Tag Archives: politics

If the Election was an Episode of Star Trek

What character would each leader be?


Stephen Harper is clearly an android. He has the same emotional range and rigid hair piece as Data. He’s just better at lying. “If you prick me, do I not… leak?”


Michael Ignatieff is a dead-ringer for Sarek, Spock’s father. “It would be illogical for a Vulcan to show anger! It’d be illogical! illogical! illogical! illogic…!”

Jack Layton - Star Trek Convention
Jack Layton has gone where no leader has gone before, a Star Trek convention. He’s definitely channelling Captain Jean-Luc Picard in that uniform. “Make it so.”
Image from scott3eh.


Gilles Duceppe is like lot like Q – mischievous, slightly malevolent, but strangely amusing. “All good things must come to an end…”

Any ideas on what character Elizabeth May would be?

How Councillor Suzanne Anton Lost My Vote

I used to have a lot of respect for Councillor Suzanne Anton. She is the lone representative of the once mighty NPA and she gets a lot of pressure from anti-environmentalists to oppose bike lanes. Until recently, she resisted those voices and supported cycling infrastructure (she is after all a dedicated cyclist).

In August, after the Dunsmuir vote, I sent Councillor Anton an email thanking her for supporting cycling and letting her know I’d vote for her in the next election. The beauty of Vancouver’s electoral system is I get 10 votes, and I like to mix it up. I received this response:

So thx for your support and yes I will continue to be a strong supporter of cycling.

On Tuesday night she voted in favour of the Hornby bike lane, ensuring the vote was unanimous. Everyone knew that the Hornby lane would be approved, but no one was sure if Councillor Anton would vote in favour. I was pleasantly surprised, and told a few people on Wednesday how important it was to vote for her in the next election because cycling shouldn’t be a partisan issue and stressed how important it is to have strong voices within the NPA who support cycling.

However, this morning she sent out a press release attempting to rescind her support for the project.

Personally, I feel betrayed and disappointed that she has bowed to pressure and rescinded her support from a project she likely agrees with. She has constantly refused to attack the bike lane, instead attacking “the process”. I’ve noticed a few other people recently say: “I support bike lanes in general, just not this bike lane because of the process”. I call bullshit. Who cares about the process? Honestly. There are only two reasons to oppose “the process”:

  1. you oppose the bike lane, because you don’t cycle and you’re worried it might make driving more inconvenient. Yet, you don’t want to be a curmudgeon or offend cyclists. So you pretend to support bike lanes “in general”. How very NIMBY.
  2. you secretly support the bike lane, but you’re trying to score cheap political points and appeal to people who oppose the bike lane. Classic political maneuver when you’re in opposition and the governing party does something you like. It is opposition for the sake of opposition, and it makes politicians look like cynical liars.

I think Councillor Anton falls into the 2nd group, and it saddens me. Let this be my official press release rescinding my support of her.

Debunked: Arguments Against Cycling

map-separated-bike-lanes
Looks like Downtown Vancouver is getting another separated cycling lane. The Hornby lane will connect the separated bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge to the separated bike lane on Dunsmuir. Once this is complete, the last piece in the puzzle will be the Helmcken-Comox Greenway, which planing should start on next year.

I went to the information session at the Pacific Centre to ask a few questions and lend my support to the Hornby bike lane, and ended up in a 20-minute debate with a guy who kept repeating the same lame arguments I’ve heard before. He also insisted on calling me a “militant cyclist”, which I found amusing. I’m willing to be labelled a dedicated cyclist, an enthusiastic cyclist, or even a hard-core cyclist (although compared to most cyclists I know I’m not very hard-core). But militant? I don’t think I’ve blown up enough SUVs to deserve the ‘militant’ label.

Here are the most common arguments I hear against cycling debunked. They’re all used as justification for not investing in cycling infrastructure, and especially for preserving road space dedicated to cars. The guy I was arguing with tried to use all of them at various points in the conversation.

  1. Hardly anyone cycles. Why are we spending money on such a small minority? – The best statistics on cycling come from the long-form census (the same one the Conservatives are scrapping). In 2006, 3.7% of commuting trips in Vancouver were by bike. In the neighbourhoods bordering downtown it is around 10%. Not an insignificant number, but nowhere near the target of 10% city-wide set by a previous city council many years ago. The best way to get more people on bikes is to build infrastructure to make cycling safer.
  2. The cycling infrastructure we have is good enough. There are already bike lanes downtown, we don’t need separated bike lanes. – Sadly, the separated bike lanes are not for cyclists like me. I will use and appreciate them, but I already cycle and will continue to do so, even with modest infrastructure we currently have. If the city wants to get to 10% cycling mode-share it needs to attract people who are currently afraid of cycling downtown. That’s why the separated cycling lanes are so important, they make it possible for people who are unwilling to battle with cars to get to work by bike. If you build it, they will bike.
  3. Converting car lanes to bike lanes will result in traffic gridlock. All that congestion is bad for the environment. – I love it when people who spend their days sitting in traffic pretend to worry about the environment, when really they just want to get home faster. As we’ve seen with the the Burrard Bridge and Dunsmuir, it is possible to take away car space without causing gridlock. If gridlock is really a problem, we should consider congestion pricing, but it is hardly a problem in Vancouver. The number of car trips into the downtown has been steadily declining over the past decade, while cycling, walking ,and public transit is on the rise.
  4. Police should crack down on cyclists who flaunt the rules. They don’t wear helmets and they don’t stop at stop signs. – If you want to be a stickler for the rules, I’d guess that the average car commuter breaks at least one law every time they drive to work (rolling through stop signs, speeding, etc). It’s easy to find cars breaking the law. That’s no reason not to build roads. If we refused to fund highways because of speeding, there wouldn’t be a single highway in Canada. The worst cycling rule-breakers are the road warriors and bike couriers – people who currently dominate downtown cyclists and get a high out of getting around as fast as possible, regardless of the danger. As cycling infrastructure improves, and more business people, children, and families start biking I’m confident the pace will decrease and you’ll see more civilized bikers.
  5. Cyclists should be insured/licensed to ride on the roads. – This argument usually takes one of two forms. For licensing, it is to provide accountability and ensure cyclists follow the rules. For insurance, it is to have cyclists pay more because cars need insurance. But cars need insurance because of the huge damage they can cause when accidents happen, not really an issue with bikes. As for licensing, some cities have tried with no success. Momentum has a good summary of the bike licensing debate. I just want to add that in Vancouver bike couriers are actually licensed and they’re the worst cyclists on the road, so I’m not sure licensing would accomplish anything.
  6. Cyclists should be forced to pay a road tax because they don’t pay gas taxes. – Cycling saves the government money – mostly because bikes take up less space and cause less wear. Cyclists may not pay gas taxes, but the majority of transportation projects are payed for by property taxes that everyone pays. And infrastructure for cars costs way more then bike infrastructure. “Engineering staff figure, on a very rough estimate, that the overall allocation of city transportation infrastructure is about two per cent for cyclists, 20 per cent for pedestrians and 78 per cent for cars.” – Cyclists are not freeloaders (Vancouver Sun). For years, the only infrastructure cyclists got was paint and signs (pretty cheap stuff). The separated bike lanes are not cheap, but to put the costs into perspective: the Dunsmuir bike lane cost about $1 million to install, while a left turn lane at Knight and Clark cost $3.7 million.

The interesting thing about the cycling debate is it has little impact on the politics here. The opponents who are the most angry are suburb commuters and they don’t vote for our city council. And even if they did, every political party in Vancouver supports the bike lanes, and has for the past 20 years. So opponents can rant and rave all they want, they’re only spinning their tires.

Debunked: Reasons for scrapping the mandatory long-form census

I’ve heard a lot of desperate Conservative supporters try to muster arguments on why scrapping the mandatory long-form census is a good idea, even as opposition mounts. I thought it would be fun to debunk a few of the arguments, because most of them are simply ridiculous.

  1. Scrapping the long-form census will save taxpayers millions – Actually it will cost an extra $30 million dollars to operate the optional long-form census because it will be sent to 1/3 of Canadians instead of 1/5.
  2. Most European nations, including those bastions of socialism in Scandinavia, are scrapping their census – Yes, in fact they are. They’re scrapping it because they already have detailed registers about you’re personal life, your home, and where you work. Is that really what you want?
  3. An optional census can be just as accurate as a mandatory one. Polling companies produce lots of reports with voluntary surveys. – Polling companies are constantly struggling to account for bias in their models, and it’s not easy. The main way to account for bias is to track the demographic information of your respondents and then weight the results based on data from Statistics Canada’s census. But now that the census data has bias in it, pollsters will be screwed. Compound bias will really mess things up.
  4. If you want the data, you should pay to collect it yourself – This is Tony Clement’s most recent argument. It’s not that the Conservatives don’t realize the value of having good data. They keep a giant voter database with lots of private information on you and me. They just think businesses, organizations, and local governments should pay to collect it themselves. First it would be a huge waste to have every business and organization pay to have the same data collected. Second, the government is still collecting the data (at an extra cost of $30 million), it’s just crap data now and I’m not sure how anyone could get better data because any voluntary survey will be plagued with the problems noted above – mainly compound bias.
  5. The questions on the long-form census are an invasion of my privacy – This is the only valid argument I’ve heard, but it is still pretty weak. You can read the long-form census here. It’s pretty dry stuff. Facebook and Google know more about me than Statistics Canada does, and they don’t have near the privacy scrutiny and regulations placed on them that Statistics Canada does.

All of this leaves me to believe there is a different reason why the Conservatives want to scrap the mandatory long-forum census – so the government can make up statistics at will. Sound far-fetched? Too much like a Stephen Colbert skit?

Just this week, the Conservatives announced that we are going to spend $9-billion to build more jails, even though statistics indicate crime rates are dropping across the country.

Although the official crime rate is going down, a senior Harper government minister says there is reason to disbelieve the statistics and spend billions of dollars on new prisons: an “alarming” increase in unreported crime.

First, they “disbelieve” the statistics, as if faith is necessary to understand them. Second, even if there was an “increase in unreported crime” (a great made up statistic if I ever heard one), why are we spending $9-billion on new jails? If the crimes is unreported, I’m guessing no one is being convicted.

Vancouver Centre – For Whom to Vote?

Vancouver Centre is one of the most interesting ridings in this year’s federal election. It also happens to be where I’m living now, so I need to decide who I’m voting for. Luckily for me, there are 4 high profile candidates, all with legitimate chances of winning.

The incumbent is Liberal Hedy Fry, who has been the MP since 1993, when she knocked off then Prime Minister Kim Campbell. She’s very popular in the riding, especially with the large gay population. I’ve seen her twice at the pride parade, where she makes an annual appearance marching in wild outfits.

Michael Byers is running for the NDP. He’s a professor at UBC and an expert on international law. I don’t know much about him, other then he’s a smart, well-spoken guy who could become the next leader of the NDP, if he wins this election.

Adriane Carr is well known in BC, as she is the former leader of the BC Green Party. Under her leadership, the Green Party has done quite well, getting 12.39% and 9.17% in the last two elections – although it has yet to elect an MLA and Carr finished a disappointing 3rd each time she ran. The only time I’ve ever met Carr was at a homeless conference last year. She got up to ask a question, and instead spent her time at the mic explaining how the Green Party had surpassed the NDP as the 3rd most popular party in Canada – I don’t remember if she even asked a question in the end. She was referring to a Strategic Counsel poll that had just come out that put the Greens at 13% and the NDP at 12%. (As an aside, no poll before or since has put the Greens ahead of the NDP). Her comments kind of left a sour taste in my mouth. One – because she used a homelessness forum to advertise her party. Two – because she was cherry picking a poll to slag the NDP, and abusing statistics at the same time – 1% was well within the margin of error.

The most recent candidate to declare in Vancouver Centre, and the one that really throws a wrench into things, is Conservative Lorne Mayencourt. Mayencourt is the current provincial MLA for this area, as a BC Liberal (he won by 11 votes). The BC Liberals are more like the Conservatives federally, so his jump to the Conservative party is not surprising. However, he’s a high profile candidate and openly gay, so pundits expect him to draw a lot of support away from Hedy Fry, which is what makes this a 4-way race. I don’t think Mayencourt has much chance himself, but with him in the race the NDP and Greens both have good chances to win. Mayencourt has spent most of his time thus far trying to explain why a carbon tax is both good and evil.

When I’m deciding who to vote for, the party has the most influence, but I like to consider the local candidates too. All of the local candidates here are top-notch. As for the parties, I’ve voted NDP my whole life, and agree with most of their positions. The Green party intrigues me, and I like a lot of their environmental policies. My idea party would probably be a combination of the two. The problem with the Green party is they don’t have any credibility outside of environmental issues.

Michael Byers is a strong candidate and has a strong chance of winning, so that’s who I will be supporting. Although, I’d be happy if either Byers or Adrian Carr wins.