Since I announced my candidacy for city council, many people have asked me: “Why?” I’ve been captivated by politics since I was in high school. I was a delegate to the convention to replace Pierre Trudeau in the 1980s—and that was what got me hooked. But I’ve always preferred to remain a spectator, watching from the sidelines.
Three years ago, that changed. My friend, George Affleck, ran for Vancouver city council and was elected. I have been helping him during his time on council and have often been dismayed by what I’ve seen. The arrogance and contempt displayed by the Vision-led council is something I could never condone, or even understand. The arrogant attitude that many people have encountered while addressing city hall at public hearings encapsulates the way Vancouver is being managed.
Neighbourhoods are labeled NIMBYs if they dare speak up about a late addition to their community plans (Marpole: thin streets! Grandview Woodland: towers near Broadway Station!) or dare to speak up against seemingly back room deals to add density (enraging even tower-friendly Yaletown with a tower to beat all towers). The city has even had the audacity to evict—evict!—volunteer-run community centre associations from the centres that they have nurtured and developed in their own neighbourhoods. The sheer number of lawsuits currently launched against the city indicates how much the relationship has soured between the city and its people.
Why am I running for city council? Because things need to change, and fast.
Vancouver needs to redefine its relationship with developers and move negotiations back to where they are exposed to the light of day. Vancouver needs to return power to its neighbourhoods—whether that means local control of community centres, or a true seat at the planning table. And lastly, Vancouver needs to re-invigorate a planning system that the people of this city no longer trust.
I am proud to be running with the NPA. The NPA has been our city’s governing party for many of the past 80 years, and has played a large part in creating today’s Vancouver. The NPA brought in the first climate change policy in North America.
The NPA created the policy establishing the hierarchy of transportation—pedestrians first, then cyclists, transit, goods movement and, finally, private automobiles.
The NPA introduced blue bins and recycling programs to the city.
The NPA nominated one of the first out gay men to be elected across Canada at any level of government.
This is the NPA I am proud to represent. A group that accepts evidence over ideology, and substance over distractions.
As a gay man, I also understand the benefits of diversity. Vancouver should serve as a beacon of hope for people from around the world. Here, people have the chance to prosper and live as we want, without hindrance or discrimination.
I have worked to establish HIV clinics throughout Vietnam, and helped developed HIV policies for migrant workers in Southeast Asia. I have witnessed what can happen when governments view their people with contempt. I do not want that to happen here in any form.
As a former diplomat, I understand what it takes to bring people from varying backgrounds and needs together. As a mediator, I know how to encourage results that can be palatable for all sides.
I believe these skills are sorely lacking with the current Vision-dominated city council. Time and effort needs to be spent on rebuilding the trust between city hall and the people that they serve. The dictatorial management style of city hall must end. On November 15, I hope you will vote for Rob McDowell, Kirk LaPointe, and the rest of the NPA team. Let’s rebuild our city together.