A fighting chance with limits on big money in politics

johnny-automatic-bag-of-moneyLast week I blogged about the very positive, upbeat COPE nomination meeting I recently attended. This week let’s take a look at the bigger picture — the likely impact of new legislation that will govern campaign financing in this fall’s municipal elections.

David Eby, B.C.’s Attorney General, brought in legislation last September shortly after Vancouver’s by-election that I predict will have a dramatic and very positive impact on municipal elections across the province going forward.

Historically, developers have been purchasing election outcomes. As an example, in Vancouver’s last municipal election, both Vision Vancouver and the NPA collected millions of dollars in donations from developers to finance their campaigns. Many would argue this had a very corrosive impact on decision-making at 12th and Cambie after the election.

This new legislation will do away with donations from developers and unions as well as limit individual contributions to $1,200 a year (the second-lowest limit in Canada). Parties, such as COPE, which have been at an electoral disadvantage in the past when it comes to campaign financing, can now operate on a more level playing field.

The impact of this new legislation will be province-wide. For instance, Surrey First — Surrey’s equivalent of Vision Vancouver — will also no longer be able to bankroll their election with such big blank cheques from developers.

Because of these changes, I’m very optimistic about the outcome at the ballot box this coming October in Vancouver. At long last COPE may finally bounce back. And hopefully we will once again have city councillors ready, willing and able to speak up for the average citizen and not be beholden to developers.

To learn more about big money in politics, check out Geoff Dembicki’s excellent series of articles in The Tyee.

Posted in affordable housing, British Columbia, City Hall, COPE, developers, Elections - British Columbia, electoral reform, equality, gentrification, NDP, People Power, Vancouver, Vancouver election, Vancouver Park Board, Vision Vancouver | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on A fighting chance with limits on big money in politics

COPE is definitely back!

COPE_LogoIf you support COPE and the kind of progressive policies it stands for, I’ve got good news for you.

Last Sunday, I attended the COPE nomination meeting — the first COPE meeting I’ve attended in almost a year since I started stepping away from my executive role with the party. What a breath of fresh air! The meeting started precisely on time, went smoothly throughout, and was totally absent division and the procedural wrangles that have so frequently taken place at previous COPE membership meetings the past few years.

The room was filled to overflowing without an empty chair. I think there’s a mood in the air for genuine progressive politics. I also think our decision not to run a candidate and, instead, endorse Jean Swanson in the 2017 by-election for city council won us a lot of friends and supporters.

The membership nominated one of the strongest slates to run for elected office under the COPE banner in a long time. For city council, they nominated Jean Swanson, Anne Roberts and Derrick O’Keefe. For school board, it’s Barb Parrott and Diana Day. And for park board, Gwen Giesbrech and John Irwin.

When it came to the fundraising pitch I was knocked right over! Mel Lehan, a longtime COPE member and former candidate, did the pitch. He began by asking if there was anyone present willing to donate $1000. To my shock and amazement over 15 people came up to the mic, each pledging $1000. I have never seen that before at COPE! Clearly, enthusiasm for COPE is back.

The meeting wrapped up with a debate with 3 mayoral candidates — Shauna Sylvester, independent candidate; Kennedy Stewart, independent candidate; and UBC professor and urban design expert Patrick Condon, who is seeking the COPE mayoral nomination. (We will nominate our mayoral candidate at a membership meeting in August.)

The debate was lively and highlighted the stark differences between these 3 individuals on issues such as housing and transportation. My full support goes to Patrick Condon — I hope he succeeds in getting COPE’s mayoral nomination.

All in all, the meeting was a great success. COPE is back!

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, COPE, developers, events, homelessness, People Power, Vancouver, Vancouver election | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on COPE is definitely back!

COPE’s nomination meeting — a party comeback highlight

This coming Sunday, June 10, at 2 p.m. the Coalition of Progressive Electors will hold its nomination meeting. COPE has done a very impressive job of rebuilding over the past COPE_Logofew months, and this nomination meeting looks like it will be very well attended. The highlight of the meeting will be a debate between independent mayoral candidate, Kennedy Stewart, and chair of the urban design program at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Patrick Condon, who is rumoured to be seriously considering running for mayor with COPE.

Some names to watch: Former journalism instructor and Vancouver city councillor, Anne Roberts, is seeking a council nomination. If nominated she will be a very strong candidate. Barb Parrott is seeking nomination as a candidate for school board. She’s a former member of the BC Teachers’ Federation, where she earned a reputation as a very hard-working union activist. Diana Day is also seeking a school trustee nomination. If nominated she will have the support and endorsement of the Vancouver and District Labour Council.

With Vision Vancouver apparently on the way out, now may be the perfect time for a COPE comeback at the polls.

The nomination meeting will be held at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 1440 W.12th Ave. in Vancouver. You can find more details about the meeting and nominations here, on COPE’s website.

Penny and I hope to see you there!

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, COPE, events, People Power, Vancouver, Vancouver election, Vancouver Park Board | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on COPE’s nomination meeting — a party comeback highlight

Faster than driving & having more fun — on a bike!

On CBC Radio this morning, I was listening to an interesting piece about the annual Rush Hour Challenge put on by HUB Cycling to see which mode of transportation is the most time-efficient to get a commuter to downtown Vancouver. The challenge pits cyclists, car drivers and transit users against each other to see who can reach a designated downtown destination the fastest from various starting points throughout Metro Vancouver.

This news piece got me thinking about how much road space is freed up each time we shift a car driver to public transit or onto a bike. Bicycle lanes — by making much safer environments for cycling — have contributed to a significant shift to cycling as the preferred mode of transportation for many people. And this translates to savings for all of us — for example, even a 10 percent increase in physical activity nationally delivers approximately $150-million in direct healthcare savings annually.

bikelove2Bike lanes not only make for safer cycling but also speed up biking commute times. Since the Rush Hour Challenge started in 2009, cyclists got downtown faster more than two-thirds of the time. For the East Van team, one of 7 teams in this year’s challenge, the transit user was the fastest for the door-to-door trip, doing it in 20 minutes. The cyclist was next, in 24 minutes. The car driver was the slowest at 30 minutes.

The other part of the challenge is seeing who had the most fun and hands down it was the people who biked. Imagine that — putting pleasure into commuting. 

Don’t forget that Bike to Work / Bike to School Week is May 28 to June 4. The more folks we can get out of cars and onto bicycles the better off we all are.

Posted in bicycle lanes, Broadway Corridor, cycling, HandyDART, Metro Vancouver, People Power, Skytrain, sustainability, taxi, Transit, TransLink, transportation, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Faster than driving & having more fun — on a bike!

Ian Campbell: Why would you run for Vision?

If you’ve been following the amazing race for mayor in the City of Vancouver, you will be aware of the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring — Ian Campbell, hereditary chief of the Squamish Nation and friend of Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Much has been said about the fact that if Mr. Campbell is successful in obtaining Vision Vancouver’s nomination for mayor we will have a First Nations’ candidate running for the office.

angie dennis

Angie Dennis was the first Indigenous mayoral candidate for Vancouver City Council; she ran under the COPE banner in 1972.

Those with good memories, however, will remember it was COPE that was the first municipal party to run an indigenous person for mayor in Vancouver. In 1972, Angie Dennis ran for mayor under the COPE banner — the first Indigenous woman to run for a major party.

Leaving aside which political party was first in this regard, I have to ask why Ian Campbell is seeking the Vision nomination.

The housing affordability crisis here in Vancouver has disproportionately affected First Nations — a crisis that could have been addressed by Vision Vancouver during its previous 10 years in office. It was not. Developers were given free rein throughout the city, and were not required to set aside a certain percentage of their projects for affordable housing.

I also have to raise the awkward fact that Ian Campbell’s Squamish Nation has traditional land claims to some of the land in large parcels in the city slated for massive, high-density redevelopment: the 52-acre Jericho lands in Point Grey; and the 21-acre site of former RCMP headquarters on 33rd Ave. (alone slated for as many as 2,000 residents). B.C. Liquor’s soon-to-be-gone distribution plant on Rupert Street is also part of the mix. Mr. Campbell helped to convince the Musqueam, the Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh to work together on the redevelopment of these three parcels.

I predict that once again Vision Vancouver, if it is still in power when these redevelopments come before council, will fail to make it a requirement that 30% of the units developed are earmarked as rentals with rent set at 30% of a person’s income.

I wish Ian Campbell all the best. But he will certainly not get my vote at the ballot box should he be successful in getting Vision Vancouver’s nomination for mayor.

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, COPE, developers, First Nations, gentrification, homelessness, social justice, Vancouver, Vancouver election, Vision Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Ian Campbell: Why would you run for Vision?

Harry’s message: more important than ever

May 8 would have been Harry Rankin’s 98th birthday. I was reminded of this special date when I attended the premiere of The Rankin File: Legacy of a Radical at the Playhouse Theatre May 3 as part of the DOXA documentary film fest.

Harry Rankin — my hero and mentor — was an unforgettable individual. I had the great honour of working together with a number of individuals to help bring about the production of this documentary about him. Others involved included his son, Phil Rankin; grandson, Micah Rankin; and Julius Fisher, who helped produce it along with John Bolton.

Back in 1986, a fellow by the name of Peter Smilsky, who articled at a law office across the street from Harry’s, began putting together a film about him. He captured a lot of original footage, including some fascinating breakfast meetings between Harry and well-known journalist, Jack Webster. (These two Vancouver legends used to get together for breakfast once a week at 7 a.m. at a restaurant in the Downtown Eastside.)

Peter never did finish his film. Fast forward to 2015, when Julius Fisher and director Teresa Alfeld came on the scene to complete the project.

The premiere was sold out with not an empty seat in the house, and the audience seemed to really appreciate the entire documentary.

Today, because of demand, there’s a third repeat showing of the film at SFU Woodwards (149 West Hastings). If you miss it, next time the film is shown in Vancouver, I urge you to attend. I guarantee you’ll greatly enjoy it — especially because Harry’s message about development and how important it is for municipal governments to take control of zoning to ensure we can all live together is now more important than ever.


Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, developers, events, gentrification, Harry Rankin, Vancouver, Vancouver election | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Better to debate than deliberately disrupt

The provincial NDP are proposing a new school tax on homes worth more than $3 million. The revenue projections are in the vicinity of $200 million and would largely be used for seismic upgrades for school buildings.

Many of the homes that would be affected by this new tax are located in the Vancouver-Point Grey riding of Attorney General David Eby. Full disclosure: I live in this riding, and Penny and I own one of the houses that would be affected.

Mr. Eby decided to host a town hall meeting to discuss this new tax. People were asked to RSVP in advance. The event quickly filled up. It was then moved to a new, larger venue where, once again — even with the additional space — it quickly filled up.

Unfortunately, those intent on creating chaos at the meeting then got to work. CBC Radio and other media reported that the leader of the opposition, Andrew Wilkinson, circulated a letter urging people to show up regardless of whether they had registered in advance or not. Also, two real estate companies took out ads urging people — including non-constituents — to do the same.

With the event already at capacity with people who had registered in advance, this spelled trouble.

David Eby was placed in a difficult position. Many of the people who had volunteered to help out at the town hall meeting were seniors and young people — individuals who would be unable to deal with crowds of people pushing their way into an already full event. The last straw was when a last-minute protest was planned to “march on in”. With safety at issue, Mr. Eby had no choice but to cancel the town hall.

This is unfortunate as the proposed new education tax certainly needs much debate. Should individuals who are asset-rich but income-poor be forced to pay this new tax? Would it be fairer to instead raise the marginal income tax rate for individuals earning over $200,000 a year?

Had the town hall event gone forward, these and many other interesting questions and ideas would have been raised since a panel with speakers from both sides of this issue had been planned.

It is one thing to disagree. It is another thing to deliberately disrupt.

I hope David Eby is able to organize another venue on another date, and that this issue will get the debate it deserves.

Posted in BC Liberals, British Columbia, developers, economy, education, equality, fiscal responsibility, gentrification, Liberal Party, NDP, Vancouver | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Better to debate than deliberately disrupt

Shauna Sylvester: A Trojan horse for Vision?

Does it really appear that Vision Vancouver will not be running a mayoral candidate in this fall’s municipal election?

With Vision Vancouver’s deadline for individuals seeking the party’s mayoral nomination now passed — and nobody having declared an intent — it would appear at first glance that Vision will not be running a mayoral candidate. However, we need to look a little deeper.

Longtime Vision member Shauna Sylvester recently announced her intention to run for mayor in this fall’s municipal election. She announced that she would be running as an independent candidate seeking the support of all left, progressive forces.

But Shauna’s ongoing relationship with Vision Vancouver has gone largely unreported by the media. They have instead focused on her roles in environmentalism and sustainability and as head of SFU’s Centre for Dialogue, avoiding the fact that she is, indeed, a longtime card-carrying member of Vision and has been a regular attendee at Vision’s annual general meetings.

From left: Former Vision Chief of Staff Mike Magee, Shauna Sylvester, and Gregor Robertson at Vision’s last AGM in January. [Photo credit Maryse Zeidler/CBC]

At Vision’s most recent AGM, Shauna was photographed next to Vision Vancouver heavyweight Mike Magee — the former Chief of Staff for Vision’s Mayor Gregor Robertson. The same Mike Magee who, at one time, held the controversial role of “Special Advisor to the Mayor” — a role investigated by City Hall staff following a motion made by Green Councillor Adriane Carr; a role dubbed by some as “paid lobbyist”, and one paid for by Vancouver taxpayers. Mike headed the mayor’s office for eight years and was also key in the civic election campaigns of both the mayor and his Vision party.

I see Shauna Sylvester’s mayoral bid as anything but independent.

She is a Vision placeholder.

I’m hoping that over the next few weeks we will see the emergence of other, more credible, independent mayoral candidates.

One such name I’ve heard bandied about is that of Patrick Condon, professor of urban design at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Patrick has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable urban design.

Now Patrick would be a unity candidate in the true spirit of the term, and is definitely somebody I could get behind.

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, gentrification, Green Party, Vancouver, Vancouver election, Vision Vancouver | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Shauna Sylvester: A Trojan horse for Vision?

Vision’s falling star and no pockets to put it in


Vision Vancouver’s struggles continue to mount.

Last fall’s by-election was a complete disaster for Vision Vancouver. Their candidate, Diego Cardona, came a distant fifth.

Over the month that followed, all but two of Vision’s incumbent city councillors announced they would not be running for re-election in this fall’s municipal election.

Then Vision Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson said that he, too, would not be running for re-election.

And so the search began for a mayoral candidate. In fact, most of the people who indicated some kind of interest in running as a mayoral unity candidate representing a number of traditionally left-of-centre parties have formally announced they are not interested.

NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert announced he would not run. Likewise, the federal NDP’s Libby Davies and Don Davies as well as Vancity’s CEO Tamara Vrooman have all stated they will not run for mayor.

As far as I know, not a single soul has declared an interest in running as mayor under the Vision banner.

Will 2018 bring the end of Vision Vancouver?

Many have suggested that Vision is similar in some ways to TEAM — The Electors’ Action Movement, a Vancouver political party started in 1968 that Harry Rankin once described as a kinder, gentler version of the NPA.

TEAM was like a falling star — they came on strong, then disappeared fast. I predict Vision is about to do the same — implode!

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A little technology, a lot of independence

With the recent passing of world-renowned physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, there have been many very interesting interviews on CBC Radio over the last few days. One of them was Tuesday, March 20 on The Current.

Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed Gary Birch, the Executive Director of the BC-based Neil Squire Society. For more than 30 years, this society has been the only national not-for-profit organization in Canada empowering Canadians with disabilities through the use of computer-based assistive technologies, R&D and employment programs. Their motto is “a little technology, a lot of independence.” CBC Radio has also been working with the society to make broadcasts more accessible to all.

The interview focused on Professor Hawking’s use of technology and the unfortunate reality that many Canadians with disabilities are unable to access the assistive technology they require to live full and productive lives.

Stephen Hawking was very fortunate — he was extremely well connected. The latest updates to his speech synthesizer were performed by a team of technologists from Intel. One of them flew from the US to Cambridge to spend a full week with Professor Hawking. This must have been a very expensive upgrade.

Most disabled Canadians lack the financial resources of Professor Hawking. Now would be a great time for the federal government to create a national technology fund for Canadians for disabilities.

The money required for such an initiative should be seen as an investment as opposed to an expense. An investment that will help to ensure disabled Canadians are full, contributing members of society.

Technology is the key that will open the door.


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