Have two of the third rails of Vancouver politics become the new main track?
Is it now possible, if not imperative, that our Council consider fundamentally rezoning the single-family neighbourhoods in a way that would change their character, while at the same time considering a fundamental change in the property tax in order to tap the extraordinary increase in the asset value of those same homes?
You bet – if you go by the results of recent byelection.
Two candidates at either end of the political spectrum who topped the polls both put forward what not long ago would have been unthinkable policies in any serious party platform: Jean Swanson proposed a variable property tax targeted at increasing rates on high-value properties; Hector Bremner proposed a city-wide plan that would open single-family zones places to multiple dwellings.
Both candidates now have credibility, one as an elected official, the other as a serious contender in the next election. They both have a mandate to push forward with ideas that everyone else in civic government and all parties (even at the provincial level) must now take seriously.
Let the real debate begin.
NPA’s Hector (“I Like Fossil Fuels”) Bremner wins with 3% of eligible voters (13372/442792). Q: does he continue to push for massive SFH rezoning, and drag the NPA, kicking and screaming, with him? Or does this get buried behind a surge of BC Liberal-directed right wing initiatives. Will his by-election victory momentum be sustained by subsequent performance as a Councillor? Will it support a Mayoral bid in 2018? Watch the inevitable Council spark-fests with Councillor Reimer, a possible 2018 Vision mayoral candidate. Or should I term those “quasi Mayoral debates”.
Jean Swanson comes second — “Tax the Rich”. Despite it being difficult (if not impossible) for the City to do this, it’s still quite a message for traditional parties about what brings people to the polls in 2017. Probably 2018, too.
Green’s Pete Fry places third. Name recognition can’t overcome soft messaging and obvious lack of serious interest in rezoning, due to nimby-friendly policies.
Vision’s Diego Cardona places a distant 5th, as voters do what they normally do in by-elections: smack the powers-that-be. Cardona’s focus on renters fails to outweigh this. Neither does youthful charm and energy. The progressive vote-split doesn’t explain it completely, either.
Low turnout (11%), 4-way split on the progressive side, means special interests and energised minority positions are very evident. Note that Swanson/Graves combined would have won, as would either of them with Fry. Remember, your Complaint Coupons carry real-world weight, so let’s not have a whole lot of complaining about Hector.
School Board final composition a mixed bag party-wise. Final-final may change when official count released Oct 18. As of now, 3 Greens, 3 Visions, 2 NPA, 1 OneCity.
Here’s a challenge for all you politico-gamesters out there. How will the N-Dee-Greens deal with selecting a Speaker of the Legislative Assembly? It’s mandatory to have one; it must be a sitting MLA; and Speakers are traditionally (not legally) non-partisan. And if an N-Dee-Green MLA, reduces the comparative numbers to 43-43.
The Speaker is usually not a prominent player, but might be in this barely stable Gov’t. Just as each and every vote by each and every MLA becomes fundamentally important.
And maybe there are a few lessons here:
The Speaker has been part of the British parliamentary system since 1377. The first person to be called “the Speaker” was Sir Thomas Hungerford. In the beginning, the Speaker was responsible for carrying messages, often complaints or grievances, from the people’s representatives to the King or Queen. This explains the title of “Speaker” the one person empowered to speak to the monarch on behalf of Parliament.
At the time, the Speaker advised Parliament of the monarch’s wishes and conveyed to the monarch Parliament’s response. This was a potentially hazardous profession. The monarch was apt to express his displeasure at Parliament’s reply by putting the Speaker to death. History records at least nine such cases.
This rather bloody and dangerous past explains why a Speaker, upon election, will pretend to be reluctant to take the Speaker’s chair and must be dragged to the front of the Chamber.
So much fun. So many wheels turning within wheels.
As an aside, I wonder if MLA’s are already picking prospective “twins” from the opposite side of the Legislature, so that they can manage absences by informally arranging such absences to coincide.
For the first time in 65 years, BC has not (yet) elected a majority government. Things may change when recounts are done and absentee ballots are totaled. But let’s say they remain the same. Liberals 43, NDP 41, Greens 3. The popular vote looks like: Liberals 40.84%; NDP 39.86% and Greens 16.75%.
Where to from here?
Despite reports to the contrary, we do not have a minority government — we have a hung (or minority) parliament. What the government looks like, if any, is still not known except in the short term. How short is not known, and depends on deal-making and negotiating skills.
Liberals can hang on to Government until defeated in the Legislative Assembly, scrambling for non-Liberal allies on Speech From the Throne, money-related bills or specific non-confidence votes (or until it becomes clear that they won’t get any, and defeat is inevitable).
Provincial minority governments are fairly common. Only Alberta has never has one.
It’s worth noting that, Federally, some minority governments have been quite productive, including Pearson minorities that brought us universal health care and the Canada Pension Plan.
But success means a mature approach to governing — the ability to negotiate compromises in policy positions. Yes — grown-up discussions about differing viewpoints. A meeting of polar opposites. Fewer heavy hands; more open hands.
Wouldn’t that bring some cooling fresh air to the usual hot air around rigid ideologies that we are used to enduring?
As we read this, Liberals and NDP are probably trying to create a formal coalition with the Greens. These, apparently, are vanishingly rare. Or, put another way, can Mr. Weaver stitch together a working government? Could the Liberals agree to his non-negotiable position on banning big money from provincial politics. And let’s not mention climate change here.
Or the Legislative Assembly might swirl into unworkable chaos and off we go to another election.
But whichever way this goes, a recognisable breeze has blown from the Left. Not quite strong enough to clear out the stink, but unmistakably bringing a reduction in favour for the Liberal big-money, corporate, right-leaning Liberal-only-as-neo-libertarian party.
Not to mention personal electoral defeat for cabinet ministers Peter (crush Translink) Fassbender, Suzanne Anton, Amrik Virk, and Naomi Yamamoto.
Peter Norman writes entertainingly in The Walrus about an ocean cruise he took with Ezra Levant of the Rebel web site, and twelve dozen of his followers. It’s snidely amusing, when it isn’t a pointed warning to avoid smug “can’t-happen-here” bragging. Let the name Kellie Leitch surface.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, well then a certain US politician must be feeling just a little bit happy. Even though Canada’s alt-right movement is tiny, it is doubtless all that a branch plant can be, and full of true believers.
Mr. Norman sketches the familiar hot topics (climate change is bogus, Muslims are bad, political correctness is wrong, we hate Hilary, and so on). He also gives a description of the path to the “information bubble” in which we all can now exist.
Finding scant support for his views in the mainstream media, the nascent Rebel turns to Google, where his search for truth might lead to one of the many clickbait videos posted on Levant’s web site. (The Rebel has racked up more than six million YouTube views per month since its launch in early 2015. No one writes a headline like Levant.) Driven by a convert’s zeal, the newly minted Rebel becomes not only a steady consumer of Rebel content but also a publisher—spamming his friends with the stuff on Twitter and Facebook.
One Rebel I met, a middle-aged oil-patch worker from northern Alberta, described his daily media consumption as follows: First he goes to Breitbart for news, then the Rebel for “analysis,” then his local Sun newspaper “for entertainment.” Time permitting, he’ll move on to the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star or the CBC—but only if he isn’t already “angry enough.” (That last bit was said partly in jest, but the rest was in earnest.)
And Norman touches on the volunteer and paid staff that infest social media to spread these ideas and attack opponents.
In their spare time, some of these Rebels toil as volunteer activists, helming conservative citizens’ groups, blogging, getting into online fights. (“I love it when they block me,” one woman said with relish.)
As transportation (bike lanes!!) appears to be receding as a hot cultural change issue, housing density’s noise level is rising. This arguement won’t likely get quite so hot, and may take much longer to resolve. What with the Provincial Gov’t (and all its allies, stooges and agents) continuing to argue the case for (and massively fund) sprawl, strip malls, freeways and paving farmland for cheesy suburbs. After all, it worked just fine in the case of the Burrard Bridge (Kits and Dunbar become suburbs), Lions Gate Bridge (opened up North and West Vancouver to car-oriented development); Oak Street Bridge (thousands of acres of Richmond farmland), the Massey Tunnel and so on.
Here’s a few things going on.
First, this from UBC Professor Nathanael Lauster “Abandon the Dream Home… You’ll Be Happier“. He argues along a familiar track — too much land is devoted to housing too few people. He discusses Vancouver as a city pointing to the future of more diverse development, with a long way to go. And he’s not one to cloak his thoughts in fluffy words:
He calls the single-family house an “invasive parasite.”
“I’m not opposed to the house as part of a set of broader, diverse ways of living in the city,” Lauster insists, “but I am opposed to regulations that set aside land for houses and houses alone.” Too many houses, he argues, are bad for cities, bad for urban dwellers, and bad for diversity. . .
. . .Before policy can open those areas to more diversity in housing, Lauster says, a cultural shift is needed, “redefining what it means to be a success.” Today’s parents, he says, need to accept that kids can grow up healthy and happy without doing it in a house.
“Making that culture shift is trickier than making policy shifts,” he said. “But I think policy shifts help us move towards that culture shift.”
With thanks to Christopher Cheung in The Tyee.
Next, the City of Lougheed: your local, friendly $7 B transit-oriented development: a 40-acre site in Burnaby being turned into a neighbourhood of 23 high-rise dwellings (25-65 stories), walkable central galleria cum boulevards, major mall and so on. Eventually to deliver 11,000 residential units, over a period of 30 years.
It’s a big dollar vote by Shape Living in favour of compact and dense development, that makes me happy to see, along with its focus on transportation alternatives. This in stark contrast to the Tsawassen Mills car-dependent sprawl-oriented mall and adjacent car suburb, which in my mind are at serious risk of failure. And I’m hoping that the Jericho and Heather developments will go dense and transit-oriented, and not follow in the Tsawassen mold.
Fueled by infrastructure investments and improved transportation access, Shape Living’s master-planned City Centres are strategically located on SkyTrain’s rapid transit lines, providing residents with unsurpassed connections to Vancouver’s downtown core, YVR and beyond. Our bold developments will thrive from the success of SkyTrain’s $1.6 billion Millennium Line as well as the construction of the $1.4 billion Evergreen Line. By positioning homes directly on transit, we offer a sustainable way to live and freedom from car ownership.
And last, thoughts from elsewhere on density and reshaping the city continue to pop up. “Waking Up to Shorter Commutes” in the New York Times discusses transportation funding in the USA.
On Nov. 8, there will be about 45 ballot proposals across the country that could raise nearly $200 billion for transportation improvements.
Many local officials say they have no choice but to raise taxes to invest in transportation, especially in mass transit, because their highways are clogged and more people are moving to cities.
A few days ago, I dropped by the cleaned-up painted-up alley that runs between Granville & Seymour south of Hastings. Aside from a few smokers, several short-cutters, photogs, a selfie-snapper, a courier’s car and a garbage truck, the alley was quite empty most of the time. No long-dwellers except for the plumber’s truck.
My impression is that people are not quite sure yet what to make of it. Certainly, the alley stopped lots of curious passersby on the sidewalks, and attracted a lot of attention from them. But after a quip and a goggle, off they mostly went. With a few exceptions — and perhaps those that do enter the alley may, as I did, get a different sense of the space than in the days when the alley was dark, dirty and smelly. It’s possible that wheels will begin to turn as people consider what they’ve experienced and dream up possibilities for using it.
I’m well aware that a single photo (or even two) rarely serves as proof or prediction of anything. Maybe I was there at the wrong time of the wrong day, and the uses that people find will be in the weekend or evenings. Whatever happens, it’s a remarkable and positive transformation, and I hope for the best.
Here on Price Tags, we’ve published a few articles on pending disruption in the motor vehicle industry from autonomous vehicles. While it’s far from clear what will ultimately happen, at what rate, in which sectors first and which company will dominate — major disruption is no doubt underway.
The Economist has produced this nifty video on the disruption now facing fossil fuel-based energy companies. The video (length 14:48), looks at two large European energy companies, a village, their plans and the investments they all are making in transition to a post-carbon (or diminishing carbon) world. It’s the latest in a series they’re doing on disruption of industries.
Meanwhile, here is BC, we double down on production of fossil fuels, complete with fuss-free shipment facilities for any and all fossil fuels from anywhere. Never mind the possibility of massive stranded assets. Presumably, BC’s coal shipment volume projections just rise and rise. Our thinking seems mired in 1957.
Noteworthy to me are the massive opportunities described here as part of the transition.
Thanks to The Economist for this video.
Alternative energy is forcing fossil-fuel giants to reinvent themselves. Find out how in the latest film in our new series, “The Disrupters”, which examines industries undergoing transformation.