Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 6 – Survey Says

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We’re less than a week to go to election day. 18,000 Vancouverites have already voted. If you’re not one of them and are looking for more information, here’s a collection of survey responses that you might find helpful.

Hub’s #VoteToBike Survey on Cycling Issues

  • Need to Know: Shauna Sylvester, Kennedy Stewart, OneCity, Vision, and COPE were the most enthusiastic toward new bike infrastructure. Pete Fry (Green) was positive but more hesitant.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • Adrian Crook (Independent) – “If it weren’t for investments in protected bike lanes in Vancouver, my family’s cycling would be severely curtailed. I support the principles of the 8-80 movement, as well as Vision Zero, both of which support modern cycling infrastructure.
  • Notable Omissions: No response from Hector Bremner, Adriane Carr, or anyone in the NPA.

Vancouver Public Space Network on Parks

  • Need to Know: Greens want new pocket parks to increase green space, NPA wants private partnerships.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • Matthew Kagis (Work Less Party) – “There are some unique opportunities on the horizon. Hastings Race Course, with their lease about to end & there’s IF the viaducts come down. Both are excellent opportunities to expand our park network.
    • Stuart Mackinnon (Green) – “Community Centres can and should be used for emergency shelters when temperatures become unmanageable on the streets. In the past term some Commissioners wanted to close these facilities and leave the most vulnerable to freeze on the streets. Luckily this was defeated.
  • Notable Omissions: No response from Vision Vancouver.

Patti Bacchus on School Board

  • Need to Know: The survey is long and I didn’t read all the answers, but Patti provides a good summary. SOGI is a divisive issue. I’m personally just waiting for Patti Bacchus’s list of recommended candidates.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • Patti Bacchus on Janet Fraser (Green) – “It takes a lot of chutzpah to take credit for passing a motion that was never implemented by the board you chair. And not in a good way. At all.”
  • Notable Omissions: NPA

Force of Nature on Environment and Climate Change

  • Need to Know: Everyone that responded is committed to tougher GHG reduction targets and annual reporting.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • Shauna Sylvester (Independent) – “Advance the 100% renewable energy targets, support and enhance integrated active transportation into planning, protect and increase the canopy and green space, increase efforts to achieve zero waste, electrify city fleets and enhance community electric charging.”
    • Connie Fogal (IDEA) – Thinks climate change is caused by chemtrails and 5G wireless. And “the little Japanese scooters that operate on one wheel should be encouraged for use by locals who do not have far to travel.”
  • Notable Omissions: No response from Kennedy Stewart, Adriane Carr, the NPA, or Vision Vancouver.

Vancouver Humane Society on Animal Welfare

  • Need to Know: OneCity and the Green Party support Meatless Mondays. Almost all respondents agree with a ban on exotic pets.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • Pete Fry (Green) – “I would be agreeable to seeing plant based food options incorporated into targets and goals for our Greenest City Strategy”
    • Carrie Bercic (OneCity) – “We support the core values of Meatless Mondays, but aren’t able to mandate what students eat in school.”
  • Notable Omissions: None of the leading mayoral candidates plus Vision Vancouver.

Cambie Report and Megan Lau on Intersectionality (Issues Beyond Housing)

  • Need to Know: Most respondents support making Vancouver a sanctuary city and giving permanent residents the right to vote, but don’t support a basic income pilot in Vancouver. Megan was most impressed by independent Taqdir Kaur Bhandal’s answers and highlighted COPE and OneCity’s responses as “the most interesting and complex.”
  • Interesting Responses:
    • Raza Mirza (ProVancouver) – “I’ll push for a policy, which requires at least 50% of candidates are women to qualify for an electoral organization status on ballot.”
    • Taq Bhandal (Independent) – “We need more divine feminine power in politics. We don’t need to look far to see the violence enacted by some entitled, cis-male politicians.”
  • Notable Omissions: Coalition Vancouver and the NPA

Artsvotes BC on the Arts

  • Need to Know: Everyone thinks rent is the key problem for artists today – renting a home or renting a performance space.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • OneCity – “We would advocate for an increase in cultural investment, specifically targeted at smaller and emergent organizations. At present, 56% of city funding goes to art/culture organizations founded before 1960. Arts and culture are dynamic and this means we need to support new organizations that reflect the reality of the shifting landscape.”
    • Penny Mussio (Vancouver 1st) – “I am a friend of arts, culture and heritage. I live in a 1920’s character home and love artwork, which I collect. I have many antiques and regularly attend antique auctions. I have travelled to New York and London numerous times for the main purpose of attending plays.”
  • Notable Omissions: None. Almost everyone filled out this survey.

Abundant Housing on Housing

  • Need to Know: OneCity and YES Vancouver both support opening up single home neighbourhoods to more housing options and more density on non-arterial streets.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • OneCity – “Renters are not second-class citizens, and therefore should not be pushed towards less desirable locations like arterial roads. We believe that a variety of housing forms have a place throughout the entire city.”
  • Notable Omissions: Green Party, COPE, Vision Vancouver, and NPA all skipped this one.

Vancouver Tenants Union on Renting

  • Need to Know: This is basically a COPE conducted survey, so it’s not surprising they got A’s across the board and no one else was given an A. But ignoring the biased grading, the responses from OneCity, ProVancouver, the Green Party, and Kennedy Stewart are interesting.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • COPE – “COPE supports a Mansion Tax of 1% on the value of property over $5M and 1% on the value over 2%. This will generate over $170M per year.” Grade: A
    • OneCity – “One City’s 4 the City policy calls for a broader, bigger property tax increase on Vancouver’s wealthiest homeowners. We call for an additional 1% property tax on homes valued at over $4 million and an additional 2% on homes valued over $8 million. [This will raise $262M/year].” Grade: A-
  • Notable Omissions: NPA and Yes Vancouver.

123 Vancouver on Electoral Reform

  • Need to Know: Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester are both in favour of changing the municipal voting system, with different solutions.
  • Notable Omissions: NPA, Yes Vancouver and Coalition Vancouver all oppose electoral reform.

Generation Squeeze on Vacancy Rates

  • Need to Know: Just one question – how do we get to a 3% vacancy rate. Most common answer is purpose built rental. Lots of it.
  • Interesting Responses:
    • Adrian Crook (Independent): “Rental vacancy rate is the most meaningful metric to target when approaching rental affordability. Because 3-5% is widely regarded as a “healthy” rental vacancy rate, allowing for tenant choice and landlord competitiveness, 3% should be the minimum we aim to achieve. Vancouver’s current rental vacancy rate sits at below 1% (.9%).”
    • Penny Noble: Stop demolition of 1000+ character houses per year. Most have at least one or more rental suites.”
  • Notable Omissions: Yes Vancouver.

Renters Advisory Committee on Renting

  • Need to Know: Not biased like the Vancouver Tenants Union, but much harder to read. Self-identified renters include:
  • Interesting responses:
    • Hector Bremner (YES Vancouver) – “[Vancouver] has lost 1,700 hotel rooms. Much of this unmet demand for hotels has been picked up by short term rental, which has stressed an already tight rental market. YES Vancouver will work with the tourism industry to expand the city’s hotel capacity”
    • Raza Mirza (ProVancouver) – Yes, I’m a renter, and have been a renter for last 10 years. I’ve been through all; wrongful eviction (improper use of family usage), single room in a shared basement, moldy old apartments with no insulation unsafe for my children and landlord who won’t give me deposit back. I’ve also lived in 9 different homes in Yaletown, Coal Habour, Kitsilano and Marpole.
    • Self-identified renters include:
      • Hector Bremner (YES Vancouver)
      • Adrian Crook (Independent)
      • Raza Mirza (ProVancouver)
      • Brandan Yan (OneCity)
      • Stephanie Ostler (YES Vancouver)
      • Justin Goodrich (NPA)
  • Notable Omissions: Vision Vancouver.

Photo credit: ParkBoard

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Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 5 – Endorsements

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France Bula asked, so I collected as many endorsement tweets/Facebook posts/blog posts as I could. Point me in the direction of any endorsements / “I voted for …” tweets that I may have missed. I’ll leave it up to the reader to score the posters on ideology.

Full Spreadsheet link

The spreadsheet above includes (but is not limited to):

Cambie Report – Endorsement Episode

Ian Bushfield – Who He’s Voting For

Patrick Meehan – Endorsements

VDLC – Labour Endorsements

Vancouver Fire Fighters – Endorsements

Ken Ohrm (Price Tags) – Endorsements

Colin Stein (Price Tags) – Endorsements

Bicycle Mansplain – Bike Friendly Council

James Wanless – Endorsements

Civic Elxn Watch – Pro-Transit/Pro-Housing

Emily Chan – Endorsements

Todd Smith – Strategic Vote

Ian Mackinnon – Housing-Friendly YVR Voting Guide

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 4 – Who to Vote For

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The Vancouver election is on October 20 but advanced voting starts today. Do you know who you’re voting for? Don’t panic. I have a few recommendations.

If you’re looking for more detail on the issues, you can check out:

If you just want to know who to vote for, this is the blog post for you.

My Recommended Slate (In Ballot Order)

Mayor  5. SYLVESTER, Shauna
Council  2. BOYLE, Christine OneCity
 6. CROOK, Adrian
27. COOK, Graham
36. PAZ, Tanya Vision Vancouver
45. SWANSON, Jean COPE
54. BLYTH, Sarah
56. CARDONA, Diego Vision Vancouver
59. O’KEEFE, Derrick COPE
65. YAN, Brandon 甄念本 OneCity
71. DEAL, Heather Vision Vancouver
Park  2. DEMERS, Dave GREEN
18. SHIVJI, Shamim Vision Vancouver
22. KAGIS, Mathew Work Less Party
25. ZUBKO, Cameron Vision Vancouver
26. GIESBRECHT, Gwen COPE
29. DUMONT, Camil GREEN
32. MACKINNON, Stuart GREEN
School  2. REDDY, Jennifer OneCity
 7. BERCIC, Carrie OneCity
15. JAAF, Erica OneCity
23. LEUNG, Aaron Vision Vancouver
26. WONG, Allan Vision Vancouver
28. CHAN-PEDLEY, Lois GREEN
30. DAY, Diana COPE
31. ARNOLD, Erin Vision Vancouver
32. OGER, Morgane

Edits

October 10 – original list

October 11 – School Board candidate Lois Chan-Pedley replaces Barb Parrott.

October 13 – Park Board candidate Mathew Kagis replaces John Irwin.

How Did I Pick My Candidates?

I’m looking for a new generation of elected officials to take over city hall. I hope after October 20 there will be more youth and more renters. I’m picking urbanists who are not afraid to make bold changes to the city (more apartments, more density, more bike lanes, more public transit, more public spaces) over conservationists who want to preserve neighbourhood character. I also wanted a gender-balanced council slate with 5 women and 5 men.

I don’t endorse everyone on my ballot with the same enthusiasm. Some I know will be amazing and some I have my reservations about. If I had to break them into tiers there would be:

Tier 1 Candidates: I Wish I Could Vote Them Multiple Times
boyleChristine Boyle (Council) – There’s not enough space to explain how awesome Christine is. She won the Last Candidate Standing Debate where she wowed the crowd with her compassion, smarts, and great ideas on how to make Vancouver better. She’s been endorsed by Dan Mangan and Naomi Klein. Check out This is VANCOULOUR podcast to listen for yourself.
yanBrandon Yan (Council) – I’ve been following Brandon on twitter for over 5 years. He’s young, smart, passionate about urban issues, and a huge advocate for LGBTQ youth. If he’s part of the next generation of leaders at City Hall, then I’m confident in Vancouver’s future. Listen to his interview the the Cambie Report.
crookAdrian Crook (Council) – Better known as the dad behind the 5 Kids and 1 Condo blog, Adrian is another young renter and urbanist running for council. He’s passionate about housing and transit, having co-founded Abundant Housing Vancouver and Abundant Transit BC. Listen to his interview with the Cambie Report.
blythSarah Blyth (Council) – She knows more about the opioid crisis than anyone else running for council. Anyone who’s talking about the issue is just repeating what Sarah has said. She has elected experience (Park Board twice) but also knows what it takes to get things done. She founded the Overdose Prevention Society and is responsible for saving hundreds of lives.
bercicCarrie Bercic (School Board) – Anyone who’s paying attention to Vancouver School Board politics knows the current board has been disappointing but there is one standout – Carrie Bercic. She advocates for students (like getting lead out of drinking water) and stands up to the provincial government (ensuring the VSB gets the proper funding for capital upgrades without having to strike deals with BC Hydro).
jaafErica Jaaf (School Board) – I had the privilege of chatting with both Carrie and Erica about School Board issues. These two women know there stuff. They both have long histories serving on parent advisory committees for their kids and the VSB would be better with them.
dumontCamil Dumont (Park Board) – The only Park Board candidate I’m really excited about. He’s an urban farmer, a cyclist, and is passionate about our parks system.
Tier 2 Candidates: I’m Happy To Vote For Them

Shauna Sylvester (Mayor) – She’s clearly the best mayoral candidate and has brought the most interesting policy ideas to this campaign. Her unflinching defence of cyclists in a hostile crowd won my respect. She would be a Tier 1 candidate if I wasn’t worried I was splitting the left-wing vote and allowing Ken Sim to win.

Tanya Paz (Council) – Knows more about transportation than anyone else running for election. She’s a passionate advocate for active transportation and car sharing. She’s new to elected office but not new to government, having chaired the City of Vancouver’s Active Transportation Policy Council since 2013.

Diego Cardona (Council) – Has one of the most interesting backstories of anyone running for public office. He came to Canada as a refugee, ended up in the foster care system, went to UBC, and is now a champion of immigrants and renters. Oh, and he’s only 22.

Heather Deal (Council) – As one of the few councillors actually running for re-election, she brings some experience to what is guaranteed to be a council full of rookies. She’s hardworking, and an environmentalist and scientist.

Jennifer Reddy (School Board) – As an educator, Jennifer brings an important perspective to School Board (which is usually dominated by parents). I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet, but if she’s anything like the other 4 candidates running for OneCity (and from reading what others have said she is), then she would make an excellent trustee.

Morgane Oger (School Board) – She came within a few hundred votes of knocking off former Mayor Sam Sullivan in the provincial election. She’s a big proponent for Trans rights and SOGI curriculum in schools.

Stuart Mackinnon (Park Board) – One of the longest serving members of the Park Board. I haven’t always agreed with him, but he engages with Vancouverites and is committed to his role as a Park Board Commissioner. He should be re-elected.

Dave Demers (Park Board) – Another Green candidate with seems perfectly suited for Park Board. Dave describes himself as a plant geek, and although I can’t relate I respect that.

Tier 3 Candidates: I Hope I Don’t Regret This

Jean Swanson (Council) – A principled fighter for the poor and marginalized. I have some doubts about COPE from previous elections, but I think with Swanson and O’Keefe they’re moving in the right direction. She’s not a huge advocate for urbanist issues, but she will stick up for people who normally don’t have much influence in City Hall.

Derrick O’Keefe (Council) – I was really impressed with Derrick’s interview on This is VANCOULOUR. He’s a principled socialist but also pragmatic. As a founding member of the Vancouver Tenants Union, he is a great champion for renters.

Graham Cook (Council) – Graham is a last-minute addition to my ballot (replacing Pete Fry). He shares all the same opinions as I do about how to make the city better. I just worry as an independent without much visibility outside of twitter what his chances are.

Tier 4 Candidates: If I Had More Votes, I’d Vote For

Kennedy Stewart (Mayor) – If I had a ranked ballot it would be Shauna first, Kennedy a close second. The progressive vote is lining up behind Kennedy and many people I respect (including all of OneCity) have endorsed him. His platform is good, he’s an interesting guy, he’s passionate about the environment and housing issues, and will undoubtedly make a good mayor if he wins. I just think Shauna would make a better mayor.

Pete Fry (council) – I debated and long and hard about whether to vote for Graham Cook or Pete Fry as my last vote. In the end I picked Graham Cook because he represents my opinions closer. I might not always agree with Pete but I really respect him. He engages with people and tries to hear all sides of an issue. I hope he wins a seat and transforms what the Green Party is because the party needs more than Adriane Carr (see below).

Michael Wiebe (council) – For the same reasons as Pete Fry above. Michael Wiebe is an urbanist and would represent a shift away from NIMBY voices in the Green Party. If you’re looking for a Green Party candidate to vote for please choose Wiebe before Carr.

Stephanie Ostler (council) – From what I’ve seen of Stephanie Ostler, I think she’d make an excellent city councillor. She’s young, a business owner, and passionate about environmental issues. She gave this great TED talk about fashion and the environment. However, she’s running for a new party that has no platform outside of housing and I can’t vote for someone who has no stated position on the other important issues.

Taq Bhandal and Wade Grant (council) – I already have 5 independent votes on my ballot, but Taq Bhandal and Wade Grant are two more who caught my attention. Both have interesting backgrounds and would bring more diversity to council. They’re worth checking out.

Basement Tier Candidates: I’m Specifically Not Voting For

Adriane Carr (council) – The NIMBY voice of the Vancouver Green Party. My gripes with her have existed for many years, as she’s consistently been the voice against density (including social housing) in Vancouver and ignored environmental issues.

Anne Roberts (council) – Anne Roberts was on council back in the early 2000s where she fought against the Canada Line in favour of buses.

Wai Young (mayor) – The bike-lane hating, Stephen Harper loving candidate for mayor running along with a reject coalition of castoffs who were too damaged for the NPA.

Ken Denike and Sophia Woo (school) – The bigoted candidates from Coalition of Vancouver who want to prevent Vancouver students from learning that some kids have 2 mommies.

David Chen (mayor) – He’s quantitatively a twitter troll and has suggested that bike lanes be removed in the winter. His whole ProVancouver party is toxic.

Other Endorsed Slates

But this is just my opinion. You should really seek out other people’s if you’re wondering who to vote for. To make that easier here is a round-up of other endorsements (not all of which I agree with).

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 5 – Endorsements

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 3 – Housing

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Gastown

There seems to be only one issue this election that everyone is talking about, and it’s housing (note: I covered the minor issues last week). We’re in a crisis and every politician has a plan to make it better.

I’m happy for all the attention. I’m a renter who is frustrated by the ridiculous price of housing and the ever-increasing rents. When I moved to Vancouver in 2006, the market was crazy and it has only gotten worse since.

So what are the politicians promising and will it actually fix anything?

TL/DR: First we’ll go over some background, then we’ll summarize each of the parties positions, and lastly I’ll try to save my opinions for the end.

Background

Why is there a crisis? In short, local wages have not kept pace with the price of housing. People earning average incomes in the city can’t afford to live here. It’s particularly a problem for businesses looking to attract and retain employees; young millenials who would will never be able to afford to buy if things continue; and the poor and marginalized who can’t afford rents anywhere and are becoming homeless in alarming numbers.

How did we get here? Vancouver has always been expensive. But things really went nuts in the past 10 years (just compare Vancouver to Montreal over the past 20 years). Record low interest rates, foreign capital, an investment frenzy, and money laundering are all to blame in some part. For a long time the rising prices were seen as a sign of success and it wasn’t until recently that there’s been enough pressure that politicians have started to act to slow down the housing market.

What has been done? The federal government has been tightening mortgage rules making it harder to borrow money, and interest rates are slowly rising after a decade of very low borrowing costs. The BC government brought in a foreign buyers tax and a speculation tax. And in Vancouver we have an empty homes tax, Airbnb restrictions, and 600 new units of modular housing for the homeless. Most of these actions were done in the past year, so it’s probably too early to tell if they’re having a measurable impact, but Vancouverites are still clamouring for action in this election.

What can the city do? The city doesn’t have a lot of power. Roughly half of what the various politicians are proposing will require lobbying the provincial and federal governments to make changes. But there are some things it can do on its own.

Other than the aforementioned empty homes tax and Airbnb regulations, the city controls zoning, building regulations, property tax rates, and owns a bunch of land.

77% of residential land in Vancouver is zoned for only single family homes (RS1) – no apartments, condos, or townhouses allowed. Not surprisingly these homes are impossible to buy for anyone without existing wealth. It is possible for the city to rezone these neighbourhoods to allow denser housing options that would distribute the high cost of land between more properties and bring down the price. However, many people suggest this would destroy the character of these neighbourhoods and would just trigger more speculation and higher prices without achieving true affordability.

Salt Building

The Ideas

There’s been a number of ideas floated by the various politicians running for office. The most common is support for temporary modular housing to help the most vulnerable. Some of the parties support changing zoning to increase the supply of housing, but others think property owners should be consulted more before we change the character of the single family areas of the city.

VancouverHousingPlatformsV10.png

Note: Many of the candidates have been clarifying their positions on housing in this twitter thread. I’ve been doing my best to update the graph above to reflect that.

Vision Vancouver

Vision is largely running on their record for the past 10 years. They’ve been both accused of not doing enough and moving too fast. They did a decent job tackling homelessness with shelters and temporary module housing projects, but they waited too long to act on general housing affordability. In 2015, Mayor Gregor Robertson even accused UBC prof Andy Yan of being racist for suggesting foreign money was fueling Vancouver’s hot housing market – a real lowpoint for Vision.

Since then they brought in the empty homes tax, regulated short term rentals (like Airbnb), built 600+ units of temporary modular housing – all innovative programs in Canada. One of their last acts was to change the zoning for Vancouver’s single family neighbourhoods to allow duplexes on all lots with their controversial Making Room policy.

Their housing plan includes:

  • tripling the empty homes tax
  • building more modular housing
  • expanding RS1 to allow triplexes, rowhouses, and townhouses in all neighbourhoods

YES Vancouver

YES Vancouver (and its leader Hector Bremner) deserves much of credit for the bold zoning changes that other parties like OneCity (and even Vision) are talking about now. 4 years ago policies like that would never have been considered, but Bremner won last year’s by-election with a promise to densify Vancouver’s single family neighbourhoods.

YES Vancouver has one of the most detailed housing platforms (a whopping 49 page pdf) and it’s the only issue the party is talking about. They don’t have a single policy that isn’t housing related.

The #LetsFixHousing action plan includes:

  • rezoning the single family neighbourhoods to allow triplex, fourplexes, and small apartment buildings.
  • incentivizing purpose built rental buildings
  • more density near rapid transit
  • supporting temporary modular housing
  • a 50% capital gains tax on speculators who flip properties

OneCity

OneCity has proposed solving the housing crisis with a combination of zoning to increase housing availability, taxes to discourage speculation and bring in revenue, and the construction of thousands of new units of subsidized housing on city-owned land.

The main difference with Yes Vancouver, is OneCity is proposing more city-funded housing projects paid for with new taxes that will also curb speculation.

Their platform includes:

  • zoning changes to allow more apartments and social housing in all neighbourhoods
  • land value capture tax to reduce speculation when areas are rezoned or transit is added
  • a mansion tax of 1% on properties worth more than $4+ million and 2% on $8+ million that would raise $262M/year
  • rental only zoning to protect older apartment buildings

COPE

COPE has a lot of policies around protecting renters and providing homes for the marginalized, but not much about building new housing.

Their platform includes:

  • a 4 year rent freeze
  • tying rent to unit (can’t be raised when tenant leaves)
  • a mansion tax of 1% on properties worth more than $5+ million and 2% on $10+ million that would raise $170M/year
  • more temporary modular housing, social housing, and co-ops

NPA

The NPA is probably the most homeowner friendly party. If you own a home in Vancouver and are worried about it losing value, you might find comfort in what the NPA is proposing.

Their housing plan includes:

  • more secondary suites (basements or laneway houses)
  • comprehensive city-wide plan
  • scrapping empty homes tax
  • neighbourhood veto

Green Party

The Green Party housing platform is big on goals and platitudes (like “recognizing the right to housing”, “defining affordability relative to local incomes”, and “setting a goal of 50% below-market-rate housing”) and short on actual actions. Their track record when it comes to supporting the construction of more housing in Vancouver is not good. As Kevin Quinlan points out, Adriane Carr frequently voted against housing projects if there was any neighbourhood opposition.

 

The Greens do have one of the more unique housing proposals: resident-workers housing. They point to Whistler as a model, where 50% of units in all multi-unit condos are sold to the city at half the market rate for worker housing. In Vancouver, they suggest a similar model could be used for firefighters, police, teachers, child-care workers, and health care workers. They also suggest using school land to build housing for teachers.

The Green platform includes:

  • allowing two or more secondary suites
  • developing a city-wide plan
  • retaining character homes
  • getting rid of parking minimums
  • rental only zoning to protect older apartment buildings
  • resident-workers housing

Coalition Vancouver

Wai Young’s party promises to:

  • focus will be on purpose-built rental housing near transportation hubs
  • give neighbourhoods a veto over new development
  • oppose rezoning for density

ProVancouver

They want to:

  • protect heritage buildings
  • limit density
  • ban Airbnb
  • build more temporary modular housing

Kennedy Stewart (Mayoral candidate)

Kennedy Stewart is a housing policy nerd. When he decided to run in May, he suggested the city should wait to see how the bunch of new measures from the city and province are working before adding more policies. Which is the rational, data nerd approach. However, sensing the frustration in Vancouver, he’s since come out with a number of proposals to fix things, including:

  • tripling the empty homes tax
  • using rental zoning laws to protect apartments
  • allowing triplexes and fourplexes on single lots in the least-dense neighbourhoods
  • big targets for new units 85,000 over 4 years (including 25,000 rentals)

Shauna Sylvester (Mayoral candidate)

Shauna is a huge fan of co-op housing, and wants to make Vancouver the North American capital for co-ops and co-housing. She’s focussed most of her housing platform around a goal of a 3% vacancy rate and the actions needed to get there. She’s proposing:

  • speeding up the construction of purpose built rental
  • allowing upzoning of single family lots to allow duplexes or triplexes, but only if they pay a CAC (Community Amenity Contribution)
  • supporting a land-value capture tax like OneCity’s

Adrian Cook (Council candidate)

As a co-founder of Abundant Housing, Adrian has been a huge advocate for more housing choices in all neighbourhoods of Vancouver. He’s a big proponent of incentivising purpose built rental and thinks Vancouver needs more housing options between the two extremes we predominantly have right now – single family homes and huge condo buildings. His housing ideas are probably closest to YES Vancouver.

Graham Cook (Council candidate)

A young renter who wants to ensure there is more housing options for everyone. His platform focuses on purpose built rental, ending the “apartment ban” in Vancouver’s residential neighbourhoods, and decreasing minimum parking requirements.

Rob McDowell (Council candidate)

Rob’s housing solutions champion innovative ideas like co-housing, purpose-built rental, and free-hold townhomes.

Sarah Blyth (Council candidate)

Sarah’s platform focuses more on the opioid crisis, but she does express explicit support for co-op housing in his platform.

City Lost in Fog

My Opinion

My favourite proposal is OneCity’s land value tax. Although the details still need to be worked out, I think it’s crucial that the city institute a system to capture the increasing value of the land. I like that the tax both reduces speculation and also raises money for the city to spend on social housing.

I’m not a fan of the rent freeze proposed by COPE, although it would directly benefit me. The reason rents keep rising is that the vacancy rate is less than 1% in Vancouver. That is fundamentally what needs to change. A rent freeze discourages the building of new rental buildings and creates an ever-increasing gap between the rents of people who have lived here for a long time (rent-controlled) and what rents are for people just moving here (what the market wants to charge). It also traps people in their unit. Market rents in our neighbourhood are 30%-50% higher than what we’re paying right now. We can’t afford to move. Luckily we have a good landlord and live in a stable building, but for those who don’t it’s a real problem. COPE is proposing tying rent to the unit instead of the tenants so it wouldn’t be able to rise when a new tenant moves in, but that would be a huge change and would really discourage new apartment construction.

The Green’s resident-workers housing proposal is interesting, but I can’t see it working in Vancouver. It makes sense for a resort town like Whistler, where there’s a clear split between the tourists and the workers. But in Vancouver, the majority of residents are workers. Why single out a few professions (like firefighters and nurses) for special housing? And the proposal to put teachers housing on school grounds is unique but equally bizarre. I can’t see any teachers wanting to live on the school grounds where they teach. Full points for creativity, but I think we need solutions that provide housing for everyone.

I think the most important part of any party’s housing platform is not the specific policies, but the urgency to act. It feels like some parties are favouring older property owners who are resistant to change over younger renters who are desperate for it. The language is guarded but the biases are clear. The NPA and Green Party are the NIMBY parties, talking about preserving neighbourhood character and consultation with neighbourhood groups. It is language you won’t hear from the YIMBY parties like OneCity, YES Vancouver, or (to a lesser degree) Vision. Even COPE shows more urgency to act with policies targeted at renters.

False Creek Smooth as Glass

Further Reading

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 2 – The Minor Issues

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We’re less than a month away from the election and we now have platforms to judge the candidates by. Last month, I did a high level overview of the parties. Here are some of the more interesting ideas floating around in their platforms.

Alcohol in Parks and Beaches

Wine and Cheese

It’s a pretty simple idea. Adults should be able to indulge in a glass of wine on the beach or growler of beer in the park responsibly without risking $230 fine. Supporters of allowing alcohol in parks, at least on a trial basis include:

Subway to UBC

broadway_subway

Funding is now secured for the Broadway subway line, from VCC-Clark to Arbutus, with construction beginning in 2020 and finishing in 2025. Some local politicians are arguing that we should build it right the first time and extend it all the way to UBC. Normally transit priorities are set by Translink which is a regional body and needs buy in from other cities in Metro Vancouver, but as outgoing councillor George Affleck points out, the Broadway line is not funded by Translink so the city could fund the extension to UBC without regional buy-in.

Pushing for the Broadway Line all the way to UBC in a single construction phase are:

Opioid Crisis

Drugs

Considering that opioid overdoses are killing hundreds of Vancouverites every year, it’s surprising how little attention politicians are giving it. Here’s a roundup of the ideas proposed by the politicians who are brave enough to tackle what is obviously a complicated issue.

Leading the charge for a better response to the opioid crisis is Sarah Blyth, the founder and executive director of the Overdose Prevention Society and independent candidate for council. She’s proposing more overdose prevention sites, street drug checking programs, and a wider range of treatment options.

The other politicians who are talking about the issue mostly agree with Sarah Blyth, and are also calling for various degrees of drug decriminalization.

Electoral Reform

There are a few groups talking about changing the way we vote in Vancouver.

  • COPE wants to see a ward system introduced and permanent residents given the right to vote
  • OneCity wants to have a citizens assembly to propose an alternative voting system, and lower the voting age to 16.
  • Shauna Sylvester has proposed a hybrid system of 5 wards and 5 at-large councillors, with ranked ballots.
  • Kenedy Stewart has suggested using proportional representation or wards depending on the outcome of the provincial referendum
  • Independent candidates Graham Cook and Katherine Ramdeem support PR.

Bike Lanes

Autumn Cycling in Vancouver

Unlike in past elections where bike lanes were one of the major issues, few parties are talking about them, other than Coalition Vancouver who wants to rip them out. I guess that’s progress but I still want to know where the parties stand. Hopefully we’ll know more when Hub releases its survey results in early October.

In general, some of the strongest champions for cycling and active transportation are:

Housing

Housing deserves its own blog post considering how much attention its been getting this election. Stay tuned.

Science vs Vegans

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One of my favourite podcasts just did an episode on veganism, and its great. Science Vs tackled three questions:

  • Is going vegan better for the environment?
  • Do you need milk for strong bones?
  • If you don’t eat any meat at all, is it bad for you?

Listen here or wherever you get podcasts.

And if you liked that episode, check out:

Note: While the vegan episode shows that the science is firmly behind the diet, the same can’t be said for the other episodes above (sorry keto, detoxes, supplements, and even organic food). You might find your beliefs and lifestyle choices refuted by the science. That’s ok. Listen with an open mind, and challenge your own preconceived notions. Committing yourself to constantly learning and improving is probably the healthiest diet.

Own Grown Life – Personal Vegan Chef

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So on a grey, Sunday morning we went to check out Vancouver’s mini Veg Fest – a collection of 23 plant-based vendors in an urban park just off Main Street. We showed up at 11, when it officially started and found lineups 50 people long for most of the vendors that only got longer as we debated what was worth waiting for.

When did Vancouver get so many vegans? Maybe I should have paid attention to the Facebook invite that said 1.1K people were attending and another 4.9K were interested. Yikes! We managed to get some delicious croissants from Yellow Basket Baking and some butchered beans from The Very Good Butchers. I really wanted to try some of the cheeze shops but the lineups were just too crazy.

But who needs fancy vegan cheeses when you have your own personal vegan chef. For the past 3 months we’ve been having homemade, vegan meals cooked in our house by Sarah from Own Grown Life.

Own Grown Life offers a popular lunch program, but for Emily and I lunches are the easiest meal of the day, with plenty of vegan options downtown. Dinner is the real challenge. Daycare pickup with an energetic toddler who’s usually hungry, are not conducive to making nutritious meals from scratch. We were getting by with slow-cooker and Instant Pot meals prepped the night before (and by we, I mean Emily as she was doing 90% of the cooking), but it was exhausting.

Now Sarah comes over once a week to cook us three meals in our own kitchen and we have our evenings free again. On Tuesday evenings there’s a fresh meal waiting on the stove plus two more meals in the fridge that just need to be warmed up. It’s a pretty sweet deal and well worth the cost. We get to work with her on the menu every week and she follows our dietary constraints (vegan, no soy, and at least one nut-free meal every week so we have leftovers we can send to daycare).

Here’s a sampling of some of the meals she’s made us:

    • BBQ Lentil Walnut Burgers
    • Yam and Black Bean Enchiladas
    • Maple & Orange Glazed Tempeh with Bok Choy and Soba Noodles
    • Braised Eggplant with Chickpeas
    • Gazpacho (awesome when it was super hot back in August)
    • Sweet Moroccan Glazed Tempeh with Couscous and Carrot Date Salad
    • Bengali Curry of Cauliflower and Kidney Bean
    • Spiced Indian Barley Stir-fry with chickpeas and spinach

Own Grown Life Meals Own Grown Life Meals Own Grown Life Meals Own Grown Life Meals Own Grown Life Meals Own Grown Life Meals

If you’re looking for a vegan lunch service, or a personal chef who will cook to your dietary needs, I highly recommend checking out Own Grown Life. The convenience is awesome and we all love the food. Astrid gives it a hearty “num num” and “yummy”.

Mapping the 2018 Vancouver Election Candidates

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2018VancouverCandidateMap

We know now who is going to be on the ballot in Vancouver on October 20, 2018. And it’s a long, long list. Especially for mayor and city council where there will be nearly twice as many candidates as last year.

There are:

  • 21 Mayoral candidates, compared to 9 in 2014. (1 will be elected)
  • 71 Council candidates, compared to 49 in 2014. (10 will be elected)
  • 33 Park board candidates, compared to 31 in 2014.  (7 will be elected)
  • 33 School board candidates, compared to 29 in 2014. (9 will be elected)

The nomination papers that were submitted last week don’t have much detail (I was hoping to figure out who rents and who owns), but they do have the postal code for each candidate. So I decided to plot them on a map. Some interesting tidbits:

  • Yes Vancouver has a council candidate that lives in Burnaby, Glynnis Chan.
  • ProVancouver‘s Breton Crellin lives even farther from Vancouver, in Pitt Meadows.
  • Coalition Vancouver‘s candidates are clustered in the south half of the city.
  • School board sees the biggest east-west divide, with the NPA and Coalition representing the west side and OneCity, Vision, COPE, and Green representing east Van.
  • Independent candidates Kelly Alm and Gordon Kennedy are running for both council and school board, and apparently that’s allowed.
  • There are 3 aliases on the ballot:
    • Rollergirl aka Angela Dawson (mayor)
    • Spike aka Gerald Peachey (council)
    • Mrs Doubtfire aka Tavis Dodds (school board)

Map of where the candidates live for mayor and council:

Park and school board:


(Raw dataset and combined map)

Here’s the map from 2014 and 2011.

If you want to know more about the parties running candidates this election, check out this blog post.

Astrid – Surviving the Smoke

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Waterpark

We did our best to enjoy the last bit of summer despite the smoky skies and air quality advisories. Astrid enjoyed playing in the Granville Island waterpark, and ice cream and popsicles were a regular treat.

Vancouver Smoke

The wildfire smoke was not kind to Astrid. We survived without a hospital visit, but I was giving her the maximum amount of Ventolin every 4 hours, even at night, in order to keep her asthma under control.

BC has now had back-to-back summers with record-breaking forest fires. The impact of climate change is all to real. If this is the new normal, it’s going to be hard on Astrid’s lungs. Winter is cold and flu season, which triggers her asthma. If summer is now forest fire season, she’s not going to get a break at all.

I was interviewed for an article in The Star about indoor air quality as a means of escaping when the smoke gets bad. Here’s one of the quotes I provided,

I don’t want to end up as a city where we’re like, ‘OK, we air-conditioned all the buildings and they’re all clean air, so just don’t go outside’. Vancouver is awesome because of all the outdoor activities we have accessible to us, and if that disappears the quality of life disappears.

Rainsuit

Needless to say we were overjoyed when the wind changed direction and started blowing cool, wet ocean air into Vancouver and cleared out the smoke.

The same week the smoke got bad, Emily was off on Cortes Island for a leadership retreat at Hollyhock. Being a single parent is hard, but we got through. It did lead to frequent conversations with Astrid:

Astrid: Where’s mama?

Me: Mama’s on an island. She took a plane there. She’s coming home in a few days.

Astrid: Mama airplane. Mama airplane. (nodding her head)

The day Emily was done her retreat, I let Astrid know that Mama would pick her up today. She was excited. Apparently she spent the whole day at daycare letting everyone know that Mama was on an airplane. Unfortunately the smoke cancelled Emily’s flight and she spent 12 hours getting home by car and ferry and didn’t arrive until 1 am. So I had to pick Astrid up. When I got there she was waiting at the door holding an airplane in her hands. It was cute and heart breaking. Thankfully no tears were shed when I explained, “Mama’s airplane is broken. Mama is on a boat.”

Flowers

Other than the smoke-induced asthma, Astrid is doing well. She’s eating well, growing like a weed, and has become quite the chatterbox. She’s tall enough now that she can reach the number 6 in the elevator. She’s started asking a lot more questions and likes pointing at things and asking, “what’s this?”

Potty training is progressing with lots of triumphs and failures. She’s peeing in the potty at least once a day but there’s still a few accidents and she wears diapers at daycare. The biggest triumph was when we spent a half day at the aquarium wearing only potty pants, she went pee three times on a toilet, and we made it home without an accident. The biggest failure was one evening when she was eating dinner without a diaper or pants on (pretty common at home now) and she stood up while drinking water and peed in her food.

Sea to Sky Gondola

We spent the last week of August and the September long weekend with Grandma Bev, Uncle Rick and Aunt Toni. Astrid warmed up to the three of them really quickly. We spent one day up at the Sea to Sky Gondola and Shannon Falls and the long weekend on Galiano Island.

Galiano Island

More pictures from August, the Sea to Sky Gondola, and Galiano Island.

Waterpark with the Holdings

Going Up

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 1 – The Parties

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TL;DR – If you want a list of who to vote for, wait for the next blog post. This is just about the parties. OneCity is my favourite.

vancouver-mayor-and-council-landing

Vancouver is about to enter one of the most interesting and uncertain elections in recent history. The mayor and most of the current councillors are not running for re-election, a bunch of new parties with similar sounding names have formed, and new campaign finance rules are limiting the influence of big moneyed donors like developers.

Here’s my attempt to distill the issues and help make you an informed voter. Note, this is my personal opinion and is completely subjective. I have plenty of biases – I’m a parent, renter, computer nerd, environmentalist, cyclist, and urbanist.

The Basics

Election Day is October 20, but you can vote early starting on October 10.

You will be voting for 1 Mayor, 10 city councilors, 7 parks board commissioners, and 9 school trustees.

If you’ve voted in the past, there are 2 notable changes this year.

  1. The order of names on the ballot will be randomized. The ballot is long, and a lot of voters just tick the first few names in each category. In elections past, most of the winners had last names starting with A, B, C, or D. That will change this year.
  2. You can vote at any polling station in the city, not just the one assigned to you. So if you’re at the park or library on Saturday and there’s a polling station nearby, you can vote there.

If you want more details on how voting works, check out the city’s website.

The Options
vancouver_political_axis

Vancouver’s political axis

The official list of candidates won’t be known for another week and many parties are only starting to release their platforms. We do know there will be at least 10 different party names on the ballot. Some you will recognize and some are brand new.

Most of the parties are only running a handful of candidates for each position, so you’ll probably end up voting for candidates from several parties. I’ll release my list of endorsed candidates in the next few weeks. In the meantime, here’s a look at what the parties stand for.

The Cambie Report‘s listeners did a great job classifying the political parties along three axis: the traditional left/right axis, plus a municipal axis that classified parties as urbanist or conservationist. You might know COPE as a left-wing party and the NPA as a right-wing party but the urbanist/conservationist axis is more interesting and can help to differentiate the parties from each other.

An urbanist party is one that looks to actively change the shape of the city to feature more walkable neighbourhoods, mixed-use developments, bike lanes, and density (see the New Urbanism principles). In Vancouver, they’re often supported by the YIMBY and Abundant Housing groups.

A conservationist party is more concerned about preserving the current character of neighbourhoods and limiting change. They favour heritage preservation, limiting growth, restricting immigration, and lots of consultation with neighbourhood groups. In Vancouver, they’re often supported by the NIMBY and HALT groups.

The Parties

Vision
The party that has dominated city politics in Vancouver since 2008 under the leadership of Mayor Gregor Robertson. They’re responsible for introducing food trucks, backyard chickens, bike lanes, the Arbutus Greenway, and a plastic straw ban to Vancouver.

Vision has seen their popularity drop as they’ve been blamed for the housing crisis, and almost all of their incumbents are not running for re-election, which is never a good sign. They are widely criticized for not doing enough to keep Vancouver affordable and their close connections with developers, but in the past year they’ve introduced an empty home tax, restricted Airbnb rentals, and started construction on 600 units of temporary modular housing. Is it too little too late for Vancouverites fed up with the skyrocketing cost of living? Probably.

Vote for them if… you think the city is on the right (cycle) track.

NPA
The right-wing opposition to Vision over the past 10 years. They’ve traditionally been the voice of business owners in Vancouver, but the party is in turmoil. Of their 4 potential mayoral candidates, one left the party (or was kicked out) to start his own party (Yes Vancouver) and another joined Coalition Vancouver.

In the past two elections, they’ve campaigned on opposing Vision’s bike lane expansion and have a council candidate (Colleen Hardwick) who has actively campaigned against bike lanes in the past. They’ve seemed to soften their tone so far, but I’m skeptical.

Their housing policy is best summarized as “gentle density but only if neighbourhoods want it”, which is pretty much status quo for Vancouver over the past 20 years.

Vote for them if… you’re nostalgic for the days of Mayor Sam Sullivan.

Greens
The Green Party has a lot of momentum and a great brand. They’ve had success in recent provincial and federal elections, and in Vancouver they have elected representatives on all three boards (council, school, and park).

As an environmentalist, I should be a natural Green Party supporter, but I disagree with many of their policies. As you can see on the chart above, the Green Party leans toward the conservationist ideals, closer to the NPA on many issues than Vision Vancouver. They’ve opposed the Broadway subway, densification, and even smart meters – all policies that have received vocal opposition even though they’re important environmentally. They also opposed Amazon expanding the number of developers it employs in Vancouver.

That said, they have a few strong candidates that I may vote for, especially on park board.

Vote for them if… being ‘green’ is more important to you than actual policies.

OneCity

A fairly new party to Vancouver. They formed in 2014 and elected their first representative during the 2017 by-election. They’re a young (with candidates under 40), urbanist, left-wing party and have been getting a lot of buzz from people who have supported Vision in the past.

They’re not running a lot of candidates (only 2 for council and 3 for school board) but in my opinion they’re the strongest candidates with the best ideas.

Their housing policies include policies to crack down on speculation and build more affordable housing across the city.

Vote for them if… you want a hip, urbanist party to have influence in local politics.

COPE

The traditional left wing-party in Vancouver, but they’re a spent political force these days, having been completely shutout in the past 2 elections. Both Vision Vancouver and OneCity were originally formed from members abandoning COPE.

While OneCity is running a new generation of millennial candidates, COPE is running with the old-guard of Vancouver’s left-wing. Both Jean Swanson and Anne Roberts are in their mid-70s. That said, Swanson is a fighter and she probably is the party’s best hope of electing someone. They’ve distinguished themselves from the other parties by strongly advocating for a rent freeze and mansion tax.

Vote for them if… you think class warfare is what Vancouver needs.

Yes Vancouver

Formed only a few weeks ago when the NPA refused to allow one of their councillors, Hector Bremner, to run for mayor. He left the party and formed a new one. They seem to be positioning themselves as the only right-wing party that strongly supports urbanist ideals. They want to dramatically densify the single-family neighbourhoods of Vancouver’s west side.

They have the bottom-right quadrant of the political axis above all to themselves and it will be interesting to see how they do. They’ve got some rich backers and already have billboards up before the campaign has officially started, circumventing the campaign finance rules.

Vote for them if… you want to mass rezone all of Vancouver’s west side.

Coalition Vancouver

Started by the former Conservative MP who once compared Stephen Harper to Jesus, Coalition Vancouver’s driving force is ripping out bike lanes and ending the war on cars.

Vote for them if… you hate bike lanes.

ProVancouver

Yet another new party with a similar sounding name. They hate Airbnb, developers, and foreign buyers. They have some bold ideas to fix Vancouver’s housing market by controlling demand, some which deserve attention, but their candidates and supporters are some of the most toxic trolls on Twitter. They’ve also released one of the worst transportation platforms I’ve ever seen, with a promise to get rid of distance based pricing for transit and no mention of cycling.

Vote for them if… you think a bunch of online trolls should run the city.

Independents
Many pundits are calling this the “year of the independent” (1, 2). There are a bunch of really strong candidates with good chances of winning. Some of the ones I’m keeping my eye on are: Kenedy StewartShauna SylvesterSarah BlythAdrian CrookRob McDowellGraham Cook, Erin Shum, and Wade Grant (note: this is not an exhaustive list).

Vote for them if… you think political parties are toxic.

Fringe Parties
There are a few other parties with little chance of winning, including: IDEA, Restore Vancouver, Vancouver 1st, and the Work Less Party

Vote for them if… you want to throw away your vote.

Images from the City of Vancouver and the Cambie Report (with some tweaks).

In the next two weeks I’ll release my endorsed candidates. I have no idea who to vote for mayor (Shauna Sylvester, Kenedy Stewart, and Ian Campbell all have potential). For council, the OneCity candidates are a lock for me and I’m considering candidates from the Green Party, COPE, Vision, YesVancouver, and a few independents to round out my ballot. I’ve barely started to look at school and park board candidates.

If you have any recommendations on candidates you like, please add a comment.