Category Archives: COPE

Vancouver’s ‘Progressive’ Council and Housing

Vancouver’s City Council is occasionally lauded as ‘progressive,’ and the ruling party – Vision Vancouver – takes significant pride in trumpeting their work on affordable housing as evidence of such. But then they go and define “affordable rent” for a 1-bedroom apartment at $1,500.

And today’s quote from Geoff Meggs is fascinating:

Meggs dismisses Antrim’s ideas as infeasible. Allowing tenants back into renovated suites without extraordinary rent increases, he says, would unfairly force landlords to lose money. “I don’t think anybody, regardless of their perspective on rents, can afford to renovate a home and not pay off that renovation somehow,” he reasons.

That’s right. It would be unfair to force a landlord, who might have evicted someone so that they could repaint the walls, to triple the rent. Depriving them of income is unfair. Depriving someone of affordable housing isn’t, apparently.

Revitalizing COPE Vancouver, Right Now.

Today is the first day of the rest of COPE Vancouver’s life. Today is the day where the new executive needs to make its first priority revitalizing the party by building unity around progressive principles and policies, and moving past pettiness.

If it cannot get past the factionism, it simply is not a party with a political agenda, but a venue for personality feuds. I have no time for that, and only in part because such pettiness led to an AGM that took almost 6 hours yesterday.

COPE is not a party with any kind of balance of power between two factions. It is a divided party, with many of the elections at the AGM yesterday being decided by small margins, including two with 3 and 4 vote margins.

It is also a party that is well-known in Vancouver political circles as a party composed primarily of one side that favoured the partnership with Vision Vancouver in the last election and another group that opposed it. I’ve grown weary of listening to people talking about how we need to put a united front out to the public. We are not united. We have no time for optics and spin. We do, however, have time to address who we are, what we believe and how we are going to work together. If there is no common ground to work together, there is, again, no party.

Yesterday, the future of COPE depended on who got elected, how childish/divisive they choose to be and how they go forward to build unity. We are at a turning point as an organization. If we do not resolve our existential crisis, there is not much left.

Yesterday 7 from the incumbent slate were elected, including 6 to table officer positions. 4/5 of the at-large positions went to the other group who opposed the deal with Vision Vancouver. But thinking about slim majorities or numerical calculations is missing the whole point.

Starting today the focus must be for the executive to hold a series of general meetings so we can all figure out what makes up COPE. If we want to champion progressive policies, but cannot get past spending so much of our energy bickering, then the public will rightly decide that a progressive, inclusive, community-rich Vancouver is not our first priority. I have no time for such a party.

We need to build a consensus around progressive policies, we have to improve transparency and accountability in our processes, we must be far more inclusive of our members by empowering their voices. By doing this, we will build the trust and cohesion we need to survive and thrive as an effective voice.

Credible, progressive 21st century politics is one of democracy and inclusion. If COPE cannot begin reflecting that over the next 6 months or so, it will lose its legitimacy as a voice for a better Vancouver. But I think we can do that. We are a political movement that has existed for two generations. We have survived many challenges in that time. This is, in some ways, merely the current one. The next one will be to build our support around Vancouver and return elected candidates to civic leadership in 2014.

This is where the executive needs to go, starting today.

Here’s what else the executive needs to start facilitating [not an exhaustive list]:

  1. Community meetings: let’s make the area committees more robust with community meetings, starting in areas where we polled best, eventually up to 4 times/year. We know what areas of the city have our greatest support. We need to get on the ground there, hosting community meetings with our members and our 30,000 identified supporters. Our legitimacy comes from our ability to represent the political will of our people. We need to open up our process. Once we build our relationships in our core areas of support, we can expand to other areas of the city. And through all this, we can build our membership, while reminding everyone that our party is not in corporate pockets. We support it and we need to sustain it.
  2. The vibrant youth: we need to be engaging with students at post-secondary institutions in Vancouver with campus outreach and events. We have already seen an injection of talented, focused and passionate young people entering our party. This is fantastic and healthy. But we need to reach out to them in their academic communities. They have the most invested in a better Vancouver. We need them to help us frame that vision. And we should not neglect high schools and other communities of youth.
  3. Engaging on the issues: we need to explore a greater web and social media presence of commentary from COPE. We need to expand our city, school and parks committees as focal points of policy creation and engaging with civic issues. We need to build communication structures to allow far more members to take part in keeping COPE a relevant voice in civic politics.
  4. Occupy the future: we need to engage with Occupy Vancouver to build on our common ground. The Occupy movement is not even 6 months old. It had a tumultuous beginning, especially in Vancouver, and it has gone through organizational growing pains at a stunning pace. It is re-emerging this spring with renewed focus. Ignoring obvious opportunities to work together with Occupy to reduce economic, social and political inequality in our city would be missing out on a unique opportunity for solidarity.
  5. Candidate advocates: we should be nominating candidates at least 1 year before the next civic election to build their profile as advocates for city, school and parks issues. We cannot expect them to work for a year as hard as they will in the last several weeks before the next election, but particularly with only one currently elected COPE member, we need to allow our candidates to carry our message for a much longer time than we have in the past. They will be our spokespeople in the next election campaign. Let’s start early and on our terms.
  6. Building community: we need to expand the COPE pub nights, meet-ups and coffee gatherings to complement our more formal fundraisers. We need to provide opportunities for COPE members and supporters to gather and build our community. I once read something about someone not wanting to be part of a revolution that didn’t have dancing. Building a better Vancouver for all means building a rich, human community. Putting a coffee time at the end of a regular community meeting is where the soul of our party grows.

We have a unique opportunity before us all. We have to figure out who we are and where we want to go. Too often organizations are crippled by complacency or disengaged communities. Our existential crisis demands that we start from scratch figuring out what we believe and who we are serving.

This can be a healthy, vibrant process that builds intense unity, clarity of vision, a robust and involved membership and a broad movement with a mission to make a Vancouver that cares for all.

Let’s start today.

Fixing Vision Vancouver’s Democratic Deficit

Now that Vision Vancouver has self-actualized as a political party, it’s time to see if they’ll now address some longstanding democratic deficits.

The complexion of the city changed markedly last night as Vision elected all its candidates, the Greens got a seat on council, the NPA increased its representation and all of COPE’s candidates lost except for one school trustee.

There will be a great deal of analysis in the coming weeks and months about what happened to the Vision-COPE cooperation deal. For something that was designed to promote cooperation between two parties to get all their candidates elected, something went wrong, or right, depending on your point of view.

Unsuccessful COPE candidates ended up with around 5,000-24,000 fewer votes than Vision candidates on council, with the range of 16,000-24,000 on parks and 9,000-21,000 on school board. For an arrangement that was supposed to be mutually beneficial, something didn’t translate well. It appears on the surface that up to 40% of those voting for Vision decided not to vote for COPE candidates. Why did that happen? Did Vision promote COPE candidates as much as COPE promoted Vision candidates? Let the speculation begin.

So in this new political era, Vision has no substantial opposition from anyone that isn’t flagrantly right wing. That should be easy for Vision to wedge itself against radically right agendas, freeing them up to indulge in most of the rest of the political spectrum as they see fit.

So while Vision asserts itself as progressive, they only have to be left of the NPA, which is quite easy, and provides no incentive to be very progressive at all.

If they want to show progressive politics, however, they should do a few things:

  1. Stop the tax shift from businesses to human beings. Leave that pandering to developers and corporations to the NPA.
  2. Learn a lesson from the attempted draconian Olympic freedom of speech by-laws that so dramatically demonstrated anti-progressive tendencies. Don’t stifle expression any more.See #5 below.
  3. New regulations designed to explicitly permit protest have ended up dictating absurd restrictions that undermine the Charter-sanctioned inherent right to protest. Start some public consultation, including with activist communities, to come up with whatever reasonable restrictions are appropriate.
  4. Start discussions to implement a ward system for the 2014 election. Imagine if for federal elections we had an at-large system whereby people from all over the country could run and the top 308 were elected with no obligation for regional representation. That’s what we have in Vancouver with the at-large system: 640,000 people with no community representation. Absurd.
  5. Start a good-faith dialogue with Occupy Vancouver. Now that the NPA shrieking about Occupy has stopped being a threat, it’s time to stop the posturing and truly engage with the movement. Take a page out of Seattle city council’s book: they endorsed the movement 100% and is starting to look at moving the city’s money to credit unions. Accept that the NPA tried to make Occupy the sole election issue, but they failed because half dozen issues resonated with voters more than Occupy, which led many to conclude days ago that the NPA was not going to do more than maybe increase its seat count. Much of Vision’s advertised policies are supposed to be progressive and resonate with the Occupy movement. Your own legitimacy hinges on walking the talk. Use the injunction last week as a means of entering into long-range dialogue with Occupy. Seek common ground. Pursue facilitating progressive improvements to society in conjunction with the Occupy movement.

Simply, if Vision Vancouver cannot or will not walk the talk of its ideals, it will be obvious to all that the party will only go left of the NPA when it absolutely has to.

And that’s not very progressive at all.

Politics, Re-Spun on Coop Radio, September 5, 2011

Spending Labour Day with Imtiaz Popat on “The Rational” on Vancouver’s COOP Radio, talking about Christy Clark’s revocation of a pre-2013 election date [coup, not really a premier, perhaps a “notional premier”], the end of the HST, the BCTF negotiations and how the courts noted how the government yanked almost $3 billion from BC’s K-12 system over the last 10 years, the federal NDP leadership race and the Canucks riot report as it relates to Vancouver’s municipal political scene.

Apologies for the abrupt ending: technical difficulties.

And a note on the BCTF strike action in Kelowna: it sounded ambiguous that the teachers were the ones who canceled recess. The teachers are going to start the school year not supervising at recess. The school board decided to cancel recess. This way, administrators don’t have to supervise that 15 minute chunk of time each year. See here.

Tonight, Live-Blogging COPE’s Re:Imagine Schools

I’ve already written about how much I’m looking forward to COPE’s Re:Imagine Schools event tonight. I’ll be live-blogging the event as well. You can scroll down to watch or participate in the live-blog!

The COPE Education Committee Presents: Re:Imagine Schools – Defending the Potential of Public Education

Imagine a chance to take a step back from the day-to-day struggles being faced in public education right now and get a chance to think about all the innovation and change we could implement if given the chance. Join COPE School Board Trustees, members of COPE’s Education Committee, and public education advocates from across Vancouver for an evening of energizing discussion and imagination.

Re:Imagine Schools will bring together a panel of leading scholars and writers to talk about education and its future. The panel will feature Stephen Seaborn, editor of “Playing Fast and Loose with Public Education” and other exciting guests focusing on three key topics:

• The Power of Public Education (Why we need to protect and rebuild)

• Early Childhood Education (A Canada that works for all generations)

• The New School (Reimagining how our schools look and operate)

Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased online right here. Tickets can also be purchased directly from COPE without a fee via email or phone: or 604-255-0400.

via Re:Imagine Schools | Coalition of Progressive Electors.

La lutte continue: Vancouver pulls pay-for-democracy bylaw, but a new one’s coming. (cue ominous music?)

(For context, see the earlier article that discusses Vision Vancouver’s proposed plan to charge $1,200 for protests that involve ‘structures’ – such as tables or signs)

Earlier today, the Vancouver Mayor’s office posted an announcement on twitter that quite a few people were likely happy to hear: the proposed bylaw that would have charged people in Vancouver $200 plus a $1000 deposit to have a protest where a literature table or even a sign stuck in the ground was being sent back “to the drawing board.”

In the linked news article, Mayor Gregor Robertson posits that there ought not be fees attached to the right to have a protest with a sign, and that a better ‘balance’ can be found.

Sounds good, so far, right?

Well, a whole new bylaw is supposed to come back from the city by Wednesday.  And it will be telling how much will change – that will tell us what’s more important to Vision Vancouver.

If you go back to my original piece on this issue, you’ll see that there were a ton of restrictions that the city wanted to place on protests with structures.  They could only be up from 8am to 8pm. Only in certain parts of the city. (That particular restriction would have effectively completely banned the original protest that gave rise to all of this, the Falun Gong protest on southern Granville Street outside the Chinese consulate).  The restrictions went on and on and on.

Effectively, it looked like getting the right to protest would have been almost as complicated as a building permit.  All to have a tent. Or a sign stuck in the ground.

Well, Gregor’s promised a new bylaw.  With a new balance, a new approach.

Will it still have onerous restrictions, but drop the fees? Will it still ban night-time vigils? Restrict tents to keep off the rain to 2m by 1m in size? Only one side of a block, to a maximum of 30 out of 60 days?  It’s quite possible.

I have a perhaps modest proposal – the bylaw could be quite simple.  Protests are permitted, as is our constitutional right.  And if a protest does construct a structure that is somehow or in some way dangerous to public safety, the city can attend the site, and tell the protest organizers what needs to be done to fix the risk.

At a lot of protests, there are rally marshals.  They organize the route.  Keep people from getting lost.  There’s often a police liaison who speaks with the police.  Treat protest in Vancouver this way.  Fix the problems as they arise, not create so many hoops that people outraged at the most recent stupid thing their government has done risk financial ruin or jail time because they didn’t fill out the 24th form or submit an architectural drawing of the folding table they’re putting the sound-system on.

But what’s more important in this respect: keeping the Falun Gong practitioners out of Kerrisdale, appeasing the Chinese consulate, Vision Vancouver saving face, or free speech?

As I said before, democracy doesn’t have a price tag.  But it also doesn’t happen only between 8am to 8pm, one side of a block, and only 30 out of 60 days.

Charging $1,200 to democratically assemble, Vision Vancouver looks to China for advice on (anti) free speech laws.

Vancouver - a free speech zone? Not unless you cough up the cash.

I wish that this was a satirical piece.

In sort of a break from the ever-so-boring federal election coverage that we’ve been bringing you lately, the City of Vancouver and its maybe-progressive governing party Vision Vancouver and former NDP MLA and now VanCity mayor (and Gordon Campbell endorser) Gregor Robertson have (almost) decided that any protests that have a literature table, tent, or even sign at them might well be charged $1,200 – a fee charged to citizens in order to exercise their (supposedly) constitutionally guaranteed right to assembly.

Sadly, it looks like the progressive Mayor Gregor Robertson is showing us what a Harper majority government would probably do to our “democratic rights.”

Even better, they’re apparently taking advice from the government of China on the bylaw.

Yes, China.

The country that safeguarded free speech in Tian’anmen Square.

See, for example, The Tank Man.

The country that has disappeared Ai Weiwei (艾未未) simply because he did try to exercise his (not guaranteed) free speech.

Ai Weiwei, currently 'disappeared' for having an opinion.

First, a bit of history. Those of you familiar with the city on the edge of Lotus Land may well remember the constant presence of Falun Gong protestors and their signs depicting the horrendous atrocities the Chinese government visits upon practitioners outside the Chinese consulate in Vancouver, which itself is situated in a residential zone. No one, as far as I am aware, is suggesting that the Falun Gong protest was violent or unruly. In fact, most Falun Gong practitioners I’ve known are calm, and quiet, and they almost, well, flow with the qi.

Well, one day the city decided to ban these protestors. They used a bylaw to prohibit any “structure” (the Falun Gong signs) on public property (the edge of the sidewalk) and evict the entirely peaceful protesters. Sue Zhang, one of the organizers, rightfully challenged the bylaw in court, and after a series of cases, the BC Court of Appeal struck down the bylaw, saying that blanket prohibitions were unconstitutionally restrictive on free speech rights and rights of assembly.

That being said, there’s a court order in place at the moment, preventing the Falun Gong protest from re-establishing itself, to allow the City to bring its bylaw to shape in order to pass constitutional muster.  Effective April 19, the court would strike down the current law which bans any structure.

The court did also say that some regulation could make sense – owing to a clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows “reasonable” restrictions “as may be justified in a free and democratic society.” Following direction from the courts, I suppose, the city directed staff to prepare a report with suggestions on what could be done.  In an amazing tour de force, the report has come back, recommending that the city charge $1,200 for a permit to erect ‘structures’ on public property – ie, signs, tents, tables.  You know, structures.

Let’s put this in plain and simple terms: charging $1,200 to have a table, or a sign, or a tent at a protest limits free speech. It restricts freedom of assembly to those who can afford it.  There should not be a fee on democracy.

This is a ridiculous concept.  One, a lot of protests and rallies involve a table for literature or refreshments. $1,200 permit charge.  Two, a lot of protests and rallies involve a tent to keep rain off of speakers and sound system equipment. $1,200 permit charge.  And it rains a lot in Vancouver.  If you happen to stick a sign into the ground, $1,200 charge.  Imagine that you put up an installation art piece. $1,200 permit charge.

The Falun Gong protestors set up a series of signs and a rain shelter on city property directly outside the Chinese Consulate.  They couldn’t put the signs on the consulate property – that would be trespassing.  They used public property for their signs. The same public property we use every day to walk on, to protest on, to rally on.  However, they put up signs.  Here, the city is trying to ban protests that occur on public property unless you can afford to pay a $1,200 fee for a permit to actually hold a protest this way.

Aside from the fact that this bylaw would restrict protests to those who could afford it, it is absolutely insane that the City of Vancouver consulted the Chinese government about the bylaw, while it merely “advised” the Falun Gong protesters that this would be happening. What did the City ask the Chinese government? If this went far enough? Seriously, guys, asking the Chinese government about free speech is like asking the Tea Party on how we can ensure a woman’s right to choose.

The City won’t tell anyone what they discussed with China, bastion of free speech, because they signed a “confidential agreement” about the consultations.

The city says that this wouldn’t restrict sandwich boards for stores. That’s covered under other bylaws.  In fact, according to the city, this proposed bylaw only impacts “non-commercial installations.”  So, not only do I need to pay one thousand two hundred dollars to put up a table and show off my “PROTECT FREE SPEECH” signs – the store down the way can put up its signs and/or kiosks hawking whatever it wants for free?

Whose free speech is being protected there?

The message box emerging from Vancouver council appears to be as such: currently, the city bylaw bans all structures on public property.  No tables, tents, or structures used in a political protest are allowed under the current Vancouver bylaw.  According to the city, the proposed bylaw would actually enable people to do things that have been illegal all along.  Gracious move by the city to save us?

No.  The BC Court of Appeal said that the prohibition was illegal and it will strike down the prohibition as of April 19.  This talking point will be moot in exactly 11 days.  It’s also incredibly disingenuous.  Yes, the current (as it exists) bylaw bans ALL structures on city property.  But yes – the BC Court of Appeal has said that’s illegal.  So, Council, you’re not rescuing people from the vagaries of an unfair law – the BC Court of Appeal has already done that.

A quote that contextualizes this: “None of these changes will make anything more illegal than they already are.” (See the City video stream of the meeting in question.)

Could the same be said on April 2oth? Effective April 19, the bylaw that currently prohibits all structures is struck down, it ceases to exist.  All structures would be legal.  The Vision Vancouver councillors can get away with saying that this is a proposed bylaw that would enable people to protest, that would legalize protest, until April 19th.  After that, they’re making a lot of protest illegal.  Of course, any time you add opportunities when no opportunities legally exist, you’re adding.  But when everything’s legal? Then you’re restricting.

Instead, the City of Vancouver is proposing that the following restrictions will apply to any protest that need a table, or a tent, or a free-standing sign:

  • Structures would only be permitted from 8:00AM to 8:00PM
  • There must be people attending the structure
  • Structures would not be permitted in areas of the city that are zoned residential or that have residential units on the ground floor
  • There could only be one permit per individual at a time.
  • There could only be one permit per ‘face’ (side) of a block.
  • You wouldn’t be able to get a permit for a kiosk and a sign and a tent.
  • Your permit would only be valid for 30 days, but you could only get a permit for an area for 30 out of 60 days. So, only one month out of every two. And once a protest has been permitted the same area couldn’t see a protest for another 30 days.
  • The size could not be larger than 2.1 meters high, 2 meters wide, and 1 meter deep.
  • It must be at least 5 meters from a building entry or exit, 5 meters from a bus stop, 5 meters from street corners, and 0.5 meters from a curb.  A structure could not also cover more than 25% of the front of a building.

Interestingly, the area in which the Chinese consulate is located is in a residential area, so, of course, no protests with structures would be permitted there.  Anywhere else where you can meet these proposed restrictions (that the City of Vancouver would likely prefer us to read as “enabling conditions”) you can:

  • Put down a $1,000 deposit
  • Pay a $200 license fee
  • Pay $25 for any renewals

And then you can put your sign in the ground.

The staff person presenting the report at the council committee meeting was very specific in saying that this wouldn’t prohibit protests where everyone held their own signs and banners, of course. This is because the city only bans structures at the moment, and this is what the court case centres on – Vancouver can’t constitutionally put a blanket ban on structures used for political expression.  I also think that this restriction is in danger of being ableist – I’ve seen people with disabilities bringing signs and banners that are free-standing to protests.  Do they need permits?

But what exactly is a structure? There was an interesting back and forth between Councillor Woodsworth and the city staff person presenting the report.

Q: Is it a structure if I stick a sign in the ground?
A: Yes.
Q: What if I put a table on the side of the road and set up a tent around it?
A: Yes.

In Vancouver, it rains.  And most protests in Vancouver I’ve been to have a tent in case of that, to keep the sound system dry. $1,200 fee, only in certain areas.  Plus, no bigger than 2m by 1m.  You also won’t be able to set up a petition table at the back of the protest, without that fee and that permit. And only in certain areas.

Yesterday, when news of this first emerged, I tweeted my outrage.  Pretty much instantaneously, the @VisionVancouver twitter account ‘followed’ (subscribed) to my twitter account.  Seeing that, I immediately asked them if they had a statement. No reply. I asked COPE, another party at Vancouver council, if they had a statement. They responded pretty much instantly with a link to their statement.

Today, after about 24 hours of badgering, the @VisionVancouver twitter account sent me a tweet with a link to their statement: “Vancouver is a free speech zone, help us keep it that way.”

One, that’s a pretty close interpretation of the COPE campaign during the Olympics that had t-shirts that read “I am a free speech zone.”  Nice move, Vision Vancouver.

Two, Vision’s statement is kind of sad.  It states that Vancouver is a free speech zone.  Right, it is, under the constitution anywhere in Canada is.  The statement says that the City is working to protect free speech, and that the party “will not accept changes to the law that restrict these critical social expressions.”

Here’s a key point, Vision Vancouver: no changes to the bylaw could restrict free speech any more than they already do. This is part of your message box – the bylaw right now simply prohibits structures as part of a protest, full stop.  That’s why the Court of Appeal said it was unconstitutional.  Very technically speaking, any changes you make – even if it were to only permit structures on the south east corner of the Art Gallery lot with a $1 million permit fee – would have the effect of “enabling” free speech MORE than is already the case.

With the logic that they won’t restrict free speech any more than it is already restricted, Vision could do a lot, seeing as how free speech with any structures are completely banned at the moment – until April 19.

Would the same logic hold up after that, when the law is struck down by the courts? Hard to say.

But again – charging $1,200 for any protest that would need a table isn’t democracy. Democracy doesn’t require an admissions charge.

Councillor Andrea Reimer, the chair of the committee that this report came to, tweeted me telling me that protest has never cost anything, and that putting up structures has been 100% illegal.

Councillor Reimer and I had quite a civilized twitter chat, though she suggests that there’s a lot of misinformation and creative editing going on.  I’ve given you sources for every claim I’ve made in this piece, and while all opinion pieces contain flair, I don’t think I’m going overboard.  Ms Reimer even graciously acknowledged that her electioneering tent was on the street and 100% illegal.

I’ve offered Ms Reimer the opportunity to add comments, corrections, and even her own viewpoint on this article, which I will post directly at the bottom of this piece , without any editing.  I’d invite any other Vancouver councillor to do the same, so that everyone in Vancouver can see what their elected representatives are thinking.

Now, Vision Vancouver is asking for public input on the proposed bylaw.  I suggest that we all take the moment to send them an email with our thoughts, or send them a twitter message.  According to their statement, you can email them at

When you do so, remember:

  • The official message is that any changes to the bylaws would be an improvement, because the current bylaw (which is unconstitutional) prohibits all structures.  However, the quasi-emancipatory changes proposed by the City include a $1,200 fee for permission to have a structure – anything from a sign in the ground to a table to a tent – at a protest.  Democracy doesn’t have an admissions fee.
  • All structures for political protests would be perfectly legal after April 19th – after April 19th, these proposed bylaw changes would be restricting speech that had been made free by the courts.
  • These restrictions only apply to non-commercial messages, because other bylaws already permit commercial (ie advertising, etc.) signs under specific conditions.
  • No function of democracy should have a price tag attached to it or restrictions as to when or where democracy can be practiced.

Sadly, these kind of restrictions are nowhere near new.  The sardonic ‘twist’ on “free speech zones” comes from the protest pens that proliferated in the United States, which restrict protests at important events to small areas, often caged-in.  In Vancouver during the Olympics, there were a number of free speech zones. In Toronto, during the G20, the free speech zone was the Queen’s Park lawn, which the police charged and arrested dozens, sometimes rather violently, like in the case of Adam Nobody.  These large events have had crackdowns supported by provincial and federal governments – BC Liberals and federal Conservatives.  Why would Vision Vancouver – a supposedly progressive party – be parroting the Conservatives?  And why should the Chinese government – not exactly noted for its defense of free speech or democratic rights – have a confidential input session with the city, while residents only get 11 days as the Council rushes to approve the bylaw before April 19th?

This isn’t just a municipal issue. It’s our right to free speech, with a table for our signs and petitions, or a tent for the rain.

Democracy doesn’t have a price tag.  Certainly not one that is $1,200.

Here’s where I’ll add any corrections, clarifications, or comments from any Vancouver City Councillor who wants to clear up any ‘misinformation’ or ‘creative editing,’ and I’ll post them without any editing on my part.  Post your comments in the comments below, or email me directly at

Two Minutes to Counter Anti-Union Brainwashing

YouTube – What Have Unions Done For Us is a nice two minutes this Saturday morning for you to enjoy while the blueberry pancakes are between flipping and your shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee is gently steaming your upper lip.

It’s not like you didn’t actually know all the things that unions have done for all workers for 1.5 centuries, it’s that there has been a concerted effort among the corporate media, local and global corporations, and the comprador anti-union politicians they breed to keep us from remembering that unions are sometimes the only political group that has worker interests at heart.

So if you have two minutes this morning, feel good that lots of what we take for granted actually came from struggles from our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and their parents. There were plenty of midnight lynchings, beat-downs, imprisonments, extra-judicial death sentences and random neighbourhood street violence that those who came before us suffered so we could take advantage of minimum wages and benefits while the rich get so incredibly richer while we are doing the labour.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Vision Vancouver People Moving COPEward

The COPEward drift will not end any time soon. I suspect it will pick up in pace over the next 6-8 months.

Helesia Luke was elected to the COPE board on Sunday after having run for a Vision Vancouver nomination in 2008.

Charlie Smith wrote about Jenny Kwan’s former support for Vision in 2005 turning into her current support for COPE as “the only civic party that is truly committed to being an effective representative of the grassroots in Vancouver”.

Update [2pm, 9.22.10]: Jenny Kwan has characterized the above quote as an editing error, so we can’t necessarily characterize her as shifting to COPE.

Smith’s piece also contains a long, fascinating list of things COPE has stood for in the last 2 years that Vision didn’t support. See that whole list below.

Generally, beyond citizens shifting support to COPE, I don’t think that Luke and Kwan will be the last people to drift towards COPE over the next 60 weeks, especially as Vision spends more months governing with a “vision” that doesn’t seem to include real people.

If Vision doesn’t get rid of their tax shift from business to residents, and if they actually increase it instead, we will all continue to know who they really represent, regardless of their rhetoric.

Every time we buy something and pay the HST, it is a reminder of the massive tax shift from global corporations to BC citizens and that the BC Liberals and Vision Vancouver like tax cuts for businesses combined with tax increases for human beings.

I wonder if this similar view of a tax shift from corporations to human beings is what motivated the Vision Vancouver mayor to cheer for a Gordon Campbell three-peat almost two years ago.

What distinguishes COPE from Vision Vancouver:

* Only COPE opposed the tax shift from businesses to residences so homeowners and renters would be protected.

* Only COPE called for the Campbell Liberals to commit to a timeline on the 14 affordable-housing sites they keep promising.

* Only COPE stood with the residents of Little Mountain and housing advocates to demand 224 units of affordable family housing be reopened.

* Only COPE brings international leadership on climate change and waste management.

* Only COPE proposed a two-bike-lane solution for the Burrard Street Bridge.

* Only COPE brought forward a motion to restore investment in the arts for the social and economic health of our city.

* Only COPE brought forward innovative motions such as installing wireless internet services in civic buildings, starting a citywide “freebie” give away program, and increasing scooter parking.

* Only COPE brought forward motions on campaign finance reform to cap the extraordinary election expenses in Vancouver.

* Only COPE stood in favour of preserving the iconic Bloedel Conservatory and Stanley Park farm and preventing privatization.

* Only COPE brought a motion to council against the B.C. Liberals’ “kidnapping act”.

* Only COPE brought a motion to the Vancouver Board of Education on the International Day for Climate Action.

* Only COPE is committed to putting electoral reform on the agenda for the 2011 election and is carrying out a neighbourhood engagement process.

* Only COPE has called parents, teachers and labour together to fight the devastating education cuts coming in the next provincial budget.

* Only COPE has stood up for amateur sports at Empire Bowl.

* Only COPE opposed the redevelopment of Hastings Park, which reduces green space promised to the neighbourhood.

* Only COPE stood up and gave back unnecessary Olympic tickets.

* Only COPE proposed a real West End consultation and voted against spot rezonings done without real participation.

* Only COPE voted against the mayor’s task force on the West End, because it’s not the consultation the community is looking for.

* Only COPE is proposing models for transparent neighbourhood engagement.

* Only COPE is proposing changes to the rate-of-change bylaw to preserve rentals.

* Only COPE is requesting that all untendered city contracts over $30,000 be approved by council and posted on the city’s Web site.

* Only COPE has consistently stood up for civil liberties and in defence of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the face of repressive Olympic security plans.