Last year I received an invitation (thanks, Bruce Watson!) to speak to the Vancouver Historical Society.  We chose a nice general topic – 50 years of local government – and then, as January 26 approached, I realized I actually had to come up with something.

So here it is: some general observations on the nature of civic politics in this city, with recollections, anecdotes and opinions scattered in.  I’ve added my notes below – but they were just a rough guide for a somewhat extemporaneous talk.

Basic role of municipal government.

Vancouver exceptionalism: The Charter and Parties

1930s-1960s: The NPA Coalition

  • closing of the greenfield frontier
  • end of the clubhouse

1972: Centrist Coalition of TEAM

  • an alliance of business, academia and activists
  • social movements of the late 60s
  • Jane Jacobism
  • Freeway fight

1980s: Fractioning of the Left

  • low growth and Expo: the beginning of the international city

1990s: Gordon Campbell’s New Centrist Coalition

  • Vancouverism: Politicians, planners and shapers of the city
  • megaprojects and preservation
  • Nixon in China: How the unlikely do the unexpected

2000s: Closing of the brownfield frontier and the tidal wave of wealth

  • fractioning by personality
  • The illusion and preservation of single-family nrighbourhoods
  • density, equity and globalism

2010s: Regional Shifts

  • leadership, consensus and the Livable Region
  • provincial distraction and redirection