Category Archives: Articles

CNV elections: meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Opinion piece by Fred Dawkins, Voices spokesperson and published by The Global Canadian (Nov 2018)

CNV elections: meet the new boss, same as the old boss

So…what to make of the 2018 municipal election in the City of North Vancouver?

While voters in neighbouring municipalities opted for slow-growth advocates, CNV voters returned majority control of their city council to the pro-development slate led by former councillor Linda Buchanan. She will be supported by three new pro-development councillors, all relative unknowns.

How did this happen? And what does it mean?

First, let’s look at the big picture. In recent years CNV has seen an unprecedented building boom, far surpassing development targets that were debated and established just four years ago. Time after time, high-rise condo proposals that exceeded the city’s Official Community Plan have come before a city council dominated by a slate that was elected with the help of developer money and union “volunteers”. And time after time, those proposals were approved by a 4-3 vote.

The result? All this condo building has done nothing to improve housing affordability. In fact it’s getting worse as big new market rental buildings replace affordable older apartments, leading to a rise in “renovictions”. Meanwhile, predictably, traffic has spiked, with the approaches to both North Shore bridges gridlocked at almost every rush hour. Commuters have been grousing about the traffic tie-ups. Long-time residents have been complaining about the density explosion, urging their neighbours to get out and vote for the slower-growth side in 2018. Surely it was time for a change, no?

As it turned out…no. Only 34 per cent of eligible voters came out in 2018 – a little better than the 30 per cent who voted in 2014, but far short of a wave for change. And those who did vote opted for the same developer-backed slate that facilitated the condo explosion and traffic nightmares we see today.

It could easily have been different. In the mayor’s race, Buchanan – a two-term CNV councillor mentored by outgoing mayor Darrell Mussatto – outpolled former councillor Guy Heywood by a mere 400 votes.*

Vote splitting was a big factor here. Buchanan enjoyed the unified support of the real estate industry, while those residents who want to put the brakes on the condo boom had to choose among three experienced, high-profile independent candidates in Heywood, Rod Clark and Kerry Morris. Combined, those three garnered 64 per cent of the vote, against Buchanan’s 30 per cent.

In hindsight, it seems clear that if just one of the three had stayed out of the race, the mayoralty would have gone to an independent and the entire complexion of CNV government would have changed. Did egos and personal grudges get in the way of a unified front? Possibly. But hindsight is always 20-20, and I don’t begrudge any candidate who runs because they sincerely believe they have the right vision for the city.

On the other hand, the power of slate voting in municipal elections has never been more evident. Among the 24 candidates for CNV council were several experienced former office holders with considerable local name recognition. Yet thanks to being endorsed as part of a five-candidate slate, three relative unknowns with virtually zero experience in CNV civic affairs – Tina Hu, Angela Girard and Jessica McIlroy – received more votes than their better-known opponents.

(One thing I can say for Buchanan’s new team – according to their campaign materials, they share a common attribute: all say they are “passionate”… so I guess we can expect more stirring oratory at future council meetings.)

Many veteran council watchers were surprised by this outcome. They shouldn’t have been. Remember this is municipal politics, where low turnouts magnify the impact of bloc voting. Without an organized front by citizens who want a rational, slow-growth approach to development, the one faction that is organized and funded will win every time, no matter who the candidates are.

In any case, don’t expect much in the way of collaboration with the District. And I predict the Harry Jerome rec centre plan is due for a rethink, shrinkage, and more delay.

In the meantime, the slate holding the reins at CNV city hall plans to continue the strategy of making housing more affordable by building a whole lot more of it. It has never worked before, but hey, maybe this time. 

*comment:  Mayor Buchanan received 9.9% of the votes (3800) from eligible voters (38,163) and 29.7% of the votes cast for Mayor = 70% of the votes were for others

 

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SULLIVAN: Don’t like density? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Quoting from Paul Sullivan’s article in the NS News today “Meanwhile, it looks like development as usual in the city, where they appear to be testing the boundaries of the word “density.”

Quotes from the new ‘slate’ – ranging from Mayor-elect Buchanan referring to growth ‘I’m comfortable with where we are and the density we’ve put in’ to two of the new Councillors ‘our City has the lowest population growth in the Province and no growth 2017/2018’ and ‘the City has followed the plans for growth … in the Metro Vancouver Regional Plan’ are concerning.  Who have these people been listening to?  Certainly not the average resident who is very aware that the City of North Van has already exceeded the 2041 Regional Growth Targets.  

Quoting from the article ‘And it was a near thing in the city – Heywood lost to Buchanan by a mere 400 votes, and altogether, the slow growth faction received twice as many votes as Buchanan in the race for mayor. This leaves Don Bell as the foremost advocate for slowing things down in the city: “Too much density, too fast” he told the North Shore News. I have a feeling he ain’t seen nothin’ yet.’

We wish Councillor Bell all the best as the people’s advocate.

Source: SULLIVAN: Don’t like density? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

EDITORIAL: Change of office

from the North Shore News:

The District of North Vancouver has seen the biggest shift in the balance of power where candidates with more conservative platforms essentially ran the table.

In the City of North Vancouver, mayor-elect Linda Buchanan certainly benefited from vote splitting with three high-profile opponents all running on a similar message. But when you look at the rest of council, there is no question that urbanism has a mandate in the city.

We have been pleased to see this peaceful transfer of power oiled, for the most part, by clean and positive campaigns.

And we commend as well the roughly 35 per cent of North Shore residents who found their way to a ballot box. In reality, it is a pitifully low number but it’s a huge increase from the last election.

Surely there are a handful of West Vancouver folks who couldn’t shut off Netflix for an hour now wishing they had. The mayoral race there was decided by just 21 votes, as if we needed any more reminders that every vote counts.

With the well of democracy refreshed, we are eager to see all our new councils sworn in on Nov. 5.

Whether you campaigned on bringing about change or making things more like they used to be, there is a lot of work to be done and those bylaws aren’t going to pass themselves.

Source: EDITORIAL: Change of office

City of North Van council hopefuls talk housing options, traffic and Harry Jerome

Article from the North Shore News: with a summary of the Candidate Meeting at Ridgeway School earlier this week:

Source: City of North Van council hopefuls talk housing options, traffic and Harry Jerome

‘Level playing field’ in Vancouver civic election a work in progress

Source: ‘Level playing field’ in Vancouver civic election a work in progress

From the Vancouver Courier, addressing in part the recent announcements by the Vancouver and District Labour Council promoting certain candidates in the City of North Vancouver.  CUPE has also endorsed certain candidates.  CUPE endorsements mirror the VDLC plus an additional three, ignoring other qualified candidates who have been long time union members. There is the 2018 election slate. So much for getting ‘big money’ out of local politics, quoting in part:

What the labour council didn’t tweet—and what was reported by Dan Fumano at The Vancouver Sun—is that it is also paying the salaries of four union employees seconded to work on its campaign to get Stewart and the other candidates elected.

As I learned in my interview with VDLC president Stephen von Sychowski, two of the union employees belong to the Hospital Employees’ Union, one is from the Canadian Union of Public Employees and another from the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Two of them began work Sept. 4 and two others joined Sept. 24. Some of their work is also focused on getting Linda Buchanan elected mayor in the City of North Vancouver and candidates Angela Girard and Mack McCorkindale onto North Vancouver city council.

As von Sychowski understands it, all of the VDLC’s campaign work is within the rules. And whatever has to be disclosed, will be disclosed, he said.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure that we have a solid, clear understanding of the rules and it’s been challenging at times because they are brand new, and untested,” he said, noting he doesn’t anticipate the VDLC campaign will exceed the allowable $150,000 it can spend on advertising during the campaign period.

 

Residents increasingly share a dim view of real estate developers – Commentary | Business in Vancouver

Article borrowed from Business in Vancouver and quoting in part: For the past three years, housing has consistently topped the charts as the most important issue facing most cities in Metro Vancouver.

One of the issues that have played a role in the sudden loss of esteem for real estate developers is the perception of cosiness with sitting municipal administrations. This becomes clear when Metro Vancouverites are asked a simple question: who has more influence on the look and feel of your municipality?

Comment by Voices: This perception is very evident in the City of North Vancouver, with the development community funding the election of the consistent 4-3 majority on Council.  A good question for Mayoral candidate Buchanan – why have you not supported the Regional Growth Strategy Targets for the City of North Vancouver?  currently exceeding the year 2041?

Across the Lower Mainland, only 24% of residents believe their municipal government is the deciding authority when it comes to the future of neighbourhoods. A slightly smaller proportion (22%) believe the community itself has more influence.

Who is regarded as the most powerful voice when it comes to how our neighbourhoods look and feel? Developers, as stated by two in five Metro Vancouverites (39%). Men (44%) are more likely to express this opinion than women (34%), but all generations agree that governments and communities are taking a back seat in these discussions.

The public is also particularly critical of the idea that, in an effort to build, the character of their municipality is being abandoned. Three in four Metro Vancouverites (74%) feel that developers are too quick to demolish and rebuild when existing facades and structures could be kept.

The results outline two problems for incoming city councils. One is the perceived lack of consultation from members of specific communities, who may find it difficult to attend meetings or have a voice in traditional forums. The other is the feeling of powerlessness when the relationship between developers and municipal politicians is as entrenched as it is in some cities.

Source: Residents increasingly share a dim view of real estate developers – Commentary | Business in Vancouver

Elizabeth Murphy: Vancouver city hall is slamming through destructive new zoning without giving citizens a say | Vancouver Sun

North Van City Voices has documented that the City of North Van has exceeded the 2041 Regional Growth Targets and is rushing to get through more density before the vote on October 20th: partial quote from the article:

The shift from the Livable Region Strategic Plan in 1996 to the 2011 Regional Growth Strategy has directed the emphasis to growth objectives. As land values have increased due to speculative inflation from rezoning for more density, demolitions of older, more affordable buildings have increased, with more people displaced, causing skyrocketing homelessness and unaffordability. Most of the new supply is unaffordable for both owners and renters and often left empty.

Now the enormous costs of servicing this growth agenda are emerging with the need for billions of dollars to upgrade utility services.

The city’s consultants confirmed as far back as 2014 that there is more than enough existing zoned capacity to meet population growth beyond 2041. Yet the city continues a manic rush to rezone.

The City of Vancouver is on a mad rush job to rezone Kitsilano and Cedar Cottage in a move that will only benefit developers.

read full article:

Source: Elizabeth Murphy: Vancouver city hall is slamming through destructive new zoning without giving citizens a say | Vancouver Sun