(NPA council candidate Colleen Hardwick delivered this speech at Vancouver City Hall before council approved a mass rezoning to allow duplexes in single-family areas.)
Good afternoon. My name is Colleen Hardwick, and Vancouver is my hometown.
Mayor and city councillors, I would like to preface my remarks with a reminder that you were all elected to represent the people of Vancouver. That is, the people who live here, and pay taxes here. Today. You have an obligation to represent these people, and their interests. Today.
For the majority of you sitting here, this will be your last council meeting. The thought that, on your way out, you would even consider approving these sweeping citywide zoning bylaw changes WITHOUT due process, WITHOUT proper public consultation, and WITHOUT community input, is unconscionable. We elect representatives. To represent us. That means that you as representatives, you need to listen to the people. And you have not. There has been no meaningful public consultation. Do not confuse the marketing efforts of the communications department for genuine, transparent, and accountable public consultation, because it is not.
Moving on from the fact of this fundamentally flawed public process, I will now address the issue of the proposed massive rezoning itself. Approving these bylaw changes will be like putting out fire with gasoline. Everywhere you look in the city of Vancouver today, you see orange mesh fences marking the latest demolitions, and cranes rising high above the city skyline. You think this is bad, just wait for the aftermath if this rezoning proposal is approved. Our neighbourhoods will be further gutted in this gold rush of land speculation.
The stated rationale for this proposed rezoning is to add more affordable housing supply. Yes, we know that there is need for affordable housing. Sounds laudable. But the supply-side promoters are just gas-lighting you. Currently, there is excess supply but it is in the form of safety deposit boxes in the sky. The truth is that the proposal benefits the property development industry. Their motivation is clear: build more—make more money.
So, what about population growth? Is the population growth as significant as represented? I think not. The evidence does not support the claimed projections. The real question is who is all this new housing intended for? What jobs will they do? What industries will they be working in? What sectors? Or, are we a resort destination?
Remember: this city exists because it was chosen as the terminus of the railway. It became Canada’s western port. Its economy grew, fuelled by natural resource industries—forestry, fisheries, mining, which have been in decline since the 1980s. We recognized at that time the importance of diversifying our economy: building our knowledge-based and creative industries. However, what have we seen emerge? What is the largest industry in Greater Vancouver today? Property development. And construction. Land speculation and flipping. Not sustainable. (Incidentally, people working in construction do not live in the City of Vancouver. They can’t afford to.)
So instead of going headlong into this misguided proposal for blanket rezoning, what other solutions have we considered? And most importantly, has the city even talked to its residents? The ones who live here and pay their taxes? No.
Vancouver does need to update its citywide plan and engage authentically with its citizens at the grassroots neighbourhood level. If you have already rezoned most of the city, what exactly is left to plan? Vancouver needs to return to its legacy of community planning where the people who live here have influence over their own neighborhoods, and not have top-down autocratic decisions made by an outgoing council.
In closing, I strongly encourage you to press pause. Do not approve these sweeping zoning changes. Allow for the nuance of neighbourhoods. We, the people of Vancouver want to work together in a process to build a better city for our children and our children’s’ children. Please do not tear apart the very fabric of my hometown.