Governance & Politics
September 18, 2018

Failure and Reform: BC’s Local Elections Campaign Financing Act – 1

This five-part series by John Whistler on local election financing is a good example of the kind of coverage Price Tags aims to increase: well-researched analysis by knowledgeable insiders, regardless of political persuasion.  While we’ll be counting on voluntary contributions from people like John, we’d also like to commission more investigations and analyses of interest to people like you – readers of PT.  You can help by making a contribution.  

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John has been active in election campaigns for over 15 years and has served as a financial agent for the Green Party at the federal, provincial and local levels. Currently he is the Treasurer of the Green Party of Vancouver, the Secretary of the Vancouver Pride Society and Treasurer of Pedal Society.

This is the first posting of a series about how the BC Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) will impact the upcoming elections.

This posting describes the historical context.

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WHY BC’S LOCAL ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN FINANCING ACT NEEDS REFORM

And how to do it.

Campaign financing regulations are often a forgotten component of the many factors that impact election campaigns and the democratic processes. Or debate centres around a few central issues, such as who can contribute and how much. It has been said “the devil is in the details” and this applies to LECFA.

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Yesterday, Part I of our exit interview with District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton covered issues demonstrating the typical range of concerns acknowledged by mayors in other cities.

Such as the appearance of traffic backups from the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to Lower Lonsdale in 2012, within days of the opening of the Port Mann Bridge…25 kilometres away. The critical, cross-jurisdictional piece of North Shore infrastructure that he believes everyone has forgotten about. And the reasons why mistrust and resentment are brewing away in one District community, on the basis of new developments, lack of housing affordability, and traffic.

Check it out, and read Part II below — on North Van being caught in the missing middle, on engaging the community on change, and what that change may need to look like in the near future.

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The Star and Toronto’s May Warren has reported on the cleaving of class in Toronto, where the downtown has service sector jobs, but the people in those jobs do not have affordable housing close to their workplace.

Warren observes“This dynamic of lower-paid suburban workers servicing downtown’s bankers, lawyers and “creative class Sunshine List professionals” is turning the city into a kind of “Downton Abbey,” according to one researcher who’s studied the phenomenon. It’s a divide that could lead to labour shortages in the core — as service workers forced to commute farther and farther lose the incentive to take those positions.”

While some service workers still live in the downtown around Kensington Market and Queen Street East, the numbers are in the 10 to 20% range, with suburbs in Scarborough and Etobicoke housing 30 to 35% of service workers.

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The 2018 civic election campaign in Vancouver is steadily ramping up.  At last night’s Mayoral candidate debate, we saw a fascinating exchange between a reporter, a candidate and the audience.

The subject was Mr. Bremner’s continued insistence that neither he nor his campaign has had anything to do with the billboards appearing around town in recent weeks.  The exchange is shown below in video, with thanks to Justin Fung.

It is worth noting that in my opinion, the audience response was much louder than appears on this video clip (there was no audience mic). It was strikingly impolite for a bunch of Canadians.

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Amid concerns about an advantage conferred to some candidates because their name appeared at the top of the ballot, the City of Vancouver will introduce an alphabetically randomized ballot for the October 20, 2018 civic election.  All voters will see the same ballot layout.

Read more about this in the City’s administrative report from earlier this year:

There is a longstanding collection of empirical evidence demonstrating that voters without well-defined preferences are more likely to select the top-listed names on ballots due to cognitive fatigue.

So how do we get from here to there?

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From May 2 until October 13  1986  there was an international exposition in Vancouver with the theme “Transportation and Communication: World in Motion~World in Touch”.

World fairs used to be a big thing, enabling people to look at different pavilions and cultures without travelling. Canada has hosted two, with Expo 67 being held in Montreal during Canada’s centennial year. Expo 86 coincided with Vancouver’s centennial year, and it was the last world’s fair held in North America in the 20th century.

The story of how the north shore of False Creek between the Granville and Cambie  Street Bridges was transformed from an industrial working harbour into a fair representing 54 countries and a number of corporations has already been told. So too has the awful reality that  people in Single Room Hotels (SRO’s) were displaced for Expo visitors. Rooming house hotels  were subject to an Innkeeper’s Regulation and not the standard Tenancy Act, meaning that long-term tenants could be evicted on just a week’s notice.

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The temperature is going up.  As the election approaches and the City moves towards a ‘Making Room’ rezoning in traditional neighbourhoods, positions are hardening.

On one hand, a desire to take change slow (if not stop it outright), reflected in the columns of Elizabeth Murphy in The Sun, especially her latest: “city hall is slamming through destructive new zoning.

The city’s consultants confirmed as far back as 2014 that there is more than enough existing zoned capacity to meet population growth beyond 2041. Yet the city continues a manic rush to rezone.

The most recent example is the rushed rezoning of Kitsilano RT7/RT8, Cedar Cottage RT10 and all the RS zones citywide of 68,000 properties, all without public consultation. The public hearing for all of this is coming Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. 

But there’s another constituency, rarely if ever heard until recently, that insists these changes are not ambitious enough.  Some of them composed an open letter to Council to spell out what they mean and what they want.  Here it is:

 

Comments to the proposed Amendments to the Zoning and Development By­law for Most RS Zones to Allow Two-­Family Dwellings (Duplexes) to Increase Housing Choice

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In this 4th in our series of Mayoral Exit Interviews, Richard Walton of the District of West Vancouver, who has spent fully one-third of his life in public service — as school trustee (1986-’93), then as councillor (2002-’05), and finally as mayor (’05-’18).

Walton has also done what many of today’s mayoral candidates may not fully appreciate as an essential part of the job — serving on the Boards of a number of organizations representing the enormous operational complexity and cultural diversity of this region: B.C. Games for Athletes with Disability, Fraser Basin Council, Metro Vancouver, Municipal Finance Authority of BC, Mayors’ Council, North Vancouver Police Committee, and Metro Vancouver (GVRD) committees on Culture, Environment and Energy, Federal Gas Tax, Finance, Performance and Audit, Port Cities, to name a few.

In 2004, Walton also reinforced one of the more unfortunate stereotypes of chartered accountants everywhere, by co-founding the World Mountain Bike Conference and Festival.

The brain drain continues with his retirement this fall; here’s part I of our exit interview. 

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