Governance & Politics
September 19, 2018

Questions for Candidates: The Independents (Part IV)

Well, party people — this is the week we slip in under the 30-day countdown to the BC-wide municipal elections.

Vancouverites will soon get their first look at the new, random order ballot, which will benefit some; for others, a high rank may not make much difference, due to the lack of a suffix after their name. Party brand.

Does it matter this election? Is it reasonable for policies and personalities alone to outshine party affiliations?

We’ve been trying to figure that out by asking four independent council candidates a series of questions — on housing (Part I), transportation (Part II), and their decisions to run for public office (Part III).

Today — in a nutshell, why should we care about them as candidates?

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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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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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A big thank you to James and Errin Bligh for sharing insights and images from their August travels across Europe.

This final post contains quite a few videos, many of which focus on public spaces. But the big takeaway for our urbanist duo was on bicycles, and the fact that even the country considered the international paragon for urban cycling can be an intimidating place for an important segment of the population— the uninitiated.

“A combined 3 days in Amsterdam and Rotterdam served as our last stop on the tour, and our first attempt at cycling abroad.

Unsurprisingly, the central historical (and tourist packed) neighbourhoods with tiny shared streets were treacherous for cycling, while nearby the relatively quiet new developments outside of the four main canals served for a scenic and relaxing bike ride.

Errin, a new cyclist, shares her thoughts on what additional facilities would have made cycling in Amsterdam more accessible to newbies:

A passing bike lane and a slow bike lane

Physical separation from both cars and pedestrians

Adjustable rental bikes (default size can be too big)

Accessible source of helmets”

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Why are they running in a race they can’t possibly win?

It’s the blunter question than was originally posed to our independent council candidates (read on for that). Blunter, and perhaps rooted in the past.

Because, although they may need 60,000 votes to win a seat, this may be the election where voters spurn the party system in Vancouver. It’s a tall order, but if it happens, we can speculate on factors.

Perhaps due to a trend influenced by the strength of the independent mayoral candidates. Maybe a consequence of Millennial distaste for backroom party politics. Or possibly a false equivalency that pays off — confusing social media following and hype, for broader engagement and voter activation…which generates more media coverage, triggering broader engagement and voter activation.

Regardless — here’s Part III on our quartet of independents, and the reasons why they’re running.

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In Part I yesterday, our four featured independent candidates for Vancouver city council shared their position on housing, and how they would approach the affordability crisis.

Today, the question is transportation. Do independents think differently from the party candidates? What are they saying that nobody else is?

But first, some explanation of why the focus on independents — and why these four candidates — among the estimated 15 confirmed indie council hopefuls.

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The Questions for Candidates series started in June with Vancouver’s Kettle-Boffo controversy (ancient history?), and our appeal to the early field of candidates in the upcoming municipal elections to weigh in how the city was handling the requirement for Community Amenity Contributions from non-market housing developers.

Teasing out substantive(ish) policy platforms from candidates was crazy yet compelling; we followed with an “LRT vs Skytrain” question to Surrey and Langley candidates, and this fugly graphic. We soon realized the scope of possibilities for Q&A — with hundreds of candidates in 20+ municipalities — was dwarfed only by the time and effort to perform the outreach. Time to narrow the focus.

Today, the first of a six-part Q&A — on policy, politics and possibility — with four independent candidates for Vancouver City Council.

They’re each running a different kind of campaign; no logos, small budgets, and a glaring absence of infighting or intrigue. Just character, a c.v., and policies.

You may even know some of them…but what do you really know about them? Let’s find out.

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If, by now, you’ve noticed that contributor James Bligh’s Instagram travelogues are a bit — how shall we say — architecturally nerdist, it’s on purpose. Also, it’s a Price Tags thing.

Beyond a romantic holiday through European capitals, this trip has been the urbanist equivalent of a fan tour of American baseball stadia, but with the benefit of a willing and supportive spouse (Errin — she’s been starring in many of the videos). James has been hitting some architectural must-sees, and we hope you’ve learned a thing or two.

This Finland bit should be no different. Here we get a quick taste of the Finnish Modernist approach to building design practices by architectural auteurs. In this case, one in particular:

“We were only briefly in Helsinki — most of our visit in Finland was spent traveling to several far-flung buildings designed by legendary Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

Our short time in the capital left me with an impression of a city that had grit, diversity, history, and the familiar pervasiveness of global capitalism. Bordered by former occupiers Russia and Sweden, we wondered, ‘What will the future of Helsinki look like?’

I present an un-Finnished list of urban findings to consider…”

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Yesterday, we published Part I of our interview with Mayor Wayne Baldwin of White Rock, who shed a bit of light on what’s been happening in the ‘City by the Sea”, and his experiences as both Mayor and City Manager.

Today, some regional and electoral context — are White Rock residents dealing with the same issues as other Metro Vancouver residents? What’s his impression of the field of candidates in his city, as we prepare for unprecedented turnover?

And a discussion of amalgamation…is that a thing in White Rock? (Side question for you, dear reader — when was the last time you looked at White Rock on a map?)

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