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. From my unscientific examination that there appears 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 made 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”.

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.

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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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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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Great Britain’s “High” or main streets are seeing  purchases for things other than food drop by 24 percent in shopping areas, with an overall decline in sales being the worst since record keeping started in 1995.

As The Guardian’s Richard Partington writes closing down “non-essential” shops never recovered from the online spending takeovers.Total retail sales increased 1.8 percent from November to December and surprisingly food and drink sales were the highest recorded for holiday spending. Credit card company Barclaycard saw online retail spending increase over 50 percent in December.

Canada has not had as many strict pandemic closures as in Great Britain but this study undertaken by  Vancity, Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB), and the Canadian Urban Institute shows that from September to December visits to main street businesses decreased 35 to 70 percent compared to 2019, with nearly 60 percent of businesses making less money, some garnering half of the revenue made pre-pandemic.

Retail Insider’s  Mario Toneguzzi  reports that the interim President of Vancity says it clearly~

Local businesses form the backbone of the Canadian economy and they have shown determination and resilience during the pandemic. Given the extraordinary measures and investment they have made to continue operating, they are now counting on us to get behind them.”

Concentrating on main streets in communities in Ontario and British Columbia, research shows that small businesses directly attached to the local community performed better. Up to one quarter of all businesses were doing more business online. Sadly in Victoria and in Vancouver (the survey was conducted in Vancouver’s Strathcona) the majority of business owners reported increased safety issues in their location as keeping customers away.

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Towards a More Equitable Housing System: Is Vancouver a City for Renters?
Part of The Future We Want: The Change We Need, an event series hosted by the City of Vancouver in partnership with SFU.

Beginning in the early 1970s the percentage of Vancouver households living in rental units has been greater than 50%. Nevertheless, renters consistently face difficulties in finding housing that is adequate, stable and secure, with, in more recent years, rental affordability becoming a particularly challenging and detrimental issue for many households. While some in the city may strive for home ownership, data tells us that this possibility has become increasingly out of reach, even for those with moderate incomes.

Given the reality that a majority of Vancouverites will most likely continue to live in rental housing, what does this mean for the next generation, for seniors and families, for low-income, racialized and marginalized households, and for the many others who do not see a secure housing future in Vancouver?

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?

Join us to discuss these questions at the second event of The Future We Want: The Change We Need series.

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Passing the Torch: Lessons Learned for Future Generations of Women Advocates~A conversation with Shirin Ebadi at Simon Fraser University

Shirin Ebadi is the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The first woman appointed as judge in Iran, she was subsequently barred from her post after the Islamic Revolution on the basis of her gender. Returning to the courts as a private lawyer to defend controversial political and human rights cases led to her own incarceration and 25 days in solitary confinement. Despite these challenges, Shirin Ebadi continues to dedicate her life to fighting for human rights, especially the rights of women, children, and political prisoners. She will join us to talk about the hard-won lessons she has learned, to pass the torch to future generations of women advocates.
A zoom link will be provided to registered attendees via email.
About the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies
The Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies has been established at Simon Fraser University to encourage the academic discussion and public understanding of the cultures and societies of Muslim peoples in the past and present.

Date: Wednesday January 27, 2021

Time: 12 noon Pacific Time

You can register by clicking this link.

Images: VanityFair,

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