Mapping New Westminster – Building Ages

New Westminster has published a bunch of datasets under its Open Data portal, one of which is building age. A couple of months ago I grabbed the dataset, converted the SHP file (details forthcoming, mostly because I did it a couple of months ago and can’t remember how I did it) and followed Mapzen‘s One Minute Map tutorial series to make a map showing every building in New Westminster coloured by when it was built!

I’ve made two colour schemes for this map. The first colours buildings along a seven-colour spectrum. Basically red is old, white is mid-century, and blue is new:

  • earlier than 1900
  • between 1900 and 1919
  • between 1920 to 1939
  • between 1940 and 1959
  • between 1960 and 1979
  • between 1980 and 1999
  • between 2000 and older

The second one uses the pre-1941 cutoff used for the Queens Park Heritage Conservation Area. Buildings built before 1941 are afforded greater protections in Queens Park and are coloured orange in this colour scheme. I came up with this one to see if there are any areas in the city that have similar age distributions to Queens Park, and maybe spur people to ask why Queens Park is considered more special than, say, parts of Moody Park, Sapperton, and Glenbrooke North…

Map Detail for 217 Ninth Street

Toggle between the colour schemes by using the little ‘layers’ icon in the top right corner.

You can also click on any building to find out when it was constructed and who the developer and architect were! And if you move around and zoom into a specific spot you’d like to share with friends, the URL will reflect that. For example, here’s Port Royal in Queensborough.

Enjoy the map!

Soundtrack

February 26, 1995 was my first Hip concert. I was going to UVic, the concert was at Memorial Arena. I went with my friends Shaun, Dave, and Preston. I wore a shirt and a sweatshirt and bought a Hip shirt. It was hot. Gord sweated more.

August 31, 1997. I was a co-op student living in Hawaii, sitting on the lanai of a Dutch astronomer who hosted other students. One brought out a guitar and started playing 38 Years Old. I remember the date because Lady Diana died that night and Mike and I watched the news on TV.

Shaun and I would email each other lines from Hip songs and get the other to guess the song. He was always better at it than I was.

Calgary, visiting Martin and Laura. Walking from the train to the Saddledome with hundreds of my new best friends to see The Hip. We sang O Canada along the way.

Vancouver, Pacific Coliseum. I went with Martin. The Hip played Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man. I yelled in his ear, “This music speaks to me.”

Vancouver, Rogers Arena, Fully Completely tour. Alice got me tickets. They played our favourite songs.

Rogers Arena again, and this time for their last tour. I don’t remember much of it except for an overwhelming outpouring of love from everybody to everybody. Band to crowd, crowd to band. Band to band too, we were all witness to the love on stage.

We all knew the day was coming, but we all hoped that day would be far in the future. For a while there we thought you beat the inevitability of death to death just a little bit.

Thank you, Gord, for supplying the soundtrack to our lives.

ACTBiPed Meeting Report for September 20, 2017

Okay, this report is three weeks late. Sorry! At the September 20, 2017 ACTBiPed meeting we talked mainly about snow and ice removal and a development on Royal Avenue that could have seen improvements to multi-use paths near Qayqayt Elementary but won’t. Let’s go!

First, snow and ice removal. Last winter was pretty brutal on the Lower Mainland, and it was especially brutal for people who rely on safe access to sidewalks to get around. There are already bylaws on the books for getting residents and businesses to clear their sidewalks, but those bylaws are slow to be enforced, and they have issues. What happens for residents that are physically incapable of clearing their sidewalks? Not everybody can rely on a nice neighbour to help them out.

Further, there are large gaps in the snow removal plan that have bad repercussions on pedestrians. Take lanes as an example. They’re very low on the city’s priority list for being plowed. But sidewalks cross lanes, and if a lane doesn’t get plowed then the part of the lane that the sidewalk crosses doesn’t get cleared, which is a poor result for pedestrians. Whose responsibility is it to clear these paths? It’s city property so the city should, but at what priority?

The city has updated their snow and ice removal plan, and council has directed staff to prioritize pedestrian safety, which is pretty much what we advised council to do.

The city is also going to be improving its communications around residents’ responsibility for snow and ice removal. I suggested that it might become a Metro Vancouver communications issue, given most municipalities have similar bylaws and issues around snow and ice removal, but honestly I’d be surprised if that happened. Honestly, there’s more communication about watering your lawn than there is clearing your sidewalk, and given the latter is a safety issue, that balance seems all wrong to me.

We received a report on a rezoning application for 118 Royal Avenue. Normally we wouldn’t receive reports on rezoning applications, but in 2015 and 2016 ACTBiPed committee members identified this section of Royal Avenue as being a potential connection for a multi-use path, and the properties along that route were flagged within the city’s GIS system for provision of a multi-use path upon receiving a rezoning application.

Qayqayt area multi-use paths

The proposed land use for this site will have multiple townhouses instead of the single family house currently on the lot. Unfortunately because of economic considerations, the developer wasn’t willing to give up a part of the front of the lot to allow the city to widen the existing sidewalk into a multi-use path that would connect to the existing path along the north side of Qayqayt Elementary.

This section of New Westminster has been a bit of a disappointment for multi-use paths. It’s disappointing that one wasn’t built into the east side of Qayqayt Elementary to lead down from Royal Avenue to Cunningham Street, and then to the future Agnes Street Greenway. This, in my opinion, partly falls on the school district, as they seem to talk the talk about promoting cycling and walking to school to make healthier children, but don’t walk the walk when it comes time to actually put improvements into place that would enable this. There was a similar lack of will when we were talking about a multi-use path through a part of the Fraser River Middle School grounds leading from Ninth Street to the corner of Royal Avenue and Eighth Street.

We also talked about our action plan a little bit, which is a list of all of the things ACTBiPed has raised with city staff and that the city staff may or may not be working on. One of these items is the corner of McBride Boulevard and Columbia Street. A lot of people I know think it’s a dangerous intersection for cyclists and pedestrians, and the current signage is… sub-optimal. The city is going to change the sign to make it clearer that vehicles cannot turn right on a red light, which is about all the improvement that they can make without reconfiguring the corner. And that won’t happen because the new Pattullo Bridge is going to change all of that anyhow, and plus there’s that pesky heritage wall to deal with…

Our next meeting is October 18, and hopefully I’ll have a quicker turnaround time for putting up my report!

Richard McBride Elementary School to be replaced

BC’s Ministry of Education announced today that New Westminster’s Richard McBride Elementary School will be replaced with construction starting in 2018.

“We have known for a long time that Richard McBride Elementary has been seismically unsafe, and we are glad to announce its replacement,” said Education Minister Rob Fleming in a press release. “As an H1-ranked school, McBride has been a priority for years and although the previous government chose not to act to keep our children safe, we are glad to put the focus on learning in a safe environment.”

The school will be replaced with 26 earthquake-safe portables that will arrive in time for September 2019.

“By using portables we can quickly adapt to changing enrollment numbers, making education in New Westminster cost-effective yet safe for our children,” Fleming said.

McBride Parent Advisory Committee co-chair Janet Arbeau has been raising the issue of the safety of the school for a number of years, and said she gets a lot of questions from parents about the fate of the school.

“Especially some of the new parents. They’ve just enrolled their kids in kindergarten or what have you and they’re very excited, and they recognized McBride is an old school, and then they maybe do a little bit of googling, and the next thing you know, they find out the status of McBride is an H1-rated school, so then they ask the PAC what’s going on.”

She met with New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy to share her concerns and said she was “satisfied” with the discussions.

“My son Chard has been attending McBride since kindergarten and is now in Grade Four. Every year we have been told that McBride is unsafe, that it’s rated H1, and either upgrading it or replacing it has been a priority. I’m glad that we are finally seeing progress. I’m sad that Chard won’t be seeing a safe McBride Elementary, but I’m very glad that other kids will be getting the safe education they deserve.”

Fleming said some of the delays stemmed from the previous Liberal government.

“We are sorry that we could not act quicker than the 2019 school year, but unfortunately due to years of underfunding by the Liberal government, demand for portables is at an all-time high. The portables McBride will be replaced with are currently in use in Surrey, and moving them to New Westminster and other cities around the province will help us meet our promise to do away with all of the portables in Surrey within four years.”

“We didn’t say anything about portables in other cities,” he added.

Be Like Brow

On 18 September 2017 I visited New West City Hall and addressed city council about the Official Community Plan that they were voting on later that night. Here’s the transcript of what I said.

My name is Brad Cavanagh and I am a resident of New Westminster. I would like to speak with you about the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood and the Official Community Plan.

Brow of the Hill is a neighbourhood unlike any other in New Westminster. Its population is about 11,000 people, making up 15% of New Westminster’s population. It has a higher proportion of renters than the average New West neighbourhood. It has a higher proportion of lower-income families, a higher proportion of recent immigrants to Canada, and a higher proportion of younger families. It has recovery houses and churches. And the older low-rise apartments mean that it has some of the lowest rents in New Westminster, meaning it’s more affordable as well.

It is one of the most walkable neighbourhoods in New West, and has one of the highest percentage of residents using active transportation — walking, cycling, and transit — despite having zero SkyTrain stations. Traffic calming done over the past few years has resulted in quiet streets where often the only sound you hear is that of children playing in the front yards of apartment buildings, people singing while they cook dinner, or families going for a walk to the corner store.

I live in Brow of the Hill. It’s a great neighbourhood. I can walk to get groceries or to the library. I know my neighbours, we have block parties, and we have fig parties. It’s a fantastic community made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life.

And it’s been an experiment in gentle densification over the past forty years. On my block are single-family houses, townhouses, and low-rise apartment buildings. We don’t have moving vans clogging our streets as “transient renters” come and go — the renters that are in Brow stay in Brow. We don’t have traffic racing up and down our street despite having three low-rise apartment buildings on our one block alone. What we do have is a great community.

And we have heritage houses in our community too — a house across the street from me was built in 1885 and is being painstakingly restored after a 2011 fire. An 1892 house on Third Avenue is being preserved thanks to an innovative Heritage Revitalization Agreement that will restore the house and add four townhouse units.

So that’s why I’m disappointed with the Land Use Designation map for the Official Community Plan. It keeps large portions of the city untouched and reserved for single-family homes, which shows that we have not learned anything from the gentle densification of Brow of the Hill over the past 40 years. Brow shows with flying colours that you can have gentle densification in a community. Single-family houses and townhouses and low-rise apartments can all coexist on a block without negatively affecting a community. Heritage can be maintained. In fact, this all adds to the diversity, vitality, and livability of a community.

The OCP and the Land Use Designation map are meant to form a vision for what New Westminster will look like 40 years from now. 40 years from now, I wish that the rest of the city would be like Brow — a walkable, affordable, and livable community that’s welcoming to immigrants, lower-income people, and younger families, but unfortunately the OCP won’t allow that to happen for the majority of our city.

I support the passage of the OCP bylaw, but hope that when rezoning requests cross your desks for other New Westminster neighbourhoods in the coming years you keep these three words in mind: be like Brow.

I thank you for your time.

New Westminster is not defined by its numbers

Maclean’s recently came up with a ranking of Canada’s Best Places To Live by mixing together a bunch of numbers and throwing them into a formula. New Westminster placed 136th, which led some to bemoan how New West is a wasteland of bridal shops and hair salons.

There’s a couple of ways you could respond to this, and I’m going to respond both ways.

First, the study looked at nine different criteria and weighed them all equally. But what if you personally rank them differently? Feel free to hit up that survey and weight things differently. I did, ranking “transit friendly”, “health accessibility”, and “arts & community” higher and “low crime”, “high wealth & incomes”, and “nice weather” lower. New West ended up 33rd for me.

(Side note: if all you care about is low taxes, New Westminster slots in at #6, due mostly to the low provincial income taxes and relatively low property taxes.)

But secondly and most importantly, a city isn’t defined by its numbers. It’s defined by its people. You can’t distill down a community into nine numbers. Where on those numbers do you put Steel & Oak’s awesome community-building efforts? How does Tenth To The Fraser slot in there? Or PechaKucha New West? How about last night’s super-successful Music By The River, or tonight’s sure-to-be-super-successful Fridays On Front? Or how the city’s credit unions came together to help form a rent bank?

Where’s the slider for “number of high fives given to friends walking down the street”? Or “too many volunteers came out so we had to hope that the fire marshal didn’t show up for our volunteer meet-and-greet dinner”? Or “number of mayors who turn their parking spot into bike parking and then into a parklet”?

Sure, go on about how New Westminster came 136th on some arbitrary measurement. But if you truly believe that New Westminster is the 136th best place to live in Canada, then obviously you’re missing out on the awesome community we have here, because there’s no way that New West has the 136th best community in Canada. Top ten, definitely.

ACTBiPed Meeting Report for May 3, 2017

Sorry this one’s a little late, everybody! The May 3 ACTBiPed meeting had a bunch of interesting items, including reports from staff about new 30 km/h zones, a new bike lane for the Brunette Fraser Regional Greenway, and the first steps on the Connaught Heights Traffic Calming Plan. Let’s go!

We first talked about a recommendation from ACTBiPed that city staff report on the possibility of moving to a 30 km/h speed limit on New Westminster’s streets. Staff came back with a report that raised a number of interesting points:

  1. The Motor Vehicle Act forbids municipalities from enacting a blanket speed limit for all streets within their boundaries. Every residential street must have a speed limit of 50 km/h unless directed otherwise.
  2. “Directed otherwise” means that if you’re going to impose a speed limit other than 50 km/h, every chunk of street between intersections needs to have a sign stating what the changed speed limit is. This is for enforcement reasons — if you enter a street with a 30 km/h limit but do not pass a sign stating that, the police have no grounds to give you a speeding ticket as you weren’t “directed otherwise”, you were going the 50 km/h limit the MVA says applies.
  3. Signs cost about $150 to purchase and install.
  4. Pedestrians have a 90% chance of survival in a pedestrian/vehicle collision when the vehicle is travelling at 30 km/h. They have a 15% chance of survival if the vehicle is travelling at 50 km/h.

The city is going to start a pilot project along the upgraded Rotary Crosstown Greenway, and then design the 6th Street “Great Street” such that the engineering design lends itself to a 30 km/h limit, and then also continue the project into 2018 along all greenways, bikeways, and streets where it’s illegal to cycle on the sidewalk, approximately 15km of streets.

A rough order of magnitude calculation puts the cost of installing all of these signs to be about $22,500 (about 150 signs at about $150 each).

This project is just a pilot project, and can be made permanent with Council’s support. If you want a 30 km/h limit on New Westminster’s streets, write to Council!

The city will soon be enacting a Downtown Strategic Transportation Plan, including such hot topics as traffic calming, bicycle networks (including the Agnes Street Greenway!) and dealing with all of the new developments in progress and in the plans. Look for more information on this in fall 2017.

We received an update on the Connaught Heights Traffic Calming Plan. Not much to report here other than some “quick wins”: new sidewalks along 21st Street between 7th and 9th Avenues and along 8th Avenue between 22nd Street and a bus stop mid-block, and traffic circles at the intersections of 21st Avenue and Edinburgh Street and 21st Avenue and London Street. Don’t worry, Connaught Heights residents, more is coming! There’s a workshop coming up on June 15th at the Connaught Heights Elementary gym at 6pm. Go check it out!

The item that most interested me, even though I’m not a cyclist, is the design of the Braid Street section of the Brunette Fraser Regional Greenway between Brunette Avenue and Canfor Avenue. Here are a couple of pictures of the design (click through for larger versions):

West end of the Braid Street section of the Brunette Fraser Regional Greenway

East end of the Braid Street section of the Brunette Fraser Regional Greenway

I think it looks pretty cool! The little dipsy-doo at the Bailey Bridge end is because of some utility poles that the path obviously can’t go through. ACTBiPed members recommended some treatment along the path to remind cyclists to watch out for large trucks turning into their path, and this is what staff thought up:

Watch for construction to start later this year and for it to be substantially complete before year-end.

Andrew Feltham (an ACTBiPed member) gave a presentation on transit priorities, with a bit of a focus on Queensborough. Transit priorities are things like bus lanes or bus-only traffic signals, like the one at the south end of 20th Street to get onto the Queensborough Bridge. If you can think of any areas that could benefit from transit priorities, shoot me a comment below!

There’s a new draft bike route map out too. We had some comments about it (like why in the world would staff remove Columbia & McBride from the “Caution! Extra Care Needed” category?!?) and they’ll be revising the map accordingly.

Next ACTBiPed meeting is scheduled for June 7 at 6:30pm at New Westminster City Hall. As always, it’s open to the public.

A Modest Proposal for Queens Park

The Queens Park neighbourhood in New Westminster is full of old houses and apartment buildings. Some people want to tell their neighbours that they can’t tear down these old houses so the city is debating turning Queens Park into a Heritage Conservation Area. An owner of a house built before 1941 would have to go to council to make changes to it, basically — obviously there are other subtleties to this but that’s the gist.

Proponents say that the character of the houses and neighbourhood needs to be preserved. That’s fine. Because obviously the shape of the house dictates the character of a neighbourhood and the people living there have nothing to do with character.

Never mind that zoning bylaws were started because of racism and classism. Never mind that Queens Park has the lowest proportion of immigrants living in it. Never mind that houses in Queens Park sell for much much more than houses in any other neighbourhood in New West.

But the paint and wood and windows need to be preserved. So let’s preserve them. In fact, the HCA doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

Let’s preserve every house in Queens Park. Let’s turn Queens Park into an unchanging museum of housing styles ranging from the 1890s to today. Let’s preserve all of the (English, white, rich) heritage that exists in Queens Park.

And let’s put up a fence around Queens Park, with giant signs that read “HEREIN LIES QUEENS PARK, A TRIBUTE TO THE SHATTERED HOPES AND DREAMS OF YOUNG NEW WESTMINSTERITES WHO WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO AFFORD A SINGLE FAMILY HOUSE” and “HEREIN LIES QUEENS PARK, A TRIBUTE TO OLD PAINT AND WOOD” and “HEREIN LIES QUEENS PARK, WHERE NIMBYS SAY PRESERVING OLD HOUSES IS AFFORDABLE FOR YOUNG FAMILIES”.

Honest to god there was a letter in The New West Record whose last two sentences were “In other words, property values are enhanced, fluctuations in house prices are reduced, and there is a greater sense of community ownership and involvement. I believe Queen’s Park [sic] will become the ‘heritage mecca’ for Greater Vancouver and will continue to attract young families as a great place to live.”

So yes, let’s put that on the signs too, as a fine example of the cognitive dissonance that comes from believing that somehow young people are going to be able to afford to buy a two million dollar house in Queens Park whose “property values are enhanced”.

And I apologize to those who thought from the title that this proposal was going to involve raising babies for food. God knows with the way zoning bylaws work you can’t raise any animals for food in New West, so how would you think we’d be able to raise babies for food here?

Addendum: Stephen Crosby pointed out that I didn’t go nearly far enough. No vehicles newer than 1941 should be allowed. Horse-drawn carriages, totally allowed (but not as high tech as the Amish make them). Men must wear hats, and ladies must wear gloves. If you’re a white woman living in a house built before 1918 you can’t vote. If you’re Asian or Indigenous, obviously you won’t be allowed to vote. Because 1941 is heritage and heritage is great and let’s all continue to believe we’re living there!

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.