Before we go any further into the year, I wanted to say how grateful I am to the folks that have been writing up a media storm about municipal issues. City hall is one place that is for all citizens, and everyone has a right to know what the city is doing, and how it impacts you. Writers like Jen St. Denis, Christopher Cheung, Melody Ma, Justin McElroy, Frances Bula, Kerry Gold, Dan Fumano,Daphne Bramham, The Cambie Report and many informed others have been discussing  municipal issues so that they are accessible to everyone. And with that knowledge comes how to have your voice and ideas heard at city hall.

In the City of Vancouver there is a new council following ten years of a council dominated by people under the “Vision” slate. A decade is a long time, and of course there were thoughts that the city would substantially change when that majority was robustly ousted in the last election. The Vision party was also part of the Americanization of City Hall   process, where long serving current City Manager Judy Rogers was  abruptly fired, and a new city manager, who would follow the new Vision political party direction, Dr. Penny Ballem brought in. This is how it works in many United States cities, where the city manager position is politicized.

In the past,  “Vancouver experienced great success with their city manager model, where the position provided a constant hand on the wheel at city hall, despite political changes. This has meant that policy previously approved by other councils could be directed and implemented.”

As Dan Fumano writes in the Vancouver Sun the new City of Vancouver council is working in a different way. Together.

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We’d be remiss writing on Price Tags without talking about the elephant in the room~and that is the alleged money laundering in local real estate deals. Last summer we published an editorial on this stating that “in 2016, Transparency International Canada found that 45 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s most valuable properties were held by numbered companies. This infographic illustrates where some of these properties are, and some of the background behind their purchase.”

 

And there’s a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute saying that “official estimates of  the amount of money laundered in Canada each year range from $5 billion to $100 billion. Criminals involved in drug trafficking, smuggling, tax evasion and corruption have parked their dirty money in Canadian real estate and businesses, the report says, because they do not have to be identified as owners of shell companies and legal trusts.”

Canada does not have updated property ownership transparency, and sometimes all you need in Canada is a library card to register yourself as a corporation. In B.C. the Provincial government said it would create an accessible registry so that everyone would know the identity of property owners.

There was to be an inquiry too, but David Eby the Attorney General of the Province seems to have backed off this.

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Electoral reform. Harmonized Sales Tax. Transit funding.

The last few years have seen British Columbians participate in an unprecedented number of referendums. The result has frequently been increased political and regional division, confused voters, and a platform for extreme ideas.

Is there a way to consult the public without divisive rhetoric and poor-quality public discourse? And when is a referendum an appropriate tool to do so?

Penn State University political communication professor John Gastil will share his insights on a reform that can help voters make smarter decisions in initiative elections. Moderated by Shauna Sylvester, Executive Director of SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and Co-Founder and Senior Advisor of SFU Public Square.

Thursday, January 31
5-7 pm

This is a free event, but registration is required. Get your seat now.

Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue

580 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

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This week, during my chat with Karen Ward about the human toll of the opioid, health and homelessness crises all running in lockstep on Vancouver’s downtown eastside, I referenced the mortality rate from opioid overdoses…and it struck me later that this needed a proper, not off-hand, fact check. (Price Talks Ep12—listen here.)

Is the situation in our inner city really as bad as in places like Lesotho or Guatemala? (“Exercise a high degree of caution” about these countries, says the Government of Canada.) And should this neighbourhood carry the stigma of crisis and chaos on its own, or are there issues of significance elsewhere in the city…in the region….or across the province?

The animated map on this page tells the story, courtesy of data provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the BC Coroners Service — you can access their public data on the topic of overdose deaths here.

Note the tiny spot in the inset map; the downtown eastside neighbourhood has consistently been at South Africa-Honduras levels of homicide death rate since 2010 — of course, not from homicides, but from drug overdose deaths, typically correlated with measurable levels of tainted drug supply (and within that, typically fentanyl).

Overall, the scope and pace of tragedy across our province is unprecedented and utterly alarming.

Where’s our travel advisory? Where’s the emergency response?

And is the brightening of the colours for 2018 indicative that we’re nearing the light at the end of this tunnel, or will Q4 numbers cast a darker shadow over even more of the province?

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In August, our friends at Cambie Report — with their podcast guest, political science researcher and professor Stewart Prest — devised a new political spectrum as part of their analysis of parties and candidates participating in the fall municipal election campaign in Vancouver.

What began as an idea turned into a crowdsourcing experiment for positioning Vancouver’s political parties and mayoral candidates as points on a new kind of matrix.

Bound by the traditional Left-Right ideological spectrum (X-axis), and an Urbanist-Conservationist continuum (Y-axis), the chart is a sociopolitical version of Gartner’s well-known technology ranking methodology the Magic Quadrant.

Co-creator Ian Bushfield of Cambie Report explains:

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Simon Fraser professor Anthony Perl was perfectly right when he called the proposed ten lane multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge a “loser” on CBC radio, noting that the existing Massey Tunnel could be upgraded for trucking traffic, rail cars, and of course public transport. But the report just released by the Provincial government written by Stanley Cowdell and associates is well worth having a read. It coherently lays out the issues, the misses, and the facts on creating more capacity crossing the Fraser River near the existing Massey Tunnel.

The report which can be read here fearlessly lays out the rationale for why the new crossing was being considered by the previous Liberal government, assessed the solutions, and provides independent findings and recommendation for going forward on the crossing.

It is a document that provides the history of the crossing and how an overbuilt ten lane bridge was planned for (the span was not to have any pilings in the water) and outlines that the various governments and councils may not have agreed upon the bridge concept, but that their interests align in providing safe, efficient movement.

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