In 2008, Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver swept the NPA out of power and were given a mandate to bring much-needed change to city hall. Through a lot of hard work, we have achieved much in the last three years: over 650 fewer people sleeping on the street, an eight-percent increase in childcare spaces, and 10-year plans developed to make Vancouver the greenest city and create affordable housing for all.
But despite these advances in Vancouver, too few people continue to make decisions for too many, whether it be through appalling voter turn-outs or archaic public processes that don’t accommodate the many people that are legitimately busy just trying to get by in these challenging times.
We’ve worked hard to create made-in-Vancouver solutions that build on our city’s proud history of citizen engagement and activism. I was proud that one of my first acts on council was to reinstate citizen advisory committees that the previous NPA council had cut and create the city’s first ever LGBTQ advisory committee. We’ve also created a “council of councils” that allows all the city’s advisory committees to connect, collaborate, and build capacity.
In May 2009, I brought in the Open 3 initiative to open up the city’s data to citizens, students, and policy advocates. Open data has driven massive change not just in Vancouver but indeed around the world with many cities taking our lead and building on it. It’s also been an economic driver for tech companies providing raw—and fully renewable!—material for innovative applications that benefit people and businesses. It resulted in BC Business awarding the City of Vancouver the Most Innovative Organization award, the first time this honour has ever gone to a public body. Sadly, the NPA voted against this initiative, citing a lack of benefit to the city and its residents by opening up data.
The culture created by greater openness has had massive benefits on all city policies. For example, over 30,000 people helped to develop the Greenest City Action Plan, including over 100 partner organizations and innovative online tools.
Even the public hearing process, while still in need of great improvement, has shown it can work when you have a mayor and council that listens to the clear will of the people. Nowhere was this more evident than in the council decision to stop the mega-casino proposed for downtown Vancouver. Although it was a unanimous decision, within hours of her vote, Suzanne Anton said that in fact she supported the casino, ignoring massive community opposition that had given up mornings, afternoons, evenings, and weekends over many weeks to have their voice heard.
We are just getting started on getting rid of the barriers to citizen participation. Just this year, council supported initiating four new community-led plans (DTES, Grandview Woodlands, West End, Marpole) accelerating the opportunity for neighbourhoods to have modern amenities and contemporary aspirations for their future reflected in planning decisions. Under the NPA only one plan was started in their term and wasn’t even finished.
We are also working on modernizing the voting system: we launched the first-ever all party committee on campaign finance reform and we’ve successfully secured preliminary approval from the province for online voting in 2014. Only one councillor didn’t support this work, and that was NPA councillor Suzanne Anton.
Noticing a pattern here? A Vision-COPE council is committed to continuing the work we started on getting more people directly involved in the decisions that affect them. But we really can’t do it without you—we need your vote on November 19 and we need you to keep pushing mayor and council to find new ways to bring your ideas, your passion, and your energy into policies that build a Vancouver that works for everyone, because everyone helped build it.
Andrea Reimer is a Vision Vancouver candidate for city council.