Questions for New Westminster mayoral and city council candidates, 2018 version

It’s election time in New Westminster and you know what that means? Questions! And not highly personal and completely offensive questions written by an asshole, I have some silly and serious questions! Let’s go!

1. There are two types of people in the world: people who like simple pop-culture “what type of cheese are you” quizzes that they can then share on Facebook, and people who don’t. Sadly, I don’t have a quiz for you but this is close enough: are you an order muppet or a chaos muppet? Which muppet are you?

2. When was the last time you visited City Hall? What changes would you propose to make City Hall more welcoming? When was the last time you attended a City Council meeting? What changes would you propose to make City Council meetings more welcoming? Sorry, I guess that was kind of four questions.

3. Buy Low Foods recently shut its store in Uptown, leaving a hole in the market for grocery stores. What will you do to ensure that there is proper competition among grocery stores and a Save-On Foods opens in that location, restoring the competitive marketplace that the Competition Bureau foisted upon us in 2014?

4. New Westminster has a number of advisory committees, task forces, and working groups. Upon being elected, which one would you like to chair the most and why? No need to restrict yourself to an existing one either, if you feel strongly that a new one needs to be formed (that you’d obviously chair) feel free to answer that!

5. What is your favourite neighbourhood, and why is it Brow of the Hill?

6. The process leading up to and including the public hearing for the temporary modular housing in Queensborough was… challenging, to say the least. This question is only for the non-incumbent candidates: on the final motion to amend the OCP and rezone the property to allow the temporary modular housing, how would you have voted? Please note that you may describe why you would have voted a particular way, but you must say whether you would have voted in favour of or against the motion on the table.

7. Who would be on your sasquatch hunting team?

8. How do you propose engaging with renters, new immigrants, and youth?

9. With absolutely no apologies to Chris Campbell, what would your entrance music be? Please note that if you dare pick We Built This City by Starship you are hereby banned from ever running for public office ever again.

Psst, candidates, I’ll email these questions to you soon so hang tight with your responses!

Mapping the 2018 New Westminster Election Candidates

Now that the nomination period is over, we know who will be running for municipal public office in New Westminster in 2018. We have:

  • 4 mayoral candidates (1 will be elected)
  • 14 city council candidates (6 will be elected)
  • 16 school trustee candidates (7  will be elected)

New Westminster’s election isn’t as chaotic as Vancouver’s. We don’t have anybody running under an alias (unless you count James “Jimmie” Bell), we don’t have anybody running for two positions, and we don’t have anybody running who lives outside of New Westminster.

Update: After some comments on Facebook and discussions I’ve had, I’ve removed the map. Although candidates’ addresses are (currently) public information, making this information more widely disseminated can potentially discourage some to put their names forward, as home addresses can be used by people who aren’t so nice to do not so nice things.

The geographical information of where candidates do and do not live is still interesting, however! Here’s a little summary of which candidates live in which neighbourhoods (as defined by the city’s Residents’ Association Boundaries map):

Connaught Heights

No candidates.

West End

Troy Hunter (council)

Moody Park

Mark Gifford (school trustee)

Chinu Das (council)

Mary Trentadue (council)

Chuck Puchmayr (council)

Glenbrooke North

Cathy McCallum (school trustee)

Ellen Vaillancourt (council)

Nikki Binns (mayor)

J.P. Leberg (school trustee)

Douglas Woodward (school trustee)

Massey Victory Heights

Lisa Graham (school trustee)

Brow of the Hill

Paul McNamara (council)

Steve Tsonev (school trustee)

Benny Ogden (council)

Angela Sealy (council)

Nadine Nakagawa (council)

Patrick Johnstone (council)

James Bell (mayor)

Queens Park

Bryn Ward (council)

Alejandro Diaz (school trustee)

Daniel Fontaine (council)

McBride Sapperton

Jaimie McEvoy (council)

Cyrus Sy (school trustee)

Mary Lalji (school trustee)

Danielle Connelly (school trustee)

Maya Russell (school trustee)

Scott McIntosh (school trustee)

Dee Beattie (school trustee)

Anita Ansari (school trustee)

Quayside

Mike Ireland (council)

Downtown

Harm Woldring (mayor)

Jonathan Cote (mayor)

Queensborough

Gurveen Dhaliwal (school trustee)

 

And just to keep things on the up-and-up, here’s the original (and now kind of redacted) blog post.

What we do have is a map:

It’s pretty easy to see that there are some neighbourhoods that are under-represented (Connaught Heights doesn’t have any candidates, Queensborough, West End, and Massey Victory Heights only have one each) and some that are well-represented (Moody Park and Brow Of The Hill). Sapperton has eight candidates!

Mayoral candidates all live between First and Seventh Streets. Well, I’m not entirely sure if that’s true because Harm Woldring put his residential address to be that of his business downtown. But hey, who am I to say that he doesn’t live there?

Council candidates all live between 13th Street and Cumberland. Only one lives in Sapperton.

School trustee candidates have the largest geographical spread, from Queensborough to Sapperton.

Use this information however you want! Maybe you want to vote for people that live furthest from the Fraser, now you’ve got an easy reference guide!

The Official CanSpice City Council Candidate Platform!

That’s right, I’m running! Without further ado, here’s my platform. I hope you vote for me for New Westminster City Council!

Housing

Housing is obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. There are people who would say yes to everything and people who are concerned about overdevelopment. Obviously the people who say yes are right, and I’m hoping that you’ll say yes to Brad in New West with my fantastic housing platform.

First, some people are concerned about too many towers in New Westminster. They block views, they throw too much shade, they create concrete canyons. I totally sympathize. There’s nothing I would want more than to walk down a street and not be shaded from the blazing sun. I hear skin cancer is a myth anyhow. And that’s why the first plank in my housing platform is to do away with towers. No new towers in New Westminster! And especially no more towers downtown where they can block views! Instead I propose a single six-hundred storey tower to be built at the top of New Westminster at the Westburnco Sports Courts. It’ll be perfect! Because it’s at New West’s highest point there aren’t any views to block! It’s not downtown!

Now I’m sure that some of you are going to poo-poo that idea. That’s okay, disagreement is fantastic, and that’s why I’m willing to compromise. Instead of a single six-hundred storey building, and in keeping with my NO NEW TOWERS theme, I propose a series of underground buildings. That’s right, instead of going up let’s go down! You can’t block a view with a hole in the ground! I affectionately call this one my “Morlock Manors” plan. These underground buildings will also be cool in the summer and warm in the winter, as the ground acts as a natural thermal regulator. That means less electricity used on heating and cooling, which means they’re better for the environment!

Now I’m sure some of you are going to poo-poo that idea too. And that’s why I have a third idea. I propose giving a series of grants to Douglas College to found a Materials Science department, and direct them towards innovating a cost-effective replacement for cement and steel that is also transparent. This new material will be used in all new builds taller than three stories. That’s right, with transparent towers you don’t have to worry about blocking a view, you can just look right through to the mountains and the Riverfront!

Transportation

Transportation is obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. Traffic is a nightmare, and most of it is caused by people from outside of New West driving through New West. My first transportation proposal is therefore to ban private motor vehicles from crossing New Westminster’s borders. Whoever’s in is in, whoever’s out is out. No more through-traffic means no more traffic! New Westminster’s streets will be for New Westminster’s residents! Oh and of course because transit is the best we will let every SkyTrain and bus cross into and out of New Westminster however they please.

But what about getting goods into New Westminster? Astute readers will note that I didn’t ban trains or bicycles, which gives industry a choice of transportation options. I look forward to the fleet of electric cargo bikes being used for deliveries within New West! But wait, there’s another option, and it ties into the current Q2Q ferry and my proposal for replacing this service.

The Q2Q ferry pollutes and it’s relatively slow. That’s why I propose replacing it with the Q2Q Qatapult. Bonus: turn it around and you have a quick and effective way to get people from Downtown to Uptown! And with a series of Qatapults around town we can use them for delivering goods to all of New Westminster’s neighbourhoods!

Obviously the Q2Q Qatapult will be fully accessible from the very start. What kind of city implements a transportation project that doesn’t accommodate all of its citizens? A crazy city, that’s what kind of city.

Tying into my Westburnco Estates proposal, we will obviously need some way to get all those people around. And let’s face it, some people are not too keen on traveling by Qatapult. That’s why I’m proposing high-speed rail between the six-hundred storey tower and the Braid SkyTrain station. At a modest 300kph the travel time will be a zippy 26 seconds!

I was going to propose a tunnel underneath New Westminster from Sapperton through to the Queensborough Bridge (but definitely not the Stormont Connector, that’s crazy) but that’s already in the Master Transportation Plan. Ah well, it’s not like other New West political parties aren’t proposing things that are already in the works, so what the hell! Let’s put a tunnel underneath New Westminster!

Note that I have no idea how much this will cost in materials and labour and whatnot, but it’s not like proposing these things without figuring that out has stopped anybody before!

Parks and Recreation

Parks and recreation are obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. Some people want to make sure that the Canada Games Pool keeps its ten lanes when it gets rebuilt despite it only having eight now, and some people want to make sure that sports like trampoline and gymnastics that don’t involve buying a shit-ton of equipment each year are killed by postponing the Arenex replacement construction. These are crazy ideas. Mine are much more sane.

My first proposal for parks and recreation builds upon the city’s recent parklet projects. I feel that  this is too slow. One parklet per neighbourhood per year is just too darned slow. And that’s why I am proposing a parklini project, where unused tires are filled with dirt and have a tree planted in them. We can easily put down twenty parklinis a year and scatter them around the city, beautifying every neighbourhood equally!

And for the kids, some of the parklinis can be filled with sand and turned into sandboxinis! Wow, this is a sure-fire way to get the toddler vote, it’s almost like I put a little thought into this!

And let’s be fair, hockey and lacrosse are Canada’s national sports, so it only makes sense to invest in and promote them. Luckily we don’t need to do anything stupid like build yet another arena because with the drastic reduction in vehicles on the street we have acres and acres of pavement for street hockey and street lacrosse!

Continuing with the outdoor theme, I propose what I like to call the “JJ Lee Expedition”. Every Friday at noon a random selection of New Westminster residents will portage to Downtown Vancouver and hunt businessmen for their pelts, which will be brought back to New Westminster to turn into new clothing. Hey, JJ Lee didn’t call his book “The Measure of a Man” for nothing!

Economics

Economics is obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. With no businesses how do people live here?

The answer is simple. New Westminster is embracing various economic clusters. We have the health care cluster, other people have proposed a bridal shop cluster, and I’d like to hereby announce a bagel shop economic cluster. This will be centered in Victoria Hill, and all commercial shops in Victoria Hill will be required to sell locally-made bagels. Now you too can have your daily bagel, New West! The only restriction for this will be around naming: no naming your company “Royal City Bagels” or “Hyack Bagels”. Think up something original for a change, people!

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous is obviously the number one issue in New Westminster. I have a number of proposed policies to deal with this contentious issue.

Voter turnout in New Westminster is woeful. Some people say the way to help increase turnout is to engage the youth. I totally agree, but I don’t agree with who they target — people between 18 and 35. Who cares about millennials anyhow? They’re too busy eating avocado toast to worry about civic politics. That’s why I’m proud to be the first to announce a tween platform to try to improve the turnout for the all-too-important 10 to 12 age group. New Westminster needs an anthem, and who better to write and perform the anthem than Beyoncé? I hear she’s called Queen Bey and who better than a Queen to write the Royal City’s anthem? All official communications will be done via FaceTime. Council meetings will be held on a public Minecraft server, and all committee meetings will be held in Roblox. Flossing will not only be encouraged, it will be mandatory. And no I’m not talking about dental hygiene, old people, I’m talking about the dance! Geeze, dad!

Amalgamation seems to be all the rage these days, with Toronto going completely ape-shit and taking over half of Ontario, and the North Vancouvers taking a look into merging (yeah, I didn’t know there were two North Vancouvers either!). New Westminster needs to buck the trend and anti-amalgamate. Each neighbourhood will become its own city! And because of this we’ll have more mayors and therefore have a stronger voice in Metro Vancouver! Take that, Vancouver! You can’t push around all ten or twelve or thirteen or god knows how many of us there’ll be!

I also propose an official commission into finally figuring out just how many neighbourhoods New Westminster has.

Some people say New Westminster is Vancouver’s Brooklyn. While I don’t agree, I do think that we need to explore this idea further. That’s why I’m proposing razing New Westminster to the ground and rebuilding it to be exactly like Brooklyn. After this grand project is complete, New Westminster’s film industry will flourish as all of those films set in Brooklyn can now be filmed in New Westminster!

And I would like to finish with my most serious platform plank. Politics has been dominated by white men for too long, so I’m not actually running. Surprise! I bet I had you all fooled there!

So instead of voting for me, go out and support women and people of colour and people from other underrepresented groups who are taking the brave step in running for public office. And most importantly go vote!

New West Elects 2018 Bingo!

To help make the New Westminster election silly season even more silly, Cavanagh Productions (that’s the fancy name for me and my wife sitting around drinking and making shit up) have come up with a set of Bingo cards to help you laugh at… I mean laugh with candidates through this campaign season. Okay, Alice came up with the Bingo cards, all I did was type this up.

Here are the rules!

  1. Pick a candidate. They can be running for either City Council (or Mayor!) or for School Board trustee.
  2. Pick a number between 1 and 19. To help you pick (and to make sure not everybody picks 7 because god knows when you ask someone to pick a random number they always pick 7) here’s a helpful link.
  3. Click on your number to get your card: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.
  4. When your candidate says something official (press release, Tweet, Facebook, blog post, letter to the editor, campaign speech, etc) that’s on your bingo card, mark it off.
  5. If you get five boxes in a row, you win!

There will be prizes of buttons! Everybody loves buttons!

On Queensborough

This is going to be a bit of a lengthy post on various thoughts I have on Queensborough and the recently passed Temporary Modular Housing project.

On Yes In New West’s role

Yes In New West is a loose group of New Westminster residents who came together a couple of years ago to push for more choice in housing options, particularly those in the missing middle — townhouses and rowhouses. We’ve done a few small campaigns since then, an all-candidates meeting here, a letter-writing campaign there, but nothing that large.

During the process for rezoning the land on which the Temporary Modular Housing (or TMH) would be built, a group of Queensborough residents formed to try to stop it. They attended the Advisory Planning Commission meeting about the project and were unsuccessful at stopping it there.

Right around that time I made some modifications to Abundant Housing Vancouver‘s letter-generator program, and then launched a campaign to send letters of support to New Westminster city council. I was expecting maybe a couple dozen letters of support. I had asked AHVancouver how many letters they’d sent for various campaigns. They had put together a similar campaign supporting TMH in Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood, and another one for TMH in Richmond. These campaigns sent 119 letters in support of Marpole and 137 in support of Richmond. I thought we’d be lucky to get to fifty.

Then the New West Record put out an article about us. In our first day we had 30 letters of support. In three days we broke a hundred. After ten days we hit 138 and broke AHVancouver’s record for letters of support for a TMH project. A week later, and just an hour before the start of the public hearing, we sent our 196th letter.

The letters came from every single neighbourhood of New Westminster. They came from Sapperton, which has similar housing supplied by the Elizabeth Fry Society, in a building that faced similar opposition six years ago and is today hosts people that are a valued part of the community. They came from Brow Of The Hill, which has Westminster House and Last Door Recovery Society housing, whose residents volunteer at community events across Metro Vancouver. They came from Downtown New West, which has Genesis Society and Salvation Army housing near Qayqayt Elementary School, which have no problems coexisting.

And 25% of the letters that had addresses came from Queensborough. Queensborough has only about 10% of New Westminster’s population, so the Queensborough TMH had greater support there than from anywhere else in the city.

I was overwhelmed at all of the support Yes In New West was able to shine a light on. YiNW can’t take the credit, the 196 letter writers are more than deserving of all of the applause. We merely unlocked their support to let the city see how compassionate and welcoming they are.

On Queensborough

I like Queensborough. I think that it’s been dumped on in the past, but it’s getting better. The streets aren’t that great, there aren’t as many amenities as there should be (but it does have more park space per capita than the city average), the transit sucks, the sidewalks are crappy or non-existent, but it’s a nice community. I’ve been to the last two Queensborough Children’s Festivals, and they’re always full of energy, full of life, and full of community spirit. The last one I was at it was filled with people wearing shirts that said “Queensborough, Community With Heart”, and I still feel that that’s the truth.

Queensborough is filled with kind and welcoming people. Despite the efforts of the Facebook group Queensborough Residents for Responsible Community Planning (QRRCP), I cannot think of Queensborough residents as being unwelcoming. I believe that they’re just lacking the experience that others have when it comes to living in a community with housing for people who may have been living on the street, or are fleeing abuse, or are aging out of foster care with nowhere to go.

Acceptance often comes after exposure. We here in Brow of the Hill have been living with recovery houses for so long that they’re a fabric of our neighbourhood. We’re accepting of a wider range of people from a wider range of socioeconomic situations because we have that exposure. Queensborough residents don’t, so they can’t build up that acceptance and are more likely to believe in strawman arguments (“our kids will be playing in parks strewn with needles” or “mentally ill women will break into our schools with axes” or even “our property values will go down”) that have no bearing in reality. It’s only after exposure that the acceptance will come, and I’m very confident that Queensborough will accept these women as fellow neighbours and not as outsiders or others.

On Queensborough TMH

The Queensborough Temporary Modular Housing will provide shelter for 44 women who are either without a home or are at risk of losing their home. This isn’t a drug recovery centre, this isn’t a mental illness facility, it’s for women who do not have a place to live. That’s an important distinction, because being without a home does not mean you’re a drug user or have mental illness challenges. They could be teenagers turning 19 and aging out of foster care. They could be seniors on fixed incomes facing increasing rent and medical costs. They could be women fleeing domestic violence. All of these women — and those with other issues that were either caused by or the cause of losing their housing — have a right to a safe place to live.

So to hear fear-mongering from the Port Royal Mom’s Group or online petitions about vague “dangers to our children” is disheartening. Those same vague “concerns” in the QRRCP petition (which I will not link to) show up:

Queensborough Residents For Responsible Community Planning (QRRCP) is a group of local residents who are concerned with the precise location of this project, given its close proximity to large groups of children accessing school and community services.

…the current site is in direct proximity to over 680 students and hundreds of additional children who are potentially at risk to harm from exposure to active drug use, a potential increase in local drug trade/associated criminal activity, and, individuals exhibiting high risk mental health behaviours.

Of course, these concerns are largely unfounded. Qayqayt Elementary School has three recovery houses closer than this project is to Queen Elizabeth Elementary or Queensborough Middle School, and they coexist just fine. And tarring an entire group of vulnerable people with “active drug use” or “criminal activity” or “high risk mental health behaviours” is just plain scare-mongering. What about the 18-year old who’s transitioning out of foster care? What about the 75-year old woman who’s on a fixed income and cannot continue to pay her ever-increasing rent? What about the woman fleeing domestic violence? Why are you tarring these women with such fearful words? It’s almost as if they’re cherry-picking horror stories to drive up people’s fears to get them to oppose the project.

Nowhere in the petition does it mention the loss of parkland, which you’ll seen see was a theme of the majority of the speakers at the public hearing. I don’t know why they made this shift of narrative.

On The Public Hearing

It was disgraceful, and the overwhelming majority of that disgrace falls on the group of people who came out in opposition to the project. They were rude, they were disrespectful, and they created a hostile environment for everybody involved. The only raised voices I heard from anybody who was supporting the project was asking the loud opposition crowd to be quiet.

Women who had been given assistance through similar projects came out to speak in favour of housing, and a number of them bravely shared incredibly personal and heartbreaking stories. A lot of people from Elizabeth Fry and other similar organizations spoke about the massive benefits of projects like this, not only for the people involved but also for the community. I spoke, yes, but the brave women who shared their stories are the ones we should be focusing on.

And then there were the group of people in opposition. With threatening words towards council like “we’ll be watching” or “November, guys” (pro-tip: if you’re going to threaten politicians about an upcoming election, get the month right) and the clapping and shouting after anybody in opposition spoke, this group made City Hall feel like a riot was going to break out. Two women who were going to speak in favour were intimidated by this behaviour into leaving before they could speak. The safe and welcoming place that City Hall is meant to be was completely transformed by the intimidation of the opposition group.

Queensborough-Richmond MLA Jas Johal was in the lobby, but unfortunately did not speak about the project. After I spoke in favour, I passed him in the audience and he gave me some kind of a smug smirk. I learned afterwards that he was seen chatting and laughing with a group of people in opposition who were being loud and intimidating. This is poor behaviour from someone who is supposed to be a leader in the community.

None of the bullying came from people in support of the project. None of the intimidation came from people in support of the project. If someone in opposition to the project felt bullied or guilty because they stated their reasons for opposing the location, maybe that’s their conscience making an appearance. If you feel guilty because you’re opposing a project because it’ll take away park space when women who lived on the streets and could have died without projects like this speak up, then maybe it’s your conscience making you feel guilty that you place park space above housing a vulnerable neighbour.

I urge everybody to watch New Westminster City Council’s statements made after the Public Hearing as they voted in favour of the project. If you only have 15 minutes, skip to 30 minutes into the video and listen to Jaimie McEvoy’s heart-wrenching story.

On being heard

This group kept saying things like “we want you to hear us” or “yes to the project, but no to the location”. This sounds reasonable on the face of it. People want to be heard. But if you want to actually have a conversation, you have to do some listening as well. The people in opposition to the project stated that they wanted the project moved to another site such as a location on nearby Fenton Street. The city heard this request and did a detailed look at the site before determining that it would not work for this project. The money from the provincial government to build the building has a time limit on it, and the Fenton Street site required more work than could be done before that time limit, so it could not be moved to Fenton Street.

The city reported this, yet the people in opposition didn’t hear it. They continued to say “no to the location” even when they were told that the other locations would not work.

And the “yes to the project, but no to the location” argument is a typical (and here’s where some of you are going to get on me for using the word) NIMBY argument. It’s used to show some kind of sympathy, to show that you are actually in favour of housing vulnerable people, but for whatever reason the location just won’t work. “We’re in favour of townhouses, just stick them on busy arterials instead of our nice street.” “We’re in favour of towers, just not where they block our view.” “We’re in favour of temporary modular housing, just not so close to a school because we’re concerned about the safety of children.”

Well, guess what. If you’re opposed to the location you’re opposed to the project. The location is part of the project. You can’t separate them. Every location has its flaws; I can almost guarantee that if the Fenton Street site was the first choice of the city, these people would still come out and come up with excuses why the location is no good for the project. It’s next to single family homes, maybe, or it’s too far from transit, or some other excuse.

The only grace I’m willing to grant them is the loss of park space. Yes, the lot is currently covered in gravel, but it would not take much to throw down some grass and have it be a bit of a grassy field in a few months. The city should have come out right from the start saying “we realize that there will be a loss of green space, but the T in TMH means ‘temporary’ and the building will be gone in 10 to 12 years, after which we will restore the site to a much better quality than it is now.” Guarantee that the park space will be restored to the community and show that you’re listening to them on this point as well.

On The Future

The future is in Queensborough’s hands. It could go two ways:

One, the people in opposition rally in opposition to the project and protest on site when construction starts. The notice of public hearing sign was lying in the dirt when I went to the Queensborough Community Centre on Tuesday, and I’m hoping this wasn’t because someone was pissed off and knocked it over, I’m hoping that for whatever reason the city took it down and just left it there instead of hauling it away. I’m hoping that this wasn’t the start of larger protests. This reaction would obviously be a negative one, and definitely wouldn’t shine a great light on Queensborough.

The other way this could go is people welcome their new neighbours to their community. There are a number of people who have expressed interest in helping EFry with things like Compass Cards, or welcome packages. I’m hoping that kids from the two schools create gift bags for the new residents, similar to kids in Marpole. I’m hoping to see an overwhelming amount of support and compassion and empathy for our new neighbours and new members of our community.

After all, what did that wise man once say?

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

New West School District and the driver’s licence that isn’t ID

When you register you child to be enrolled in the New Westminster School District, you need to supply some kind of proof that you actually live in New Westminster. This proof consists of two pieces of documentation.

The first is one that shows some kind of tie to a piece of property located in New Westminster. This can be a property purchase agreement, a long-term tenancy agreement, or a property tax statement with home owner grant eligibility. I would like to point out that a property purchase agreement is not a proof that you actually live in the property you’ve purchased, because people do in fact buy property outside of the city in which they live. And let’s ignore all of those people living in co-op housing that don’t have any of those three pieces of documentation because they haven’t purchased property, they aren’t tenants, and they only indirectly pay property tax.

The second piece of ID can be one of the following: an income tax statement showing name and province of residency, correspondence from a government agency, a letter from a lawyer confirming your application of long term stay in BC, a letter from Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada confirming your application of long term stay in BC, vehicle registration, a recent paystub, a Medical Services Plan health card or enrollment letter, or a BC Identification Card.

Conspicuously missing from this list is a BC Driver’s Licence, which is the primary piece of identification for most people in BC.

When we registered Elizabeth for kindergarten, we only had recent paystubs, income tax statements, and an MSP health card. We lived in a co-op, so we didn’t have any proof of ties to an actual residence in New Westminster. The MSP health card we did have was one of the old style cards that only had the account number and our name on it, so that wouldn’t do for proof of address.

Needless to say at the time we were pretty pissed. I ranted a bunch on Twitter about it (not like I ever do that sort of thing) and eventually one of the School Trustees (Michael Ewen) called me and said he’d try to get things changed.

Given we eventually managed to get Elizabeth registered for school in New Westminster we forgot all about this, but trusted that the school district would actually change the documentation requirements.

Then a couple of days ago a friend of ours was registering her son in kindergarten in New Westminster and was bemoaning all of the documentation she had to pull together. I looked at the current registration form and lo and behold a BC Driver’s Licence still isn’t listed!

So I ranted a bunch on Twitter again, and here’s what two School Trustees had to say:

The underlying argument is that a BC Driver’s Licence isn’t allowed because you can just call up ICBC and change your address, so the address on your BC Driver’s Licence isn’t trustworthy as a proof of residence.

That argument is garbage for a number of reasons.

First, Section 31 of the Motor Vehicle Act states:

If the residential address of the holder of a driver’s licence issued under this Act is changed from the address stated on the driver’s licence, he or she must, within 10 days of the change of residential address, notify the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia of the change stating the number of his or her driver’s licence and his or her former and new addresses.

That means that by law the address on your driver’s licence must be your residential address.

Second, to change the address on your BC Identification Card, which is listed as acceptable documentation, you only have to call up ICBC and change your address. It’s the same procedure as for a driver’s licence, yet one card is accepted while another isn’t.

Third, one of the pieces of identification is a vehicle registration. Same change of address routine applies for that as for BCID.

Fourth, one of the pieces of identification is an income tax statement. This doesn’t have to have your residential address on it, it could have an entirely different mailing address on it. It could be a PO box, and I’m pretty sure those aren’t large enough to live in.

Fifth, every school district bordering New Westminster that requires a second piece of ID accepts a BC Driver’s Licence! Vancouver does, Burnaby does, Richmond does, Surrey does, Coquitlam does, Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows does, but New Westminster doesn’t.

Jonina Campbell says that the “district wants to make sure that seats go to students living in New West.” This is a fine goal, but the documentation required does absolutely nothing to actually ensure this. Suppose I live in Burnaby. I buy an apartment in New Westminster and rent it out. Because I have a purchase agreement for a property in New Westminster, that checks off the first piece of required identification. Then I get a PO box in New Westminster and have my income tax statements sent there. Now I have a second piece of required identification. My children can now go to school in New Westminster, even though they live in Burnaby, and everything that I’ve given the school district “proves” I reside in New Westminster.

Now, allowing a driver’s licence doesn’t fix this, as any of the other pieces of ID could be used. However, it has much stricter requirements that the address is actually your legal residential address than any of the other pieces of ID they allow. It’s the only one that is actually required by law to be your residential address. And yet the less stringent pieces of ID are allowed.

This nonsense has been going on for more than three years, and despite assurances from School Trustees nothing has changed. The School District drags its heels while parents scramble to comply with their outdated and completely illogical requirements. Will things change this time with two trustees looking into it? I’m not holding my breath.

“Go back to where you came from”

Yesterday a prominent New Westminster community member tweeted the following:

#newwest Nothing worst than having people move to a city and try and rewrite its history. If you don’t like it #gobacktowhereyoucamefrom

The tweet has since been deleted, but here’s a screenshot:

It’s in reference to the recent suggested changes to the annual May Day celebrations. Some people, myself included, want to see it taken out of the school system and taken over by a community organization, and that was one of the recommendations from the Task Force set up to look at May Day.

And here’s some feedback from their report:

Another principal/vice-principal found that the tension in the schools over the years means it has “become easier to continue with the event to avoid conflict rather than re-evaluate our purpose behind it.”

The overwhelming majority of the public feedback from those who would maintain the status quo focuses on the heritage value of the event and its ties to New Westminster’s history. And that’s fine, knowing some of the history of our city is important.

But what is also important is diversity and embracing all of our history, and that has lead to the “don’t change May Day” people to create the conflict that the principal/vice-principal’s quote above refers to. Even a simple matter of changing dresses from white to floral print was met with backlash. So when the Task Force recommended that May Day celebration be school-based instead of district-wide, that the Royal Suite selection process be ended, and that the larger district-wide May Day celebration in 2020 be taken over by a community organization, everybody expected strong pushback.

But I don’t think anybody expected the type of response we saw from Guy Ciprian.

The May Day celebrations in New Westminster are a British tradition. They don’t incorporate other cultures that have made up our city or currently make up our city. They definitely do not reflect the fact that the British settlers to New Westminster stole the land from the indigenous people who were living here, including the Qayqayt, the Kwantlen, the Musqueam, and the Kwikwetlem, among others. There’s always been an undercurrent of preservation of the colonial history over that of the people who were here first and whose land we live upon. And in these days of truth and reconciliation, it’s incredibly important that we question these colonialist traditions and change them when we can.

And to have a white guy come along and try to defend this tradition with a “go back to where you came from” statement is offensive to say the least. It’s racist, it’s classist, it’s straight up offensive.

And the scary thing is that this undercurrent is in our community. It’s blanketed by a “but our traditions” sentiment, but it’s there. That a prominent member of the community would actually state this out loud in public is shocking, but it’s also illuminating. It’s showing us that this otherism is there, and by exposing it Mr. Ciprian may actually be doing us all a favour.

We all have to step up and speak out and firmly declare that this is unacceptable. Your contributions to New Westminster cannot be measured by how long you have lived in the city. Your contributions and opinions cannot be dismissed because you were born in another city or country. And you definitely should not be told to “go back to where you come from” by someone who calls themselves a “strong supporter of [his] community”. And god forbid you try to change things to be more inclusive of all of the people of New Westminster without getting racist and classist declamations thrown at you.

Oh, and in case you think that Mr. Ciprian might be contrite after having New West Twitter blow up on him, think again:

Ha ha classism and racism is funny ha ha. Nobody’s laughing but you, Guy.

Update: Mr. Ciprian has since tweeted the following:

after some reflection regarding my recent misunderstood #newwest tweet, I am willing to own that it was poorly worded, crossed a line and that there was an error in judgement . #apology For the record, it was not about May Day!

Even after numerous people (myself included) asked what the original tweet was about, he has not said.

ACTBiPed Meeting Report for October 18, 2017

Our official ACTBiPed meeting for October 18, 2017 was cancelled and replaced with a projects sub-committee meeting. Some people (myself included!) like to get into the details of transportation system designs, so to keep regular meetings from getting bogged down, we have these sub-committee meetings. At the October 18, 2017 meeting we took a dive into the active transportation designs for the proposed Sapperton Green community.

Active transportation routes through Sapperton Green

Sapperton Green will have two new streets, an extension of Wilson Street, and a pile of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in it. Its proximity to the Braid Street SkyTrain station will hopefully mean that there will be greater uptake of active transportation modes by residents living there. The development of the area will also make connections from other neighbourhoods to Braid easier. At least, that’s the plan.

They’ve designed pathways to have a grade no higher than 4.9%, which is very important for people with mobility difficulties. The site is challenging in that there is a definite slope, especially at Wilson Street, which is why they’ve put in a bit of a switchback system leading towards Rousseau Street. Think of the sidewalk switchbacks at the bottom of Elliot Street and that’s what they’ll be like. The PDF (linked below) has further detail on this section.

Rousseau Street and Transit Way intersection details

We did get a chance to look at the more detailed designs, and some of them have some interesting ideas. In this close-up of the intersection of Rousseau Street and what they’re calling “Transit Way”, there’s a subtle detail that escaped me and most of the other people at the table, and that’s that the top lane of Transit Way is actually a through lane. The orange-coloured area to the left is actually a driveway entrance. The designers said they wanted to recreate the “Granville Island feeling”, which surprised a lot of people at the table. As a pedestrian on Granville Island I spend most of the time hating how poor the pedestrian environment is and thinking cars should just be banned from it altogether. Trying to recreate that in a new environment is… weird. The right turn off Rousseau is also softened like that for buses, in case you’re wondering.

That close-up also shows the thoughts for the multi-use paths. They’ll be separated from the street network but will still mix pedestrians and cyclists, and will be 4 meters wide.

Transit Way and Road B intersection details

The next close-up is the intersection of Transit Way and “Road B”, which is roughly half-way between Rousseau and the Braid bus loop. It brings up a couple of points that we made during the presentation. First, they should use raised crosswalks wherever they can. This puts pedestrians and cyclists first, and helps to slow vehicle traffic. The designers said this was a bit of a challenge on Transit Way because TransLink doesn’t like bumps, but they’ll consider it for all of the other streets, particularly ones that are crossed by multi-use pathways like this one. Second, the lanes on Road B (and Road A, check the PDF linked below for where that is) are actually wider than the lanes on Transit Way, which we found bizarre. Roads A and B don’t have multi-use paths on them so cyclists would be expected to cycle in the street (yay sharrows!). Widening the lanes means vehicles will be compelled to drive faster, and having faster vehicles mixed with bicycles is just plain crazy. We have a chance to properly engineer slower streets here, and the designers had better do it.

Brunette-Fraser Regional Greenway improvement ideas

Of course, a major part of Sapperton Green runs along the Brunette River, and includes part of the Brunette-Fraser Regional Greenway. They’re planning some pretty great improvements to the whole stretch, and these improvements include moving the BFRG away from the naturalized zone that parts of it currently go through. This will help improve the whole riparian zone along the Brunette River, which is definitely a good thing.

There are a lot of other interesting ideas going on in this development, like an adventure park, a community centre, retail facing multi-use paths to hopefully spur patio use, and intriguing public art concepts around the SkyTrain station. If you’re at all interested in learning more about Sapperton Green, please do follow the city’s webpage. I’m also making the slides from the presentation made to ACTBiPed available so you can take a closer look at the designs and streetscapes they’re proposing for this exciting new development!

Renovictions and Airbnb in New Westminster

A couple of days ago the Queens Park Residents’ Association put out this plea for assistance on Facebook:

At the AGM yesterday a couple of residents from Maple Manor Apartments (304 3rd Ave.) were invited to share their story. The apartment has new owners who have received a renovation permit and those still there will be renovicted at the end of the month. There are very few rental options in Queen’s Park and a lack of affordable rental housing in NewWest. They are stable long-term renters (5 years, 21 years and 27 years). They have incomes, but that have not increased at the same rate as the escalating market rental fees. They love living in New West and have jobs and friends near-by, but are really looking for ANY option that is affordable in the $800 – $1,000 range.

This is a too-common situation in New Westminster, and the City is working on steps to address renovictions.

But, and there’s a really big but here, rental stock in New Westminster isn’t as high as it could be, and increasing the rental stock does not involve building new buildings. It involves cracking down on people putting suites, houses, and apartments on Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms in New Westminster.

A fraction of the Queens Park Airbnb listings.

Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms are legal in New Westminster. Let’s make that abundantly clear. They are classified as a Home Based Business and an owner can apply for a business license. There are restrictions on what you can rent out for example, (it has to be an accessory use to the residential use, which means you can’t rent out an entire house on a Home Based Business License, you’d need to have proper zoning and permits to run what’s classified as a hotel). But if you look in the Open Data Catalogue you’ll find that there are currently four bed & breakfast permits issued for 2017, and none of the addresses listed are in the Queens Park neighbourhood.

So, that means that the overwhelming majority of listings on Airbnb in New Westminster are operating illegally. A number of them are for single rooms or people renting out their houses when they’re on vacation. Fine, let’s not look at those for now, because those aren’t units that would be suitable for long-term rentals.

But there are some listings that are for a separate suite in a house, or for the entire house, or for multiple units in the house, and these listings have months of available times for booking. These are listings that could very easily be long-term rentals for these people being renovicted.

227 Third Street has four Airbnb listings.

Let’s look at one example. This listing, this listing, this listing, and this listing are all rooms and suites within the same house at 227 Third Street. Right there are six rooms that could be rented out long-term, providing housing for a couple of families, that are instead being rented out to tourists.

Or this listing for a one-bedroom basement suite. Or this listing for a recently-renovated one-bedroom suite on First Street.

Of course, there are other basement suites up on Airbnb in other neighbourhoods, like this two-bedroom suite in Massey Victory Heights that would be perfect for a family.

Please note that the owners of these properties may well have all of the permits necessary and I may have missed their business licenses in the dataset. But even if they are legal, they are still potentially taking away from rental stock.

Is rental stock being eaten up by short-term rentals in New Westminster? It’s hard to look at these examples and say no. These Airbnb listings are the perfect type of suites that could be rented out to long-term renters, yet are being turned into bed and breakfast rooms for short-term visitors. I haven’t even touched apartments or condos in this cursory search. A number of stratas do not allow short-term rentals, but others don’t, and strata fines may be seen as a cost of doing business for someone putting up their unit on Airbnb.

And with the recent passing of the OCP to allow more laneway houses, will we see those go up on Airbnb or will they be long-term rentals? Financially it probably makes more sense to put them on Airbnb, but at what cost to our communities?

To answer the Queens Park Residents’ Association’s plea, I’d say go knock on the doors of your neighbours with listings on Airbnb and ask them why they’re not willing to rent out to a fellow Queens Park resident in need of housing.

Further reading: Short-term consequences: Investigating the extent, nature and rental housing implications of Airbnb listings in Vancouver, Karen Sawatzky.