When is a referendum not a referendum?

There has been much discussion in the City of North Van since 2013 about the formation of a BIA (business improvement area) in Lower Lonsdale.   Some of the previous coverage can be obtained by typing “BIA” in our search engine.  The bylaw was passed by Council in late July:  https://nvcityvoices.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/city-of-north-vancouver-triggers-lower-lonsdale-bia-process/
We (Voices) have received copies of concerns from some businesses about the process.  We also received  a copy of the following email to Louise Ranger, President of the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce detailing the writer’s (Elizabeth James) concerns.  We fully support the steps proposed in Ms. James’ email, we have had concerns about the process:   the timing (late summer – vacations), the accounting of the $120,000 spent previously by the Lower Lonsdale Business Assn, and the financial support of one candidate by a non-profit supported by the City in the Nov 2014 local election.



Ms. Louise Ranger, Pres.
North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce

Dear Ms. Ranger:

Although I no longer write  columns for the North Shore News, I still receive emails from residents of the North Shore about issues that concern them. Some of those issues are of direct or indirect interest to members of the Chamber.

Such is the case with respect to the current alternative approval process for the City of North Vancouver’s initiative for a Lower Lonsdale Business Improvement Association (BIA).

In particular, I was interested and encouraged to see this phrase in your most recent email to Mr. Kerry Morris:

“Now that the public process is underway, it is up to property owners and their [business] tenants to decide if they want to form a BIA. Our role is to ensure that property owners and businesses are aware and informed of the process and what they need to do to express their vote.”

Your comment is encouraging because, unlike the Community Charter/Local Government Act, it suggests the Chamber recognizes that tenants have a right to express their opinion in matters that directly affect them.

The problem I have with the process underway in Lower Lonsdale is that, with the exception of the legally-required advertisement in the local paper, the City has made little to no effort to ensure business tenants are made aware of their rights in the matter.

Instead, rather than standing neutral and making tenants aware of both the pros and cons of forming a BIA, the City’s efforts have been geared to doing – or not doing – everything necessary to ensure the initiative passes.

My own bias is clear. I have believed from Day One that the alternative approval process is nothing more than the negative billing approach that was shot down in the courts when it was attempted by Rogers Communications many years ago – viz. “We plan to do this, unless you happen to see our tiny ad in the paper and tell us not to do it.”

I disagree with the City when it asserts that the LOLO BIA is not a form of taxation without representation. I believe a check of many small entrepreneurs who have been forced to move away and/or fold up their businesses after formation of other BIAs, will illustrate the flaws inherent to the process. To say nothing of the fact that‘ordinary’ city residents have been foot-slogging it around LOLO in an attempt to make everyone aware it was happening. Many dozens were not!

So what would I like to hear now from the Chamber?

Well, following your comment and remembering the NV Chamber’s courageous support for a study to see whether amalgamation of the two North Vancouvers makes financial and/or social sense, I would appreciate it if you and your executive would take these steps:

1. Urge City council to immediately suspend the current LOLO BIA process until after October 1st when most people will have caught up after their summer activities/vacations.

2. Ask the City to prepare and distribute a neutrally-worded letter to all tenants in the area (businesses and otherwise) that describes tenants’ rights and obligations under the legislation;

3. Ask that said letter outline ALL of the pros and cons of BIAs and make specific, binding commitments as to what costs will not be made the responsibility of BIA membership should one be formed.

More generally for the benefit of all British Columbians, I would like the NV Chamber to also urge the BC Chamber to request an immediate provincial government review of the undemocratic Alternative Approval process and to include representation of ALL local Chambers in that discussion.

Once again, Ms. Ranger, my thanks to you for including the quoted comment in your letter to Mr. Morris. Although I am no longer an indirect member of the Chamber by way of my employment, your comment is encouraging.

Elizabeth James

One response to “When is a referendum not a referendum?

  1. Florence L. Nicholson

    Thanks Elizabeth for your insight ! I miss your weekly column in The N.S. News very much. You kept me informed about current events on the North Shore better than any current journalist does on the N.S. News.
    Florence L. Nicholson

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