Category Archives: NPA

Kirk LaPointe’s Credibility Problem: the NPA

Don’t vote for the NPA. Any of them.

LaPointe is the NPA’s mayoral candidate. The NPA stands for the Non-Partisan Association. If you actually believe the NPA has no partisan ideology, please don’t vote. For almost a decade I’ve been writing about how the brand notion of the NPA is fundamentally a lie. No one is non-partisan in the sense of not being ideological. The NPA is a right wing, neoliberal, corporate-loving, public service-hating party aligned with the likes of Reagan, Thatcher, Mulroney, Harper, Gordon Campbell, Christy Clark and everyone else who worships Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand of the market as God.

Ideology is good. It reflects our values and principles about how we want to live, how we want to enrich our communities and what kind of world we want to leave to our children. Ideology is good. We should embrace ours and learn more about what we believe. It is not a weakness or a crutch or something to be ashamed of. Yet the NPA hopes you will see some nobility in them pretending to be objective and free of ideological influence. That’s just a lie.

Read these little snippets of NPA wisdom and let’s re-spin them below. Keep your barf bag handy.

NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe handed out flyers at Broadway and Cambie, and made affordability the focus of his media briefing.

“Gregor Robertson can say he’s sorry, but it’s too late. He’s failed to keep Vancouver affordable because he has been distracted by other issues – many outside his jurisdiction,” said LaPointe in a statement.

“We will put Vancouver families ahead of developers who are selling to overseas buyers. We will create childcare spaces and reduce the financial pressures on Vancouverites,” he added.

Mayoral candidates in final dash for votes in tight race | Vancouver Observer.

  1. Affordability” is code for reducing municipal taxes, usually more for businesses than for real human beings, cutting city services and increasing user fees. People who talk about affordability like this refer to taxes as a burden as opposed to an investment into making our community and world a better place. They are to be shunned and not elected. Leave them in their solitary, greed-filled isolation with the other social pariahs.
  2. Robertson is “distracted by other issues–many outside his jurisdiction.” This is code for how the NPA supports more fossil fuel development, more pipelines and more tankers trying not to play pinball in our waters. Cities are not in charge of those developments, so the NPA talks about how Vancouver should stay out of those discussions because we’re all sitting at the kids’ table while the grown ups deal with that. But municipalities have a legitimate right to reflect the will of people. Burnaby is taking on Kinder Morgan in their jurisdiction because they can, and they should. Climate change is a scourge on humanity and it reflects the worst of our species that we aren’t rapidly trying to avert our man-made disaster. But hiding behind rhetoric of issues beyond our jurisdiction is how the NPA allows its corporate friends to have faith in the loyalty of their NPA lapdogs. Vision certainly hasn’t stopped increased tanker traffic in our waters, partly because it is actually outside the city’s regulatory jurisdiction, but opposing this foolish increase in fossil fuel development is better than trying to duck it completely, as the NPA is doing.
  3. The NPA will “put Vancouver families ahead of developers who are selling to overseas buyers.” This plays to the latent and sometimes overt racism and xenophobia in Vancouver. “We” are sick of “those people” from “away” using “our” housing market as a speculation zone. “We” wish “they” would go away and not make our homes so unaffordable. But wait, “we” make a fortune from selling “our” homes to “them,” so we’re basically hypocrites. The NPA has no policies or legal suggestions to ensure that only the anointed “we” get access to “our” homes so “they” can’t come here. Instead, closet bigots and racists will vote for them because they think it will keep “them” away from “our” city. Don’t give in to the rhetoric of racism and division.
  4. We will create childcare space“? Their platform says they will “utilize underused space in schools for childcare opportunities; [and] provide at least five more instruction days for students by reducing the number of District Closure days.” These are actually great ideas, talked about by many for years. But how will they do that? Their platform elaborates, which is where we find their problems [emphasis is mine]: “The education of students must be at the centre of Vancouver School Board decisions, and there should be no room for ideology. The NPA is committed to providing the best education possible to Vancouver students. By examining alternative sources of revenue, such as renting out excess space in schools to local partners and examining grants, sponsorships or partnerships compatible with Vancouver’s educational values, an NPA School Board will work with the community to deliver the education our students deserve.” So much for trusting them on that. Firstly, ironically, school district funding is beyond the city’s jurisdiction which means to reduce district closure days they would need to get more provincial K-12 money. Short of that they’d have to privatize with Chevron in the classroom and other corporate partnerships. The NPA also thinks we are stunningly stupid because they said there should be no room for ideology in school board decisions. The mere existence of public education is based on one kind of ideology. Neoliberals want to stop the poor from getting educated. That’s why they cut funding in the first place. The NPA [sic] wants to look at alternate sources of revenue [fundraising, corporate sponsorship, advertising to captive impressionable audiences in classrooms], renting out space [but to whom?], and looking at partnerships [again with whom?] with those compatible with our educational values. Values is another word for ideology. The NPA’s ideology is about free market privatization and abandoning ideological principles like equity so that the poor get equal access to high quality education, just like the rich. The rich want to keep poor kids stupid. It makes it easier to rule the world that way. And the last thing we should do is partner with any corporation or group that actually aligns with the NPA non-ideological [sic] ideology.
  5. Finally, the NPA wants to “reduce the financial pressures on Vancouverites.” Like above, this means cutting taxes because they are a “burden,” a “pressure” to be avoided. But again, when we do that, we have to cut services and increase user fees, which are a regressive tax on the poor. That means more expensive rinks and pools, fewer library days, less park maintenance and improvement, dirtier streets, more dangerous roadways, weaker water infrastructure, less reliable sewage systems, worse resilience when flash floods take out infrastructure [do you remember Father’s Day this summer and North Vancouver a couple weeks ago?], inferior mitigation of effects of climate change, and so on and so on.

So once again, this year, the NPA has a credibility problem. If you vote for any of them, you are being duped. Caveat emptor. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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.

Christy Clark Dabbles in Tea Party Rhetoric

It’s one thing to lose a referendum on a regressive tax that came in on a lie, that was a tax shift from businesses to real human beings, and that removed PST exemptions on real necessities or awesome products like cloth diapers, kids shoes, food, smoke alarms, child car seats, bikes and fire extinguishers. But it’s wholly another thing to delay the removal of the HST for 18 months, which brings it up to around the next fixed election date. This way the government gets to keep their FrankenTax for almost their whole term, assuming the premier doesn’t hold an ego election sooner.

There is no way in the world it will take 18 months to revert back to the old tax regime. They need to step that up, and the BC Conservative Party has already demanded that. Good for them!

But then on Friday the premier sent out an email to her supporters [I wonder if anyone in cabinet received it!] detailing her thoughts on moving forward, post-HST. It was sprinkled with Tea Party rhetoric. Let’s take a look!

Continue reading Christy Clark Dabbles in Tea Party Rhetoric

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

Campaign Stops Corporate Voting in BC Municipalities, Probably

As it turns out, corporations have been able to vote in BC municipal elections for most of our constituted history. That this appalled me is a testament to a new regime of rights and entitlements of humans over corporations that makes me smile.

That I was disgusted that the BC neoLiberal government was fishing around for bringing it back further entrenched my concern with the lengths they would go to disenfranchise human beings further.

So I was very happy to see that a modicum of democracy was able to steer a BC legislative committee stacked with provincial neoliberals–a modicum, supported by intense organizing efforts. Though I wouldn’t put it past this government to implement the municipal corporate vote despite the committee report. Remember the impending HST?

In looking at the details of the committee’s report [Report of the Local Government Elections Task Force (PDF 638KB)], I was thrilled to see a few things.

  • 6,039 petition signatures for the corporate vote submitted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

I can’t be surprised they built a petition. I am happy to see they could only find 6,039 future corporate voters and their lackeys in the whole province of 4.2 million people to sign it.

  • 2,354 member Facebook page against the corporate vote

Sure, it’s easy to build a Facebook group to push for something. But really it’s a huge effort to build a group and promote it to get this many people signing up in a short period of time. Not every movement can have the nation-wide hatred of abused prorogation behind it.

  • 71% of the 920 written submissions commented on the corporate vote, with campaign finance being the topic of next greatest interest.  Many submissions touched on a wide range of other election‐related topics – from alternative voting systems to the date of the vote to elected officials’ accountability. The following identifies the general trends in those 920 written submissions:
  1. Corporate vote – total: 223 for; 428 against
  2. Local governments:  8 for; 23 against
  3. Organizations:  11 for; 29 against
  4. Individuals:  204 for; 376 against

    I was especially thrilled to see an almost 2:1 ratio of submissions opposing the corporate vote to supporting it, with almost 3/4 of all submissions addressing it.

    The following highlight a number of positive recommendations. Not to say that they aren’t controversial in themselves, but the fact that the elements and structure of our democracy are on the table is encouraging. I wonder if whichever of these changes come into force before the next municipal election will have an effect on what the public tolerates in other levels of government.

    The report makes 31 recommendations for improvements to local elections to: ensure accountability; enhance transparency; strengthen compliance and enforcement; increase accessibility; and expand education and advice.

    Key recommendations include:

    * Establish expense limits for all campaign participants (e.g. electors, elector organizations and third party advertisers)

    * Regulate third party advertisers, requiring them to register and disclose expenses and contributions

    * Ban anonymous contributions

    * Require sponsorship information on all election advertising

    * Shorten the time for filing campaign finance disclosure statements to 90 days post election

    * Establish a central role for Elections BC in enforcement of campaign finance rules and in making campaign finance disclosure statements electronically accessible

    * Establish a separate Act for campaign finance rules in local elections

    The Task Force recommends a four-year term of office to provide local governments more time to plan and implement their vision, and to reduce the potential for voter fatigue over time. It also recommends no general contribution limits, given proposed expense limits and the need to ensure that all affected by local government decisions can participate in local elections discourse

    While it also recommends no corporate vote, the Task Force does recommend that UBCM, the Province and business groups work together to recognize the concerns expressed to the Task Force and to encourage effective local ways to engage with business, further strong relationships and foster a competitive business climate.

    via Local Government Elections Task Force – Terms of Reference.

    Vision Vancouver Are Not Radical Socialists

    Vision Vancouver are not radical socialists, but it plays well for the right-wing NPA to portray them as such. Much of what NPA enthusiast Mike Klassen writes in this article on relations between Vancouver and the BC Liberals is bang on. Except for this:

    Despite their radical socialist leanings and connections to labour, Vision so far has tried to play ball with Campbell’s B.C. Liberals.

    via 24 Hours Vancouver.

    I honestly can’t think of one radical socialist Vision politician.

    And then there’s this:

    VSB Chair Patti Bacchus dismissed an independent review of Vancouver’s board of education that describes them as incompetent and overtly political.

    The entire review was politicized to the teeth. Independent is bunk.

    And how Rich Coleman connects to those other areas of relations between Vancouver and the BC Liberals would only make sense if Coleman were premier.

    Otherwise, this piece is a good example of how the BC Liberals don’t play well with others. And don’t really care.

    Fixing Vancouver’s Homelessness: A Survey With Teeth

    Welcome to our Community Consultation Survey on Homeless Solutions and the Howe Shelter

    via City of Vancouver Homelessness Solutions Survey.

    In a time where Vancouver city council may or  may not have the will to oppose a provincial government they seem to be cozying up with, they issue a survey to see what the citizens think of addressing homelessness and the Howe Shelter.

    Even if they do the wrong thing with this, asking for our input is better than an NPA council will do.

    Even if the province ignores it all, this is a survey to take part in, especially if you live downtown!

    Why the BC NDP Lost the Election

    The BC NDP hasn’t joined the 21st century. Because of that, we missed a chance to pivot British Columbia into a healthy social, economic and political future.

    The BC NDP entered an existential crisis 6 days ago. This election loss, a voter turnout shamefully below 50%, the loss of meaningful electoral reform: all these things were preventable with some vision and observing how the world is broken today and what new ideas are required to fix it.

    The NDP missed all that and we’ll all suffer for it. And while there are a myriad of reasons to explain the loss, here are some key issues.

    Why the NDP was a viable party for government

    I read the policy book. There was solid work in there. And I know most citizens would never read it, but many of its highlights made it into the campaign, though without the earned media the Liberals knew they’d enjoy.

    I’ve watched Carole James grow as an effective speaker, debater and government critic in question period for over 5 years, particularly in the leaders debate. The knives haven’t come out yet and they may not.

    We laid out sound arguments as to why Gordon Campbell is destroying the social, economic and political fabric of the province, its most vulnerable, its reasonably vulnerable and–let’s face it–the poorest 95% of the province.

    The public had the opportunity to toss the government out in favour of a hopeful replacement.

    Where the NDP failed

    The economy

    The NDP, though, while marginally mentioning the lousy economy in the last 2 quarters did not want to pin anything on the Liberals because talking about the economy meant letting the Liberals punch the notion that the NDP can’t manage the economy. The NDP didn’t go into how Gordon Campbell’s neoliberalism has caused the global recession we are in. The NDP didn’t spend the last 8 years trotting out the data of both a marginal and significant budget surplus in its last 2 budgets before Campbell took over.

    The party may not actually have solid economic advice, though at times I see signs of it. There is no shortage of capable economists and political economists in the party and the country who are progressive. Does the party hear them? Do their suggestions carry weight? If so, why won’t/can’t the party promote this vision of an economy that serves people and not global capital? Is the party really economically progressive or just blandly centrist? Members who aren’t bland centrists are tired of a party that isn’t at the forefront of re-framing a local, provincial and global economy.

    Policy opportunism

    The Liberals’ carbon tax was awful. It was designed to be matched with income tax cuts, which is sound green economics, but only at the start. Thus, it will become a regressive tax. That made the carbon tax part of Campbell’s cynical, greenwashing PR stunting designed to let him shake hands with Al Gore and the Terminator. It inadequately deals with rural British Columbians without access to the transportation alternatives I have in Vancouver. And it is woefully inadequate to stop the threat of climate change.

    The NDP opposed it because it polled well to oppose it. While some of the above arguments had some play, their profile was never high enough.

    Policy opportunism is all about committing to something that will wedge you above the government. It isn’t about doing what is right. Right would be to look at the massive interventions in our society we need to do to remove carbon from our energy paradigm. Or else. Even Al Gore is calling for the USA to be off carbon in just over 9 years, not just a little down on carbon.

    The right approach for the NDP would be to take the lead in starting a dialogue in creating a 21st century green economy. That didn’t happen. I fear that would be too radical. When the Arctic ice melts a few summers from now, all notions of “too radical” will be moot.

    It also didn’t happen because the party chose to support doing anything to the Port Mann Bridge for no reason except to keep or gain seats in Surrey with people who want to commute by car into Vancouver. There appeared to be no other reasons.

    It also didn’t happen because the party chose to support the Gateway project for some reason. Trying to make global capital like the NDP? Maybe. Pandering to construction unions? Perhaps, but there are greener infrastructure projects than that. And global capital will never support the NDP, no matter how much they leap towards some “middle.” As it is, global capital is struggling with its own problems: the perfect storm of a neoliberal recession, and imminent peak oil and massive climate crises since we aren’t doing everything we can in the last 5-10 years we have left to stop our rapacious economic model from irrevocably maiming our ecosystem.

    The NDP’s relationship with media

    The NDP paid only token attention to non-traditional media, let alone engaging with citizens. Leaking its platform to CanWest/Global–as if they would ever not endorse Campbell after being his PR department for 8 years, and sinking reams of cash into TV ad buys sadly reflect 20th century large-campaign style sub-contracted politicking. Sub-contracted politicking is all about using mass media to get the message out.

    It’s dead. Get on with it. Politics must be about actual people.

    Vision Vancouver signed up thousands of new members 12 months ago when the party didn’t even have an identity, solid policy or governing experience because they engaged with people at Skytrain stations and all over with the offer of something new in city politics and a posture of being responsive to people, actual human beings. This was them embracing the Obama bump.

    Obama as president has a database of 3 million people he can mobilize on 12 hours notice–all from his human-centred mobilization efforts.

    The BC NDP bought 30 second TV ads and expected the party vibe to trickle down to the masses. It didn’t put cash, people and resources into helping members meet citizens who are almost all suffering from Campbell, listen to what they need, then let them know we care about them. The party ignored the citizens of BC on their doorsteps perhaps as much as right wing parties do. Why should they turnout to vote for us?

    Throwing STV under the bus

    The NDP committed to following the wishes of the electorate in the STV referendum. Many elements of the party, however, were actively and passively trying to destroy electoral reform. Most majority governments in this decade and into the future have not enjoyed and will not enjoy the legitimacy of 50% of the popular vote. If the Green Party supported STV in 2005, they’d likely have seats in the legislature right now.

    Voter turnout dropped below 50% last week. Four days of advanced polling did not signify a resurgence in voting, suggesting that change is rolling, but rather people merely organizing their voting time more efficiently. For voter turnout to roll into the shame zone and for STV not to pass is paradoxical. I would think dissatisfaction would lead to a movement to change the electoral system.

    Instead Gordon Campbell’s carnage has destroyed hope in anything better, in the NDP as a viable alternative, and in the possibility of civil politics in Victoria. So apathy reigns and it always favours the incumbent.

    We now know that electoral reform is a massive, revolutionary act. Its near-success in 2005 can now be explained by people not yet having had a chance to become scared of change.

    The NDP’s lack of support for STV was a choice to risk certain suffering under 4+ more years of Gordon Campbell for the hope of earning a majority government now or in 2013 to rule as all majority governments do: without real opposition. Supporting the STV, even though it isn’t the best proportional representation system, means moving away from our horrible first-past-the-post system. It means recognizing that neither of two parties in BC do not–cannot–represent even 50% of the population.

    The era of legitimate majority governments is over, federally and provincially. Holding out for more is not only illegitimate, it is also so 20th century.

    But there were certainly other factors outside the NDP that helped them lose.

    The lie of attack ads

    The NPA, the Non-Partisan Association party of conservative voters in Vancouver, is all about not being formally linked to other “partisan” political parties, unlike leftist civic parties. From this lie of lacking bias they hope to gain votes from people looking for that mythical beast: the neutral politician. Similarly, the Republicans in the USA and the Liberals in BC have succeeded in convincing people of the lie of attack ads.

    It goes like this: if a party criticizes someone else’s policies or facts of governing, it’s an attack ad. This is garbage, but it has stuck, to the point where people, including Liberal supporters on Facebook, have been calling on the NDP to stop criticizing the Liberals’ policies and results, and offer constructive suggestions for improvement. More garbage. It is irrational to not assess a track record in deciding who to vote for.

    Not that there weren’t attack ads in this campaign. The drunk driving premier and other politicians/operatives with criminal charges and driving problems were fair game. And it seems the attack ad rhetoric has play since a solid minority [at least] of British Columbians are fine with twice re-electing a premier convicted of drunk driving.

    Maybe that’s a very 21st century thing. Maybe NDP Premier Mike Harcourt [who is now a functional shill for the Liberals] shouldn’t have stepped down over Bingogate in the 1990s.


    I was hoping CanWest/Global would go bankrupt 4 months ago. Their stock closed last Friday at 36 cents, down from $15 four years ago. They are going to stop publishing the perennially profit-phobic National Post on Mondays “for a short time” which will likely convert to forever, and now Victoria’s Times-Colonist will lose its existence on Mondays. I still have this gut feeling that the redundant daily CanWest paper in Vancouver [whichever one that is] will close soon, now that the election is over and the Canucks are golfing. People have finally started using the Internet more than newspapers in the USA. Canadian figures are likely similar. Combine that with the global neoliberal recession and we see carnage in print media.

    Sadly for us, and the democracy that a free press is supposed to encourage, CanWest/Global still exists. It is impossible to imagine how Gordon Campbell could have been re-elected in 2005 if real journalism were allowed in BC. So CanWest/Global certainly get some credit for keeping the NDP from winning the election last week.

    The future of the BC NDP

    I joined the NDP 2 years ago. I have been an ardent supporter since Ian Waddell was my MP in Coquitlam 20 years ago. I finally joined because waiting for the party to perfect itself finally seemed futile. So I joined to see if I could help.

    I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but there is a long way to go. And I’m not ready to give up on the party after 2 decades until I know it is beyond hope. I will be, however, much closer to abandoning the party as hopeless if the elements that are keeping it stuck in the 20th century are still around in a while.

    I spent hours last Tuesday night at the Burnaby Hilton’s NDP party talking to people expressing profound grief and serious irritation at all manner of things. Mostly, people were angry with decisions the party made before and during this campaign. Armchair quarterbacks are legion, but this kind of angst was existential, despite it coming hours after a key election loss.

    People want to roll up their sleeves to make sure our party reflects what we need it to. If it cannot enter the 21st century, it will perish with the Socreds, the federal Progressive Conservatives, and the federal Reform/Conservative Party, whose arc is in decline and at the mercy of the federal Liberals’ fundraising health and internal polling.

    I’m tired of the rhetoric that we are going to hold the government to account as a strong opposition. The carnage coming from Gordon Campbell over the next 4 years will ignore democratic debate as it has for the last 8 years.

    If we cannot remake the party very soon, while it is early in opposition, so that we can show a new face that actually involves citizens and their real and pressing needs, we will have nothing to offer in the next election.

    I’ve watched my new MP Don Davies hold a handful of public meetings since being elected just over 6 months ago. It’s effective, open, a tonic for politically cynical citizens and not brain surgery to organize. It’s one model for what it means to talk to people about what they care about and are afraid of, and to hear where they want to feel hope.

    And since the NDP has to convince people it can manage the economy, we need to do that by telling people how we’ll make it work for them, not by buying ads on CanWest/Global media and hoping people will give us the benefit of the doubt. We have sound economic policy. It can be improved and our ability to let people know it exists must be a high priority. We simply can’t be afraid of the Liberal rhetoric that we’re bad on the economy, or we’ve already lost the next election too.

    In the end, the BC NDP will now take stock of itself, look honestly at the electoral context of 21st century BC and decide it can operate in our actual time. If it can’t do all of that people will leave en masse, especially young people. I guarantee it.

    A Sad “Vision” of Billboards

    Vision Vancouver is going to suffer from billboards for quite some time to come.

    “The Olympics are prime time advertising and the city might be offering it to Vanoc at the regular market rate,” the Richmond mayor said.

    “But all of this has been discussed at closed meetings, so I really can’t go into the details.

    “The details will be released soon, perhaps within the month.”

    via Mayor questions Vanoc ad deal.

    We now have some new insight into the visual ad pollution of billboards in Vancouver, courtesy of Richmond’s mayor Malcolm Brodie.

    Not only has VANOC acquired access to all the billboard space in the Olympics universe for its official sponsors, the deals they’ve made for rates are part of closed municipal meetings.

    This is no surprise since VANOC, much like a vampire, does nothing in broad daylight. Don’t hold your breath on anything related to VANOC being released ever.

    A couple months ago, Vision Vancouver cynically killed municipal plans to take down the billboard pollution around the city that contravenes rules about how far away from homes they are supposed to be. With 2 billboards within 60m of my living room window, I’m eager to see them gone–and their repulsive car and horror movie ads that have caused more than a few neighbourhood children turn away in fear.

    But as Charlie Smith featured weeks ago, Vision Vancouver voted to drift those plans into a bureaucratic purgatory.

    Smith noted how Vision’s Geoff Meggs is connected to Glen Clark who is connected to Jim Pattison whose name is on many of the polluting billboards. Connecting the dots allows us to see a rather transparent motive and example of what Vision Vancouver’s vision actually is.

    But Richmond’s Mayor Brodie has now also reminded us that these are not ordinary times. The Olympics gold rush means we CANNOT risk taking down even one billboard, despite how heinously it may contravene muncipal by-laws.

    We see the VANOC vision again appearing as our masters.

    This is very bad news for Vision Vancouver. As a new party, with little stable ideological roots and now only months of governing history, its identity is still in the fetal stage.

    Its membership swelled with the Obama bump. It had dozens of prospective candidates vying for nominations, many of whom were very progressive, but some were temporarily out of the NPA.

    They’ve had policy meetings, but those mean little until they get a chance to actually enact policy through governing. And now we’re seeing what they are like: Jimmy Pattison, billboards, VANOC.

    And like many new political parties or movements, their membership will dip when renewal time comes. But for Vision, their membership will plunge as people realize that the amorphous hint of progressiveness they robed themselves in ends up lacking anything solid.

    A political party walks its walk. If it talks a different line, people who pay attention to the walk will see the gap and act accordingly.

    Real progressives currently in Vision will have to make a decision very soon about whether their vision of Vision is shared by the ones in charge. If not, they’ll have to move on.