminded me of some of the great adventures I’m proud to have been part of over the past 30-some years.

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing HandyDART workers, described my involvement in the creation of this door-to-door, shared ride service for passengers with disabilities who can’t use conventional public transit without assistance. It brought back memories when I was in first year law at UBC and having a great time lobbying the Urban Transit Authority (now TransLink) for the creation of the service so many of us now take for granted.

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know what a hero Harry Rankin was and still is to me. He wrote the letter that got me into law school and hired me as an articling law student, which launched my career. His son, Phil Rankin, delivered a great speech, and I was so touched by the way he described qualities that Harry and I share.

Many people spoke so eloquently but, unfortunately, I can’t review them all here. Suffice to say the speeches went on for just over an hour and a half and I was moved by each and every one of them.

But I can’t end without noting that all of my office staff not only came to the event but spoke as well. I was very touched. It’s only through their support over the past three decades that I’ve been able to spend so much time at my law office on other files, like COPE.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that my partner Penny has been my political advisor throughout these many years. We’ve been together since 1982, and I could not have accomplished half of what I’ve done without her incredible support.

All of the people who attended the tribute reminded me of the amazing support I’ve had over the decades. They also reminded me of something very important: Social movements are never successful because of one person alone. They’re achieved by teams of people working together.

Here are some images from the wonderful night! (Do you have photos to share? If so please share them on the Facebook ‘Tribute to Tim’ event page.)

***UPDATE: The Redeye Collective on Vancouver Coop Radio has posted an interview Ian Mass did with me. I enjoyed it very much. Listen to it here!

Members of the ATU

Phil Rankin, son of my mentor Harry Rankin

Fmr. Vancouver City Councillor Dr. Fred Bass and a refreshing bottle of ‘COPE Classic’

Housing activist Jean Swanson

My amazing and indefatigable staff

Dave Myles, my first-ever client

My partner Penny Parry

COPE Co-chair Connie Hubbs, Daryl Morgan, and Penny Penny

Connie Hubbs emceeing up a storm

Jeannie Kamins

Tina Anderson

Suzanne Dahlin

Lyn Stewart

Former COPE Treasurer Paul Houle

Smiles from Jamie Lee Hamilton and Pete Fry at the curry buffet

Gail Davidson and Renee Rodin strike a pose

We’re all ears

Sid Chow Tan

Pummy Kaur

Phil Rankin and Mel Lehan

Mel Lehan addressing the room

Thanks again everyone for coming out and making such a fantastic night!

Posted in COPE, events, HandyDART, Harry Rankin, Labour, Vancouver | Tagged | 1 Comment

Put the right pressure in the right place for affordable housing

Hogan’s Alley in 1969: 232 and 240 Union Street, at Main. City of Vancouver Archives, Ref COV-S168-: CVA 203-43

Housing in general and housing affordability in particular continue to grab attention in Vancouver.

In the case of the development of Northeast False Creek, the City of Vancouver owns two blocks on Main Street near Chinatown and Hogan’s Alley that it expropriated in the ’60s for the Georgia Street viaducts.

If ever there were a perfect place and opportunity for the city to build affordable/social housing, surely this would be it. Hogan’s Alley Society is calling on the city to build 100 percent rental housing on this site, with 70 percent of the units earmarked for non-market housing. This would provide much-needed affordable housing in one of Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhoods.

With Vision Vancouver currently holding a majority on city council, I’m not optimistic that the proposal put forward by the society will be acted on by the city’s administration. I would, however, be much more positive if we had a Green/COPE majority at 12th and Cambie.

On another housing front, several metro area cities are looking at the idea of a “locals first” policy when it comes to selling or pre-selling new condo developments. West Vancouver has recently been toying with the concept. The City of Port Moody and the District of North Vancouver have already directed their staff to look at policies along these lines, as has the City of Vancouver.

But I’m not sure “locals first” strategies will have the desired effect. What is needed, instead, is a requirement that all developments over a certain size make one-third of the units available on a rent-geared-to-income basis whereby the renter would never pay more than 30 percent of his or her income on rent.

When it comes to housing, let’s do everything we can to keep putting pressure where it belongs — on Vision Vancouver. Housing affordability is a basic human right and is not something we should leave to the marketplace.

Hogan’s Alley in 1973: The former Union Laundry at 274 Union Street. City of Vancouver Archives, Ref COV-S168-: CVA 203-65

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, developers, economy, gentrification, homelessness, Planning, racism, seniors, viaducts, Vision Vancouver | Tagged | Comments Off on Put the right pressure in the right place for affordable housing

Reading politico tea leaves

 

Kerry Jang announced the other day that he will not be seeking re-election this fall. This brings the total number of Vision Vancouver council members not running for re-election to five, including Mayor Gregor Robertson.

The only two remaining Vision members of city council, Raymond Louie and Heather Deal, have yet to announce their plans. What does this tell us?

Vision Vancouver is in big trouble. In the recent by-election, the party’s candidate, Diego Cardona, came in fifth. Its primary source of funding at election time, money from big developers, is no longer available with the new regulations brought in by the province banning donations from corporations and unions.

The decision by so many Vision Vancouver council members not to seek re-election tells us that Vision’s troubles are very real. It reminds me of an election many years ago.

In the lead up to the 1993 municipal election, COPE had five city councillors — just one short of a majority. One of the five, Libby Davies, announced she would run for mayor. All of the remaining four COPE councillors decided not to seek re-election. Libby Davie’s campaign for mayor turned out to be a disaster, partly because of all the COPE members not running. At the time, she was at the top of the polls. Philip Owen was at the bottom, but he won the mayor’s seat by a landslide.

We’ll never know whether the four COPE councillors decided not to seek re-election because they could see the writing on the wall — COPE was in trouble — or it was actually their decision not to run again that so mortally wounded the party.

But back to today. I suspect that we now have a situation where Vision Vancouver council members are deciding not to run again because they recognize the fact that Vision is going to do very poorly this fall. However, their decisions not to run make Vision’s bad situation even worse. With so few incumbents running, Vision is left even weaker.

Will Raymond Louie announce his candidacy for mayor? If so, Heather Deal will be the lone remaining Vision councillor, and even she has yet to announce her plans.

For people who watch 12th and Cambie, these are exciting times. This kind of tumult rarely occurs! It may open the door to a new and different majority on city council — a Green/COPE one.

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, COPE, developers, Green Party, Vancouver, Vancouver election, Vision Vancouver | 1 Comment

Gregor Robertson: 10 years of disappointments

A week ago, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced that he would not be seeking re-election this fall. So now is the time to reflect on what his 10 years in office have meant.

I’ll tell you up front that I do not look back with any degree of fondness at Gregor Robertson’s time as mayor of Vancouver. Here are a few examples that explain why.

When a developer wishes to apply to city council to rezone a piece of property, a public hearing is convened, giving members of the public, both supporters and opponents of the project, the opportunity to speak to council about the application. Prior to Gregor Robertson being elected mayor, city councillors could only vote yea or nay on a developer’s rezoning application if they had been present at the public hearing. This made sense as delegations from the public assumed their comments would be taken into consideration.

But Mayor Gregor Robertson changed all this. Partway through his tenure on council, he changed the public hearing bylaw to make it no longer a requirement for city councillors to be present throughout the public hearing if they wished to vote on the developer’s application.

It’s now quite common to witness members of Mayor Robertson’s party, Vision Vancouver, absent themselves from large portions of public hearings, and yet still vote on these developers’ applications. I should also note that rarely, if ever, does the mayor or his party vote against developers seeking to rezone their properties at public hearings.

Another example: Prior to Gregor Robertson being elected mayor, it was not uncommon for city council of the day to reduce or eliminate development cost levies if a developer agreed to provide a certain amount of social housing within the proposed project. This “carrot on a stick” approach resulted in much-needed social housing at no cost to taxpayers.

But Mayor Robertson changed the definition of social housing to include rental housing at market rates. It’s now quite common for a developer to avoid paying development cost levies simply by including rental housing at market rates, which does nothing to provide much-needed affordable housing.

In addition, I’d like to point out that Vision Vancouver’s campaigns under Mayor Gregor Robertson were bankrolled by developers every election throughout the past 10 years.

To underscore all of this, we have more homeless people on our streets today than when he first ran for mayor in 2008 on a platform that promised to bring homelessness to an end.

We have a perfect example of his failure in this regard from this week’s public hearing regarding a 2016 rezoning proposal at 58 W. Hastings. Activists brought to the public hearing a written promise actually signed by the mayor that 100 percent of the project would be “welfare/pension-rate community-controlled housing”, also known as shelter rate housing. The reality today is that only one-third of the project is at shelter rates. Another broken promise.

With the exception of a few positive environmental initiatives — such as all the improvements for cycling in the city — Mayor Gregor Robertson has implemented an agenda very similar to that of the Non-Partisan Association, which has always supported businesses and developers at the expense of neighbourhoods and the average citizen. Ergo my well-known expression: Vision Vancouver is the NPA, only with bike lanes.

With the mayor’s departure coupled with those of Vision councillors Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer and Tim Stevenson, one could say that Vision Vancouver’s days are numbered — and that we’re about to witness a sea change at 12th and Cambie in this fall’s municipal election.

I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see a Green/COPE majority and finally enjoy a positive change that puts neighbourhood needs ahead of the wishes of big developers.

 

Posted in affordable housing, British Columbia, Canadian politics, City Hall, COPE, developers, gentrification, Green Party, homelessness, influence peddling, NPA, People Power, Vancouver, Vancouver election, Vancouver Park Board, Vision Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gregor Robertson: 10 years of disappointments

A made-in-B.C. ridesharing solution is the winner!

The provincial government’s all-party committee on ridesharing is in the midst of holding hearings on whether or not to allow this service into British Columbia.

I’ve written about this topic before expressing my concerns about the negative impact ridesharing services such Uber and Lyft will have on taxi drivers. One of my biggest concerns is that many taxi drivers will see their life savings put at risk if the taxi industry is not protected one way or another.

A number of people at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have researched and spoken out about interesting alternatives that offer homegrown solutions with various forms of ridesharing, car-sharing or just plain sharing of ride resources, some of which can protect taxi drivers at the same time.

In each case, the solution is tailor-made for the jurisdiction concerned and avoids some of the pitfalls and poor practices that have plagued ride-hailing companies. (Employee mistreatment and corporate scandals at both Uber and Lyft have been well-documented, including Lyft’s opposition to its drivers’ attempts to unionize.).

For instance, in Winnipeg taxi drivers formed their own successful taxi cooperative. In some jurisdictions in the States, community-owned ride-sharing services have sprung up.

When both Uber and Lyft turned their backs on Austin, Texas, for example, a number of ride-hailing alternatives filled the void, including the community-based RideAustin. This non-profit, community-based rideshare service enables drivers to earn more income since RideAustin doesn’t take any commission, plus it donates monies raised to various community health and cultural initiatives.

What a great idea for B.C.! A community-owned ridesharing service could be better tailored to offer a win-win solution — better service for the consumer, but also protection for the current taxi drivers and a boost for the community. This week, the B.C. Taxi Association recommended a made-in-B.C. solution to the all-party committee: a single app that would give access to all ride services (including both taxis and Uber).

Let’s keep our eye on B.C.’s ride-sharing strategy and the all-party committee hearings. Some big changes appear to be on their way.

Posted in British Columbia, Green Party, NDP, taxi, transportation, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on A made-in-B.C. ridesharing solution is the winner!

A tip of the top hat to the Westender

Last week the Westender newspaper announced they were ceasing publication of their print edition. While they will continue to have a web presence, hard copies will no longer find their way to your doorstep or local business.

I still have fond memories of the time in the late 1980s when I began to run ads in local newspapers for my law practice. The Westender was the local community newspaper I went to first. Maurice Goldberg, the ad salesman at the time, was a remarkable fellow. He was in his 70s with no retirement on the horizon and took public transit everywhere. He showed a keen interest in me and my law firm. Selling an ad to me was almost secondary. He truly represented what set local newspapers apart from all other forms of media. The Westender in those days was chock-a-block with interesting articles about local events in the West End, especially art and cultural happenings, as well as municipal politics — all in all, things you would never learn from the big dailies.

What does the demise of the Westender print edition mean? Besides the loss of excellent jobs for some of its personnel, I’m sad to say it also signals another nail in the coffin of community newspapers. For us readers, when these types of smaller, community papers close, it’s a loss not just from a pleasure perspective — the pleasure we gain by reading them.

More importantly, it’s also the loss of some of our understanding of both local culture and local politics along with the ability to keep local politicians accountable. Slowly but surely, we’re losing critical information about our community’s culture along with the bright lights shining into all the nooks and crannies at 12th and Cambie. In the case of the latter, it means we will inevitably end up with much poorer government.

Fingers crossed that the Vancouver Courier and the Georgia Straight remain healthy and vibrant. While they have both shrunk a fair amount over the past few years, they still play a vital role in keeping the fifth estate alive.

On that hopeful note, I want to tell you that this is my last blog for the year. My next one will be in early January. In the meantime, Penny and I wish you and your family the very best of the season and a Happy New Year!

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It’s been a great ride!

I’ve been on the COPE executive on and off for some 30 years. But at our AGM in November I did not seek re-election to the executive board. At the same time, I announced I would not be running again for elected office, starting with the 2018 municipal election in Vancouver.

I was first attracted to COPE back in the late 1970s while still in my teens. I would attend city council meetings and never ceased to be impressed by the lone COPE city councillor, Harry Rankin. Harry was always able to effortlessly summarize a complex debate into common sense. He was also a masterful debater, always standing up for public delegations and the average person. COPE — an alternative to the developer-friendly NPA — strongly advocated for a city council focused on the needs of citizens and neighbourhoods. Harry and COPE were a match made in heaven.

2017 HandyDART press conference

Some of the amazing 2014 COPE campaign team!

In the early 1980s, COPE appointed me to the Vancouver Public Library board of directors; in 1986, I was elected chair. From this position, I lobbied successfully for a significant increase in library services for print-disabled people and for Vancouver’s many multilingual communities.

 

In 1990, I was elected to my first three-year-term as a COPE park board commissioner. Working with the community, we at COPE were able to achieve a number of victories. One of the biggest ones was that we forced the then-NPA majority to phase out the long-held practice of having privately catered dinners for park board commissioners before their meetings. The money saved was diverted into children’s programming. We also moved the park board toward a pesticide-free policy.

Occupy Vancouver in 2011

In 1993, I was re-elected to a second three-year term on the park board. Working with environmental groups, COPE forced the NPA to adopt a bylaw significantly restricting the Vancouver Public Aquarium’s ability to capture whales from the wild.

In 1999, I was elected to a three-year term on Vancouver city council. My most memorable recollection of that term was the lockout of bus drivers by TransLink. Public transitcame to a halt. Many held NPA councillor George Puil responsible for the lockout because as chair of TransLink, he took a very anti-union position.

Working with the public and the bus drivers, COPE organized a massive occupation of city council chambers. The NPA councillors and mayor fled the chamber! Days later, an agreement was reached between TransLink and the bus drivers, ending a long and bitter lockout.

Poster from a campaign I co-organized with COPE to reinstate the ward system for Vancouver elections.

In 2002, I was re-elected to city council, this time with what appeared to be a COPE majority. Eight of the 10 city councillors elected along with the mayor were COPE candidates. Although COPE soon broke into two factions — COPE Classic and COPE Lite — I managed to get city council to implement two initiatives I’m still very proud of. Both of these initiatives are still in place.

COPE campaign trail 2005

The first was an Ethical Purchasing Policy I worked on with Raymond Louie — one of the many people of other political stripes I could work with over the years as long as we shared certain values. It ensures that all suppliers to the City of Vancouver pay living wages to employees and that all products and services they supply to the city respect the environment and meet fair labour standards, even if they’re from international sources.

The second initiative was the Vancouver Food Policy Council. This is a civic agency that’s responsible for working on food issues and food security for Vancouver and provides advice on these issues to city council. It also does things like connecting seniors who have gardens that need tending with students who would like to do some gardening, and advocating for using schoolyards to teach kids about growing food.

Stuart Mackinnon during my 2011 campaign for City Council

Regrettably, COPE Lite broke away from COPE and went on to become Vision Vancouver — the NPA with bike lanes. However, I’m proud to say that COPE, despite electoral setbacks, has soldiered on and will continue to soldier on. Happily, I will continue to be involved even though I’m not on the executive. I want to contribute what I can to keep a party in the heart of Vancouver politics that puts the average person first.

I have greatly enjoyed my many years of involvement in civic politics. However, there comes a time when all good things must come to an end. It’s time for new blood and fresh ideas within COPE, and I’m very happy to step aside to make room for new leadership.

Penny and I rolling with COPE in the 2014 Pride Parade.

I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wonderful partner Penny, and I’ll continue to serve my clients at my legal practice. And never fear, I am not hanging up my political spurs entirely! I know we need all hands on deck if we want to make Vancouver an affordable place to live again. Watch this space for more articles and critiques of the powers that be!

I look back on my involvement in civic politics with COPE with great memories of what is possible when elected officials work with the community and put neighbourhoods ahead of developers. But I could never have done it without my many, many COPE colleagues, supporters and collaborators over the years.

So a big, heartfelt THANK YOU! to each and every one of you.

It’s been a great ride!

——–

I’m honoured to report that COPE is hosting a dinner in my honour on Thursday, February 15th 2018. There will be dinner, an open bar, and radical luminaries from the community. Proceeds will go to COPE! Click here for more info and to buy tickets

Facebook event page is here

 

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, COPE, fiscal responsibility, food security, HandyDART, Harry Rankin, Labour, NPA, TransLink, Vancouver, Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver election, Vancouver Park Board, Vision Vancouver | 1 Comment