Governance & Politics
January 19, 2021

Making it Harder for Mr. Peanut to Run for Vancouver Mayor


It’s no secret that when election ballots were alphabetized in the City of Vancouver that they seemed to favour people who had names at the top of the alphabet. You can take a look at this list of Mayors and Councils dating back to 1887 and it seems from my unscientific examination that there seems to be a heck of a lot of Councillors with last names beginning with the letters  “A” to “D”.

In 2005, six councillors had their last names with the initials “A” to “D”. In 2008 there were four Councillors that had their last names starting with  “A” to “D” initials. The City of Vancouver Council has ten members, as well as the Mayor.

If you have a slate of councillors you want to get elected with, knowing that their last name started with a letter from the front of the alphabet has historically helped.

It seemed to make sense to randomize the ballot, but what to do with the very long slate of names, many names people voting for Councillor might be unfamiliar with?  Alex Strachan reported in a 1993 article in the Vancouver Sun  that “studies show voters choosing a slate from the list of 40 names or more may choose several selections at the top of the list before realizing they have a few choices left”. 

Sadly it appears to be human nature that people go to the bottom of the list and then work their way up~”overlooking the names in the middle”.

But in 1993 the ballot was randomized, with the order of ranking on the ballot being decided by names being drawn from a ballot box. The successful mayor, Phillip Owen was number two on the ballot; his main opponent, Libby Davies was in the 11th spot. Anyone that voted in that election with randomized ballots  or in the 2018 civic eleciton will tell you what a surprising melange of names there were~and it must have been truly intimidating to anyone not working in  or breathing civic processes on a daily basis.

Indeed the 1993 randomized election ballot was so confusing that in 1996 the alphabetized ballot returned.

In the City of Vancouver it does not take a lot to be on the Mayoral or a Councillor ballot~just a mere 25 signatures. It was not unusual at City Hall to be asked by a potential person running for Council to sign your signature for them to bag their 25 signature requirement to be in the race.

In  the 2018 election City of Vancouver had 158  candidates  on the civic ballot, and it has the dubious distinction of being the longest ever ballot by any place in Canada.

Thankfully the City of Vancouver Council is voting today on the effectiveness of the random order ballot, and examining how to make the process more understandable to voters. The City is proposing that one hundred signatures be gathered to run for mayor, and 75 signatures garnered to run as a councillor.

The proposal also recommends that the date for nominations be moved up to earlier in the year, so that nominations for mayor and council be accepted from May 1st to  the end of July, to allow a longer period for the citizens of Vancouver to learn who everyone is that is running.

You can take a look at that Council report here.

Of course the higher number of signatures and earlier closing window for nominations may also deter some candidates from being on the ballot.  But to be able to say you have run for Council or Mayor will now mean that you have more than 25 friends sign their name on your nomination.

The classic case of course is Vancouver’s Mr. Peanut, artist Vincent Trasov who ran for mayor in 1974. He did not speak, but would do a twenty minute tap dance and had his emissary, John Mitchell speak for him. Mr. Peanut ran on a platform that nearly five decades later looks surprisingly progressive: subsidized mass transit, a voucher system for higher education, and free umbrellas and rubber boots at all libraries during inclement weather.

You can take a look at the Youtube video below to see Mr.

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If you have not met Melina Scholefield, Engineer and Manager of Green Infrastructure at the City of Vancouver, here’s your chance.  Melina is the facilitator for this 12 week  online course through Simon Fraser University.

Green infrastructure and related nature-based solutions are gaining widespread support as effective components of healthy city building as well as climate adaptation strategies. The course provides an overview of how GI systems work, the ecosystem services they can provide, and how they can be employed effectively.

The aim of the course is to foster a network of professionals engaged with the challenges and opportunities of blending nature and infrastructure

The course has four parts that together provide a substantive overview of the current green infrastructure policy, design, and practice and the associated challenges and opportunities.

Part One – The Grey to Green Transition explores the reasons that motivate cities, suburbs, and towns to adopt and expand GI systems, identifies the different types of GI and the multitude of benefits associated with them, and showcases successful employment of specific GI strategies.
Part Two – Design and Implementation discusses the principles and practices behind successful GI design and implementation, identifies targets and guidelines used to regulate GI implementation, and considers the data needed to inform GI design and implementation decisions, and potential sources for the relevant data.
Part Three– Policy and Governance focuses on the policies, institutions, and systems that govern and drive green infrastructure employment in cities around the world, highlights specific tools and regulations for GI, and compares and contrasts GI policies and governance.
Part Four – Planning for Green Cities reviews recent advances and most innovative examples of GI design, science, and practice. This section showcases bold views of what GI will offer cities in the future and how these progressive visions might be realized.
This course is developed and offered by Simon Fraser University, Faculty of Environment’s Professional Programs and Partnerships. Funding for this course is provided by Adaptation Learning Network, an initiative supported through Natural Resources Canada BRACE and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The course is part of a series of courses intended to inspire climate action and improve professional capacity for climate change adaptation.

Facilitator: Melina is a professional engineer with over two decades of public and private sector experience. She has a long-standing dedication to sustainability and innovation in the municipal sector, leadership development and collaboration across disciplines. Melina is Manager of Green Infrastructure Implementation for the City of Vancouver. She and her team are leading City’s ambitious and multi-award winning Rain City Strategy, a cross-departmental green rainwater infrastructure and urban rainwater management initiative. In 2020, Melina was named Water Steward of the Year by the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association for her impact within the Canadian water industry.



February 15, 2021 – May 3, 2021

Duration: 12 weeks, 30 hours

For further information click here.


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In 2016 when a report  on  Point Grey Road becoming the Seaside Greenway went to Council, there was much discussion about separating walking from biking, and ensuring that sidewalks were adequate and wide enough. You can reference that report here.

Of course some residents had usurped public city owned boulevard property as their own, by adding in shrubbery and fences, and were none too pleased when the City needed that public property for public things, like sidewalks and boulevards.  There was even discussion from residents that they would be more likely to crash into pedestrians and cyclists with the hedges and trees removed. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is always instructive to look back at what people feared of and to look at how things actually progressed. When the Seaside Greenway was approved, real estate values on Point Grey Road apparently  increased by 30 percent. It is a traffic calmed, quiet street.  And yes, there is an elephant in the yard, in the 3600 block of Point Grey Road.

I have written that  privately owned landscaping on public property may always be challenged. As the city grows and enhances walking and cycling mobility there will be more vigilance to ensure that homeowner landscaping does not impede proposed city works, or indeed, city owned property.

Sadly, the Point Grey elephant’s enclosure does take up some publicly owned property too, and the fence was not moved as part of the improvements for the Seaside Greenway.

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At the end of Cameron Avenue accessed from Alma Street is a steep public staircase that has exactly 54 steps. There’s two landings as well, but those are not counted in the poem posted at the top of the stairs.

The poem is written by Robert A. He may be the gentleman that stopped at the top of the stairs, told us it was his 72nd birthday, and he had just scaled the stairs eight times to celebrate.

Part of the  poem reads:

“I am fortunate. Around the corner from My house there are 54 Steps.

Down to a Rocky Beach. We call it “the crab beach”. Always can delight Little and big kids.

By gently lifting a rock Watch the baby crabs Scuttle away.My steps are my Meditation, My aerobics

My beautiful outside Stair masterView of the City Over English Bay, Mountains, boats

Ever changing light. And weather

Twenty times a thousand steps Give or Take. “Doing the Steps” Understood by family, friends.”

And then there’s the view. You can look north at the boats, east to the city, and south to the cliff side mansions along Point Grey Road.

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Our ‘Fun with Numbers’ guy, Andy Coupland, ran some numbers on the West End, comparing 1981 and 2016 census.  Though the Big Takeway is still that the West End is more stable than often perceived, some changes (like overall demographics) are in line with wider City / Region / Canada change.  But the uniquely high rental proportion, and therefore high mobility, may explain some of the differences. 

(Comments in brackets are from Price Tags.)


There are more males. (If the gay population was declining significantly, you’d expect the opposite of this trend.)

1981 – 18,255 (49% of total)

2016 – 24,670 (52% of total)


And less females.  (In 1981 there were 440 more females than males; now there are 2,140 more males than females.)

1981 – 18,695 (51% of total)

2016 – 22,530 (48% of total)


There are more children under 15.  (Again, if the number of families with chiIdren was dropping, the opposite should be true.)

1981 – 1,165

2016 – 1,945


There are fewer young people aged 15 – 24.  (This is where affordability may be having an impact, and why it seems there are less younger gays.)

1981 – 4,950

2016 – 3,710


There are a lot more aged 25 – 44.  (Affordability would be less an issue for this cohort.)

1981 – 15,990

2016 – 22,545


A lot more aged 45 – 64  (Why the big jump in this group?  Growth of the condo supply?  Affordability?  Social status of the West End?)

1981 – 7,930

2016 – 12,000


But almost the same number (and a smaller proportion of the population) over 65.  (Again, affordability?)

1981 – 6,930

2016 – 7,000


 The number married (including separated).  (This is likely a reflection of a societal wide change, but interesting to see in the West End.)

1981 – 38%

2016 – 45% married (25%) or living common law (18%) or separated (2%)


An identical proportion single, never married.

1981 – 43% (15,380)

2016 – 43% (19,525)


A similar proportion divorced.

1981 – 10% (3,550)

2016 – 9% (4,100)


Fewer widowed.

1981 – 9% (3,350)

2016 – 3% (1.330)


Part 1 of this series here.



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The second event of The Future We Want: The Change We Need series, hosted by the City of Vancouver in partnership with SFU.


How must the City of Vancouver think differently about housing and the housing market to better meet the needs of its residents, ensuring priority for those with the greatest need?

What is required of a new city-wide plan to ensure the urgent and transformative change necessary to establish an equitable housing system?

  • Evan Siddall – President and CEO, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
  • Khelsilem – Squamish Nation Councillor
  • Barbara Steenbergen – Member of the Executive Committee, International Union of Tenants
  • Leilani Farha – Global Director, The Shift
  • William Azaroff – CEO, Brightside Community Homes Foundation
  • Andy Yan – Director, The City Program at Simon Fraser University
  • Meg Holden – Professor and Director, SFU Urban Studies
  • Kerry Gold – Journalist and Globe and Mail Housing Columnist

Register here.


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It’s only mid-January, and already we have a nomination for ‘Article of the Year.’

Doug Ward’s long-form analysis in The Tyee of the No. 1 story in this town is a must-read if you want an informed perspective on the particulars of the housing challenges in Vancouver, what actions and proposals have been taken, and where the various factions on council stand.  It’s the best read so far of the political players, their motivations and critiques of each other.  It’s a lot of material to pack into a single story, and this one is as good as we’ve seen so far.

Here’s Doug’s conclusion:

The politically low-friction days of filling brown fields with new developments are over. And nowadays, almost all densification in established neighbourhoods happens on the east side of town, while on the wealthier west side, says (Andy) Yan, “The homes have become larger and emptier. It’s getting less dense.”

Something’s got to give….  (But) Stewart and his councillors have yet to forge an agenda that reflects the mood of crisis that delivered them to their posts in the first place. They have until the fall of 2022 to demonstrate otherwise.

My thoughts:

The housing challenge cannot be met within the boundaries of Vancouver.  Housing is, at minimum, a regional challenge, involving every level of government.  City of Vancouver politicians should never be so presumptuous as to think they have the levers to solve it between Boundary Road and the UEL.

Also unquestioned (even in Doug’s piece) is the presumption that the City should replace the market as the short-term determinant for housing supply and affordability.   Let’s leave aside the question as to whether that’s possible (it isn’t), the fact is that most citizens, including immigrants, would be distrustful of an ideological solution unless it manifestly benefits them directly.

It could be that city government won’t have to intervene in any major way (rezoning the city from one end to the other or budgeting to build thousands of units) so long as it can affect marginal supply at a time when more global factors align (especially interest rates and health of the economy – which influences immigration rates, domestic and foreign).  By assisting the market to strategically supply an ongoing expectation of new units (which is happening now, especially in the rental stock) in a sufficiently short period of time, the overall market may be moderated in price and scarcity to remove the issue as a political imperative.  The pandemic might do the same, but likely won’t make much of a difference in the medium term.  (It hasn’t so far.)

The hope being placed on the Vancouver Plan was naïve to begin with, and unachievable in the time left in this council’s term, especially given the disruption of the pandemic.  Trying to accommodate a visionary or ideological model of change for every neighbourhood simultaneously, especially when it involves the character or scale of a community, is simply not doable without having to pay too high a political price (assuming there is a disciplined majority willing to take the risk).

Such a city-wide plan cannot on one hand provide an overview of how growth will be accommodated (along with infrastructure and amenities) in a way that is accepted as equitable and, on the other, inform citizens on what can literally be built next door to them (which is the real purpose of zoning: to give assurance, continuity and control over the rate of change).  The Vancouver Plan has no chance of doing that, and so will be compromised into mush or deferred into the future if it isn’t abandoned.

Vancouver will muddle along, spot-rezonings and all, and manage to still end up with a remarkably successful (if expensive) city.


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CTV News in Victoria  reporter Jordan Cunningham interviewed a puzzled homeowner couple who were upset that someone had called the City of Victoria’s bylaw officers regarding their very sizeable hedge. The hedge quite clearly encroaches on the sidewalk, and the homeowners could not understand why someone would not talk to them ahead of calling the City about getting their hedge trimmed back.  The homeowners talked about the fact they knew the latin name of the hedge, that birds lived in it, and how they “seasonally” trimmed their hedge.

Mr. Cunningham cleverly did the Homer Simpson “disappearing in the hedge” meme and spoke to people using the sidewalk who expressed no challenge with the hedge. You can view his CTV News video story here.

But the sidewalk really represents the “thin edge of the wedge” about public property and the right of all sidewalk users to have safe, comfortable and convenient access. If you were using a mobility device, or had a stroller and were also holding onto a child you would want the full width of the sidewalk. Sidewalks are to be accessible to everyone, not just the fittest passersby.

The homeowners were quite sure of their rightness, and even penned a letter which they somehow affixed on the hedge, and in the note they point out that the “BYLAW Officers have now threatened us with REMOVING the hedge”.

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The Netherlands Consulate General in San Francisco, in cooperation with the Dutch Cycling Embassy and leading organizations in the field of mobility and transportation, are eager to explore how the Netherlands and United States could collaborate in transforming American streetscapes, and consequently movement through the city. To begin this conversation, they have partnered on a series of free, 90-minute workshops targeted towards three regions:

The COVID-19 crisis continues to have a significant impact on both our professional and personal lives. It has also fundamentally changed the way we look at cities; offering a unique window of opportunity to rethink, redefine, and reallocate urban streetscapes and the way they are used. However, it is of the upmost importance that these changes are thoroughly considered and carefully implemented, to avoid common mistakes and adverse effects.


San Francisco Bay Area: Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at 9:00 AM (PST)

Greater Los Angeles: Thursday, January 28, 2021 at 9:00 AM (PST)

Pacific Northwest: Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at 9:00 AM (PST)

In these digital workshops, experts from both the public and private sector in the Netherlands—including Goudappel Coffeng, Technolution, Breda University of Applied Science, Studio Bereikbaar, Technical University of Delft, ProRail, Bikeminded, Mobycon, and CROW—will share their knowledge and experience from decades of political processes, transportation planning, and infrastructure design. The aim: to create attractive and safe multi-modal networks for all ages and demographic groups, and to see where the United States and the Netherlands can learn from each other’s experience in building safe, user-friendly, and inclusive mobility infrastructure. Each webinar will include three parallel breakout sessions:

1. Integrated Mobility Planning and Traffic Management: Integrated multi-modal mobility networks provide cities a consistent, hierarchal system that emphasizes all modes of transport (car, train, bus, ferry, bike, walk, etc.), which allow people the freedom of choice over their mode. Dutch mobility planning is internationally known for its innovative approach to designing systems that combine cost effectiveness, spatial quality and functional excellence.

2. Mobility Hubs and Multi-Modality: In a time where transportation services, infrastructure, and amenities are evolving rapidly, mobility hubs present an opportunity to integrate different sustainable transportation options to enhance connectivity across the region. The overarching aim is to explore the concept of mobility hubs in an effort to implement strategies and initiatives to prioritize low emission transportation modes in the long-term.

3. Inclusive (E-)Bike Design and Planning: The bicycle is increasingly seen as a key component of a multimodal transportation system and a means to achieve multiple objectives, including maximizing transportation investments, reducing maintenance costs, improving public health, promoting economic development, addressing transportation equity, and reducing environmental impacts. Learn the principles of effective network design and planning.

These workshops are aimed at professionals in the transport sector, political representatives and decision-makers, local and regional policymakers, mobility advocates, and leaders from the business community. The conversations will identify local challenges and opportunities for quick, high impact “wins”, as well as demonstrating some practical examples from the Netherlands. There will be an opportunity for audience Q&A at the end of the session.

You can reserve your place by clicking this link.


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 Biking in a post pandemic world: How cities are transforming their streets to get more people biking

Hear from experts on how Covid-19 has changed the cycling landscape across the globe and what needs to happen moving forward to keep more people cycling more often.

HUB Cycling’s Gavin Davidson, MRM, MCIP, RPP will be joined by:

Ralph Buehler, PhD, Professor and Chair of Urban Affairs and Planning in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech’s Research Center in Arlington, VA,
Meghan Winters, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Sciences at UBC
Lisa Leblanc, P.Eng., M.Sc., Manager, Transportation, City of New Westminster

Date: Tuesday February 2nd, 2021

Time: 12:00 PM through 1:00 PM Pacific Time

For more information and to register, please click here.



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