Governance & Politics
November 5, 2019

DNV Council – For The Birds?

This week the municipal council of the District of North Vancouver voted to prohibit the keeping of pigeons in the District.  Or, more specifically, they voted to prohibit the keeping of pigeons by one resident.

Even that wouldn’t have particularly bothered me, except that the homeowner in question, Kulwant Dulay, happens to live next to the sole person complaining to the District about his pigeons – District council member Betty Forbes.

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At our live Price Talks recording on June 26th, Gord introduced the idea of a “grand bargain” having been struck on the North Shore (episode available here).

Price Tags contributor and North Vancouver writer Barry Rueger explains the theory, and gives it some shape and colour:

During the Q&A that followed the Price Tags taping at the North Vancouver District Public Library moderator Gordon Price asked Holly Back, a member of the City of North Vancouver council, how she felt about the “bargain” that had been struck between the City and the District.

The bargain is straightforward: the City will build lots of new housing, more than a thousand new rental units, and low income and supportive housing, while the District will do nothing, in order to preserve a suburban community of single family detached homes.

As the City grows, the District will remain unwelcoming—to both outsiders and population growth.

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What’s the big deal about District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little’s decision to step off the Metro Vancouver Board?

Perhaps nothing, except that the only other local governments not represented by their top elected officials are Lions Bay and Bowen Island, representing 5,000 of the region’s 2.5 million. (Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov, currently on a paid leave of absence related to a sexual assault charge and pending court date, is still listed as a Metro Vancouver Board member.)

One could say the opportunity to serve on the Metro Vancouver Board is not just an honour, but a responsibility of some significance, perhaps moreso than most municipal committees.

Metro Vancouver is a federation of 23 municipal bodies responsible for the planning and delivery of regional services like drinking water, wastewater treatment and solid waste management, and for regulating air quality, as well as plans for urban growth, including affordable housing. Its Board of Directors governs this mandate, and consists of elected officials from each local government, proportional to their size.

And thus the number of Directors appointed to the Board depends on the population of the municipality (or electoral area, or First Nation). Furthermore, directors are allowed one vote for every 20,000 people in their jurisdiction, up to a total of five votes.

That means, the more populous you are, the more directors and voting power you have on the Metro Vancouver Board.

Does it make sense that the District of North Vancouver, in the midst of broad public scrutiny into its actions (or inactions) to address development and housing pressures, has just one representative on the MV Board for its 88,000 people, and that this representative is NOT the municipality’s elected leader?

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You may have caught wind of the District of No Vancouver’s — how shall we say — odd approach to doing their part on the region’s housing issue.

Young people, seniors, low and fixed-income folks are struggling to live near services, employment and schools. Without sufficient or reasonable housing options in town centres and near transit, these vulnerable segments of our society are not just experiencing the stress of housing insecurity, they’re getting pushed out.

DNV is quite simply saying no to efforts to accommodate people in need. Repeatedly. Over and over again.

But Councillor Jim Hanson of team “No Vancouver” (pssst….this domain is available) has a solution.

Since it doesn’t look good to say no to people in need of housing, try saying yes, but in a different way. As in — “Yes, we’d like to give housing to people in need. We’ll just take it away from others.”

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Much continues to be said and written about the District of No Vancouver’s compulsive nixing of social and non-market housing projects.

In particular, current Councillor Mathew Bond is a frequent critic of the actions of his counterparts on Council. His Twitter feed serves as running commentary of No after No after No…somehow, he manages to keep an even and rational tone. Maybe just a hint of strain. The sound of one head slapping. Do you hear it?

Bond can’t afford to flame out at his colleagues too hard, because, much like a certain Federal ex-cabinet minister, he still has to work with these people, no matter how ethically challenged.

The parallel ends there, however; he’s member of an elected council, not of a party. He can’t hand in his card, cross the floor, and still keep his power. It’s a District council, and there’s no aisle to cross. He’d have to climb over the Clerk, and then where’d he be?

But he’s not the only one speaking out. Steven Petersson is a former DNV planner, and not only did he write a Master’s thesis on affordable housing provision, he worked as a residential support worker for disabled people for seven years.

In a recent letter to Mayor Little and his NIMBY cohorts — Councillors Muri, Curren, Forbes and Hanson — Petersson lays it on the line:

There’s a desperate community need for social and affordable housing.

Why put the needs of elites who already have homes over the disadvantaged who need your help?

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