The Straight slate for municipal elections in Vancouver and the burbs

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      With the help of clever marketing consultants, political parties can sometimes mislead the public. In the last federal election, the NDP pretended that Jack Layton had a chance of becoming prime minister in order to boost the party’s chance of taking seats from the Liberals. The Conservatives put Stephen Harper in front of children on numerous occasions to show he cared about families, even though his party had eliminated daycare agreements with the provinces. And the federal Liberals presented themselves as a united team behind Stéphane Dion when, privately, some MPs were deeply disenchanted with their leader.

      We’ve seen a similar spinning in advance of the Saturday (November 15) Vancouver municipal election. Vision Vancouver presents itself as the caring alternative to the Non-Partisan Association, even though Vision wants to invest far more new money in beefing up the police force than in local libraries or new community centres for youth. Vision is also calling for more transparency regarding the city’s financial dealings over the billion-dollar Olympic Village. But four Vision councillors attended an in-camera meeting last month that, we’ve been told, authorized a $100-million loan with zero transparency.

      Meanwhile, the Non-Partisan Association is presenting itself as the party for addressing street disorder in Vancouver. But no NPA candidate, as far as we can tell, has uttered a peep about the provincial government’s punitive social-welfare and taxation policies, which are at the root of rampant homelessness. No NPA candidate, as far as we can tell, has voiced any concerns about the provincial government’s refusal to do anything for urban aboriginal youth in Vancouver, who are sometimes the most at risk of becoming drug addicts.

      It’s tempting to recommend a pox on both major parties and urge the public to vote for a slate of independents. But that wouldn’t result in the best city council for Vancouver, because the independents have no experience. That’s why we favour a balanced slate that mixes experience with idealism.

      Keep in mind that there are some significant differences between Vision and the NPA. Vision is supported by many unions, so it shouldn’t surprise voters when its mayoral candidate, Gregor Robertson, promises not to contract out civic services. NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner has said he is open to the idea of contracting out services if this provides a better deal for taxpayers. The NPA has already supported an $800,000 expansion of the Downtown Ambassadors program; this is, in effect, contracting out security to business-improvement associations. Many property owners on the boards of these associations are also contributors to the NPA.

      During council’s last term, Vision, and not the NPA, was the loudest proponent for increasing the number of police officers in Vancouver.

      The police union is a contributor to Vision, which opposes expanding the Downtown Ambassadors program.

      If you think Vancouver has too many police already—another 96 officers and 22 civilians were slated this year and next—then you probably shouldn’t vote for either Robertson or Ladner for mayor. At a November 9 candidates meeting, independent mayoral candidate Marc Emery advocated freezing the police budget forever and taking away officers’ Tasers if he becomes chair of the Vancouver police board. You won’t hear that from Robertson or Ladner.

      Vision and the NPA also have distinctly different positions regarding the six-lane Burrard Bridge. Vision and its ally, the Coalition of Progressive Electors, favour a trial converting one lane of traffic for cyclists, a half-lane each in either direction. During the trial, there would be signals installed that would change the direction of the car lanes (similar to the signals on the Lions Gate Bridge) so there would always be three lanes open for rush-hour vehicles. The other two car lanes would always travel in the opposite direction.

      The NPA now opposes its earlier plan to widen the bridge, which would have cost up to $63 million. During the recent campaign, Ladner proposed that a barrier be installed separating cyclists and pedestrians and traffic. According to the NPA, this would cost $33 million and retain all six lanes for motorized vehicles.

      The pesky left-wing gnat in this election, the Work Less Party, supports dedicated bike-lane corridors linking all parts of the city, as well as dedicated bike and bus lanes on all roads and bridges. The Work Less Party, whose mayoral candidate is antilogging activist Betty Krawczyk, also favours reducing reliance on private cars by introducing road tolls. COPE has called for a free bus loop between the downtown core and the Broadway corridor and will push for a single transit fare for the whole region.

      On development issues, Vision and the NPA have voted in favour of freezing the rate of change in certain neighbourhoods, which has slowed the number of evictions. As a result, it’s harder for developers to convert rental buildings into strata-title condominiums.

      Vision has defended the interests of renters more vigorously, criticizing the provincial government for allowing landlords to evict tenants for “improvements” and then jack up the rent after the repairs are done. The NPA has not criticized this loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act, preferring to work cooperatively with the provincial government. The NPA claims that this constructive approach led the province to buy 600 single-room-occupancy units to preserve housing for low-income residents. NPA campaign literature also points out that the province will have added 2,461 new units of nonmarket and supportive housing between 2005 and 2010.

      Vision has pledged to end street homelessness by 2015. Part of its plan is to ensure there are enough shelter beds to meet the demand—an idea that has been criticized by NPA candidate and development consultant Michael Geller. Last year, there were 36,000 people turned away from shelters within a nine-month period. Vision has also promised to strengthen and enforce property-standards bylaws to prevent landlords from allowing their buildings to deteriorate, resulting in the loss of rental-housing units. “The NPA has protected slum landlords by failing to enforce these basic standards,” Vision charges in its platform.

      In addition, Vision has pledged to encourage property owners and strata councils to “unlock vacant condo units as rental properties”. There is no mention in the platform of any tax being imposed to encourage this. However, Vision has proposed tax incentives to encourage the development of market rental housing.

      At its June nominating meeting, Vision members voted against putting lawyer David Eby on the party’s council slate. Eby has been one of the city’s strongest advocates for low-income tenants and victims of police brutality. The presence of Eby on the Vision slate could have deprived the party of donations from major developers and the police union, which might explain why he failed to make the grade. Regardless, the reluctance of Vision to nominate Eby shows a decidedly less progressive bent than the party often presents to the public.

      COPE has called for one unit of affordable housing to be built for every condo unit constructed on the Downtown Eastside. COPE has also proposed freezing the conversion of rental units to strata title and requiring developers to include 20 percent low-income or affordable housing in new developments. In addition, COPE opposes the initial and the revised EcoDensity charters.

      The NPA claims that it has kept property-tax increases to 3.2 percent per year over the past three years. And it says it provides the highest per capita arts funding of any city in Canada. Vision, on the other hand, has advocated creating an arm’s-length Vancouver Arts Council, modelled on that of Edmonton, that would take the politics out of arts grants. Instead of these grants going to council for approval, people with expertise in the arts would make the decisions. Vision and COPE will also push for more car-free festivals in neighbourhoods.

      Vision and COPE have created separate platforms for the park board, unlike the NPA. COPE has proposed increasing access to wireless Internet as well as to childcare and preschool programs in community centres. COPE has also pledged to keep the Mount Pleasant pool open until there are funds found to rebuild it. Vision stated in its platform that it wants to review plans to dismantle the Mount Pleasant pool and community centre with a view to keeping them open. Both parties have proposed more BMX bike parks. COPE will “explore” introducing a referendum on keeping cetaceans in captivity in Stanley Park, whereas Vision’s platform remains silent on this issue.

      Many Vision and COPE candidates have stated publicly that they support the NDP at the provincial level, whereas many NPA candidates have professed their support for the B.C. Liberals. Oddly, Vision’s mayoral candidate, Robertson, has publicly stated that there is no provincial party whose views resemble his, even though he sat in the NDP caucus from 2005 to 2008 as the MLA for Vancouver-Fairview.

      Ladner, on the other hand, has stated frankly that his views coincide more closely with those of the B.C. Liberals than with any other provincial party’s.

      As a result of a deal made with Vision, COPE is only running two candidates for council, two candidates for park board, and nobody for mayor, making the party appear pretty minor on the civic stage. There is only one Green candidate, and he’s seeking a seat on the park board. The Work Less Party is fielding four council candidates and one park board candidate in addition to Krawczyk for mayor.

      Four bright lights: Vision’s Kerry Jang and Heather Deal, Geri Tramutola of the Work Less Party, and the NPA’s Michael Geller.

      There are lots of independents as well, including marijuana activist and libertarian Emery. He seems to be the only mayoral candidate making a big deal about the likelihood of municipal revenues shrinking severely at a time when the biggest budget driver, the police force, is growing rapidly. Emery has also blown the whistle on the Vancouver Police Department’s increasing eagerness in recent years to bust people for marijuana possession.

      Vision’s Robertson is one of the few candidates who favour the creation of a regional police force—an idea that has been endorsed by West Vancouver police Chief Kash Heed and Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu, not to mention criminologists and other independent analysts.

      COPE’s David Cadman, Vision’s Raymond Louie, and the NPA’s Kim Capri are the only incumbents on council who favour the creation of a regional police force. Emery and Work Less Party council candidate Chris Shaw have called upon the province to end its contract with the RCMP and replace it with a provincial police force, which existed in the 1930s and 1940s.

      Few civic candidates are talking about a regional police force at a time when the province is considering whether or not to renew its contract with the RCMP. This suggests that a lot of civic candidates haven’t done their homework in this area—which is a shame, because policing gobbles up the biggest portion of municipal budgets.

      In recent elections, the Georgia Straight has offered recommendations to assist readers who want to do their civic duty but who don’t have the time or inclination to deconstruct wily marketing messages. The political junkies already know who they’re going to support. These recommendations are designed for those who might not have been paying a lot of attention to the news in the weeks leading up to the election.

      In the past, these choices have been referred to as “endorsements”, which they aren’t. We’re not telling you who to vote for, just providing some guidance on the eve of an election. They’re designed as counterweights to the Canwest newspapers, which in recent years have invariably supported right-wing parties under Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, and Gordon Campbell. By the time you read this, the Canwest papers will probably have endorsed the NPA’s Ladner for mayor. For the establishment paper to do anything but endorse the establishment candidate would be a monumental shocker.

      Vancouver mayor

      Gregor Robertson (Vision)

      Robertson doesn’t have experience in civic politics, but, on balance, he comes across as more compassionate and empathetic than his main rival, Peter Ladner. With growing homelessness and the threat to civil liberties posed by the 2010 Games, this is a time when the city could benefit from having a mayor with a heart. Robertson demonstrated leadership in bringing unity to a divided party and then managed to stickhandle a deal with COPE and the Greens. If he’s this adept in dealing with senior levels of government, Vancouver could enjoy some tangible benefits in a period of economic uncertainty. Robertson isn’t stained by the secret $100-million loan to bail out the Olympic Village, unlike Ladner, who chairs the finance committee. Hiding behind the Vancouver Charter, Ladner thought it was a good idea to make this arrangement in private and not reveal it to the taxpayers.

      COPE’s Ellen Woodsworth, Chris Shaw of the Work Less Party, and Vision’s Andrea Reimer all opposed the Olympics.

      Robertson’s biggest liability is his party’s willingness to go along with the wishes of organized labour even when the B.C. Federation of Labour is pushing bad public policies—like expensive transit plans that don’t substantially increase the percentage of people using transit to go to and from work. He could also become a captive of his caucus if Raymond Louie and his supporters—George Chow, Geoff Meggs, Kashmir Dhaliwal, and Kerry Jang—all get elected. Robertson should have done more to ensure that the Pivot Legal Society’s David Eby got a Vision nomination as a counterweight to more conservative forces within this civic party.

      Ladner isn’t a disastrous mayoral candidate. He might provide some fiscal sanity in hard economic times and stand up to the demands of the public-sector unions. He’s intelligent and, at times, he has questioned shovelling tons of money at the police department.

      He also has some good ideas to create more market rental housing in Vancouver. However, as the establishment candidate, Ladner is far too inclined to toe the line of the bigwigs at the Vancouver Board of Trade. That was demonstrated in his first term when he voted against slot machines at the Plaza of Nations, where few people live. Then he turned around to vote in favour of putting slot machines in Hastings Park, where a lot more people live, after the board wrote a letter to councillors promoting the idea.

      Ladner’s tough-on-crime line (which Robertson echoes) comes across to us like a shameless attempt to pander to first-generation immigrant voters. Everyone knows the crime rate has fallen sharply; even the NPA brags about this. Both Ladner and Robertson are copying Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s approach in the federal election. Ladner also hasn’t demonstrated any interest in building more homeless shelters despite the obvious magnitude of the homeless crisis.

      Vancouver council: strongly recommended

      David Cadman (COPE)

      Cadman, a two-term councillor, can usually be counted on to ask the most intelligent questions of staff. He has helped the city prepare for global warming and is probably the most knowledgeable councillor when it comes to peak oil, effective transit policies, and regional issues. He’s one of the few council candidates who recognize that creating a regional police force is good public policy. And he is likely to stand up for people’s civil liberties if the army and the police get out of hand during the 2010 Olympics. Cadman also did his very best to try to maintain unity on the left during the disruptive period in 2004 and 2005 when former mayor Larry Campbell was intent on leaving COPE.

      Kerry Jang (Vision)

      Jang, a UBC professor of psychiatry, skewered the Project Civil City initiative after it was launched by Mayor Sam Sullivan. When Jang was president of Collingwood Neighbourhood House, it developed inclusive multicultural programs that brought new Canadians from different countries together. The neighbourhood house also provided a refuge for the homeless. Jang is an internationally recognized authority on personality disorders. He also has a good sense of humour and he’s a good listener. Not only that, but he has a keen understanding of the science of addiction, which is probably the most pressing issue facing the city. Vancouver will be lucky if he gets elected to council.

      Chris Shaw (Work Less Party)

      Shaw has been a fearless critic of the Olympics, predicting cost overruns and problems with the Olympic Village many years before these issues exploded into the media. Shaw, a neuroscientist and professor at UBC, is exceptionally intelligent and can communicate in ways that the average person can understand. He will be a good watchdog over the Olympics and the International Olympic Committee when Vancouver hosts the Games. And you can be sure that he won’t go in-camera to approve $100-million expenditures and then not disclose this to the public.

      Like Cadman, Shaw understands the big global issues, such as peak oil and global warming, and how they might transform Vancouver. He’s not a fan of big unions, big developers, or big business, and he has in the past raised concerns about Chinese government espionage in Canada. If you’re not concerned about Chinese espionage and you like big unions, big business, big developers, and the Olympics, then Shaw definitely isn’t your man. But if you think it’s insane to spend more than $800 million on the expansion of a waterfront convention centre and you want a councillor to raise hell about it, you might want to save one vote for Shaw.

      Vancouver council: recommended

      Suzanne Anton (NPA)

      Of all the NPA incumbents, Anton is the most interested in the environment, housing, and transportation, which are the three most pressing issues facing voters if this recent credit contraction doesn’t end up causing a depression. A former prosecutor, she’s sometimes a bit too right-wing for us when it comes to supporting the Project Civil City crackdown on the poor and the homeless in advance of the Olympics.

      But she understands that climate change is elevating the risk of a huge number of migrants coming to this region in the coming years and that the future could be considerably different than the past. She recognizes that the U.S. sunbelt is going to be terribly short of water as precipitation levels fall sharply, which could lead to a lot of Americans coming here. She has also examined the implications of peak oil, which sets her apart from most candidates for municipal office in the region. If anyone wants to know why she has been a bit of a zealot about EcoDensity, it stems from her examination of climate change and peak oil. Those who suggest it’s only because she wants to favour developers are taking cheap shots.

      She reads reports and often asks sharp questions of staff. She deserves to be reelected and would be a good opposition councillor if Vision and COPE formed a majority.

      Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan and independent park-board candidate Jamie Lee Hamilton have no difficulty challenging conventional wisdom.

      Heather Deal (Vision)

      Deal, a biologist, is probably the greenest Vision councillor, having worked at the David Suzuki Foundation. She has also been one of the most vigorous and knowledgeable supporters of the arts on council.

      She’s intelligent and articulate, and if she’s reelected, perhaps she will become a bolder politician as she ages. We’ve seen signs of that happening in the past year. She asks intelligent questions of staff and delegations, and she understands the crisis that we all face as a result of climate change. She played a constructive role during the EcoDensity debate, successfully pushing staff to emphasize more affordable housing as part of the mix. Her party’s policies are somewhat conservative in some areas, and the plan to allow the cycling trial on the Burrard Bridge strikes some of us as a cop-out.

      But if there are going to be economic and environmental crises in the future, it would be helpful to have intelligent members on council like Deal, who can wrap their minds around complicated issues.

      Michael Geller (NPA)

      Geller, a development consultant, has lots of ideas for addressing the city’s housing crisis, thanks to his travels around the world. He thinks the city should allow secondary suites in multifamily projects, including high-rises. This would require reducing the minimum suite size, which isn’t such a terrible idea, given the cost of housing in the city. He knows how much the city can extract from developers in tough economic times. He can disagree with people without being disagreeable. When he worked for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in the 1970s, he played a major role in the development of the south shore of False Creek, which is an outstanding example of a mixed-income neighbourhood. He was also the first NPA candidate to publicly question the $63-million widening of the Burrard Bridge.

      Geller needs to brush up on policing and peak oil, and we’re not impressed that he’s opposed to creating more homeless shelters in Vancouver during the current homeless crisis. But he wouldn’t be a bad addition to council, given his vast knowledge of land-use issues. Keep in mind that about half of what council does involves land, so it’s important to have people elected who are interested in and knowledgeable about this area.

      Raymond Louie (Vision)

      Louie has always been hard-working and intelligent, but he didn’t get a recommendation in 2005 because we considered his voting record to be too right-wing. He has changed his tune somewhat in his recent term on council, though he remains a strong supporter of increasing the police force even after the crime rate has fallen sharply. On the upside, he played an instrumental role in Vancouver’s developing an ethical purchasing policy during his first term on council. In his bid for a Vision mayoral nomination, he advanced democracy in Vancouver by reaching out to a broad cross-section of the city, creating a rainbow coalition of support and getting a lot more people involved in civic politics.

      He voted for the $100-million loan for the Olympic Village in secret, but at least he had the guts to try to open up the process after this information leaked out this month. Louie is informed about housing issues, and he argued for a more equitable mix on the southeast shore of False Creek. He has stood up for retaining single-room-occupancy hotels on the Downtown Eastside. He understands regional issues, and he is perhaps the strongest Vision member on budgetary issues. If he’s reelected and Vision wins a majority, he’ll likely become the chair of the city services and budgets committee.

      Andrea Reimer (Vision)

      Reimer can be a bit Machiavellian, which was demonstrated by her decision to join a slate with Geoff Meggs, Jang, and Kashmir Dhaliwal to secure a Vision council nomination. Reimer, a proponent of more women serving in politics, ensured that there would only be two women on the Vision council slate as a result of this arrangement. On the upside, she has helped save a lot of old-growth forests in B.C. as the executive director of the Wilderness Committee, which is one of B.C.’s leading environmental organizations. She’s intelligent and she was a very good school trustee from 2002 to 2005 as a member of the Green party. Reimer has a great deal of knowledge about climate change, having learned how to present Al Gore’s famous slide show.

      She’s 36 years old, younger than most people who will serve on council, and she brings a young person’s values into the political arena. She’ll probably be a decent city councillor if she maintains her integrity and avoids making too many backroom deals with the union leaders and the developers, who have a significant influence on her party.

      Geri Tramutola (Work Less Party)

      Tramutola brings a new, articulate voice to civic politics, espousing food security, a better deal for transit users, and strong support for the local arts scene. She’s knowledgeable about civic issues and won the “Last Candidate Standing” event on November 7, which was hosted by Simon Fraser University’s City Program and the Vancouver Public Space Network. Tramutola is thoughtful and progressive, and if she won enough votes to get elected, she would be a terrific addition to city council.

      Her party’s platform is far more left-wing than either Vision or COPE, espousing such things as grants for local entrepreneurs who sell and distribute biodegradable takeout containers and diapers, and implementing educational programs to teach consumers to leave excess packaging at the stores where they buy their products. She’s also a member of the Gateway Sucks coalition. The Work Less Party is founded on the principle that if people work less and consume less, they’ll have more time to dedicate themselves to improving the community. Tramutola lives up to that philosophy, which is something we might all want to aspire to if we want to avoid an environmental Armageddon. Tramutola is also a member of the Vancouver Peak Oil Executive.

      Ellen Woodsworth (COPE)

      We didn’t recommend Woodsworth in 2005 when she was running for reelection, despite her good voting record. It was because she failed to treat COPE councillor Fred Bass with what we felt was an appropriate level of respect after Bass criticized then-mayor Larry Campbell for straying too far from COPE policies. Woodsworth has spent three years in the penalty box and is now back seeking a second term on council. Like her COPE colleague Cadman, Woodsworth is no friend of developers, arguing in favour of them setting aside 20 percent of units for low-income or affordable housing. She will probably vote in favour of more homeless shelters. If she’s elected, Woodsworth will speak up for women’s equality, lower transit fares, gay and lesbian rights, and a free bus service in parts of Vancouver.

      She has worked hard on civic issues over the past three years, attending numerous forums. She’s knowledgeable about the Living in Community initiative, which is trying to bring sex-trade workers into the mainstream and turn the Pickton legacy into something positive. If the authorities treat poor people in a shabby way as we move closer to hosting the Olympics, Woodsworth will probably be among the first on council to speak up in their defence. She has also called for guidelines for the use of the city’s Property Endowment Fund, which seems like a sensible idea following the controversy over the $100-million loan for the Olympic Village.

      Vancouver council: worth considering

      Sean Bickerton (NPA)

      Bickerton, a former vice president of a major record label, is a big supporter of the arts and of equality for gays and lesbians. If you want to vote for a candidate who will stand up for the entertainment industry, Bickerton is your man. He’s smart and well-intentioned, and the NPA was fortunate to lure him as a candidate.

      George Chow (Vision)

      Chow is a big supporter of increasing the police force, so he might be too conservative for some. But he is one of the most honest politicians on council. Ask him a question and he gives you a straight answer. He’s also well-informed about a range of issues, including housing, and he speaks Cantonese, which will give the huge number of Cantonese speakers in Vancouver an opportunity to communicate with a city councillor in their native language.

      Ian Gregson (Work Less Party)

      Gregson, a former Paralympian, is one of the city’s biggest critics of the Olympics. He’s a former Green party candidate who created the Web site. He is an East Side community activist, musician, environmentalist, and volunteer with several groups. If you like more radical thinkers, you can vote for Gregson and be assured that you’re getting someone who is knowledgeable about the issues.

      Lea Johnson (Independent)

      Johnson, an educator and member of the Vancouver Board of Trade sustainability committee, has given a lot of thought to addressing chronic homelessness. He says Vancouver can choose to provide the chronically homeless with a clean and secure place to sleep, access to legal services, and a place to take care of their physical and mental-health needs. If you want to vote for someone who hasn’t destroyed your trust by favouring a $100-million loan in secret for the Olympic Village, you could vote for Johnson and be assured sure that you’re not casting a ballot for a nut.

      Steve Wansleeben (Independent)

      Wansleeben is extremely well-informed on a range of issues, including the Olympic Village controversy and increasing citizen involvement. At a November 9 candidates debate, he came across as reasonable, pragmatic, and compassionate. He’s another candidate who is worth supporting if you’re disgusted by the incumbents’ handling of the Olympic Village issue.

      Vancouver park board

      The Vancouver park board needs members who will stand up to the staff. Even if the public objects, park-board staff will figure out ways to justify the elimination of trees in Queen Elizabeth Park, the addition of restaurants on the beach, and the relentless expansion of the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. The best candidate to stand up to the staff and act in the public interest is independent Jamie Lee Hamilton, who has a history of advocating for marginalized Vancouverites.

      Other good choices include COPE’s Loretta Woodcock, the NPA’s Christopher Richardson, and Vision’s Sarah Blyth, Aaron Jasper, Raj Hundal, and Constance Barnes, daughter of former NDP MLA Emery Barnes.

      NPA incumbents should be bounced for taking away the public’s right to vote in a referendum before any expansion of the aquarium’s footprint in Stanley Park and for voting to cancel a plebiscite in the 2008 election on keeping cetaceans in captivity. If you’re of a more radical bent, you might want to vote for the Work Less Party’s Ivan Doumenc, an articulate critic of consumerism. The Green party has put only one candidate on the ballot: Stuart Mackinnon for park board. He’s a critic of privatization.

      Vancouver school board

      School boards don’t have a lot of power these days. The curriculum, school taxes, teachers’ contracts, and the major portion of the operating grant are determined at the provincial level. The B.C. Liberal government has a tendency to impose contracts on support staff. That leaves school trustees in charge of hiring senior staff, shuffling money around to deal with the fallout of provincial policies, liaising with parent advisory committees, coping with demand for English-as-a-second-language programs, and pushing for seismic upgrades to keep children safe.

      In our opinion, the best suited to do this in Vancouver are COPE’s Bill Bargeman, Jane Bouey, Allan Wong, Alvin Singh, and Al Blakey; Vision’s Patti Bacchus, Ken Clement (the first aboriginal candidate who might be elected in Vancouver), and Mike Lombardi; and the NPA’s Ken Denike. Incumbent Vision trustee Sharon Gregson sets a bad example for kids by promoting gun ownership. But if you want someone knowledgeable about all-day kindergarten, special-needs programs, and who can also relate to freaky and marginalized parents, you might want to save a vote for her.

      Recommendations for suburban municipalities


      The Burnaby Citizens Association has been in power for 21 years, probably making it the longest-serving government in B.C. history. In an article on, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan offered a few reasons why his party has remained at the helm for so long. There are more jobs than residents, thanks to the municipality’s knack for luring businesses from other parts of the region. Burnaby also puts on outstanding concerts in Deer Lake Park, something that is usually forbidden in Vancouver parks. The Shadbolt Centre for the Arts has emerged as a leading cultural facility.

      There is more. Burnaby is debt-free, has low tax rates, and the staff produce some of the best reports in the region on important issues such as the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the risks posed by peak oil. Mayor Corrigan deserves to be reelected for lots of reasons, but mostly because he remains one of the sharpest politicians in the Lower Mainland. We need him on the board of Metro Vancouver because of his keen understanding of how the pieces of the region fit together.

      Team Burnaby mayoral candidate Andrew Chisholm has tried to capitalize on what he calls “Computergate”—a $19-million cost overrun on a municipal computer system. At $19 million, according to Chisholm, it’s way smaller than the liabilities that Vancouverites could end up facing in connection with hosting the Olympics.

      Chisholm has chastised the BCA for opposing the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge. To us, it’s a reflection of the BCA’s sound approach to environmental issues. Chisholm has also claimed that Burnaby needs 100 more police in the next three years. In the Burnaby Now, Corrigan retorted that the city approved 25 new officers in June, and another 23 were hired this year, they might reconsider their position.

      BCA councillors Nick Volkow, Dan Johnston, Pietro Calendino, Sav Dhaliwal, and Colleen Jordan deserve to be reelected. Fairchild TV host Richard Chang, special-education teacher Anne Kang, and retired Vancouver deputy fire chief Paul McDonell round out the BCA slate.

      Team Burnaby councillor Lee Rankin keeps getting reelected to keep the BCA on its toes. Rankin, a councillor for 22 years, used to be an outstanding director of Metro Vancouverd, focusing a great deal of attention on air quality and climate change.

      New Westminster

      To bring some sanity to the development-approval process, we’re recommending Voice New Westminster mayoral candidate, Blair Armitage, who has managed golf and country clubs. He has focused attention on the municipality’s relatively high taxes, and might have more influence than Mayor Wayne Wright on regional transportation decisions. For council, we’re also recommending Voice candidate Steve McClurg, past president of the New Westminster Downtown Residents’ Association and a former federal NDP candidate, as well as heritage advocate Jaimie McEvoy. We also support incumbents Bob Osterman, Jonathan X. Cote, Bill Harper, and Lorrie Williams. Harper has tackled the pesticide issue; Osterman and Williams are supporters of the arts; and Cote has strong environmental awareness and brings a young person’s perspective to the council chamber.

      North Vancouver District

      Richard Walton has been acclaimed as the mayor. For council, we’re recommending Roger Bassam, executive assistant to defeated Liberal MP Don Bell, because of Bassam’s knowledge of the issues. Incumbents Lisa Muri and Robin Hicks are hardworking councillors, and they aren’t too right-wing. John Fair is a passionate advocate for cycling and smart transportation policies. Anyone who has cycled the streets in the district knows there’s room for improvement in this area. We’re also recommending David McKee, who is an outdoor-recreation enthusiast and a strong environmentalist.

      North Vancouver City

      Mayor Darrell Mussatto has been acclaimed. Bookstore owner Mary Trentadue and physical therapist Cheryl Leia would be terrific additions to council. We’re also recommending incumbents Craig Keating, Sam Schechter, and Pam Bookham. They’re all progressive politicians who support renters and community-based planning. Incumbent councillor Bob Fearnley has made noises about running for the B.C. Liberals in North Vancouver–Lonsdale, so if you don’t like Premier Gordon Campbell, don’t vote for Fearnley.

      West Vancouver

      We’re recommending the incumbent mayor, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, over two challengers on council, Vivian Vaughan and John Clark. Goldsmith-Jones recognizes that West Vancouver needs to pilot new forms of housing. She has also consistently supported the arts. As chair of the police board, Goldsmith-Jones can take credit for the hiring of new police Chief Kash Heed, one of the region’s most progressive cops. Vaughan has a strong environmental bent, but it sometimes seems like she wants to freeze West Vancouver in the past. Clark is more conservative than Goldsmith-Jones. For council, we like Caroleanne Reynolds, who has a history of fighting corruption. Nora Gambioli and Trish Panz are two smart new candidates who also deserve spots on council.


      The biggest stain on Surrey politics is the lack of a ward system. The at-large system deprives racial minorities of more representation on council, and rewards politicians with lots of money or high name recognition. The new Surrey Civic Coalition, which includes veteran councillor Bob Bose, wants a referendum on a ward system. This issue is so important that we’re recommending that people vote for the entire SCC slate: Bose, Rina Gill, Jim McMurtry, Grant Rice, and Stephanie Ryan. When Bose proposed that a ward system be put on the ballot this year, every other member of council voted against the idea. For taking such an antidemocratic stand, we think all other incumbents, including Mayor Dianne Watts, should be defeated. We recommend mayoral candidate Murray Weisenberger, who strongly supports a ward system.


      We think Malcom Brodie should be defeated as mayor because we weren’t impressed by his voting record on the TransLink board, which includes raising fares. He also hasn’t been a strong protector of farmland. We’re recommending mayoral candidate Ivan Gerlach, a bakery owner who is unhappy with the level of taxation. For council, we strongly recommend incumbents Harold Steves, Linda Barnes, Evalina Halsey-Brandt, and newcomer Michael Wolfe, who have fought for the preservation of farmland. In addition, we think it would be wise to elect former mayor and former MLA Greg Halsey-Brandt, who is seeking a council seat after three years out of politics. The council could benefit from his knowledge as a professional planner. His ex-wife, Sue Halsey-Brandt, is an advocate of sensible land-use policies, which is why she should be reelected.


      Metro Vancouver chair Lois Jackson deserves to be reelected as Delta’s mayor. She has been a passionate defender of farmland. Jackson has helped arrest the right-wing drift of the regional district by installing Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan as chair of the land-use and transportation committee, and Richmond councillor Harold Steves as chair of a new agriculture committee. Jackson’s chief opponent, Delta councillor Krista Engelland, has made a strong case that the bureaucrats are running the municipality because Jackson is distracted by regional concerns. Engelland thinks more could be done on the power-line issue, and there needs to be an even stronger focus on preserving agricultural land and reducing truck traffic. Perhaps she’s right, but the region is better off with Jackson as the Metro Vancouver chair.

      Port Moody

      Mayor Joe Trasolini supported the Canada Line a few years ago based on a promise that his city would get rapid transit. It still hasn’t happened. Trasolini has also supported real-estate developments over the objections of local residents, which suggests he’s showing signs of forgetting who elected him. His most serious opponent is Shane Kennedy, who posted a credible seven-point plan. We are cautiously recommending Kennedy, even though he supports the federal Conservatives.

      Councillors Bob Elliott, Karen Rockwell, and Megan Lahti are all progressive voices who would offset any rightward tilt on the slim chance that Kennedy defeats Trasolini.


      Councillor and former Liberal MLA Richard Stewart is trying to defeat incumbent Maxine Wilson. We think Mayor Wilson deserves another term for focusing more attention than previous mayors on environmental issues, suburban sprawl, and sensible regional policies. Her opponent, Coun. Richard Stewart, was once a director of the New Home Warranty Program, which failed to protect owners of leaky condos. Since then, the former Liberal MLA has morphed into a populist, promoting cycling and opposing visits by door-to-door salespeople. For council, it’s important to reelect Fin Donnelly, a champion of the environment and aboriginal rights. Councillor Barrie Lynch is another intelligent politician who deserves to be reelected.

      Port Coquitlam

      Two councillors, Mike Bowen and Greg Moore, are seeking Scott Young’s job. We favour Bowen over Moore, a former B.C. Liberal candidate. Bowen has been on council since 2001 and has served on several committees. Bowen is also on the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Force.

      Pitt Meadows

      We’re recommending Mayor Don MacLean because he’s smart and relatively humble. He was an effective TransLink director in the past, standing up for taxpayers with his opposition to the Canada Line.

      Maple Ridge

      The preservation of farmland is a huge issue in Maple Ridge, where NDP MLA Michael Sather is running for mayor against populist incumbent Gordy Robson and right-wing councillor Ernie Daykin. The mercurial Robson promised to serve one term, but now wants to be reelected. We think Sather is a better choice.


      In the City of Langley, mayoral candidate Ron Abgrall has far more progressive views than incumbent Peter Fassbender. Abgrall, a political neophyte, opposes the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge, supports the preservation of farmland, and advocates a humane approach to dealing with the homeless and drug-addicted. In Langley Township, we’re making no recommendation for mayor because incumbent Kurt Alberts and challenger Rick Green do not support drug-harm-reduction measures.




      Nov 13, 2008 at 2:23pm

      Interesting that of the NPA Candidates, Geller, a developer, and Anton, an incumbent, get a higher recommendation than Sean Bickerton, the most Liberal and openly-gay NPA candidate. Coming from the Straight, I find that very odd indeed!!


      Nov 13, 2008 at 8:13pm

      Wow...your writers should really get to know a little bit about Surrey (and I suspect other municipalities) before just throwing out a bunch of names to vote for.

      In Surrey, the ward system isn't even an issue. Transit, crime, traffic, urban development, the environment & property taxes are issues people are voting about.

      Also, your "endorsement" of perennial election crackpot Murray Weisenberger for mayor only displays your complete lack of knowledge of Surrey. Even he acknowledges that he's only running to make sure there's more than one name on the ballot. You may have well have endorsed Marc Emery or Yummy Girl for Vancouver mayor.

      In short, people out here are pretty pleased with Dianne Watts because she runs a city based on people's real concerns instead of running some sort of pseudo political campaign for the NDP or Libs. If there was a real problem with her, don't you think there'd be someone serious running against her?

      Get yer head on straight!


      Nov 14, 2008 at 12:28am

      I agree 100 per cent with the comment on Surrey. Diane Watts has taken the city on a first few tentative steps required to transform Surrey from an endless sea of suburban sprawl into a real urban center. She has opposed development in environmentally sensitive areas, she has committed to moving city hall to Surrey Central and turning the area into a real downtown. She gets the need for public transit and is supporting light rail for surrey and for the Valley. The fact that there really is no serious competition for the mayor's chair shows that she has done, overall, a good job. While I do agree that wards would be an improvement, it's not a good enough reason to dump a smart, progressive mayor for somebody who is not even serious competition.


      Nov 14, 2008 at 8:42am

      I agree this is incredibly poor research. In Richmond there are a full range of progressive candidates.

      Richard Lee (Ind). Richard works with the Salvation Army and is a big supporter of supportive housing.

      Neil Smith (Ind). Neil is a the chair of the Poverty Response Committee Transportation Task Force. He can be seen daily cycling in his green and yellow jacket. He is Richmond's leading advocate on transportation.

      Linda Burchill (Ind). Linda is a community volunteer working in the mental health community. She has written a detailed study on supportive housing.

      David Reay (RCA). David is chair of the Affordable Housing Task Force and co-chair of the Poverty Response Committee and a member of the Garden City Coalition. He is Richmond's leading advocate on affordable housing and poverty issues.

      It appears that the Straight is in love with the name Halsey-Brandt. Be reminded that Greg and Evelina are the foremost advocates for putting 6 stories of concrete onto the Garden City Lands. Greg Halsey-Brandt was mayor when the Packers lands were developed with no committments to affordable housing.

      It would have been better if you had instead admitted that you aren't paying attention to what is happening in Richmond.


      Nov 14, 2008 at 12:12pm

      While I applaud the Straight for its recent non-partisan choices regarding municipal elections choices for candidates aware of the environment, peak oil and housing, I would caution the editors and journalists of the publication not to be too single-minded in their approach to some of these issues. Awareness of peak oil or climate change does not necessarily equate to a social justice or ecological agenda.

      As someone who has planned their master's degree around (and is trying to build a career on) issues of crisis and planning, I'm concerned about support for any candidate that is aware of peak oil, but consistently votes from a right wing perspective. If a candidate chooses to support significantly increased policing and Project Civil City, then we can predict that their strategies for peak oil and climate crisis will also consist of security measures.

      The question is not whether we'll receive climate refugees, it's when. The question is not whether we'll need to localize for a growing population, it's simply how we'll do it.

      My concern for several of your candidate choices is that they represent an awareness of the issues we'll face, but they don't represent a real solution. Instead, their policies threaten to drive us into a deeper mode of fortress planning to protect ourselves and exclude others, rather than planning for the incredible shifts, migrations and disturbances we're bound to see over the next 100 years.

      The question is not whether candidates are aware of peak oil: the question is who they will standy by and how they will vote when it arrives.


      Nov 15, 2008 at 7:52am


      I agree that a populous municipality like Surrey needs a ward system. But what about Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Delta, and Coquitlam? All of them have populations of 100,000 or more. Shouldn't they have a ward system too?

      Would the Straight recommend changes to the Municipal Act and the City Charter Act that simply required wards in municipalities whose populations exceeded 100,000, or perhaps ever 50,000? As a discretionary choice, wards have gone nowhere in BC, even though they are standard elsewhere in Canada.

      Rod Smelser

      common tater

      Nov 16, 2008 at 11:38am

      I decided to just trust the suggestions above for parks and schools your paper tends reflect my views anyways. I made the choices for mayor and councilors on my own and went to the Vancouver polls with a list of names. In reviewing the election results and comparing to my list, I realized you listed 10 names for school trustees and that I likely spoiled my ballot by following your lead, hopefully not too many others made the same mistake as I did.