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.

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

  1. Seriously green – the facts Tom Sandborn didn’t ask for…Share

    In this Wednesday’s Vancouver Courier, columnist Tom Sandborn (August 6, Green Ladner a shade of Brown) seriously misrepresented my record on environmental initiatives. (Had Sandborn called me, I could have helped him write an accurate column.) I am proud of the work I have done on the environment as a Vancouver city councillor, especially the motion I introduced to reduce the city’s GHG emissions by thirty per cent by 2030, by 80 per cent by 2050, and to have all new buildings carbon neutral by 2030.

    Sandborn’s column included several errors about my environmental record.

    For the record…

    I introduced a successful motion that said future transportation revenues should come from sources other than property taxes and fare increases. I also introduced a motion to bring in a public bike-sharing system to Metro Vancouver, similar to the successful Velib program in Paris. It’s being planned now.

    On the Burrard Bridge, we need to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians without losing a lane of traffic and without spending $65 million.

    Allowing the Granville Bridge to be used for heavy traffic will not, as Sandborn alleges, add to the city’s traffic snarl. It will in fact reduce pollution because it will allow tour buses from the airport to come directly down Granville Street, instead of the circuitous route over the Cambie Street Bridge.

    He also has no idea what’s been going on at the Metro Vancouver Waste Committee, where I have supported the Zero Waste Challenge and faced up to the difficult choices of what to do with our non-recycled waste after the Cache Creek landfill closes in 2010. Sandborn sounds like he’s not aware that the Green Party in Germany now embraces waste-to-energy conversion as having a lower environmental impact than landfills, or that his favoured councillor David Cadman’s proposed environmental assessment of different disposal options is already being done by Metro Vancouver staff. If Sandborn wants to be righteous about garbage disposal, what’s his pick out of three difficult choices: burn it, bury it, or don’t pick it up?

    Here’s a recycled idea to ponder: don’t trust pundits who don’t do their homework, and don’t trust people who are righteously green but have no voting record.

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