Eby Provided Vision Credibility

David Eby’s failed run for a Vision nomination was from the outset a quixotic crusade. Why would a person who works hard for the homeless and those with insecure housing run for a nomination with the party that received the lion’s share of the developer’s loot in the last election cycle? These are the people who, with the municipal government’s sanction, have built no affordable housing over the last 10 years (other than when forced to by council in order to qualify for development permits) and who have driven up property values in this town to the point where no middle income person can afford to move here.

Eby’s candidacy gave Vision something that ad agencies and backroom operatives cannot pull out of their bag of tricks: as an idealistic and passionate reformer, Eby provided Vision with spirit and the appearance of reformism.

On Frances Bula’s essential blog (francesbula.com) one of the defeated Vision nominees for Parks Board, journalist Hadani Ditmars, wrote the following as a ‘comment’:

“I ran for Park Board after receiving a phone call from Raymond Louie while I was in London this summer, writing about Vancouver and Vancouverism for the Guardian and the Globe, encouraging me to run. … (U)nbeknownst to me, the backroom boys had already cooked up a slate well in advance of my phone call from Raymond, I never heard from him again. I like many other candidates, was just part of a political strategy to boost Vision’s power in their negotiations with COPE, among other things.”

Like Ditmars, Eby’s run provides Vision with ‘credibility’ as they continue with their absurd attempt to present themselves as ‘reformers’.

58 West Hastings: Why Won’t Vision Take a Position?

Vision Vancouver has been avoiding taking a position on a key development proposal for the quickly gentrifying Downtown Eastside. Concord Pacific, the largest developer in Vancouver, is proposing a new 160 unit condo development for 58 West Hastings, about a half a block east of the Woodwards development on Hastings. The development will further increase pressures on low income housing in the area, further raise property values in the area, and lead to a new round of displacement of low income tenants from the area.

This development proposal puts in stark perspective the fact that choices around housing essentially involve political decision making. As reported by Frances Bula, at a well attended and passionate development board meeting on the project held in June of 2008, Vancouver’s head of planning, Brent Toderian told the crowd that “Market housing is allowed in this neighbourhood and it’s not the purview of this board to say otherwise”. In reviewing the concerns about the development, a city report, dated May 2008, makes the same point: “Many of the issues raised related to issues broader than this particular development application”. People need to redirect their attention from convenient villains like city bureaucrats and city developers and towards the municipal political parties. Municipal politicians set the rules by which the developers and bureaucrats play, and  concerned citizens need to hold the politicians liable for development in Vancouver.

As expected, the NPA has come out clearly on the proposal, affirming its support of the project. At least we know where they stand. However, Vision Vancouver and COPE have refused to take a position on it. In fact, rather than adding clarity, their statements on the matter cloud their intentions in fog.

In a politically acute and funny piece in the Courier, conservative columnist Mark Hasiuk documented his pursuit of a number of Vision politicians in an attempt to learn Vision’s position on the development. Haksiuk contacted Vision Council members Tim Stevenson, Raymond Louie, George Chow and Heather Deal. Deal did not return his calls. Louie refused comment. Stevenson said that he did not know Vision’s position, but he expected to be able to address the question after a Vision caucus meeting. Chow said he was ‘open to discussion’ regarding the social housing component in the development. Hasiuk also contacted David Eby, who was seeking a Vision nomination at the time (this was prior to his loss). Eby stated he opposed the project as it stood. Eby also said that Vision has no position on the development. (Aside: In another of Frances Bula’s Blog entries, she notes that ‘The company [Concord Pacific] actually had [Vision founding member] Jim Green work on a proposal for the city planning department’). Hasiuk also contacted COPE’s David Cadman, who complained about the NPA’s ‘rush to judgment’, and then complained about lack of community consultation.

Cadman and Chow each exhibit typical small ‘l’ liberal reactions to questions of social justice. Notice how neither gave a straight answer about whether they support or oppose this development. Cadman avoids taking a position on the topic, instead criticizing the NPA and criticizing the city process regarding the development proposal.  Chow embraces the classic liberal rhetoric of a possible ‘win-win’ situation, whereby he implies, but does not state, that perhaps there could be a social housing component to the development.

The proposal is a hot potato for Vision. They need to appear to be working for people with insecure housing, but they also need the funding from the developers, who provided them with the lion’s share of their war chest in the last election. Concord Pacific is the spin off from the greatest real estate scam Vancouver has ever seen, when the ‘free enterprise’ provincial Socred government sold a huge portion of the downtown core for $125 million dollars to Hong Kong plutocrat, Li Ka Shing. Since that time, Concord Pacific has dominated Vancouver development, milking the land acre by acre, development by development. If Vision came out squarely against this market development, or demanded serious social housing concessions in order to approve the development, it would send a message to the whole development community. This could jeopardize their funding base.

So don’t expect a clear statement from Vision on this matter, look for more solemn pronouncements from Vision and from their farm team, COPE using such warm liberal words like ‘community’, ‘process’, ‘consultation’, ‘dialogue’, ‘change’ and other  vacuous jargon.  At least the conservatives, like the NPA, can state things clearly.

Vision Vancouver blocks nomination of David Eby

Lots of interesting results from the big Vision Vancouver nomination meeting today. But the big story is that PIVOT housing activist David Eby finished ninth, 17 votes out of a council nomination. The loss was largely due to the fact that Kerry Jang, Geoff Meggs and Andrea Reimer organized a slate that did not include Eby.

Eby, who turned down an offer to run for COPE on the basis of “electability,” would seem to have grossly overestimated the willingness of Vision Vancouver to take on a candidate with a history of taking on the city’s slumlords and developers. More on the Vision Vancouver nomination coming soon, including a look at the inexplicable selection of Sharon “shotgun” Gregson for school board.

Left eye joins municipal politics media contest!

Readers of this blog are encouraged to check out an innovative contest set-up to help promote independent journalism and civic discussion. Votermedia.org is hosting the Vancouver election blog contest: Check them out today!

Vision – COPE “negotiations” continue

With nominations just over a month away, the ongoing saga between Vision Vancouver and COPE continues. Apparently, talks are taking place.

So far, Vision has said that it will leave spots open for COPE incumbents. On council, that means Coun. David Cadman.

But that won’t satisfy COPE, Ellen Woodsworth, a former city councillor again seeking a COPE nomination for council, said Friday.

“At this point, the decision is to not run a COPE mayoral candidate if we can reach an agreement with Vision,” Woodsworth said.

“But if we can’t reach an agreement, we would run a COPE mayoral candidate.”

In other words, the status quo for the past year and a half at least: COPE is trying to negotiate unity with Vision, Vision is ignoring COPE or offering them table scraps, and COPE is making half-hearted threats to run a mayor if Vision continues to bully them.

The hawks at Vision, and the pundits who love to demonize Tim Louis, would be wise to remember what happened as a result of the Treaty of Versailles after WWI. In case this analogy is unclear: If you can’t stand Tim Louis, then resist the primordial urge to destroy the left and make a respectable peace offer to COPE, otherwise you will find yourselves running against a COPE mayor supported by former councillor Louis.

Gregson shooting for re-election

Sharon Gregson, who made headlines in 2006 for her advocacy of concealed weapons and the elimination of gun control in Canada, is running to get a nomination for re-election to the Vancouver Board of Education.

The school trustee left COPE to join Vision Vancouver earlier this year. Vision Vancouver supporter and pundit Bill Tieleman endorses Gregson, but COPE may well consider this addition by subtraction; the NPA, for their part, must be hoping she gets the nomination so that the general electorate can decide whether having a gun nut in charge of our school children is a good plan for Vancouver.

Liberals blurring NDP Vision for Vancouver

Politics makes for strange bedfellows, but one wonders if the NDP members who make up a good chunk of the base of Vision Vancouver are uncomfortable shacking up with so many federal Liberals.

A number of Vision candidates will be voting for this guy in the upcoming federal election.

A number of Vision candidates will be voting for this guy in the upcoming federal election.

A number of Vision executive members and prospective candidates are leading organizers with Stephane Dion’s party, even with Peter Ladner offering a much more Liberal-friendly face on the NPA than the dethroned Harper Yes Man Sam Sullivan.

First up is veteran Liberal operative Greg Wilson, a supporter of Gregor Robertson and executive member of Vision. Wilson, before being dumped during the campaign, was in fact the 2005 campaign manager… for the NPA! He is better known as a long-time backroom Liberal.

Vision executive member Greg Wilson managed the 2005 NPA campaign.

Vision executive member Greg Wilson managed the 2005 NPA campaign.

And then there are the council candidates stepping forward to compete for a nomination with Vision Vancouver. Among them are a number of long-time NDPers, but also some staunch Liberals.

There’s Catherine Evans, who lost out to MP Joyce Murray for the Liberal nomination to replace Stephen Owen in the recent by-election. And there’s Demetri Douzenis, who at age 30 with little to no municipal issues experience is trying to jump straight into the big leagues, a long-time Canadian Forces reservist who has also served on the Liberals Quadra executive.

I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising, since Vision Vancouver did start out as the Friends of (Liberal Senator) Larry Campbell.

It will, however, be interesting to see how the internal dynamics play out within Vision, especially if there’s a federal election this fall. Meanwhile, no word on whether Vision will be offering any kind of unity deal to COPE, whose executive continues to leave the door open to such an arrangement (while some disgruntled COPE members lose patience with their years-long ordeal). Could it be that the Liberals within Vision are blocking any kind of unity with COPE?

NPA Homecoming Queen: Melissa De Genova

Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight reports that after a brief “fling” with Vision Vancouver, Melissa De Genova has gone home to the NPA to seek a Park Board nomination. Could Al De Genova be far behind?

It’s true that De Genova’s family defected to Vision Vancouver in 2006 after Mayor Sullivan suspended the five-term park commissioner from the NPA caucus.

But De Genova is a real-estate agent, and Vision Vancouver is really the NDP farm team in Vancouver. There aren’t many real-estate agents who support the NDP.

Meanwhile, one of the city’s newest real estate agents, long-time COPE (and NDP) member Aaron Jasper, has made the leap to Vision Vancouver to pursue a nomination for Park Board. Many COPE members will likely be shocked at this “defection,” as Jasper was until very recently a most vociferous critic of Vision Vancouver. His campaign launch event was held at the recently re-opened Nelson Park in the West End.

It’s not easy pretending to be Green in city politics

With Alan Garr on vacation, Vancouver writer-activist-gadfly Tom Sanborn is contributing a few op-eds in the Vancouver Courier. This week, Sanborn casts doubt on the much heralded “green” credentials of NPA mayoral hopeful Peter Ladner:

NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner has created the impression he is a new kind of business friendly and environmentally correct politician, likely to arrive at city meetings on his famous bike and to lard his speeches with enviro pieties. His web page even has a green colour scheme. But…

During the last city election, current mayor Sam Sullivan campaigned on a promise to reduce TransLink fares. Ladner joined Sullivan and his NPA colleague Suzanne Anton on the TransLink board in failing, over the three years that followed, to act on that promise–one that would have promoted more environmentally friendly use of our transit system.

Ladner’s support for the traffic-snarl-engendering big box Canadian Tire store in November 2007 has to be considered, too. The store, it has been estimated, will be responsible for adding up to 7,000 tons of greenhouse gases to our city’s air each year, so the colour to invoke here is an unpleasant car exhaust brown, not environmental green.

To be fair, Vision Vancouver also has a dubious record on some of these fronts. COPE also promised to reduce transit fees when they came in in 2002, but that was a promise that the likes of Larry Campbell and Raymond Louie quickly reversed. At the time, now Park Board commissioner Spencer Herbert was steaming mad at the sell-outs:

As we have seen with the recent fare increase, Campbell and Raymond Louie do not support bus riders and have no problem breaking election promises. Voters and party members were lied to. In the last election, Campbell said that he wanted a city where there would be no throwaway people, where no one would be left behind. These statements are pretty ironic now that starting January 1 even more low-income bus riders will not have the option of using public transit, being thrown away and left behind for a public-private-partnership RAV line.

Anyway, back to 2008: All parties are tailoring their campaign message to the green vote. This will come as no solace to former Green councillor Dr. Fred Bass (the greenest elected official Vancouver has ever had, arguably), who basically was unelected in 2005 because of his support for the Burrard Street Bridge trial bike lanes. In Vancouver, some people’s environmentalism is a mile wide and an inch deep. Let’s see what genuine green policies will turn up in the campaign promises of the NPA, Cope and Vision Vancouver. The municipal Green Party, for its part, seems to have essentially folded itself into Vision Vancouver following the council ambitions of former school trustee Andrea Reimer.

Sustainable city? Let’s send a message in a (banned) bottle

In this election year, rhetoric about sustainability is blowing in the wind. But the answer, my friend, to the question of which west coast North American city is the most sustainable is far from clear.

It turns out that pretty much everybody in California is out in front of Vancouver on the issue of plastic bags. Following a similar move by San Francisco, Malibu and others, the City of Los Angeles will ban plastic bags by July 1, 2010.

Last year, Vision Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson brought forward a similar proposal (but the now bagged Sam Sullivan and the NPA nixed it), and now Stevenson wants to put a kibosh on bottled water at all city facilities. Peter Ladner, one of two bicycling businessmen with a green reputation running for the mayor’s seat, may just have to support both of these initiatives if voters are to be expected to buy his greenwashing of the old NPA machine.

Let’s hope that Vancouver can catch up to California, and start fazing out this waste.

If these issues fire up your carbon-reducing engine, check out the Council of Canadians, which is publicizing worldwide efforts to ban bottled water, which is probably up there in the top 10 most planet-destroying industries in the world.