Politics

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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The transit referendum. Coming 2015 to your mailbox.

a black MKII SkyTrain at Nanaimo Station

Oh has my social media ever lit up with transit referendum news. Here’s the upcoming referendum question coming to your mailbox in 2015.

Do you support a one half percentage point (0.5%) increase to the Provincial Sales Tax in Metro Vancouver, dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan, with independent audits and public reporting?

  • Yes
  • No

And here are the projects slated to be covered by the 0.5% regional sales tax increase:

The transportation referendum will give Metro Vancouver residents the opportunity to vote on a potential funding source(s) for proposed new transportation investments to manage congestion, support 1 million more people living here and keep everyone moving, including:

  • better service on existing SkyTrain and bus routes
  • new LRT and SkyTrain lines in Surrey and Vancouver
  • new rapid bus routes throughout the region
  • replacement of the Pattullo Bridge
  • more frequent SeaBus and West Coast Express, and
  • safer pedestrian and cycling routes

More details about the projects are on Mayor’s Council website.

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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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Attention BC – today is voting day!

Today is November 19th, 2011.  It’s voting day in all municipalities across the province.  Vote for the mayors, councillors, and trustess that you feel will make a difference in your community.  There’s no level of government closer to our daily lives that our municipal governments.  Get out and vote BC!  Polls are open 8am to 8pm.

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.

Vancouver Civic Election 2011 Endorsements from around the web

Well, the big city election is just around the corner.  If you’re like me, then you’ve had a steady stream of phone calls from the big two parties, Vision Vancouver and the NPA, asking us to vote for them or attend their telephone town halls.  (Boy, are these parties rolling in a little too much cash.)

I’ve been ignoring the phone calls and erasing their messages.  I’ve been looking online for more information and came across a few interesting endorsements.

Michael Geller

Michael Geller is a Vancouver based architect, planner, real estate consultant, and property developer.  One of his biggest projects was working on the SFU UniverCity project.  He also ran for Vancouver city council in 2008.  He has two posts on his possible choices and definite “outs” for the upcoming election.  I don’t agree with all his choices, but it definitely is good to read about candidates that might not otherwise consider.  In his line of work, he’s also had the opportunity to interact with many of the candidates on a personal level.  It’s great insight to read about some of these candidates through Michael’s eyes.

Alex G. Tsakumis

I know I definitely don’t agree with many of Alex’s writings.  I remember reading a lot of his articles in the 24 Hours.  He was the perfect foil to Bill Tieleman’s NDP friendly articles in the 24 Hours, but he certainly does not pull his punches nor mince his words.  Maybe that’s what irks me about him.  All the same, I believe there should be balance in life and Alex’s view offer that to my usual views.

Actually, as I read some of his endorsements, I really appreciated his honesty and analysis of some of the city council candidates.  And he’s supporting Stuart MacKinnon of the Green Party for re-election to the Parks Board! So I think it’s worth a read, but you should just know it’s coming from a right-of-centre point of view.

Ned Jacobs

Ned’s name is fairly new to me. I just discovered yesterday that he’s the son of Jane Jacobs, author of many books on cities and economics that are classics in their fields.  Ned wrote an article in the Georgia Straight in support of the entire Neighbourhood for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV).  Who?  NSV is a very grassroots party that has actually grown from a group of neighbourhood committees.  I must say after looking at the NSV website and their candidates’ credentials, they are an impressive group of people.  They are talented folk who I also think deserve a chance.

Big Endorsement for an Independent – Sandy Garossino

All three gentlemen above have thrown huge endorsements behind Sandy Garossino.  Sandy was a crown prosecutor at one time with special emphasis on youth and gangs.  She’s also played a major role in stopping the major casino expansion at BC Place.  It’s impressive to see such unanimous support from across the political spectrum.  Sandy is definitely worth considering for one of 10 spots on council.

Personal take on NPA Vancouver ads

Has anyone else heard the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) ads on the radio?  Here’s my take on some of their stances in the ads.

1.  Vancouver budget has jumped $135 million.

I have no trouble believing this to be true.  In the larger scheme of things, what percentage of the entire Vancouver budget is $135 million.  Plus, it’s since 2008.  So over 3 years, the budget may have jumped $135 million.  That’s ~$44-45 million a year.  If the budget didn’t go up to cover the rising costs of fuel and labour, I’d be concerned.  A quick glance at 2010 Statement of Financial Information from 2010 actually shows a surplus of roughly $5.8 million.  It’s not like the city is losing money.  However, $135 million increase in budget really depends on how you look at it.

2. Budget surpluses should be returned

That sounds like a great idea.  So let’s take the $5.8 million surplus and return it to the ~500,000 denizens of Vancouver.  So that’s about $11 bucks per person.  So does that go to just to property owners or all residents in the city?  Who decides who gets what?  How much does it cost to refund $5.8 million?  Is it really worthwhile. I’d rather the city hold onto that money for a little longer for emergencies.  If I as a private citizen can do that with my personal savings, the city should be able to hold onto that money.  It’s not worth returning it in my opinion.  Maybe we could use part of the surplus for the streetcar idea.

3. Support St. Paul’s Hospital by lifting height restrictions

I have no idea if Vision Vancouver council is purposely restrict the height of St. Paul’s or whether it is the pre-existing height by-law of the neighbourhood that keeps St. Paul’s from expanding vertically.  I’m all for this idea.  If you think of University Avenue in downtown Toronto, there are large hospitals like Sick Kids, Toronto General, and Mt. Sinai line the street and are fairly modern buildings.

4. Streetcars for Downtown Vancouver

I really like streetcars.  I’ve had the joy of riding the Portland Streetcar, which I think is well implemented streetcar, and the Toronto streetcars, which are nice but seem to incur a lot of traffic jams in the middle of the road.  However, I think in the greater context of the Metro Vancouver region, the streetcar has to be lower down the list of priorities.  I would like to see the Evergreen Line and a south of the Fraser River LRT completed before we venture into streetcar territory.  If the city wants to go and build and operate the streetcars on its own, fine.  However, I think it’s too costly right now given that TransLink has bigger priorities at the moment.  I prefer the Vision Vancouver take on transit where we cost-effectively run more buses until we can get a rapid transit line down Broadway.

5. Vancouver lags behind in new business licenses

I believe this to be very true.  However, I think this has been the case for many, many years in Vancouver under many different administrations.  Of course, we don’t have the stellar 5-digit growth in licenses that surrounding municipalities have because Vancouver is already a well developed city within its borders.   For a new business to open in the city, it usually means another one has gone under.  Therefore, the net growth is small in Vancouver.  Richmond, on the other hand, has new business parks popping up and is filling in much of its sparse land.  Rent is also cheaper out there.  That’s simply real estate and economics. No wonder businesses would flock that way.  To blame few new business licenses on one administration is short-sighted.  I think this has been a problem in Vancouver for a long time under many administrations.

One additional note:  I don’t listen to the radio all that much, but I have sensed a lot more air time for the NPA than Vision Vancouver or COPE.  I don’t think I’ve heard a single Vision nor COPE ad on the radio.

What Can Local Politicians Really Change?

I think this is a question that a lot of people ask themselves, but usually in a rhetorical fashion.  A lot of people believe that local politicians can’t do anything.  This results in large voter apathy for municipal elections.  As many as half the people in the city don’t know a civic election is happening this month.  You would think the lawn signs have tipped people off by now.

I personally think local politicians can make a huge difference in change.  If we look at New York City and Toronto, we can see how local politicians have made changes for the better or worse.  Without mayors like Michael Bloomberg and his city administration, New York City would not have achieved some of the most amazing changes it has ever seen.  The decision to close most of Broadway to vehicular traffic is a huge local decision that has changed the face of New York.  The current New York administration has also implemented other changes that have improved bicycle and pedestrian movement in the city.

Then there’s Toronto and Mayor Rob Ford.  He has turned the city upside-down in his efforts to “stop the gravy train.”  People are still wondering where exactly this gravy train is.  He has lifted levies that helped bring revenue to the city and has reversed multi-million dollar decisions in transit that have incurred large penalties.  Now, he dangles library, police, and fire services from the plank all in the name of “stopping the gravy train.”

So please don’t tell me that local politicians can’t really make changes.  They can and in a very big way.  So if you are in BC, then please go out and vote this November 19th.  If you can’t make it on the 19th, then consult your local municipality’s website to see when advance voting is taking place.

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.