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.

Take May Day out of the schools and into the community

In New Westminster we have a May Day celebration that’s currently being put on by the school district. Elementary school children perform dances in Queen’s Park and a Royal Suite, made up of a boy and girl from each elementary school, is selected.

Back in November 2015 the New Westminster Board of Education directed that a task force be formed to examine the district’s participation in the annual May Day celebration. The report from that task force is now out, and here are some quotes taken from a survey done of district staff. Remember, the school district handles the event, and most of the planning and implementation falls on teachers, principals, and other district staff members, so they’re intimately familiar with what it takes to produce the May Day celebrations and how much effort it takes.

“…a generalized unhappiness and concern over the cost, the educational time lost in preparation for the event, the amount of preparation work involved in addition to an already challenging workload and the current relevance the existing May Day program has in 21st century learning…”

“…too much time diverted from teaching and learning. Too much energy and time reinforcing colonial traditions instead of embracing a more inclusive world view…”

“…easier to continue with the event to avoid conflict rather than re-evaluate our purpose behind it.”

“…the community can continue the event and the public can choose to take part.”

“Make it fun, not forced.”

“I think the May Day is an event that was designed for one cultural group only. It does not look at first contact, the role of immigrants in the formation of BC, the contributions of women, the development of political parties, the creation of infrastructure, the creation of Indian reservations, residential schools, etc.”

“It does not fit with our redesigned curriculum, it does not fit with our multicultural focus and our First Nations lens.”

“I feel that the redesigned curriculum promotes engagement with all histories of BC, and I’ve been confused for a long time as to why New Westminster teachers have their autonomy restricted when it comes to our professional judgement to teach BC history when May Day is NOT in the curriculum specifically.”

“[May Day] reinforces a patriarchal, settler‐dominated and exclusive culture that does not reflect the values of the District’s mission or vision.”

“…the whole Royal Suite election process has been a popularity contest that has caused social problems and conflicts within the grade 5s. It is divisive and unhelpful. It is particularly divisive in a dual track school.”

“…as long as I have been in the district I can’t remember a child with a visible disability being a May Day rep.”

“Many people have little understanding of what happens to make this event happen. It is not ‘just one day.’ All staff and students are affected by this event.”

“…students lose hours of instructional time…”

“…students are negatively affected as teachers have to arrange their placement during dance instruction.”

“…an increasing number of families now choose to keep their grade 5 students home on May Day because they feel it is very repetitive after going to May Day in grades 2, 3, and 4, which shows that the event doesn’t have full parent support…”

“It’s an exercise in crowd control; it’s a ridiculous use of teacher and student classroom instructional time, and I feel very strongly that we would better otherwise engage students in a school learning environment working on creative academics, or interest‐focused end‐of-year projects.”

Is the New Westminster school system the right place for May Day celebrations? The report and survey strongly suggest that no, it isn’t. 72% of the respondents stated that May Day was no longer an important annual event for the school district. 65% felt it doesn’t promote critical engagement with the province’s history. 72% felt the Royal Suite does not align with the school district’s values of inclusion and diversity. And 84% felt it was not a good use of district staff time and resources — estimated at $50,000 — to organize and stage the May Day ceremony.

77% did feel that the May Day ceremony should be exclusively run by the community. And this is how I feel as well. When the Royal Lancers dance was cancelled by the city, the community stepped up to do it themselves. There is nothing to suggest that the same couldn’t happen with the May Day ceremony. Perhaps it could be rolled in with the popular Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery Salute held on Victoria Day to honour Queen Victoria?

So yes, let’s get the May Day celebration out of the hands of the school district and into the hands of a community organization such as the Hyack Festival Society or the organizers of the May Day picnic.

I’ll leave with this one last quote from the report:

“I agree it is time for change so let’s work together to make it effective such as connecting more to our community and history in New Westminster.”

New Westminster 2017 Provincial election prediction scenarios

In the 2013 BC Provincial Election Andrew Weaver had a historic first BC Green victory in the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding. This time around, the Greens are looking to expand upon their single seat with an additional one or two on Vancouver Island.

The dark horse riding for the Greens is our very own New Westminster, with Jonina Campbell running. Everything I’ve seen points to New West going NDP, and for good reason: in every election but one since 1952 the New Westminster riding has voted in either a CCF or an NDP MLA. But one candidate calls the election a crapshoot, and another says election night will be a nail-biter. Why?

Jonina Campbell. She’s a well-respected school board trustee, and sat as chair when the Provincial government finally decided to build a new high school. She wore some of that success (and Judy Darcy, the NDP candidate and MLA, shares some of that success as well) along with other school board successes: less infighting on the board, balancing the budget, and a series of progressive changes to district policies.

But is a BC Green victory in New Westminster realistic?

I took a look at some of the numbers and came up with some scenarios.

Baseline

When Andrew Weaver won in 2013 he gained votes from both the Liberals and the NDP in equal proportions. In 2009 Oak Bay-Gordon Head was won by the Liberals by a mere 561 votes, 11877 to 11316. The Greens took 2230 votes.

In 2013 the Greens took 10722 votes, the NDP came in second with 7767, and the Liberals came in third with 7536. All things being equal, this means that 3780 votes went from the NDP to the Greens and 4110 went from the Liberals to the Greens. Both parties lost approximately 33% of their votes to the Greens (33.4% for the NDP, 34.6% for the Liberals).

Turnout was up 2.7% in the riding.

In 2013 in New Westminster the NDP got 13170 votes, Liberals got 8997, the Greens got 2252, and other candidates received a total of 2546. We’re not going to look at the other candidates in this analysis.

Scenario 1: Oak Bay-Gordon Head in New Westminster

This scenario is pretty far-fetched. We’re going to take the same proportions of votes that went Liberal to Green and NDP to Green that we saw in Oak Bay-Gordon Head and assume that those proportions will happen in New Westminster. This means the NDP loses 33.4% of their 2013 votes to the Greens, and the Liberal loses 34.6% to the Greens.

Under this scenario, with no increase in turnout, the Greens win New Westminster with 9764 votes. NDP is in second with 8771, and the Liberals in third with 5884.

Scenario 1B: More voters, and they break Green

Of course, a close race means more interest in an election, and that can drive voter turnout. Let’s suppose the number of voters who actually cast a ballot in New Westminster goes up by 5% (note that this is actually different than “turnout increases by 5%” because of math). Let’s also suppose that they break Green – 50% of these new voters vote Green, 35% vote NDP, and 15% vote Liberal. Obviously under this scenario the Greens still win, but by a slightly larger margin: 10008 to 8925 to 5928.

Scenario 2: Split the Left

This scenario is also very far-fetched for New Westminster. We’ll assume that there’s a fixed pool of “left” voters made up of everybody who voted either NDP or Green in the last election and this year they actually legitimately exactly split the left. For this to happen 41.45% of the previous NDP voters would go Green, all of the Liberal voters vote Liberal again, and the Liberals would win New West by 1286 votes with the NDP and Green tied at 7711 votes. For either of the “left” parties to win, the number of new voters would have to go up 17% and they would all have to go to one of either the NDP or Green.

There’s no way this is going to happen.

Scenario 3: Liberals flee, NDP not so much

Let’s get into some more realistic scenarios. In New Westminster politically there’s really three groups: NDPers, regular people, and people who really don’t like the New Westminster and District Labour Council (aka THE MACHINE). The people in the latter category are largely Liberal supporters, but given their love for the Liberals is outweighed by their hatred for THE MACHINE, they could easily move to a candidate who stands a legitimate chance of coming close to defeating the NDP in New West. This year they have that candidate.

One could make a parallel here to the recent school trustee by-election that went to Mary Lalji if one were so inclined.

We could probably lump in a fourth group of people: NDP voters who aren’t really tied to the NDP but voted for them as an anti-Liberal vote.

So with that in mind, let’s throw some numbers down. Let’s say the Liberals lose 35% of their voters to the Greens. Let’s say the NDP’s a little firmer, with 15% of their voters going Green. Under this scenario, the NDP win New Westminster with 11195 votes, Greens in second with 7376, and Liberals in third with 5848.

Or maybe even more Liberals break Green? 50% means the Greens are still in second, but with 8726 votes. 75% gives them 10975 votes. You need to get over 78% of the Liberal voters moving to the Greens before they win in New Westminster with 11245 votes.

Scenario 3B: More new voters, and they break Green

Let’s take scenario 3 with the 35% Liberals and 15% NDP going Green, but let’s also bump up the voters by 10%, with 60% of them going to the Greens, 30% to the NDP, and 10% to the Liberals. Under this scenario the NDP still win New Westminster: 11530 to 7819 to 5906.

Scenario 4: More NDP go Green, even more Liberals go Green

Personally I think Scenario 3 is the most likely, but here’s another interesting possible outcome: 25% of NDP voters and 50% of Liberal voters go Green. I don’t think either proportion is correct, but it’s still within the realm of possibilities. Under this scenario, the Greens win New Westminster with 10043 votes, the NDP in second with 9878 votes, and the Liberals in third with 4499 votes.

Now that would be a nail-biter!

Scenario 5: You tell me!

Maybe you don’t agree with my scenarios. Great! Leave me a comment below or shoot me a comment on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll run the numbers.

Scenario 6: You don’t vote

In this scenario you are bad and you should feel bad.

GO VOTE!

Guest Post: On Voting Green and Splitting the Left

Note: This is a guest post by Alice Cavanagh.

Recently on Twitter, a friend of mine said something that really stuck with me. There was a bit of heated debate about voting strategically vs voting your conscience and what about if your conscience leads you to vote strategically.

What she said in reference to the BC Green Party was “They can’t be fiscally to the right and socially to the left, that just doesn’t work. *shrugs*”.

I have issues with the concept of vote splitting and that the Green Party are somehow closet Liberals. One is that if you care at all about people you must vote NDP, that the NDP deserve it. No party is entitled to my vote. They have to fucking earn it.

I support many of the NDP initiatives but the BC Green Party has better ones. I do not support the way the NDP campaign. In this campaign, they abruptly got into a bidding war on tolls with the Liberals just to win swing ridings.  Where’s the policy and justification for this? I don’t know. Their platform is less platform and more attack ad. I know what the Liberals are doing wrong, I want the NDP to tell me what they will do right, with actual details. Take a peek at their so-called transit plan.

The NDP party is running an anti-LGBT 2S+ candidate in Richmond. He’s quoted saying the NDP struck a deal to get him to run. He’s allowed to vote as he chooses on these issues  The only reason this hasn’t hit the mainstream is it’s all played out in the Chinese language papers.

They won’t outright kill the Site C dam, despite it being an environmentally and economically poor choice. They won’t take leadership here.  They will push it off to the B.C. Utilities Commission in hopes the backlash leaves them untainted.

They are not investing any more in education than the Liberals are. But they have a huge union twitter campaign screaming the Green Party is anti-teacher, despite the Green platform of putting a significantly larger financial investment into education including desperately needed curriculum training and feeding lunch to kids who are food insecure.

These unprincipled choices are why I have a hard time supporting NDP.

Reasons I’m supporting the Greens in this election include the fact they are fiscally more right than the NDP. I’m in support of responsible fiscal investment.

The Greens investments into upfront support for mental health and addictions issues is both socially (left leaning) and fiscally (right leaning) responsible. When it’s good from both the left and the right you pull both sides together.

The Greens will kill Site C. This is good environmentally (left leaning) and economically (right leaning).

The Green Party has stopped accepting donations from corporations and unions. Have they in the past? Sure. But they listened when people said it was wrong, took the high road and stopped the practice. No law forced them to make the change.

Their education plan is frankly amazing and so good for the province. Their housing plan is solid. Their basic income for kids ageing out of foster care? Life changing for young adults who have been poorly served by our society.

Are there things that the Green Party could do better? Hell yes! They could use considerably more gender and ethnic diversity than they have now. But they’ve improved since the last election and are moving forward. Their platform isn’t as financially secure as it could be, economic analysis is suggesting their plan would lead to a small deficit in the first year of their government but it’s on a rapid plan to move towards a surplus. Their taxation plan is more progressive than our current system but I think it could go further in the future.

One of the most exciting things about the Green Party is the support they are winning from the left and right. The BC Greens are winning this support despite not having huge cash donations or in-kind staffing. They are doing it because they have good ideas, they have broad ground level volunteer support and they are running a campaign that leaves you feeling good at the end of the day.

Two of my friends that voted Liberal are considering or planning on voting Green this election. I voted NDP in the last provincial election and am excited to vote Green this election. A friend of mine who has always voted NDP is considering voting Green. That tells me voting Green is a choice people are making because it makes sense to them. It’s not about left or right. Politics in BC has been too much an either or choice leading to polarization and people becoming disengaged because they don’t fit in with offerings of the current parties. If you look at Andrew Weaver’s support in 2013 he pulled roughly 4000 votes from the BC NDP, roughly 3800 from the BC Liberals and close to 3000 votes from new voters.

So is voting Green splitting the left? Only if it’s splitting the right too.

On May 9th vote. Make the choice that resonates with you and that you think leads the province to stable, healthy and prosperous future.

What now for the Pattullo Bridge?

The Pattullo Bridge needs replacing. Built 80 years ago but designed to last 50 years, it desperately needs replacing. River scour is causing foundation issues. The reinforcing steel is corroding. The concrete is degrading. The lanes are narrow and dangerous. It needs to go.

TransLink has a plan for replacing it, with a new bridge planned to open in 2023. In 2014 New Westminster city council did a road tour around to other councils in Metro Vancouver to push for a four-lane tolled bridge — at the time Surrey wanted a six-lane bridge. Surrey agreed that a four-lane bridge would do, as long as it could be easily expanded to six lanes should vehicular traffic volumes dictate it.

In 2016 Surrey, New Westminster, and TransLink agreed that the new Pattullo would be tolled. This is important, as the toll would help to shape traffic patterns (along with the tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, and on the future Massey Tunnel replacement bridge) and, more importantly, pay off roughly half of the cost of building the bridge.

And then a couple of days ago the BC Liberals said they’d cap bridge tolls at $500 per year. The BC NDP one-upped them, saying they would completely eliminate tolls.

So what does this mean for the Pattullo Bridge replacement? All of a sudden TransLink has lost about $500 million in toll revenue that they were planning on using to pay off their portion of the construction of the Pattullo Bridge replacement. Where does that money come from? The bridge needs to be replaced, that can’t be put off. But an organization with an operations budget of around $1.6 billion can’t magically pull $500 million out of a hat. Do they have to cut operational funding, which means cuts in service? Do they cut other capital projects they were planning, like the Surrey LRT or the Broadway SkyTrain line? Do they raise fares?

All of a sudden the two largest political parties in BC have thrown this planning into disarray. They’ve shown that not only are they willing to ignore the Mayors Council and TransLink, who have worked hard over the past five years to come up with plans to improve transportation in Metro Vancouver despite a hostile provincial government, they’re also willing to ignore decades of studies in transportation planning that show that congestion charges or mobility pricing, when instituted in conjunction with increases in public transit funding and availability, are the best way to fight congestion. Instead they’ve both gone with populist policies that will only serve to get them elected, and will set the region backwards five to ten years.

The BC Liberals and the BC NDP need to tell New Westminster and Surrey how the new Pattullo Bridge will be paid for, and they need to tell us before we all vote on May 9.

A Stab In The Back

Metro Vancouver has a traffic problem. A year and a half ago we had a referendum that’d put more money into fixing congestion, but it got shot down in a ball of flames. Nonetheless, the region’s mayors pushed on with their ten-year plan to do what they can to improve transportation in Metro Vancouver.

And one of the longer-term components in both funding their plan and actually reducing congestion is mobility pricing.

Use mobility pricing to reduce congestion and overcrowding, improve fairness, and generate revenue for new transportation investment

Currently there are tolls on two bridges in Metro Vancouver: the Golden Ears Bridge (operated by TransLink) and the Port Mann Bridge (operated by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure). This has led to complaints, mostly from people living south of the Fraser River, that they’re unfair. They’ve also led to increased traffic over the free bridges, mostly the Pattullo Bridge between Surrey and New Westminster.

Both the Pattullo Bridge and Massey Tunnel are slated for replacement with tolled bridges, leaving just one crossing of the Fraser toll-free: the Alex Fraser Bridge. This would lead to even worse congestion on the Alex Fraser, and this is why the Mayors’ Council has been pushing for a region-wide mobility pricing scheme. It might not be tolls on every bridge, but it could be some other kind of “pay as you drive” system. Tolling bridges is easier to set up, as it uses infrastructure that’s largely already in place.

So imagine the outroar when the BC Liberals announced that, if they get re-elected in the upcoming provincial election, they would cap tolls at $500 per year. It’s an announcement that reeks of pandering for votes. It’s completely at odds with any sort of region-wide tolling plans the mayors come up with. It’s also expensive, as both bridges are losing money as it is, and now the BC Liberals are suggesting to throw even more money at them. All in the name of getting elected.

And if you were a mayor in Metro Vancouver (except for maybe Lois Jackson) you’d probably be pissed right off at the BC Liberals, who have fought against the mayors at nearly every step in their plan to make transportation in Metro Vancouver a little better. And this plan to cap tolls is at complete odds with the regional transportation plan they’ve been working hard to develop and promote.

So how can you imagine they feel after the BC NDP came out and said they’d scrap tolls entirely?

After all, the BC NDP said that they’d “put the mayors of Metro Vancouver’s transportation framework into action“. He also said “I want to make it absolutely clear to mayors and councils in all corners of B.C. that I will be on their side and not picking fights,” and “the Metro mayors have worked hard to develop a 10-year transportation plan, and New Democrats support their vision.”

Imagine you’re New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote, a big supporter of the NDP and a proponent of mobility pricing.

Imagine you’re Metro Vancouver chair and Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore, who’s been pushing to get something in place by 2022, when the replacements for the Pattullo and Massey are expected to be completed, and has said, “we said mobility pricing, dynamic mobility pricing around the region is the way to go. One version of mobility pricing is tolling all of the various bridges.”

Imagine you’re Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson who said, “We want to see a very clear step to ensure we’re on track to implementing mobility pricing.”

And imagine you’re a mayor and both the BC Liberals and the BC NDP have scuppered your plans for tolling all of the bridges. And suppose the mayors come up with a plan for mobility pricing that doesn’t involve tolling bridges, so it fits the letter of what those two parties came up with but not the spirit. “BUT THEY SAID NO MORE TOLLS” cry the drivers. And the mayors now become former mayors. Mobility pricing is now off the table, politically.

How would you feel? Stabbed in the back?

Chuck Puchmayr and science

A couple of times now I’ve heard Chuck Puchmayr say that public surveys done by the City of New Westminster aren’t scientific, and by “scientific” I assume he means a survey that samples a representative sample of the population to provide a statistically significant result that can be applied to the overlying population.

And you know what? He’s right. They’re not. They usually only engage the people who are very interested in a given subject, so they artificially bias towards people who have strong opinions on either side. If you don’t care about, say, heritage houses in Queens Park, you’re probably not going to go to the effort to fill out a survey about heritage houses in Queens Park. There are ways to try to unbias the results (weigh them against the demographics of the general population, for example) but even those have biases. It’s tough to make a public opt-in survey scientific, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad.

But then Mr. Puchmayr seemingly goes on to reject them and instead replace them with either his walks around neighbourhoods or with the opinions of people showing up to public hearings.

The mind wobbles!

Walking around a neighbourhood and talking with people that you may or may not know is only scientific if you talk to every single person there, or if you choose people in an unbiased way (and the odds are stacked against you from choosing people in an unbiased way — everybody has biases, either implicit or explicit). And then you’re only targetting one specific neighbourhood. You’re a councillor for the entire City of New Westminster, you’re not a councillor for Fifth Street.

And public hearings are even more biased than public surveys! There’s less effort to fill out a survey, so people don’t necessarily have as strong an opinion about a given subject. But to show up to a public hearing and speak in public? That’s a tremendous barrier and only the very opinionated are going to show up and talk. Using the people who come out to a public hearing as a basis for an opinion that’ll affect the entire city is horribly unscientific!

Mr. Puchmayer, please educate yourself on survey methodology. A public survey of 500 people is more representative of walking around a neighbourhood and talking to a dozen people, and it’s way more representative of listening to five people talk at a public hearing.

Besides, you were elected based on the results of a public survey. Or was that unscientific too?

Trudeau announces new Kinder Morgan route, Broadway SkyTrain

Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Kinder Morgan is applying for a re-route of their TransMountain pipeline that currently runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. He also announced conditional federal funding for an expanded SkyTrain line to be run in a tunnel under Broadway in Vancouver.

“We have heard criticisms over the past few days since announcing the approval of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline, specificially concerning the increase in oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet and tunnelling through Burnaby Mountain. We remain committed to acting in the best interests of Canada, and remain committed to rigorous environmental protections for our lands and waters.

“We have also received applications for federal funding to expand Vancouver’s SkyTrain system to service the Broadway corridor. This region of Vancouver is an important one, not just for the City of Vancouver, but for all of Metro Vancouver. It is an important commercial district, it is an important healthcare district, and students and employees of the largest university in Western Canada travel it every day. Congestion along this corridor causes pollution and reduces the quality of life of everybody who travels it. Easing this congestion with proven SkyTrain technology will help everybody.

“These reasons are why I’m announcing conditional federal funding of a bored tunnel under Broadway that will contain both SkyTrain and the re-routed Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline.”

The SkyTrain will run from Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain Station to Alma Street, where it will terminate at a bus loop. The TransMountain pipeline will be tunnelled under Highway One to Broadway, under Broadway to Alma, then curve north to a new marine delivery terminal at Jericho Beach.

“By building a new marine delivery terminal at Jericho,” Trudeau said, “tankers will avoid the busy Burrard Inlet and Lions Gate Bridge crossing. This terminal will also be located closer to the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station — which I re-opened, you’re welcome — for quicker response to any emergencies.”

“Mayor Corrigan should also be pleased that the pipeline will no longer be going under Burnaby Mountain and that tankers will no longer be sailing via the environmentally significant Burrard Inlet.”

“We have listened to the concerns of Mayors Robertson and Corrigan. We have listened to the concerns of the First Nations. We have listened to the concerns of all citizens of Canada, and we have acted accordingly.”

“We hope they’re happy now,” said Trudeau.