BC Election – Neither Liberals or NDP understand tolls

It’s been a long time since my last post, but recent transportation news is too big to ignore. Both the major political parties have announced their stances on tolls.

On the same day the Liberals announced they would cap tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges at $500 a year starting Jan. 1, 2018 — a move that could cut a motorist’s driving costs by up to $1,000 a year — NDP leader John Horgan stole the Liberals’ thunder by promising to get rid of tolls for both bridges altogether if elected.

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A Long 11-week Federal Election Campaign – Good or Bad?

I’m not entirely sure I like the idea of a long 11-week federal election campaign. Voting day is this year is October 19, 2015. If memory serves me correctly, this is the first federal election under the fixed-election date era. Prime Minister Stephen Harper just asked the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament on Sunday, August 2; thus, triggering the election campaign preceding the fixed election date.

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Vancouver Civic Elections – November 15, 2014

Here’s a break from my currently scheduled travel blogging. I just wanted to put my two cents out there regarding tomorrow’s civic elections for the City of Vancouver. The whole province is undergoing civic elections in each city, township, district, and village, but I’m going to talk about Vancouver since that’s where I live.

Civic elections are the most personal election because it affects my daily life in the city from parking to parks and from public spaces to property taxes. Most people unwisely skip out on civic elections because they don’t think they are as important as provincial or federal elections. Simply not true. Civic elections have the biggest effect on how your city/town feels.

When I watch these elections, my big issue is always transportation. Those who’ve read my non-travel posts know that I’m a total transit nut. So naturally, my vote goes to where I feel transportation policies are best. I’m only going to talk about the 3 main parties in the running for mayor and city council.

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Changes for future municipal elections?

Here’s a personal wishlist for future civic elections.  I think one of these wishes is already set to happen for the next election.

1. Cap spending for municipal elections and limit donations

We need to even the ground for the municipal elections.   A lot of smaller cities run election campaigns from a candidate’s kitchen table.  In Vancouver, the two biggest parties have their own little “HQs” and book large venues for celebrating the election results.

By the way, did anyone notice the Vision Vancouver was at the Wall Centre Sheraton for their victory celebration.  Didn’t council just approve a huge Peter Wall development going up on Boundary Road between Kingsway and Vanness Avenue?  I don’t think the optics were too good there.

Limits are needed for any election to keep things in check and make sure all parties have a more equal say.  In 2014, we may see the

2. Simplifying the election card

I am a geek who is willing to spend time to research a little bit beyond the two big slates and vote across parties.  There were a couple of NPA and NSV candidates who didn’t get voted in that could have done a very credible job.  They had the background and skill set to help with some tough land decisions in Vancouver.

However, most people don’t have the time of day to research.  I know my head and eyes were starting to spin after reading a couple of election platforms.   I spent most of my time researching city council and I couldn’t really research much about 9 school trustees and 7 parks board trustees.  That would just take way too much time.

So how can we simplify the election card?  Well here’s my suggestion, but who knows if it will actually work.

Having 5 councillors elected through a ward system and 5 through the current at-large system could help us reduce the research numbness that comes with trying to select 10 councillors.

As for the school and parks board, I am going to suggest just a ward system to select the trustees.  It’s just going to be easier for the denizens to select one person to represent them on each board rather than picking at random.  Honestly, it feels like I’m picking at random when it comes to the school and parks board.

3. Online Voting

I believe this idea is already on the table for the next municipal election.  There are potential pitfalls with online voting.  However, if everyone received a unique voter ID with a unique password, this could work.  We already file our income tax online with a fair amount of security.  We could quite possibly implement online voting.

What would interest me most about online voting is whether voter turnout would be higher than current levels.   Normally, about a quarter to a third of eligible voters vote.  That’s extremely sad that non-voters allow the voting one-third to make the major decision of who runs the city.

One more list of endorsements

Spacing Vancouver has also just posted a recommendation list for their top 10 councillor choices and an alternate 5. It picks from across the board with NPA, Vision, Green, and Independent choices. It’s an impressive list. Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver did not make the top 10, but there’s one NSV candidate on the alternate 5 list.

I think Spacing Vancouver has recommended a very balanced city council with different views. This is the best list I’ve seen so far.

Personal take on the Vision Vancouver platform

Vision Vancouver lead by Mayor Gregor Robertson is looking for a strong re-election along with their COPE compatriots.  Here’s my look at their platform.

1. Homelessness and Affordable Housing

This is one of the keystones of Vision’s campaign.  Some things have been accomplished with help from the BC government in the past 3 years.  There’s a lot of debate whether Vision’s methods have been more helpful to renters and the homeless or more helpful to developers.  This is such a complex issue that I’m at a loss.

The one thing I’d like to see is a foreign ownership tax.  If you are not a BC resident and you own a place, we should probably add a small tax on top.  A lot of our speculation is coming from overseas buyers.  I know many cities around the world have this kind of tax.  The first one that comes to mind is Taipei where mainland Chinese were on a buying spree for quite a while.  (Oops.  Did I just suggest that Chinese are foreigners in Taipei?)

2. Creativity and Jobs

It looks both the NPA and Vision have similar records and rhetoric in this respect.  Both the past few administrations have been looking to reduce the business taxes and raise property taxes.  It’s a tax shift that has been going on for 6 years under Sam Sullivan and Gregor Robertson.  I don’t foresee any change of course for either party.

I think it’s the right decision to keep businesses happier in Vancouver.  I think businesses have always found the cost of operating a company expensive in Vancouver.  Both parties promise to cut red tape.  It’s just a matter of how they carry it out.

3. Safe, Livable Neighbourhoods

I think Vision has done a good job over the past 3 years, if not controversial at times.  I like the separated bike lanes, but they certainly do cause a bit of havoc around them.  How long did it take me to make a right turn from Hornby onto Georgia?  A long time.  Have I tried the new separated bike lanes?  No.  I prefer to take transit downtown and walk once I’m there.  Is there a need for these lanes?  I think there is and you need bold actions to bring about bold changes. Unfortunately, it’s created a ruckus between drivers and cyclists, which are not mutually exclusive groups by any means.

Other accomplishments would be the food carts.  This is an A++ move for the city and it’s made life on the street a little more exciting, especially gastronomically.  Whenever I go downtown, I start to plan which food cart I want to try next in between my trips to my shops.

Something I’m not so hot about is the 30 km/h speed zone along Hastings in the Downtown Eastside.  Yes, there is a real problem, but is a 30km/h zone along a major, major thoroughfare the answer?

4. Greenest City

Another keystone idea to Vision’s platform is the Greenest City.  In principle, I strongly support this initiative.  I think cities are at the forefront of the green movement.  Provincial and federal governments seem extremely hampered by inertia.  Cities, on the other hand, are quick to respond and make the important on-the-ground, visible differences first.  This is where Anton really differs from Vision and believes that “common sense” should focus on paying for the basics.  The basics are good and all, but we need to do tangible things now.

I’ll slot my favourite transit item under here too.  I prefer Vision’s approach to more buses that serve more of the city over the streetcar that serves primarily False Creek and Downtown.  It’s more cost effective.  Again, I love streetcars and the idea, but money is tight and we need to have more buses at this moment, not a streetcar.  However, let’s not give up the streetcar idea completely because Anton is correct that the streetcar will attract investment.  Just look at Portland and Seattle’s South Lake Union area.  Development has really taken off in those two places.

That’s my quick and dirty look at the platform.  Just remember in our Vancouver civic politics, that a member of an organized party doesn’t always agree with the leader.  Some of the city councillors under the different banners may have very divergent views from the mayoral candidate.  Most importantly, just go out and vote on November 19.

Greens Nominate Stephen Rees as Candidate for Provincial Election in Richmond East « Stephen Rees’s blog

Well, it looks like Stephen Rees has thrown his hat in the ring of BC Politics.  I did say once to him in a comment that he seemed to be the only voice of opposition that I regularly encountered in the media.  The NDP just never seemed to have much to say.  (Either that or the media just never covered it).

I would likely vote for Stephen if I lived his riding, but I don’t. So good luck to Stephen.  I hope he has a strong showing for the Greens.

Voter Abstinence

Trek Magazine

Cover of Fall 2008 Trek Magazine

UBC Trek Magazine, Fall 2008

I came across a copy of the UBC Trek Magazine and found a great little piece on something called Voter Abstinence.  It basically means what it says.  Voters have a tendency to not come out and vote during elections.  This abstinence is well illustrated by the low voter turnouts everywhere across this country.

UBC economist, Werner Antweiller, has just completed a study that examined three previous federal elections and the three most recent provincial elections to see if there was voter abstinence or voter migration, where a voter changes votes from one party to another from election to election.

“The swing vote doesn’t alone decide elections,” says Antweiler. “It comes down to giving the people who normally vote for a party a reason why they should come out again and vote for that party. What carries much more weight is non-voters turning into voters, and voters turning into non-voters.”

That’s a very interesting finding from this study.  If we look at how Obama has electrified to the US electorate, then we can see that voters want somebody or something positive to vote for.  Otherwise, they stay away from the ballot box.

Not sure how recent events in Ottawa will affect Canadian voter turnout now.  It seems events have further solidified partisan views across the country.  Since voters tend not to migrate, it looks like the other possible consequence of attempted coalition government and current proroguation is a further alienation of Canadian voters.  I think the disgust metre must be pretty high in the general public.

One thing is becoming increasingly clear, though.  Stephane Dion will have to step down in order to have a real alternative to Harper in the near future.  Also, it will be interesting how much damage Stephen Harper will suffer from his heated comments about “treason” and venomous attacks on the separatist/sovereignist camps.  The Liberals and NDP have likely further distanced themselves from most Western Canadians except for Vancouver proper and the Conservatives have thrown an ugly egg in the face of the Quebecois.

It will be interesting when Parliament meets again in January.  I think the Liberals will have colder feet about the coalition idea and the Conservatives will likely stay in power for a little longer.  Until the Liberals pick a new, more capable leader, then the status quo will likely reign.

DemocraticSPACE.com – detailed election blog

Democraticspace.com is just the cure for those looking for more info about the Canadian election.  It’s got some good blogging by many different authors from different parts of the country and of different political stripes.

You can choose your riding and get some more detailed information on your local candidates.  They have their own pundits who will give their take on different issues during this election.  They even have a strategic voting guide for each party, including the Conservatives.  However, I get the feeling they are not really trying to endorse the idea.

With less than a week to go now, it looks like the site is down just as I am writing about it.  It was working a few days ago when I first checked it out.  So do your due diligence and read up on what is important to you so you’ll be ready next Tuesday.  See you at the polling booth!  I’ll be reading up since I’ve narrowed my choice to about 2 parties and my riding is an ABC riding (Anything but Conservative).  So I get to vote for my 1st choice instead of my 2nd choice.

Also, just on the news recently, it looks like 5 Lower Mainland ridings are very tight contests, especially with Tory support dropping: Vancouver-Quadra, Vancouver-Centre, Burnaby-Douglas (Svend’s old riding), New Westminster-Coquitlam, and North Vancouver.  This election has turned out to be a lot more interesting than I thought.

Chalk one up for the people


Well, thank goodness some reason started to show and that people’s voices were heard.  The Green Party will now be at the National Debate.

The reasons for excluding the Green Party were more than ridiculous.  A party that can garner close to 10 percent of popular support nationally and actually now have an MP in Parliament; why exclude them anymore.

If we think back to a BC election about a decade ago, the then-BC Liberals lead by Gordon Wilson made a surprising surge in popularity after he was allowed in on a televised debate.  In BC, we’ve even given TV time to parties that don’t even have a member in the legislature.  So there should be no reason for excluding the Greens.

I know I’ve always been a little unclear on all of the Greens platform because the focus is mainly on the Conservatives and Liberals.  Hopefully, some meat will come out of this debate.

Normally, I skip the election debates because I hate watching grown men and women bicker at each other about each others’ policies.  However, with Elizabeth May being given a voice at the debate, it may be more interesting.   At least we will see what she has to show.