In the past two weeks, two prominent Vision Vancouver representatives have announced to the public that they are putting their names in the hat for the upcoming provincial election. Last Sunday the chair of the Parks Board, Constance Barnes, announced that she is running for nomination as the NDP Vancouver False Creek candidate. On Friday, City Councilor Geoff Meggs announced that he would be campaigning for the Vancouver Fairview NDP nomination. There are also rumours that School Board Chair Patti Bacchus will also run for the provincial New Democrats.
Some might be thinking that they are leaving because the future of Vision Vancouver is becoming dimmer. A week and a half before Meggs and Barnes announced that they were going to run for their nominations, the 2011 homelessness numbers showed that “street homelessness” has almost doubled since last year. According to the annual homelessness counts, the number of people without homes is higher now than it was when Vision Vancouver won its first majority in 2008. This isn’t a good sign for a party that has campaigned twice on ending homelessness.
On top of this, community organizers across the city are fighting against the developer friendly council. Developers have been asking for large, high-end towers in residential neighbourhoods across the city. Groups such as Residents Association Mount Pleasant and Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver have formed to fight them, and despite the fact that their efforts fall on deaf ears at City Hall, have done a great job of organizing and engaging members of their communities.
One has to wonder how long Vision can keep up its positive reputation, with more and more people dedicating their time to fight Vision policies that are helping developers and not residents.
While Vision does have a few things to be worried about, I think that the real reason they are leaving is that Barnes and Meggs were never truly committed to the issues that they campaigned on. The polls show that because the right is split between the BC Liberal and the BC Conservative parties, there’s a good chance the NDP will have a successful election next year. A job in the provincial legislature will see an almost doubling of salary for a city councilor. If they manage to keep their seat for six years, they’ll get a comfortable pension on which to retire. The fact that they are abandoning the city government, only a few months after being elected, is evidence of how disconnected Vision is from the residents of Vancouver.
Throughout Vancouver’s history, many politicians have used their positions at the municipal level as a stepping-stone to a high profile (and high paying) position in the provincial or federal government. But the “farm team” model isn’t good for residents of Vancouver. Community activists and community values get cast aside. Politicians that are always looking for the next opportunity to boost their career aren’t working in the best interests of the people they represent.