Have two of the third rails of Vancouver politics become the new main track?
Is it now possible, if not imperative, that our Council consider fundamentally rezoning the single-family neighbourhoods in a way that would change their character, while at the same time considering a fundamental change in the property tax in order to tap the extraordinary increase in the asset value of those same homes?
You bet – if you go by the results of recent byelection.

Two candidates at either end of the political spectrum who topped the polls both put forward what not long ago would have been unthinkable policies in any serious party platform: Jean Swanson proposed a variable property tax targeted at increasing rates on high-value properties; Hector Bremner proposed a city-wide plan that would open single-family zones places to multiple dwellings.
Both candidates now have credibility, one as an elected official, the other as a serious contender in the next election.  They both have a mandate to push forward with ideas that everyone else in civic government and all parties (even at the provincial level) must now take seriously.
Let the real debate begin.


  1. With 10 or so percent turnout, I don’t know that credibility is really there. If that message is out loud during the next full election and they win, ok, then that’s something. I don’t think most people, including myself really paid any attention to this election or the issues that were brought up.

  2. Given that two thirds of the people who did bother to vote voted AGAINST the NPA, I see no claim to credibility whatever. An 11% self selected sample is about a unrepresentative as it gets.

    1. Missed the point and simultaneously disrespect democracy. Electors have the right to choose NOT to vote, and to defer to their fellow citizens who do.
      Regardless of turnout, an election is an election. Valid and credible. The fact that somebody is not happy about it, is utterly immaterial.

    2. Uh….does that not also mean the more than 2/3rds voted against everyone else too? To discount the NPA vote, but not discount Swanson (4/5ths voted ‘against’ her) is pretty myopic. The election results suggest that the other parties views were less credible.

  3. To commenters: Don’t get distracted by turnout numbers. This is about ideas – and the top vote-getters are entitled to have theirs taken seriously. It doesn’t mean those ideas should be implemented – simply that they must be considered for debate and responded to, certainly by other parties and any candidate running in the next election.

      1. What? How can you say this?
        First off, there’s never been universal support for anything, anywhere. And second, how can you even suggest this election has provided any kind of support for a city wide plan increasing density in residential areas?

      2. A city-wide plan can also be dictatorial, formulaic or comprise paint-by-number urbanism. We’ve had that before with the imposed city-wide freeway vision that almost came to pass until the election of Art Philips.
        A real election (not a by-election with an extraordinarily low turnout) and a voter-approved campaign policy to move to extensive research and public consultation on a city-wide plan will offer a more justified course of action. I don’t see any individual or party on the horizon that will promote this idea.
        Personally, I think it’s a terrible idea that could easily slip from the hands of the well-meaning in one election to control by those with questionable motives in the next. Moreover, it demonstrates a naivete about urban economics. Vancouver will never be Strasbourg or Zurich or the Pearl District no matter how hard some urbanists may wish to try through misguided and imposing central planning initiatives. I would rather see Vancouverism expanded to encompass lower densities and the Missing Middle in RS zones in our own unique way, which is diverse and broad and uses every tool in the toolkit.

  4. As to the proposal that there be a variable – increasing by value – property tax rate on homes, we are at least partially protected by the fact that the statute governing property taxes is a provincial statute (single local rate varying by class of property applies throughout the province). Of course, some variation in the rate – lower taxes for those of lesser means – results from the impact of the local (educational) property tax grants.
    As to zoning changes designed to increase supply at the lower value end, especially in single family zones, I think we know any actions thus far by Vancouver City Council – and suburban councils – have been tepid at best. Guests suites and laneway houses, perhaps providing for stratification (currently with conditions involving heritage preservation in Vancouver), are about as far as we’ve gone. Much more is certainly required, and we can hope that Vancouver Council can give this serious thought prior to the general 2018 Civic Election. It’s arguably a bit close to election time already. While measures have ultimately been defeated, both Portland and Seattle have shown much greater imagination – and resolve – than Vancouver.

    1. Jeff, who is being “protected”? Millionaire homeowners? Why should the province have any say in municipal taxes, let each city charge what the market will bear.

  5. It amazes me that anybody is surprised at Vision’s trouncing. Make no mistake, finishing Fifth was a rout. Vision was not helped by having a leak showing their “action” on housing prices was nothing more than cheap political theatre:
    “Over the Thanksgiving long weekend, the head of B.C.’s real estate development industry association was not happy.
    “I’ve been waiting to calm down a bit before sending you a note,” Urban Development Institute CEO Anne McMullin wrote in the first line of a private email sent last Saturday afternoon to a senior Vancouver official. “But I don’t think I can, so I’m contacting you now.”
    McMullin was expressing her displeasure to Kevin Quinlan, chief of staff for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, in response to the previous day’s announcement about the idea of giving local buyers first priority on condo pre-sales. ..
    …McMullin wrote to Quinlan in her email: “You know as well as I do that this will do nothing for affordability,” to which he agreed, explaining the motion is meant to address the public’s lack of trust.
    Quinlan replied to McMullin: “You are right it does nothing for affordability, and we have never said so. The issue is there’s a real lack of trust in the public when it comes to new development and who it is aimed at, and if the city is going to move forward with a very substantial increase in supply we need to address that…”
    It must be nice to get such an immediate response from Vision Vancouver, your average citizen certainly doesn’t. But then, we all know who calls the shots at city hall, don’t we?

    1. 11% turnout is a “rout.” LOL!
      And the UDI giving Vision hell for finally listening to resident’s concerns? Now that’s a big turnabout.
      A mixed council with a strong opposition is a very good thing. But it can be a long wait for the Greens or COPE to articulate workable policies other than saying ‘no’ all the time. We’ll have to wait to see if Bremner will cave on the upzoning of RS districts once he faces the NPA’s traditional West Side constituency, or when the party executive takes him aside for a heart to heart and an eye on the donor list.

  6. This is all so much semantic clutter waiting for a big broom. The province is promising legislation on political donations after Christy’s shameful cash for access antics. The NDP will be including municipalities in these upcoming rules. It can’t come too soon because it’s a game changer when developer’s once free-flowing money has to then squeeze through a tiny hole to influence policy. Hopefully this will give local government a spine to act in the best interests of the city and Metro WRT long-range planning and make upzoning for the Missing Middle and mixed use walkable neighbourhoods and transit funding decisions a bit easier.
    On the other hand it could make politicos more sensitive to NIMBYist complaints, which hopefully will be drowned out by the majority of citizens sick and tired of protecting unreasonably large and expensive hunks of land with detached houses sitting on them in a region with a strained land supply.

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