Former Vancouver city councillor Fred Bass says he wants to become the next mayor of Vancouver. In an exclusive interview with the Georgia Straight in a West Side coffee shop, Bass, a physician, revealed his intention to seek the 2008 mayoral endorsement of the Coalition of Progressive Electors and the Vancouver Greens. Bass, a keen environmentalist, ran as a Green candidate for city council in 1996, and was elected in 1999 and 2002 under the COPE banner. In 2005, he came 12th in the race for 10 council seats.
“As far as I’m concerned, global warming is an emergency,” Bass said. “And it needs to be treated like an emergency. And the economic opportunities need to be recognized.”
He said he was inspired to seek a mayoral nomination after seeing Stéphane Dion win the federal Liberal leadership on a promise to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Bass claimed that Dion did a “good job” in conveying how Canada’s economy could benefit by promoting sustainable technologies.
“Carbon dioxide is the blanket that keeps the planet snug,” Bass said. “In the last 200 years, we have increased the thickness of that blanket by a third, and half of that has come in the last 30 years. We just can’t keep doing that and expecting the planet to be the same.”
Bass was a member of the city’s 1990 Clouds of Change task force, which proposed a series of policies to address climate change and air quality. As a city councillor, he frequently argued in favour of making the city a leading centre for environmental businesses.
“I was alive during the Second World War, and there was a mobilization of the entire community,” Bass said. “This society that we’re living in today in Vancouver, it’s mobilized for consumption, not mobilized for facing the very dangerous and serious challenge of global warming.”
He said he will present three key planks to COPE members: dealing with global warming and its economic implications; addressing homelessness and affordable housing; and “respect”.
When asked for an explanation, Bass replied, “Respect for the homeless. Respect for politicians who may not agree with you. Respect for delegations who come to city council. Respect for business, small and large. Respect for the environment and the way it works.”
Bass said that it’s “very important” that homeless people respect others, adding that society must recognize when their behaviour is influenced by poverty, addiction, and untreated mental-health problems. “Let’s not treat symptoms,” he said. “Let’s treat underlying causes.”
As a member of the TransLink board, Bass was a steadfast opponent of the Canada Line, which he argued was far too costly and would inevitably result in cutbacks to bus service. The COPE-controlled council, then headed by Mayor Larry Campbell, replaced him with Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, who voted in favour of the $2-billion megaproject.
In a speech to COPE members in early 2005, Bass urged Campbell not to be a “Trojan horse” and to stop his factional war within COPE. Later that year, Campbell formed an independent caucus, bringing along councillors Louie, Jim Green, and Tim Stevenson, who eventually created a new party, Vision Vancouver.
Bass said he knows it will be difficult to get his message across about global warming. “We have a big problem with the media,” he claimed. “The media basically serve a very narrow interest. They do not do a good job of portraying well various points of view. There is a lot of opinion in what’s called news—a lot of selective reporting.”
He cited the media’s emphasis on Dion’s dual citizenship rather than his policies on climate change. “That’s a beautiful example of a failure to report and failure to understand significance,” Bass said. “That’s going to be a problem. However, this is a city where the people are way ahead of the politicians. And if the people can mobilize themselves and get the things they want done, then we’re going to see a very, very different Vancouver. I think that’s what happened with the Liberal party’s support of Dion. They recognized that people are tired of irrelevance. We have an emergency happening, and we’ve got to do something about it.”
Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan did not return a call by deadline to comment on Bass’s decision to seek a mayoral nomination.