Category Archives: Vancouver

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 2 – The Minor Issues

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.

Mapping the 2018 Vancouver Election Candidates

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.

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 1 – The Parties

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.

Nada – Early Sneak Peek Review

Nada Grocery Soft Launch
Vancouver’s zero waste grocery store, Nada, officially opens on Wednesday June 20. As an early supporter and crowd-funder, I got to do some shopping and help test out their systems at a soft launch yesterday.

The store is roomy with a clean, modern aesthetic. It speaks a lot to the philosophy of the company that they were conscious during construction to minimize their footprint, which you can read all about in their blog series Building A Low-Impact Grocery Store.

I’m really impressed and can’t wait to do more shopping at Nada.

How does it work?

Nada is a packaging-free grocery store. You bring your own containers and pay for everything by weight. When you enter the store, you go to a self-serve weigh station to tag your jars and containers. It’s really simple. They have these fancy NFC stickers (dishwasher safe) that you stick to the bottom of your containers and it remembers the empty weight of the container. You then wander around the store, filling your containers with food, and pay at the front. When you pay, they scan the NFC stickers, weigh your stuff, and automatically subtract the weight of the empty container so you only pay for what you bought. The bins all have numbers on them, but you don’t have to write them down. They figure that out on checkout. Read more here.

Nada

Seconds after paying for your order, you’ll get an email with the receipt. A lot of stores do this now, which I appreciate. But I was really amused to read the product descriptions that Nada has included in theirs, like: “Hummus is where the heart is, but these versatile beans are good for a falafel lot more” and “Don’t like legumes? You’ve now bean blacklisted.”

Nada Receipt

I recommend bringing a bunch of wide mouthed jars (Adams peanut butter and Vega protein powder are my favourites) plus some bags (cloth or plastic) to do your shopping with. The jars can be tagged with NFC stickers the first time you buy something and then reused on future shopping trips. With the bags you can weigh them if you want, but the weight is often so negligible it doesn’t make a difference.

Seeds

What do they carry?

They didn’t have everything setup on Saturday, but they already had a good selection of nuts, beans, grains, dried fruit, baking supplies, loose-leaf teas, and granola available. Brianne showed me a stack of labels 6 inches thick of products that still need to be put out, so expect a lot more. They also had liquid containers with oils and vinegars, plus liquid soaps. The fridges will have produce and the freezers will have frozen fruit, perogies, and other frozen products they can source without packaging.

Loose Leaf Teas

It’s worth noting that although there are a lot of gluten-free products in the store, nothing is labelled as such because they can’t guarantee a customer hasn’t contaminated it, even though every bin has its own scoop.

This sounds like the Soap Dispensary

Nada is a lot like the Soap Dispensary, one of my favourite shops on Main Street. While the Soap Dispensary focuses on cleaning and beauty products, but also has food in their recently expanded store, Nada will focus on food with some cleaning products. The other big difference is the Soap Dispensary does all the filling for you where Nada is self-serve. Hopefully this will eliminate the long waits that seem to plague the Soap Dispensary every time I visit. There also seems to be a some slight difference in philosophy between the two stores. Both stores do a great job reducing waste by helping consumers refill containers, but it seems like Nada is taking a harder line against plastic with nothing plastic for sale in the store.

Hours and Location

Nada is located on Broadway at Fraser Street, right next to a B-line stop. There aren’t any bike racks in front of the store, but there are two big racks just around the corner on Fraser Street.

Starting on Wednesday June 20, they’ll be open 7-days a week from 10am – 7pm.

Happy zero-waste shopping everyone.

Commuting with Mobi Bike Share

Mobi Bikes

In November I won a free annual membership to Vancouver’s bike share program, Mobi by Shaw Go. At the time I was working in Richmond and commuting 15 km each way on my Norco road bike. I didn’t need a bike share membership but thought it might come in handy occasionally.

Five months later and now I’m using Mobi every day for my commute, logging 175 trips and 400 km. What changed? In December I started a new job downtown and discovered that bike share is surprisingly the fastest way for me to get to and from work. It’s about 2 minutes faster than taking public transit and 5 minutes faster than using my own bike, because of the time it takes to store my bike in the secure bike parking rooms on each end.

The Mobi bikes are definitely heavier and slower than my road bike, but I only have a 2.5 km commute so averaging 15 km/h on a Mobi bike is only a minute or two slower than averaging 20 km/h on my road bike. And that’s only because I have a long stretch without traffic lights.

What I like about commuting with Mobi:

  • I don’t have to worry about bike lights, flat tires, or worn out brake pads.
  • The bikes all have chain guards so my pants don’t get greasy.
  • I don’t have to worry if my bike will get stolen.
  • The station density is pretty good. I have 3 stations near home and 2 close to work.

What I don’t like:

  • Now that weather is getting better, it’s sometimes hard to find a bike, especially after work.
  • I miss my panniers and the storage capacity they provided. The basket on the Mobi bikes provides some space, but nothing compared to 2 panniers.
  • The shared helmets are a little gross, although they’ve worked out better than I expected. We’ll see how sweaty they get in the summer.
  • The closest station to my work is at Granville and Georgia, but the bikes are covered in pigeon poop.

I’m guessing my summer commuting experience will be very different from the past 5 months. In the winter, I rarely had a problem finding a bike or a space to dock it when I was done. But in the past week, I’ve had 3 days where the station I normally use was out of bikes. The statistics below from MountainMath show that usage has really increased in the past week. I’m sure that’s due to the nice weather and Mobi’s recent expansion into East Vancouver.

mobi_usage

Overall, I’ve been happy enough with Mobi that I’ll probably renew my membership. It doesn’t completely replace owning a bike for me – I still need my own to pull my daughter’s bike trailer. But for short commutes, I’ve been surprised to find it’s actually the most convenient way to get around.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Southlands Heritage Farm

To celebrate Thanksgiving and the beautiful fall weather here in Vancouver, we took Astrid to Southlands Heritage Farm to visit the pumpkin patch. Southlands is a bizarre neighbourhood in the south-west corner of Vancouver, with mansions on giant acreages, horses, and active farms.

Southlands Heritage Farm

Astrid wasn’t a fan of the horses. In fact she was terrified of them, which is odd because she’s usually fearless. But we had fun in the pumpkin patch, playing in the straw pile, and watching the goats.

Southlands Heritage Farm

We rode the Skytrain most of the way there (to Langara-49th) and biked back along the Arbutus Greenway. It was our first chance to bike most of the Arbutus corridor. What a great route. Nice gentle grade and busy with cyclists, walkers, strollers, runners, and people of all ages.

Biking the Arbutus Greenway

Astrid fell asleep in the chariot and slept for most of the way home, which included a pit stop at the Kitsilano Farmers Market.

Biking the Arbutus Greenway

Emily showing off the 15 km we biked today. The Arbutus Greenway is too new to be on this bike map.

Biking the Arbutus Greenway

We ended the day walking around the Olympic Village and enjoying a beautiful sunset over False Creek.

Thanksgiving Sunset

Vancouver’s New Vegan Quarter

Umaluma Vegan Gelato
Chinatown is home to Vancouver’s newest cluster of vegan restaurants. Located just a 10-minute walk from where we live, it’s made for a tasty summer. Within a block of Main and Keefer there are 4 new plant-based shops that have opened in the past year. Vegan pizza, gelato, and everything else you might want is now conveniently located in the heart of the city.

Kim Jack Il

Virtuous Pie lead the way when it opened its doors last September. Their pizza is amazing, with inventive combinations of toppings. My favourites are Kim-Jack (with kimchi and jackfruit), Stranger Wings (spicy cauliflower wings), and Curry Mile (butter chickpea curry).

The success of Virtuous Pie has lead to a number of other plant-based shops taking root in the neighbourhood this summer.

Vegan Supply Store

The Vegan Supply Store, an established online retailer, opened their first physical location on Pender in July. Their little grocery store is full of all the staples and treats to help anyone on a plant-based diet. Our favourite products so far are the Earth Island VeganEggs (I was skeptical, but they make a tasty scrambled egg alternative) and the huge selection of nut cheeses.


Umaluma Vegan Gelato

Umaluma is just across the street from the Vegan Supply Store, and Vancouver’s first dairy-free gelato shop (although I’m not sure how it differs from plant-based ice cream). They have over 15 flavours! Hazelnet, mojito, drunken cherry, macadamia chocholate – we’ve only tried a few but they’re all excellent.

Kokomo
And finally, Kokomo on Gore. This relaxed little cafe serves up salad bowls (including a tasty kale caesar) and soft-serve Cocowhip. The food was excellent. The Cocowhip was good, but it can’t compete with the gelato a block away.