The Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
By Barry Link
What I want from the provincial government in the next four years
I have no idea who's going to win the election tonight. And after a yawner of a campaign between two uninspired and over-managed contenders, and a third pretender that remains a minor leaguer, it almost doesn't matter.
Almost. Vancouverites slept their way through the month-long nap that passed for our latest exercise in democracy. But with a new legislature about to be elected, and a fresh government and cabinet to be drawn from its ranks, it's time to wake up and make a list of what we want for Vancouver from our representatives in Victoria the next four years. No matter who forms government, we must tell them what we want since the promises they made and their manicured campaign platforms will expire as of 8 p.m. (They always do.) This is my initial list, by no means complete.
Municipal campaign reform: With no caps on spending and loose rules on reporting donations, our civic election rules are a joke. With close to a record $5 million spent by the three main civic parties last fall, not including spending by individual candidates, the rules are a pricey joke. The rules for reporting donations for both nominations and the actual elections are so soft that candidates sort of/kind of/whenever they get around to it must report who's paying their way into power. Repeated excuses by the provincial government that civic campaign reform requires movement from the Union of B.C. Municipalities are a pathetic dodge. Show leadership, Victoria. End our banana republic style of civic election financing and start in Vancouver.
A seniors centre in southeast Vancouver: We like to pretend that no one in this city is old, unless they're well off, trace their lineage to the UK and live in Kerrisdale. Meanwhile, thousands of seniors who live east of Cambie have no seniors centre to call their own. Many live in the southeast, which perhaps explains why it's the most ignored part of Vancouver. They deserve more. The administration of a new seniors centre lies under civic governance, but serious money from the provincial government can make it happen. How about a groundbreaking ceremony by September? If Vancouver MLAs can accomplish this, we'll put their picture on the front page and Twitter it.
More buses and routes and a pedestrian/cycle bridge over False Creek: Either we cut down on automobile traffic in Vancouver or we don't. Either we provide reasonable and frequent alternatives to the car or we don't. Super-expensive and disruptive projects like the Canada Line are splashy (and destroy local business during construction), but the new line won't run anywhere near your door to be useful. Call me old school, but I suggest more buses of different sizes as a reliable presence in all neighbourhoods will go a long way to that green transportation future governments talk about but get no closer to. And hey, Victoria, if you can spend a billion dollars paving the Fraser Valley for the Gateway Project, you can erect a pedestrian and cycling bridge over False Creek. It's the right time in history, the right city in Canada and the right part of the city for such a project. A bonus: It will put the endless Burrard Bridge debate out of its misery. And it will also go on our front page and Twitter.
A Little Mountain housing solution: How was this allowed to happen? Hundreds of families in the longstanding Little Mountain social housing complex were booted out to make way for a proposed major development, only to have the whole project stall when the housing and financial markets went south. The evicted families found social housing elsewhere courtesy of B.C. Housing, but no new housing in Vancouver has been added and the original site is nearly a ghost town. If the provincial government can shell out hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to rescue a grossly over-budget downtown convention centre so that retail consultants from Little Rock and IT professionals from Dallas can visit us to drop greenbacks on local booze and hookers, it can find an imaginative and creative fix for Little Mountain. C'mon.
A pledge for no more surveillance cameras in Vancouver post-2010: The city and the province can play with them for the Olympics, and perhaps bring out a few for special events, but let's get rid of the notion of cameras as a fixed presence on our streets. We don't trust you, Victoria. You're too powerful to have these. Public surveillance by government is not what previous generations fought for.
© Vancouver Courier 2009