It's a sad day when MLAs believe mayors and municipal councillors need longer terms in office

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      Anyone who spends time around municipal council chambers in this province recognizes that there's already a serious democracy deficit with our local governments.

      With no campaign-spending limits, the real-estate interests, casino companies, and unions have a disproportionate say by dumping massive sums of money to get their preferred candidates elected.

      The conflict-of-interest rules are a joke.

      In an appalling act of negligence, the provincial government hasn't even defined what constitutes a conflict of interest under the Vancouver Charter or the Community Charter.

      Is it a real conflict? An apparent or appearance of conflict? Or a potential conflict?

      That alone guarantees that any politician taken to court over the matter can plead ignorance, noting that it's impossible to know what constitutes a conflict when it's not even outlined in the legislation.

      Meanwhile, councils routinely go in-camera over anything that can loosely be defined as dealing with land, labour relations, or legal issues.

      It's required under provincial legislation that appears to be more crafted to please the directors of the Union of B.C. Municipalities rather than providing any semblance of open government.

      Forget about any oversight from the provincial conflict-of-interest commissioner.

      There aren't even any panels that citizens can appeal to when municipal politicians decide to ignore the public out of an eagerness to please their donors.

      No, if a citizen feels there's a legal problem, he or she must hire a lawyer and take the local government to court.

      In a final insult, the B.C. legislature has retained the at-large system for electing municipal councillors in the province's largest cities.

      This means that anyone seeking office must join a well-oiled political machine and collect bucketfuls of money before even having a hope of getting elected.

      Now, Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes wants to loosen accountability even further.

      She's introduced a bill in the legislature to extend municipal politicians' terms from three to four years.

      Oakes will no doubt sing the praises of granting local politicians an extra year in office as some wonderful innovation that will lead to better government.

      Don't believe it for a second.

      It's another step along the road to less accountability and greater power for the oligarchs who already have too much influence through their ability to finance the election of whoever will do their bidding.

      Sometimes, I wish that the people elected to our legislature would read the research of Transparency International and make the connections between how diminished accountability leads to greater corruption and long-term economic stagnation.

      If they did, they would be holding a filibuster against the latest effort to strengthen the power of local politicians at the expense of the citizenry. 

      But it's not likely to happen because these provincial politicians won't want to upset their municipal brethren or their pals at the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

      Comments

      7 Comments

      G

      Feb 26, 2014 at 11:46am

      Between this ridiculous idea and Vision's eagerness to please their donors Vancouver will be a very different city by the fall of 2018. If Vision keeps their majorities on council & parks board both sides of Cambie from 41st south to the river will be lined with towers, including part of what is now Langara Golf Course. Every neighbourhood shopping area will be rezoned for buildings up to 6 storeys and council has shown a willingness to adjust local zoning for developers who happen to donate to Vision. Commercial Drive from Venables to Broadway; Main from Hastings to 33rd; Broadway from Blenheim to Larch; Victoria from 33rd to 43rd and every other area with more than a couple of blocks of shops will rezoned to align with Vision's "densification" plan. The plan itself will change the character of many neighbourhoods before Vision start making special deals with their donors for towers of 20 or more storeys, or even 40 as we will see at Oakridge.

      Vision will try to fight the next election using their "green" & "social justice" propaganda campaigns. They will make sure there are plenty of bike related pieces in the media in their efforts to once again drive a single issue voting herd into supporting rampant development. Community opposition to development plans will force Vision to delay any binding votes to drive through their developer friendly plans until after the next election, that will be spun as "consultation" rather than delaying tactics.

      I don't believe any of the key Vision politicians are planning to stay in civic politics after 2018. Developers and other donors have been very well served by the cabal and will fund any political campaigns at higher levels or arrange nice sinecures for the members of the Vision team. It will be very difficult to prevent Vision from taking a majority on council & parks board, the school board is an irrelevant waste of funds that would be better spent in the classroom. Vision and their cronies need to be limited to 4 members on council to keep them from driving through their development agenda, unfortunately I don't believe that any of the other civic parties have a hope of defeating the current beast.

      Bikes & cycling are a non-issue folks intended to distract the media and most of the public. The entire kits park bike lane story was a distraction and it worked: point grey road is closed and 1% donors are happy

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      Save Vancouver

      Feb 26, 2014 at 5:37pm

      Very well said Charlie.

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      Collarbone O'Hare

      Feb 27, 2014 at 1:14pm

      Get Randy Helton into the fold. The man is amazing. You'll see what I mean when he reads this.

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      David Raun

      Feb 28, 2014 at 9:36am

      "With no campaign-spending limits, the real-estate interests, casino companies, and unions have a disproportionate say by dumping massive sums of money to get their preferred candidates elected."

      - Ah ... Unions ? Which BC Unions have the big deep pockets, full of money to " Dump " into BC Municipal politics ? Where does the writer of this piece, Charlie Smith think we live , NYC ?

      Charlie Smith left out another big interest group; CORPORATIONS (?) - but wait.... I forget... The writer gets his paycheck from a corporation.

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      Charlie Smith

      Feb 28, 2014 at 9:43am

      David Raum,
      I mentioned "real estate interests" and "casino companies". If you look at donations to local politics in Vancouver, there are actually relatively few big donations from "corporations" like banks and resource companies. They are huge donors at the provincial level.

      The donors at the municipal level are those that benefit from municipal government decisions. Municipal governments' primary responsibility is land, but increasingly, they're called upon to making rulings on casino and liquor-licence applications.

      CUPE and its various locals are traditionally huge donors. CAW was a large donor when TransLink had municipal politicians on the board. BCTF locals are substantial donors in board of education elections at the local level.

      The Georgia Straight is a family business with one newspaper. It's not a chain. It's independently owned. And the company is not publicly traded.

      Charlie Smith

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      Lee L

      Mar 1, 2014 at 12:40am

      4 years is far too long, and it is absolutely dangerous without comcommitant RECALL legislation being enacted.

      WHo sked for this change?

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      Ron Bolin

      Mar 4, 2014 at 4:40pm

      Would we so sheeplike accept this burden from the Provincial government if they had decided that the term should be five years? Or ten? Or maybe election for life or until they turn 85 or some Senate-like equivalent?

      What have we turned into? What have they contrived? Are we going to accept that we have no democratic rights in this matter?

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