Category Archives: Transit

Just How Galling is TransLink’s Taxation Without Representation?

I wince in pain every time I board a Skytrain car and see this sign reminding us to keep our transit system clean. The TransLink board is a 21st century example of 18th century taxation without representation as the draconian BC Liberal government altered TransLink’s existence to ensure an appointed board is not accountable to the civic officials who fund it with billions of dollars.

“It’s your transit system too, help keep it clean.” I like the sentiment, but it hurts to think that while we all pay for the transit system, we do not have authority over it.

Every time I see this sign, I am reminded of what the BC Liberal party has taken away from all of us.

So I’d like to begin a campaign to encourage TransLink to name its new electronic fare card “TWR: taxation without representation”. If you would like to leap on this bandwagon, please cruise by their website and enter that idea for the card. Vote early and vote often. You can enter the contest as many times as you like until November 8, 2010. And you can win an iPad or an electronic fare card with a year’s worth of transit on it. In fact, I’m going to go put in another entry right now. OK, I put in 3 entries.

And for you enterprising students out there looking for a class project, I submit this for your consideration. Let’s see if we can plump the votes up so that all other suggestions get voted off the island. But of course, there is no democracy in TransLink so even if some enterprising person built a little app/script to enter TWR until it gets billions of votes, I’m sure we’ll still get something embarrassing, or at the very least anti-democratic.

And while I’m remarking on how surreal it is to live in a world like before the American Revolution, I’d like to ask you if you have noticed how those expensive TVs on Skytrain platforms are full of adcreep, but they are missing the most essential piece of information in a transit system: the time.

Is a Car Free Vancouver Possible?

CarFreeYVR posted a nice video [below] discussing the motivations and inspirations for car-free days in Vancouver. With car-free days festivals coming again on June 20 on Main Street, Commercial Drive, Kits and the West End [happy Father’s Day!], I’m excited to see hundreds take over the pavement.

But how does Vancouver ever become the first car-free city in North America? It’s all about systems theory.

Sure, elected leadership reflect dinosaur corporate interests. It will take us to “think outside the box” and embark on “grassroots mobilization” to self-actualize our “community organizer” vibes…and all the other cliches. But really, it’s about understanding the interconnectedness of everything.

And it isn’t necessarily about converting everyone who shows up to the festivals and getting them to sign a petition. It’s about living the community we envision. People will come. They will enjoy the day. The next day they will watch cars drive over all the great kids’ chalk art. A small part of their souls will be maimed.

Then next year we will have maybe more than four locations. Then we’ll have more than one day. Then people will finally stop griping about bike lanes in the downtown.

And through this we simply manifest the reality we want. Systems theory. Let’s see how the main areas of systems theory play out in car free days:

We move from understanding ourselves merely as isolated individuals to seeing ourselves as parts of a social, community whole. We are part of a hive mind. We have our own existence, but when we get to stroll down the yellow line of Main Street, we’ll see how our neighbours are a part of us.

We will realize that the objects in our communities are not distant items, but connected to us. When cars drive on our streets, we are separated from all these objects. Sitting on the pavement in the middle of Main and King Ed chatting with friends and sharing popsicles helps us see objects as part of us, not alien.

In the end, we become more attuned to our context. We get to question it from the perspective of sitting on the road instead of bolting across King Ed on a yellow light to catch a bus.

When we adjust our normal relationship with roads we get to move past the normal and embrace the rich quality of alternatives: what we can do with streets if we don’t let cars on them. Knowing comes from doing.

Instead of being humans with defined roles in an urban world, when we shift our relationships, we notice the patterns and processes that consume us. We enjoy different relationships and get to evaluate whether we really need the prescribed, unquestioned patterns we have endured forever.

Finally, when we take the rubber off the road we get a chance to build new patterns and relationships with the people, landmarks, shops, artists and green space in our road communities. We can’t get outside any box without experiencing an alternative. Imaginations can be powerful, but a car-free day is worth a thousand words.

And just like another great cliche bumper sticker: when the people lead, the leaders will follows. Eventually, the politicians will start showing up to car-free days because they’ll realize there is a serious constituency there. That’s where we earn the political legitimacy to force the leaders to follow our lead and start legislating car-free space.

And the fact that it’s all an open source, volunteer coordination effort is just icing on the cake. Actually, really, though, if it were all sponsored by Red Bull or Dasani, it would flop.

So what are you doing on Father’s Day? I know what I’ll be doing.

YouTube – Car Free Vancouver.

Olympic Threat Mathematics

Almost a year ago I wrote about how VANOC was exploring risks to Olympic corporate sponsors. People don’t like them because they have co-opted the Olympics and are pimping the athletes and glee-seekers for their own exposure, which is now most evident in Olympic logos all over the TV, skyscraper advertising condoms downtown and inane transit ads that merely say that XYZ corporation is proud to sponsor the Olympics.

But if the sociologists want to examine the mathematics of Olympic distress, here’s my equation from last year. In the spirit of Create Commons, feel free to suggest improvements!

((The Olympics corporate welfare program) + (obscene reductions in government spending for human beings) + (radical and radicalized groups who object to the billions wasted on this spectacle, and what in our culture it has steamrollered) + (sponsors and government groups that flaunt their glee in the faces of those suffering) + (an opportunity to capture attention on a global scale)) x (an unpredictable economic depression [ooops, Great Recession]) = a perfect storm of wariness.

Or if you’d like it less cluttered:

(a + b + c + d + e) * f = g


a = the Olympics corporate welfare program

b = obscene reductions in government spending for human beings

c = radical and radicalized groups who object to the billions wasted on this spectacle, and what in our culture it has steamrollered

d = sponsors and government groups that flaunt their glee in the faces of those suffering

e = an opportunity to capture attention on a global scale

f = an unpredictable economic depression [ooops, Great Recession]

and g = a perfect storm of wariness.

Now, you do the math.

PS…I spent an hour in Grandview Park today. It now seems the black helicopters just live over that park now. But as one friend mentioned, there are enough helicopters that various of them could be living over other spots as well.

Politics, Re-Spun on Coop Radio, 5.4.09, a Vista Video Podcast

On Monday, May 4, 2009, Politics, Re-Spun met Coop Radio on “The Rational”, a Monday evening issues program. This is the second visit, with the next scheduled for Monday, May 11th, the night before the BC provincial election.

Imtiaz Popat and I talked about the leaders debate last night, how horribly condescending and unprofessional Gordon Campbell was, how the parties are polling, why STV is so important, all parties’ environmental plans that generally need to be far more expansive and robust, how the BC Conservatives’ leader, Wilf Hanni, will beat BC Liberal Bill Bennett [not that Socred guy] in Kootenay East, the carbon tax, the Port Mann bridge, the Gateway project, who will win the election, how much corruption in candidates the BC Liberals tolerate, why Mel Lehan will likely defeat Gordon Campbell in Point Grey, John van Dongen’s teflon political career, and the importance of voting on Wednesday to Saturday in the advance polls to set the trend of a higher voter turnout which will signal a change in government…so vote early! But we didn’t get to how Campbell cancelled his upcoming CBC radio debate with Carole James because of how poorly he did last night, and we again missed a chance to debrief the Billy Bob Thornton mayhem.

The video podcast of the conversation lives at Vista Video. 

You can watch it in Miro, the best new open source multimedia viewing software:


You can watch it in iTunes: itpc://


The podcast file is at


Gordon Campbell Fires Himself During the Leaders Debate

I was thoroughly astonished at how effectively Gordon Campbell maimed his political career during the leaders debate. But really, I shouldn’t be because of his utter inability to have any meaningful breadth of vision as a leader.

I can understand why the Liberals are hiding out and not attending all candidates meetings. Their record is so bad, that being perceived as arrogant and dismissive by not showing up is less damaging than having to answer to–or actually not answer to–their record.

But while Campbell is clearly afraid of having his empathy-free personality exposed in a debate with his NDP opponent Mel Lehan, he couldn’t hide from the leaders debate.

And since his no-contest plea to drunk driving in Maui in 2003, after spending years hiding in an undisclosed location with his ego-inflating RCMP security detail, he has clearly lost whatever populist appeal he had in the 1990s as an opposition MLA. I’ve recently looked at the leaders debates going back into the 1990s and he’s certainly lost even that edge. Unfortunately he hasn’t lost that nervous hand thing where he holds his hands in front of his belly, palms facing forward, holding a non-existent soccer ball. In the 1990s, a friend suggested his hands looked like they wanted to strangle someone, but I have always believed Campbell thinks it makes him look pensive.

And tonight he showed us all some of the worst elements of his character while Jane Sterk took adequate shots at the front-running parties and Carole James calmly and empathetically addressed issues, asked fact-based questions of Campbell and showed real maturity in the face of Campbell’s addiction to all things economic, and his chauvinism and condescension.

“It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

One of Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign epiphanies was all about getting elected on this: “it’s the economy, stupid.” Gordon Campbell, being obsessed with neoliberal economics, privatization, and reducing regulation, taxes, the government and all things public, spent much of the debate talking about how an issue or question affects the economy, no matter how far he had to drag the idea over.

Sure the Liberals have polled well on the economy, but he has drunk the neoliberal Kool-Aid so deeply that he still sees the global recession as a means to actually continue advancing his neoliberal agenda! It’s like Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine is his play book.

He knows that the recession is caused by neoliberalism and he loves it. It means more of the same.

What he isn’t hearing is that actual human beings enslaved by this global neoliberal economy are suffering under it since the economy doesn’t currently exist for them. And it scares them. So every time Campbell talks about how everything has to do with the economy, he just names their fear even more. Fear-mongerers like Campbell hopes this translates into votes. But hope and optimism and positive suggestions for a better province and world negate that negativity.

There were plenty of examples of Campbell’s obsession with economics. During the debate moderated by Russ Froese, he criticized Carole James for not having business experience. The assumption is that government is a business. That’s actually an ideology skulking around inside neoliberalism called New Public Management. But there are other more philosophically sound ideas of what a government is than that, the Social Contract, for one.

The pathetic thing about Campbell’s criticism is that elsewhere in the debate he reinforces what is commonly known about him, but seldom analyzed with his claim of being a businessman: he has spent the last 25 years in political life in municipal and provincial politics, so he himself has very little business experience. Whoops. George W. Bush may actually have more than him!

But to get a true sense of how economistic Gordon Campbell is, we only need to listen to the easiest softball question any politician could hope for, in the leadership category: what are three reasons why we should vote for you–and please answer without attacking or referring to your opponents. Sounds awesome. First, Carole James waxed eloquently about her resume and skill sets. To wrap up the trio, Jane Sterk did an good job of explaining sometimes vague experience, but right in the middle, Gordon Campbell failed his job interview:

“Well, Katy, that’s one of the more difficult questions I’m sure all three of us have had to try and answer. First let me say this, I think this is a very critical time in our economy. I think it’s important for us to have people with some business experience who can help deal with that. I think it’s important to have real leadership as we move forward and take advantage of the Pacific Century. That excites me. I also think that it’s important for us to have a government that’s willing to deal up front with the hard decisions we have to make with regard to climate change.”

Beyond the fluff of this nebulous Pacific Century, he went on talking about how the NDP did nothing to stop the pine beetle in the 1990s and why a new relationship with First Nations is important. 

But the beginning of his answer showed just how rarely he thinks about what public service really means–and he’s the premier! And he clearly wasn’t listening to Carole James inadvertently yet utterly destroy his lack of imagination, insight and breadth of personality just before him as he claimed that all three leaders couldn’t answer that question easily.

Still, if we are to take his current dubious First Nations policy seriously as a reflection of his leadership self-concept, we need to also remember that he stormed into office in 2001 and promptly embarked on a province-wide treaty referendum that was panned as purely racist and horribly worded to ensure the government could do whatever it wanted. Now that’s a sign of a special kind of horrible leadership!

Later, in responding to his neglect of the poor by not increasing the minimum wage for 8 years, Campbell again dragged out how the average wage in BC is $22/hour. My eyeballs swell with pressure every time he says this because he assumes we will all think we’re ok with that so we don’t need to care about the poor. But I wrote about that annoyance more here and I can’t go into it again or else I’d have to vomit.

And during his closing comment of the entire debate, the very first thing he said was that this election is about the economy and leadership. It’s clear that he doesn’t even have a vision of his own leadership and the issue around the economy is not whether the neoliberal government should continue to maim us during the recession, but whether we’re fed up with an economy that abuses people so that we can build an economy that actually serves people.

And to close, from the economy he invokes his fear-mongering hobby by threatening thousands of jobs that are at stake if the NDP forms government. Sure, BC is leading Canada by thousands in jobs lost in the last several months, but he’s hoping we’re not paying attention to that right now.

The trouble is, we are paying attention to that right now.

Chauvinism and Condescension

Aside from his reframing of everything into an economic lens, Gordon Campbell’s dark and dirty side came out during the debate as well.

Gordon Campbell’s first slip into condescension–or rather, insight into his character–came when Carole James asked him to justify his tough on crime stance with the cuts to prosecution and corrections officers in his February budget.

Campbell: “I think, Ms. James, you should understand...I know this is a big job and it’s hard to get it–a handle on it, but the fact of the matter is we’ve added additional prosecutors to fight crime and fight the gansters, BLAH BLAH BLAH,” and at that point nothing else he said mattered.

He just called her stupid!

And it wasn’t like she said anything stupid. She was just asking about line items in his own budget. Of course he had no answer, so he just verbally slapped her on the top of the head. Eight years of bullying policies seem to fit nicely with his personality.

The second condescending gouge came when the three leaders were talking about addressing crime. Campbell was all about the variety of retributive justice and policing interventions. Carole James was talking about policing as well as the prevention programs while Jane Sterk spoke against a policing-only strategy, supporting prevention programs and decriminalizing illegal drugs. 

To this, Campbell mumbles in response to the alternative perspectives, “it is a multi-faceted approach that is required of us.” 

This is one of those phrases people use to let their audience know that they are, again, too stupid to understand the complexities of it all. Yet Cambpell has only a single-faceted policing/prosecution strategy, while both of the other leaders have a multi-faceted approach. So on top of his habit of insulting people to get them to shut up, he wasn’t listening to what multiple approaches actually sound like.

It also means that Campbell is either unaware of the social determinants of crime, or he doesn’t care about them. It’s all about the hammer for him.

The next example of Campbell’s chauvinism and condescension came when Carole James asked him whether he’d fund his pet hammer projects by transferring money from other areas like auto safety or community safety. After the question, the moderator, Russ Froese, said open debate time was up and Campbell would have to answer the question during his rebuttal time.

Campbell laughed.

Sure it could have been the nervous laughter of a child unable to adapt to a tense situation. Or more likely it’s the typical behaviour of someone who enjoys demeaning others in the legislature. Unfortunately, he let that slip during a debate that more than a few people would be watching. It simply made him sound like someone who doesn’t have the time for this nonsense.

It is also at this point that Campbell starts answering questions and issues by speaking to “Russ” by name. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but with two female leaders attacking him, it sure looked like he was seeking a connection with the other male on the stage. It might be out of insecurity. It might be because he is playing to a male voter demographic that happens to dominate his party’s base. It might be to marginalize the women on the stage by establishing the dialogue as a male-to-male context, thereby making the women interrupters. 

Then, in a flagrant violation of the respectful tone of the debate so far, when talking about healthcare, Gordon Campbell got truly ugly.

His government pledged to build 5,000 new long-term care beds for seniors. It turns out they built almost 5,000 assisted living beds, which are useful but are far from the same level of intensive service of long-term care. Then George Abbott, in one of his first public bids to distance himself from the Campbell regime for a leadership run coming soon, ultimately agreed that they didn’t actoually build 5,000 beds, instead it was about 800.

So Carole James asks, “I’d like to ask Mr. Campbell, is his health minister telling the truth or are you?”

It was a classic catch-22. Campbell was screwed. So he did the best thing he could think of, attacking Carole James by saying, “no, you’re not.” And if you saw it, you’d know it was as transparent an attempt at dodging a tough question as Campbell could provide. And it had the added bonus of petulance and absurdity as her question was based on Campbell’s own health minister’s admission of facts.

Then on the environment, Campbell tried to spin his woefully inadequate climate change program with airy nonsense and unicorn tears by saying our grandchildren will thank us for making the hard choices and “building a bridge to the future,” whatever that means, when the climate intervention program will fail miserably based on what scientists say is required. 

Then Carole James replied to his nonsense by saying he is inconsistent on the environment with a pathetic carbon tax along with pushing for offshore oil and gas drilling, irresponsible fish farms, firing park wardens and reducing environmental protection. And during this description of Campbell’s duplicity, a man with a microphone turned on just laughed. 

I doubt it was Russ Froese. If it was Campbell, such a laugh is useful for dismissing the legitimacy of someone’s criticism. But in stating those blatant hypocrisies in Campbell’s approach to all of the environment, there’s nothing illegitimate about the criticism. The laugh just sounds like a desperate attempt to avoid the reality.

So, in an era where electoral reform will likely sweep BC’s electoral system out of the 19th century, it is stunning that the leader of the governing party would allow himself to exhibit such despicable behaviour in public. But then again, for someone who has been in hiding since Maui, he seems to have forgotten that the soon-to-be passe rude and dishonourable behaviour in the legislature is part of the reason why people will vote for change this month.

And it’s not useful to let that nasty behaviour show up in public!

It made him look even more misanthropic than he already is, especially when Jane Sterk was attacking the polarized blame game of BC politics and Carole James was presenting an enlightened, human-centred vision for what the BC government should make the economy do for people.

So in just over 59 minutes, Gordon Campbell’s failure to relate to human beings, his obsession with the economy, and his rudeness, condescension and chauvinism will be a strong likely explanation for significantly increased voter turnout, a new electoral system, and an end to his days as premier.

Canada Line P3: More Lies

It was surreal hearing about the block party on Cambie Street on the weekend when “thousands of pedestrians took to the street to celebrate the completion of the Canada Line.” Was it designed by TransLink to keep the Cambie merchants from starting any more lawsuits?

Celebrating the completion of the Canada Line? Right.

As many have remarked all over the net, I agree that it is still like driving on the moon. This morning the workers were professional and smiling as always, butI waited 15 minutes to get through Cambie and 12th because–surprise–there was a massive crevasse in the middle of the intersection with lanes shifted all over the place. I guess they aren’t really done, hey?

But it sure sounds good during an election campaign to have a big sidewalk sale after “declaring” the construction complete. I remember when George W. Bush got a ride in a fighter plane onto an aircraft carrier to declare Mission Accomplished in Iraq after about 9 minutes of the whole thing. When politicians say something is finished, check to see if an election is on or imminent. Then check for your wallet.

But to add to the miserable lies you only need to drive to Cambie and 49th to see the huge “Complete” sign up on the sign describing the construction of the station there. The huge yellow fence, 9 workers and busy activity make me think “complete” is yet another lie.

Remember the tunnel they were supposed to bore under Cambie Street  instead of doing cut and cover? Remember that the new TransLink board is not accountable to anyone, they were appointed by a pro-business search committee created by Gordon Campbell, and they are spending billions of dollars of our municipal taxes, but our municipal politicians have no authority over them because taxation without representation is Gordon Campbell’s way!

Critical thinking should translate to the ballot boxes on May 12.

Oh, and if you are busy that day or don’t like lines, simply vote in advance like I’m going to do. Every riding has a place open from 8am-8pm from Wednesday, May 6 to Saturday, May 9 for advance voting. And the best part is that you don’t have to have a “reason” why you can’t vote on May 12th to vote early.

So enjoy and let’s ge t rid of Gordon Campbell for good.

TransLink Police Harassment: The Olympics are Coming So Get Used to It

Know Your Rights | Megaphone.

Watch this and learn!

Know your rights, carry video phones/cams, question authorities. Call them on abusive behaviour.

Watch the spread of CCTV in the city.

Watch how things tighten up as the Olympics approach.

Support the BC Civil Liberties Association.

Remember, public servants serve the public.

Sam Sullivan’s Latest Re-Election Schemes, 54 Weeks[!] Before the Election

Today’s fresh new email from Mayor Sam Sullivan [see below] graced my email inbox with an upfront expression of his concern for the recent shootings in Vancouver. After the debacle of his attempt at union-breaking strike management he now wants to assure us he’s out to protect our lives.

Start the email with fear and the calming words of a leader out to protect us all. Boo. Truly scary is during the civic strike he spoke in similarly glowing terms of municipal employees. His walk did not match his talk there. Further, invoking Stockwell Day shows how much Sam is out of touch with the kind of figures who resonate with Vancouverites.

Then Sam moves on to his personal, unscientific, but sure to be quoted for the next 54 weeks of the municipal election campaign [and even longer] survey of citizens on the necessity of extending Skytrain to UBC.

The context of this is important. In order to force the TransLink leadership [democratically elected, pesky as that was] to commit to the Canada Line privateer-megaproject for the Olympics, after failed votes, eventually northeast suburb politicians were bribed with the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam Centre in exchange for voting for the Canada Line.

Democracy is an inconvenient truth in BC. The BC neoLiberal government is currently in the legislature ramming through a bill that will remove all democracy from TransLink and put the board directly in the hands of corporate appointees.

I seem to remember something before our time about the American revolution being about taxation without representation. Now in the 21st century we are embracing it in BC, legislatively so. Shame.

Back to Sam, though. His personal, unscientific, qualitative survey is all about justifying a future bid to supplant the Evergreen Line timeline to get the next Skytrain leg out West Broadway to UBC. Maybe this isn’t his plan, but since it may be a decade before this extension is supposed to occur, after the northeast sector, what is Sam’s rush to meet with West Broadway businesses now and embark on this poll on his personal website?

The pdf on his site on why we should complete the Millenium Line [to UBC] has some sound arguments. As a fan of transit, I think they’re great. But they’re second in line behind the Evergreen Line. The day Sam starts squawking about why the northeast sector should wait–again–is the day I look back to his website survey with complete cynicism.

Message from Mayor Sullivan regarding recent shootings

Like all residents, I am very concerned about the recent shootings that have taken place. We are taking this situation very seriously.

Late this afternoon I held a meeting with Chief Constable Jim Chu to discuss the issue of gang violence in our city. Yesterday I met with federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and Chief Chu and I will be meeting with the federal Justice Minister tomorrow. In addition, I have written to the provincial government and will be meeting with mayors from Metro Vancouver next week to discuss ways to coordinate our efforts and attack organized crime.

I want to reassure residents that the men and women of the Vancouver Police Department are among the best in the world. They are working with our partners in the region to solve these crimes and bring these criminals to justice.

The solution to addressing these problems requires a coordinated and intelligent response. We will deliver that for our citizens.

– Mayor Sam Sullivan

Mayor’s Millennium Line Survey – Have Your Say

Mayor Sam Sullivan invites residents, businesses and community organizations to provide their views about plans to complete the Millennium Rapid Transit Line from VCC Station to Central Broadway – and ultimately UBC.

Disclaimer: this is a qualitative survey of website visitors. Results are not considered as scientific.