November 24, 2014
Tonight, all but one of Vancouver Park Board Commissioners step down from their elected posts, having performed a service in the public interest that will not soon be forgotten, a service that should both be cherished and celebrated, as well as publically acknowledged on this blog, and elsewhere.
No mean feat placing yourself in the eye of the storm that is elected office, particularly in the maelstrom that is Vancouver politics.
Aaron Jasper — outgoing Chair of Park Board — Sarah Blyth, and Constance Barnes have sat on Park Board since December 2008. Their fellow Vision Vancouver Park Board Commissioners, Niki Sharma and Trevor Loke, joined their Vision colleagues around the Park Board table some three years later, complemented by a contingent of two Non-Partisan Association parks & rec commissioners, John Coupar and Melissa DeGenova, the former of the two of this latter group about to become — as of December 1st — the new Park Board Chair, and the ever-doggedly political Ms. DeGenova on the cusp of joining Vancouver City Council, where she is just as likely to drive her Vision Vancouver opponents at City Hall around the bend as has been the case this past three years at Park Board — with the added delight to those political observers among us who care about such things, where we will see her tear strips off Vision Vancouver city councillors Geoff Meggs and Kerry Jang, in particular, in full public view. Fun times await.
Aaron Jasper. Truth to tell, I think of Aaron as a son, someone I love, and for whom I have the deepest affection. Despite Aaron's deserved reputation as a bully, this past year at the Park Board table, Aaron has impressed, performing his duties as Park Board Chairperson not just with aplomb, but with an unerring commitment to the democratic process, and with a respect for the right — nay, make that obligation — to hold fellow Park Board Commissioners to account. I am not entirely certain that Vancouver Park Board will soon again witness as skilled and compassionate a Chairperson as those of us who have attended Park Board meetings this past year have witnessed this past 10 months, with Aaron Jasper at the head of the table.
Despite the recent provocations of VanRamblings — and this blog's sometime commitment to hyperbole — with Vision Vancouver "in charge" at Park Board this past six years there has been much to celebrate ...
1. Just yesterday afternoon, at the Dunbar Community Centre Vancouver Quadra NDP nomination meeting, outgoing Park Board Commissioner Sarah Blyth was telling those assembled about the pride she felt in moving forward Park Board's "Arts in the Park" initiative, where more than 30 local artists — including internationally renowned visual artist Germaine Koh and composer/double bassist Mark Haney — were selected in 2012 to participate in the Vancouver Park Board's artist studio residency project in seven park locations, taking up residency at field house studios in Hadden, Strathcona, Slocan and Memorial South parks and at the Burrard Marina, in addition to Elm and Falaise parks. Let us all hope this worthy initiative is renewed by the NPA-dominated Park Board that is about to take office.
2. Langara Golf Course. Following a seemingly extemporaneous remark by Mayor Gregor Robertson in the spring of 2012 that he was in favour of "hiving off" half of the Vancouver Park Board-operated Langara Golf Course, so that the land might be sold off to developers for the construction of "affordable condominiums", as so often happened at Park Board, the beleaguered Vision Vancouver Park Board Commissioners found they'd have to deal with the fallout, with much public opprobrium.
There was politics to be played with the issue of the disposition of the Langara Golf Course — "Don'tcha know, those damned elitist golf-playin' richy-riches, they don't deserve no golf-playin' "subsidized" by our parks board" — but, following a heart-rending presentation by members of the under-parked Langara neighbourhood, Aaron Jasper moved a "metrics" motion, and lo and behold, just a few months later when Park Board staff presented the Langara Golf Course Metrics Report, Aaron Jasper moved adoption of the report, and following the unanimous consent of Park Board, work began on remedying field drainage problems, enabling year-round usage of the course by families, teenagers, seniors, and all of the other folks in the city who, just like you and me, are not "rich", but who see the efficacy of enjoying the open air and our green spaces.
3. Hastings Park. In the past three years, never was I more proud of our Vancouver Park Board than I was when Park Board unanimously adopted a motion to seek the return of jurisdiction over Hastings Park to the Vancouver Park Board — where it rightfully belongs — tearing it away from the hands of Raymond Louie, who seems for all the world to view Hastings Park not as a park, but a development opportunity.
Relating to the above, in a special August 1, 2013 meeting of Vancouver City Council, Raymond Louie (Chairman, PNE Board of Directors) led the charge to block Park Board control of all park or green spaces in the 62-hectare Hastings Park site — but not without hearing from an articulate, impassioned Aaron Jasper, and the two NPA members of Park Board.
4. Trans-and-Gender-Variant policy. By far, the most moving Vancouver Park Board meeting this past three years, was the late April 2014 meeting of the Board where all 77 recommendations of the Trans* and Gender Variant Inclusion Working Group were unanimously adopted by Park Board. Thank you to outgoing Park Board Commissioner Trevor Loke for having moved the motion one year earlier that resulted in the striking of a Park Board committee that would report out, as Trevor hoped, and serve to "greatly improve the quality of access to recreation and active health in Vancouver, and help make Vancouver the most inclusive city in the world." Mission accomplished, Mr. Loke. Mission accomplished.
5. Local Food Action Plan. The food available at concessions, and on food carts, in Vancouver parks, is of so much better quality than was the case previous to Vision Vancouver assuming control of Park Board in 2008.
Special thanks should go out to of all members of Vancouver Park Board's Local Food Assets Task Force, starting with task force co-chairs, Aaron Jasper, and Niki Sharma, the Board's Commissioner representatives.
Thanks — and a big round of applause — is also due the community members of the Local Food Assets Task Force: Park Board's Lindsay Cole; the ever-wonderful, Trish Kelly, representing the Vancouver Food Policy Council; Ian Marcuse, of the Neighbourhood Food Networks (one of my favourite people in the city); the City of Vancouver's Wendy Mendes; former Vancouver School Trustee, Kevin Millsip (also an amazing person); Ross Moster, Village Vancouver; Jamielee Ong, Rangi Changi Roots, and Kathryn Perkins, Grandview Community Centre Association.
All of our electeds at Park Board, are owed a debt of gratitude from all of those who enjoy the beauty of Vancouver's parks, and the varied services available at our community recreation centres.
Constance Barnes. Consistently the most compelling orator around the Park Board table, a true woman of the people, advocating for families, and working to ensure ready access to all facilities in our parks. Let us hope that the incoming Park Board picks up Constance's cudgel, and works to ensure that more of our parks currently without washroom facilities will have them constructed this next four years.
Trevor Loke. The most sensitive to the public will of all of the Commissioners on the Board, consistently impressive in his reasoned presentation of argument, a first-rate chair of the very difficult to navigate Park Board Committee (where all the real decision-making goes on at Park Board), and quite simply, at 26-years-of-age (Trevor celebrating his 26th just yesterday) the single most impressive young politico in Vancouver politics.
Sarah Blyth: From the beginning, an advocate for skating parks, recreational opportunities for our youth, the most human-scale of all the "politicians" around the Park Board table, a champion of the community, and for each and every one of us, Sarah was always on our side, the Commissioner who always sought the views of the public, arose from the Park Board table at breaks, and engaged with the public. Sarah's commitment to the common weal was, at all times, impressive and demonstrative of a commitment to democracy unequalled among many who practice politics in Vancouver.
Niki Sharma. Wow! What is there to say about Park Board's most thoughtful, incredibly intelligent, best-researched, most articulate before the cameras, reporters' microphones and the print media personage, what a loss of tremendous proportion it was nine days ago that Niki Sharma was not elected to Vancouver City Council, one of my very favourite candidates for Council, a person of tremendous integrity, wit, political acumen, and just an all-around incredible human being.
Aaron Jasper. Much of what I wanted to write about Aaron may be found above. Aaron proved, consistently, to be the best "advertisement" for the many initiatives undertaken by a Park Board of which he has been a member for six years, that commitment a critical aspect of a democratic engagement with the community that elected he and his fellow Vision Vancouver Park Board to two consecutive terms of majority office.
Melissa DeGenova: Killarney Seniors Centre simply wouldn't have happened without Melissa, it's just that simple. Somehow finding a way to put up with the worst treatment of an elected official I've seen in all of my 45 years on reporting out on the political scene, Melissa emerged as a populist, a tireless advocate for the public good, perhaps the most "political" of our Park Board Commissioners, but when being political means that you're committed to achieving much for your constituents ... well, Melissa practices politics, as it ought to be practiced.
John Coupar: My favourite for last? Yes, I think so. By far the most consistently reasoned and non-political voice around the table, the Park Board Commissioner who earned the respect and admiration of all those who sat around the Park Board table, and the many thousands who attended Park Board meetings this past three years, in my three years observing John Coupar and Park Board, and in our many calls and the times we've spent together away from the Park Board table, John Coupar has proved always to be the fairest and most equitable in his judicious and humane commentary about Park Board, and his Park Board collleagues, John's outstanding commitment to the maintenance and growth of our parks and our green spaces, was more acute and impassioned than any Park Board Commissioner I've witnessed in Park Board history dating back decades.
Tonight at Park Board — amidst the hubbub of contention — will be a night for a public display of thanks, well-earned and well-deserving of gratitude, to our outgoing and very, very fine Vancouver Park Board Commissioners.
Thank you to each and every one of you. Job well done.
November 20, 2014
John Skibinski was a great man, one of our city's treasures, widely known among Vancouver's cinema cognoscenti, a longtime manager at Festival Cinemas, and a friend to more people than could possibly be counted.
An attentive and empathetic listener, John had a way of burrowing in and identifying the source of one's distress when a friend in pain came to him for succour and support — in no time at all, John would have you laughing, your desolate melancholy, heartbreak or angst relieved.
John Skibinski was a friend, always on your side, someone who could be counted on, and hold you close — compassionate, non-judgmental and kind. Walter Winchell once wrote that a true friend is someone who walks in when the rest of the world walks out; that was John in spades, courageous and unwavering. "There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature," wrote Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey — she may very well have been writing of John Skibinski, a great friend who will be very much missed.
John was raised and went to school up Island on the Sunshine Coast, in the tiny rural village of Lund, a small craft harbour and unincorporated village in the Powell River District, and the gateway to Desolation Sound.
Ivana Thulin writes on the Celebration of John Skibinski Facebook page ...
I met the Skibinski family when I was 15, and right from the start they were very special people in my life. So many memories and good times were had by all. We always looked forward to our visits with John when he would come home to Powell River during the holidays ... his visits were never long enough! John was very close to his dad, Bill, and his mom, Ruth, John being the light of his mother's life.
Upon graduation, John — a very good student — moved to our province's capital, to attend the University of Victoria, in the late summer of 1974. On his very first day at UVic, John met fellow student, Karyn Segal, both of whom were enrolled in the theatre department, and both of whom went on to work at Cinecenta, UVic's repertory movie theatre, initially in a volunteer capacity, and then as employees.
In time, John graduated into the position of programmer, taking on a share of the responsibility of booking independent, avant-garde and foreign film fare. By 1994, based on John's work and that of Cinecenta co-founders, Michael Hoppe and Doug Sprenger, the informal film festival hosted annually by Cinecenta, transformed into the beloved Victoria Film Festival.
Although the focus of John's academic work was geared toward acquiring a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, in fact John never applied for his degree, leaving the university a few credits short of the requirement for graduation.
Instead, John's love of travel and wanderlust took him to Europe, John returning to Canada to care for his father, who had been struck ill. After his father passed, John moved to Toronto for a short while, before returning to Victoria; soon after, in 1989, Karyn and John moved to Vancouver's West End, sharing an apartment until the early 90s. John's soon-to-become best friend, Lisa Doyle — who lived in the same apartment building as John and Karyn — discovered a common interest ... a passion for and love of film, particularly independent and foreign film.
On her Facebook social media page, Lisa Doyle has written ...
I met you at 17. I was young, full of ambition, movie ideas, and you gave me a job as a projectionist. You were patient and bemused by my wide-eyed. We experienced everything life has to offer, often side by side. Laughter, great films, food, the west coast, Victoria, Vancouver, San Francisco, Toronto. You loved life, travel and a good meal.
Films, oh the films you introduced me to: Stan Brakhage, Bruce La Bruce, Ken Loach, that crazy Hungarian landscape filmmaker, Tarkovsky, Gus Van Sant, Ozon, Michael Hanneke, the list goes on ... I do not have enough room on Facebook.
Did I mention the laughter? One of the funniest people I have ever known.
The veiled kindness, masked by sharp wit. The deep devotion to your friends, and the loyal following you had. When you walked into a room, or a movie theatre, smiles lit up, because John had arrived. You were loved, the devotion back to you was 100 times what you could ever imagine.
Oh yes, few people know that he was a sort of dog whisperer. Dogs would come up to him and nuzzle him; somehow they gravitated to him, and knew he was a good one.
I will miss you Skibby. I am devastated, but I can hear you telling me to stop whining. And you are here, because whenever something funny happens in my day, I can feel you close, laughing along with me.
You are in the big cinema now, with the cushy seats, an unblocked view, free popcorn,the lights are dimming and the curtain is about to go up. You have an unlimited supply of films at your disposal. You are in your peaceful place.
It was in late 1991 / early 1992, that John first met Leonard Schein — who in 1977 had founded The Ridge repertory cinema, founded the Vancouver International Film Festival, and in the late 1980s was Director of the, then, Toronto Festival of Festival, also taking on the position of programmer with the Montréal Film Festival.
Upon returning to Vancouver, Leonard Schein converted the old Bay Theatre on Denman, into the newly-renovated Starlight Cinema. Soon after opening The Starlight, John applied for a job as a ticket taker and concession worker — which proved the beginning of a long and successful relationship based on love of cinema. Soon after, John became Manager of The Starlight Cinema, and along with Schein took on a programming responsibility, bringing in Ken Loach's Cannes Fipresci award-winning film Riff Raff, contributing to the financial and artistic success of The Starlight.
Not longer after, with Schein in an expansive mood, a deal was struck with Canada Steamship Lines (owner: Paul Martin, who would two years later would become the federal Liberal Finance Minister), signing a lease for The Varsity Theatre on West 10th Avenue in Vancouver, the Dunbar Theatre, and the Plaza Theatre on Granville Street. Thus Festival Cinemas was born.
John Skibinski became the first Manager of The Varsity Theatre, where he set about to hire a young staff who loved film as much as he (including a young man by the name of Kevin Eastwood, who would go on to become an award-winning Canadian filmmaker).
Perhaps the most famous story involving John occurred in 1992, when John lobbied Leonard Schein to book Neil Jordan's The Crying Game, which months later went on to win an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, at the 1993 Academy Awards ceremony, for the film's writer-director, Neil Jordan.
Schein was not confident of the potential for the theatrical success of The Crying Game. After much back and forth, a deal was finally struck: Schein would book the film, but if The Crying Game was not a success, John would tender his resignation, and leave Festival Cinemas.
A resistant Schein booked the film in the fall of 1992, the film opening at The Varsity Theatre. The result? The Crying Game went on to 11 months of SOLD OUT shows, setting an international record for the film's theatrical success, and in some measure creating success for the film's director, Neil Jordan, and sparking the careers of actors Stephen Rea & Forest Whitaker.
Although Schein has dined out on the story of his business and artistic acumen as being responsible for booking the ground-breaking Neil Jordan film, in fact it was John Skibinski's insistence that the film be booked, and his willingness to put his job and his livelihood on the line that was responsible for the film's booking, and its subsequent tremendous success.
A short while after acquiring The Varsity Theatre, Schein closed The Starlight Cinema, singing a lease for The Park Theatre, on Cambie Street.
John Skibinski became The Park Theatre's first manager, a job he held until 1999, when Festival Cinemas was sold to Alliance Atlantis Films. In a shrinking theatrical market, and John not being a particular fan of Hollywood film-oriented cinema chains, Famous Players and Cineplex Theatre, John secured employment at video stores specializing in independent and foreign film, allowing John to share his encyclopedic knowledge of film with grateful patrons, many of whom came to develop a deep love of cinema.
At the time of John's passing, John was working at Emily Carr University on Granville Island, a job he loved, and where his warmth, ready smile, incredible organizing ability and peerless dedication to doing the best job of which he was capable, led to a promotion for John to a job entailing greater responsibility, that was to have begun around the time of John's passing.
As might well be expected, John supplemented his well-paying union job at Emily Carr, with work at Black Dog Video, on Cambie Street, almost directly across from The Park Theatre, now part of the Cineplex chain. John loved his job at Black Dog Video, and owner Darren Gay, the staff of Black Dog Video, and the store's many grateful customers grew to appreciate John's love of film; being around film is what John loved best. Darren and Black Dog Video staff have written a tribute to John, which may be found here.
As is true of any cinephile located in the western Canada, or anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, John Skibinski loved film, and never missed a Vancouver International Film Festival, from the time he arrived in the city in the late 1980s through until last month's 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, where his friends were afforded the opportunity to share the sacred experience of the church of cinema, and the eternal and near invisible world that is all around us, that together as whole we sat with rapt attention in one or another of the festival's venues, becoming one, and allowing us in the church of cinema to transcend the troubles of our lives.
For John Skibinski, as it is for many of us who love film, cinema delivers access to the new spiritualism, a place where we experience not merely film, but language, memory, art, love, death, and spiritual transcendence.
John was an erudite and a very, very charming man, possessed of a considerable, and conspiratorial wit, just one of the many salutary and welcome traits John shared with the world.
John's encyclopedic knowledge of cinema history was easily the equal of the most learned professor, he knew every foreign, international and independent film worthy of attention — and they were varied, idiosyncratic and of great volume — every director of consequence, and every actor, actress and cinematographer, all of which knowledge he contextualized, and had at the ready to regale the anticipatory and enthusiastic cinéaste.
John will be very much missed. There was never anyone like John Skibinski, and we will never know his like again.
A humble man, a hero, a man who gathered friends around him like children run toward a puppy. John Skibinski may have been a dog whisperer, as Lisa Doyle writes, but he was as well a people whisperer, a loving, generous and kind-hearted man of the universe, once ours and now gone.
John Skibinski, may you rest in the warm embrace of eternal peace.
November 19, 2014
Ever watch the Academy Awards, or maybe the Golden Globes, or Emmy's?
Do you recall, that as the winner of the Academy Award approaches the stage, and finally makes her or his way to the microphone, staring out at the crowd, what happens next? That's right — the winner thanks everyone who got her there, usually starting off with the four other actors in the category with whom she was competing for the Oscar, everyone who starred in the movie with her, her beloved spouse and children, her parents, all the teachers who encouraged her, her agents and manager, and everyone in the crew on the set of the movie she's just worked on that helped her get to the moment where she stands before you on the stage accepting an award that was but a distant dream of her youth.
Thank everyone? An acknowledgement the 'winner' did not get here on her own, that it took a team of supporters and managers, the media, & more.
In the political sphere, as you might well imagine, the candidates on the campaign trail who challenge for office depend on the support of an army of volunteers and supporters, as well as the campaign team proper.
If I might point out one instance in particular, the John Coupar win at Park Board, whose candidacy I and many others encouraged and supported, as well as all the other Commissioners who were elected to Park Board this past Saturday, would acknowledge that theirs was not a "singular victory", but a collective win, arising from the work of a great many people.
In politics, how does one go about thanking all those who played a role in helping her or him secure victory at the polls? Well, one becomes a mensch.
Allow me to illustrate what I mean.
On election night, one of the winning candidates who just barely managed to sneak into office, set about to telephone each and every one of the candidates who had challenged for the position that my friend had just barely won, save the other 'winners'. My friend the candidate thanked the candidates who'd come forward, thanking them for their civic engagement, their challenging of all the other candidates on the campaign trail (including my friend), told them that he hoped they might run again, and finally said to them that he would be available to them should they wish to speak with him about presenting their issues before Vancouver School Board.
On post-election Sunday, my friend made a point of either visiting the homes of, calling or e-mailing or texting each and every candidate who would sit across the School Board table with my friend over the course of the next four years. In addition, my friend called, visited, e-mailed or texted every campaign volunteer, member of the media, member of the campaign team, and supporter my friend had met at all-candidates meetings, and on the campaign trail that could be reached — promising a thank you celebration during the upcoming holiday season. In addition, my friend is preparing hand-written notes, on specially-made cards, to be mailed out.
As you might imagine, following five months of campaigning, my friend was bushed — still, it was necessary my friend felt, to reach out. During the course of the campaign, I wrote about the nascent 2005 candidacy of Spencer Herbert-Chandra (who since has written to thank to your humble correspondent — would we expect any less from Spencer), writing ...
In the 2005 COPE campaign, at the tender age of 24, Spencer Chandra-Herbert first ran for political office, as a Park Board candidate. Everyone in the campaign office hated him, his fellow candidates, the campaign team, everyone. Everyone that is except the voters, and me — I loved Spencer, and the energy he brought to his campaign for office.
Spencer was the only candidate with his own website — which drove all the other candidates nuts. Spencer posted to his fairly rudimentary website everyday. Facebook was a new-fangled social media tool — Spencer had a Facebook account, to which he posted several times a day (remember now, this is just months after Mark Zuckerberg had taken Facebook live). Spencer didn't sleep, he was everywhere all the time, nattily dressed, with his every present chapeau, a big grin, a hand outreached to shake yours, looking right at you, deep into your soul.
Spencer remembered the name of every person he met on the campaign trail, and not just their names, but some detail about them, their family, or an event of consequence that had occurred in their lives. I am often surprised when I run across Spencer, not having seen him for a year or 18-months, that he comes up to me, shaking my hand, saying, "Ray, it's so good to see you. How have you been?" And you know, he means it, he wants to hear about you, what's going on in your life.
The secret to political success, and to getting elected, and re-elected again and again? Spencer Chandra-Herbert has written the book.
Spencer is a mensch, the friend of whom I've written above: a mensch.
Last evening, I received a note from newly re-elected to a third term Non-Partisan Association city councillor, Elizabeth Ball, who wrote ...
Weep I did at my victory on Saturday night, and send so many thanks for your kindness. I always enjoy your company and look forward to a chat soon.
Am having a wild fling with an end of campaign cold, so have no voice but should be back next week.
Isn't it great to see so much good and interesting theatre and music in town! Am looking forward to all the holiday shows, and then PUSH in the new year. Amazing growth eh?
Wishing you all the very best,
As busy as you might imagine our third term city councillor to be, and given the travails of a campaign cold, Elizabeth Ball still found time to reach out.
On Tuesday evening, I asked newly-elected Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon to reach out to a person with whom a great many of us had worked, on the Save Kits Beach coalition. About half an hour after receiving my brief note, Stuart wrote back to say ...
All things calm.
All thing bright and beautiful.
Among other thoughts that ran through my head, upon receiving Stuart's note, were, "Thank God we've got someone possessed of wit and intelligence, and a warming sense of humour (Vision Vancouver's Catherine Evans, as well, unless I miss my guess) in our civic life in Vancouver.
Over the course of the recent election campaign, COPE School Board candidate Diana Day reached out to me each day she was on the campaign trail; we ended up corresponding regularly, as we do to this day.
You know, Raymond, I hope the newly-elected School Board Trustees have the political will to do the right thing by the Aboriginal students — it's just heart breaking that there are no mini schools for vulnerable aboriginal youth to attends — but I am glad that newly-elected Green School Trustee Janet Fraser spent some time with us at the Aboriginal Mother Centre, and heard first hand about the racism and discrimination that exists, and is directed towards not only aboriginal students but staff as well.
On election night, Diana Day contacted me to thank me for endorsing her candidacy — we've corresponded every day since.
Next time, in 2018? I'll move the sun, the Earth, the moon, the stars to work towards a victory at the polls for Diana Day. We need a voice at the Park Board table to represent vulnerable aboriginal youth.
My neighbour, David Cubitt wrote to me last evening, writing, "Thank you, Raymond, for your untiring efforts to bring about change, and for the useful / invaluable information you have provided to me, and to all who read your informative blog during the recent civic election campaign."
As I've written on social media — politics is a people business.
Beginning in 2005, with the election of Sam Sullivan as our Mayor, a new, meaner, confrontational and less humane era began in Vancouver civic politics — utterly unique, and regrettable, the level of civil discourse reduced to an all-time low, with little civility shown for the opposition councillors.
The level of discourse at City Hall has not improved since.
Today, on VanRamblings, I call for a return to civil municipal government.
In 2014, let us enjoy a renewed civic discourse.
To our elected politicians in Vancouver municipal government, a plea: please, reach across the table to members of all the parties on the body on which you sit, who were elected to office and who are not your own, so that together you might work in the interests of all those who elected you, let us witness a return to an approach to civic government in Vancouver that once was, and can be again, an achievable and necessary goal.
Of course, there will be disagreements on policy — that is to be expected, and desirable. Socratic discourse, the exchange of ideas in service of the public good is a necessary component of a thriving and vital democracy.
Today, I call on John Coupar, a friend and one of the most humble and good men of my acquaintance — who soon will lead one of the two civic bodies where a civic party holds a majority — to reach out to the newly-elected Green members of Park Board, Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe, and to Vision Vancouver newly-elected Park Board Commissioner, Catherine Evans, and assure them your administration will dedicate itself to a civil discourse, and respect for the opinions of all Park Board Commissioners who will sit around the Park Board table this next four years.
Let the divisiveness of the past be just that, in the past.
John Coupar: Ensure that your message of a new era of co-operation is a clarion one, one that safeguards against the utterly regrettable, perceived arrogance and meanness that for many defined the previous Vision Vancouver Park Board civic administration, that in the forthcoming John Coupar-led Park Board administration, all the elected NPA Park Board Commissioners will work towards a new era of co-operation and accommodation around the Park Board table, in the interests of all Park Board Commissioners, and in the interests of all the citizens of our city.
November 18, 2014
On December 1st, a new Vancouver Park Board will take office.
The Non-Partisan Association, with the support of VanRamblings and in support of incoming Park Board Chairperson, John Coupar, with a goodly number of the public, were elected to a majority position around the Park Board table: second-term Park Board Commissioner, John Coupar, will be the individual his majority NPA party colleagues — Sarah Kirby-Yung, Erin Shum, and Casey Crawford — will choose to lead them over the next year.
The remaining, newly-elected members of the Vancouver Park Board include the Green Party of Vancouver's Stuart Mackinnon, who held office on Park Board from 2008 til 2011, his fellow Green Party elected, Michael Wiebe, and lone Vision Vancouver Park Board elected, Catherine Evans.
The most politically astute politicos sitting around the Park table are Stuart Mackinnon and Catherine Evans, both veterans of the political wars, savvy, extremely bright, community-oriented politicos, Stuart Mackinnon's claim to fame his dedication to democratic governance and community involvement in Park Board decision-making, and Catherine Evans — appointed to the Board of the Vancouver Public Library in 2009, and most recently, Chairperson of the Board, and more than any other of the newly-electeds, an individual who throughout her adult life has dedicated herself to building consensus, in the community, as a member of Boards on which she sat, and in every other endeavour in which she has engaged, where it was necessary to move forward collectively, wholly, in the best interests of all.
Needless to say, Vancouver voters were wise to elect Catherine Evans — who topped the polls this Saturday evening past, with 64,707 votes, quite clearly, the consensus choice of the people — and Stuart Mackinnon (56,406 votes), the Green Party running their 2014 campaign for office on a shoestring budget, approximately 5% of that of the two mainstream parties, Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association, to Park Board.
As anyone who reads VanRamblings on a regular basis is aware, we are more than a little over-the-moon about the Non-Partisan Association's incoming Chairperson, John Coupar, for most assuredly, one of John's NPA colleagues will nominate him for the position of Chairperson of Park Board.
VanRamblings had hoped for a unanimous vote of support for the principled & utterly humane Mr. Coupar, a defender of Vancouver's parks system like no other — you may wish to read VanRamblings' profile of Mr. Coupar, for an insight as to why we have written so generously about the man, about his character and integrity, and commitment to public service.
As of Monday, November 18th, the prospect of John Coupar's ascension to the role of Chairperson, Vancouver Park Board, receiving the unanimous consent of all of his Park Board Commissioner colleagues sitting around the Park Board table would very much seem to be in doubt.
When John Coupar was running for a second term at Park Board, his platform was a simple, but transformative: restoration of a parks system that had been desecrated and allowed to fall into abandon under an overly politicized Vision Vancouver Park Board, and an early resolution of the almost two-year-old dispute between six of Vancouver's community centre associations, and the previous Park Board and City of Vancouver, the latter charge led by the — it has always seemed to VanRamblings — none-too-psychologically stable City Manager, Dr. Penny Ballem.
On this Sunday past, on the day following Saturday's surprising, and not-so-surprising, Vancouver civic election vote, VanRamblings had contact with Stuart Mackinnon, who indicated he was in partial agreement that ...
A majority Vancouver City Council will subvert everything that Park Board will attempt to do — which, of course, doesn't meant that a Park Board led by John Coupar and Stuart Mackinnon won't be a strong defender of our beleaguered parks and recreation system, but rather that Vision Vancouver will attempt to starve the Park Board of funds, and go to war with a Park Board no longer under its control, employing the ugliest of tactics, while undermining their own elected, Catherine Evans, who is a good person, and someone the entire Board will both enjoy working with, and from whom the Board has much to learn.
To be perfectly frank, Stuart, I have concerns in respect of John Coupar's fitness to lead the fight, and the possible consequences for his health. John's goals as a Park Board Commissioner have been simple ones, and are what brought him into public life: John Coupar wishes to serve the public, and to protect the integrity of our parks.
Certainly none of the other NPA elected are capable, or possess the political sophistication necessary to take the fight to Vision (at least not yet). In fact, it very well may be you, Stuart, who in the coming years emerges, at some point in the future, both as the Chair of the Park Board, & the public face of the defense of the interests of all of us who have a deep caring for our Vancouver parks and recreation system.
I have no doubt that you are up for the fight, if it comes to that.
I am concerned, at present, for the employment of Park Board General Manager, Malcolm Bromley, with whom I have very much been impressed since his arrival from Ontario, in 2010. At the time Malcolm was hired, City Manager, Dr. Penny Ballem, changed the terms of his employment contract, such that as had always been the case previously, and was the case with the outgoing Park Board GM, Susan Mundick (who was "dismissed" in 2010), the incoming PB GM would report not to the Park Board Chair, but to her — creating divided loyalties for Mr. Bromley.
Malcolm Bromley has proven in his short time at Park Board to be a forward-thinking, dedicated public servant, who has well-served the public interest, a person of integrity and character who in the most difficult of circumstances, has somehow managed to troll the roiling waters of discontent between the City Manager's office, and Park Board — even during the tenure of the Vision Vancouver-led Park Board — that did not always do the bidding of the notoriously demanding, brooks no dissent, it's my way or the highway, City Manager.
I believe that Vision Vancouver will almost certainly move to make application to the provincial government to change the Vancouver Charter, to convert the independently-elected Park Board into a Committee of Council, employing an argument of citizen indifference (bordering on hostility, among some members of the public, they will say) to Vancouver Park Board, the Park Board as just another level of government that "drains the taxpayers' pocketbook."
In such a scenario, Vancouver Park Board would certainly mount a vigorous defense of the interests of Park Board and all it represents, no doubt reminding Dr. Ballem and the members of Vancouver City Council that the Vancouver Charter clearly stipulates that dissolution of Park Board requires a 2/3 majority vote of Park Board Commissioners — to which Vision Vancouver would almost certainly reply, "Application has been made to repeal that particular section of the Charter."
Clearly, an action in Supreme Court would ensue, which would be funded out of the public purse. As anyone who has followed the decision-making thought processes of the estimable Dr. Ballem, and the elected Vision Vancouver members of Council, the office of the City Manager, with the full support of the Vision councillors, would move to deny Park Board the necessary funds to mount a legal defense of the position of Park Board, before the Courts.
Make no mistake: the next four years at Park Board may very well prove gruelling, indeed. Park Board Commissioners will have to keep a wary eye on those persons at City Hall who, to the public detriment, would use Park Board as their political whipping boy.
Job number one for the incoming Park Board must be to seek the support of the broadest coalition of members of the public, and to maintain and build on that public support for one of Vancouver's most cherished instituitions.
Now is not the time for division on Park Board, nor among members of the public who present to Park Board, and whose interests are many and varied. Park Board, with the generous support of the citizens of Vancouver, must become a united force in defense of Vancouver's much-beloved — and, perhaps, imperiled — Vancouver parks and recreation system.
Given the potential for a circumstance such as the one described above to unfold, VanRamblings was surprised and very disappointed to read of incoming Park Board Chairperson John Coupar's decision to, as his first order of business around the Park Board table to reverse a motion passed by the outgoing Vision Vancouver Park Board, to ban the breeding of cetaceans in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium, perhaps the single most divisive issue he might have chosen to engage as he and his Park Board colleagues undertake a restorative programme of change at Park Board, in defense of Vancouver's very much untended to and beleaguered parks system, and in defense of Vancouver's beloved community centres, which have suffered from the hostile actions of City Manager, Penny Ballem, and the Vision Vancouver majority administration at Vancouver City Hall.
VanRamblings posted the following to Facebook last evening ...
[Update: Apparently, John Coupar has left the employ of the company which put him into conflict. The NPA's reverse motion will pass 4-3]
Green Party of Vancouver Stuart Mackinnon's first public pronouncement related to the Supreme Court action this upcoming Thursday, as Mr. Mackinnon mounted a vigorous defense of Vancouver's community centre associations — one expects because it is the most important issue that should be of concern to the incoming Park Board Commissioners, an issue on which all Vancouver citizens are united, and one of the primary reasons there remains on the Park Board, only one lone member of Vision Vancouver, and the least partisan member of Vision Vancouver, at that — John Coupar, in all his infinite wisdom and lack of political astuteness — expounds on the single most divisive issue that has come before Park Board in 2014, an issue that reached compromise resolution this past July, following the presentations of more than 90 members of the public — and many, many more protesting outside — who expressed their reasoned opposition to the continued containment of whales, and other cetaceans, at the Vancouver Aquarium.
In respect of the about-to-become newly-elected Chairperson of the Vancouver Park Board, the estimable John Coupar, VanRamblings does not express concern that Mr. Coupar would act to fulfill a campaign promise that was made by NPA mayoral candidate, Kirk LaPointe, in the early days of his campaign for office — and a platform tenet about which VanRamblings expressed deep concern to Mr. LaPointe, as a divisive issue, and one that was ill-suited to a candidate for office who was attempting to present himself as a mayoral candidate for "all the people".
Rather, VanRamblings' concern relates to the inadvisability of John Coupar choosing as divisive an issue as reversing the motion on the ban of the breeding of cetaceans in captivity, as an issue of primary concern that he would express to the public (in a most unfortunate joking manner on Global TV last evening), as his first order of business at the Park Board table.
Surely, Mr. Coupar, the pending court case on Thursday must be of greater concern to you, and to your Non-Partisan Association colleagues, more deserving of your collective attention, and deserving of an outreach to the incoming Green Party of Vancouver Park Board Commissioners than moving forward a reversal of a motion — that had you left it well enough alone — would simply have died on the order paper. You should know better.
November 16, 2014
There was so much that was not published on VanRamblings in the lead up to Decision Night 2014, on issues involving the Mayor's personal life, the details of which we found to be sordid, and in consequence had decided some while ago not to publish or speculate on, despite many entreaties to do so, even by members of the mainstream media — and, quite honestly, if publishing allegations of moral wrong-doing, and an attack on the Mayor's character was to be a determinative factor in how voters were to decide on how to cast their ballot for a Mayoral candidate, while not focusing on the issues of the day, the primary focus of VanRamblings, then, this past five months, the raison d'être of this blog, would come to mean nothing more than VanRamblings as a disquieting, scandal-mongering tabloid, full of rumour, speculation and innuendo. Not for me, thank you very much.
Anyone who reads VanRamblings on a regular basis knows the site means to inform — and entertain — that while creating content and writing in what it is hoped you find to be a "readable form," there is quite often contained in the words before you, a tendency to employ hyperbole, which is done for effect, so as to engage the readers' attention on matters of import.
For weeks, there's a "story" that's been making the rounds that, pre-election, Vision Vancouver had cut a deal with Christy Clark's provincial government, and the feds, for the subway down the Broadway Corridor, which would involve developers contributing half the cost (about $1.92 billion), through Community Amenity Contributions, which would be put towards the costs of the construction of the subway line down Broadway out to UBC, a "deal" that was allegedly brokered by Bob Rennie — real estate broker extraordinaire, and both Christy Clark's and Gregor Robertson's best friend — that would serve the interests of Clark's and Robertson's developers-friends and funders, at the expense of the interests of residents in neighbourhoods all along the Broadway corridor.
The deal wasn't announced because there was an election going on.
Vision Vancouver was concerned proclamation of the deal would incite the residents of Grandview-Woodland. Leave well-enough alone until after the election, when Mayor Gregor could announce that he had secured the funding to build the subway, and out to UBC, at that! There would be rejoicing throughout the city, Mayor Gregor would fulfill a campaign promise central to his re-election bid, and all would be right with the world.
In the Kitsilano neighbourhood where I have lived for thirty years, 52.8% (6,018) of residents voted Vision Vancouver, while 37.9% (4,319) voted for Kirk LaPointe and his Non-Partisan Association candidate team.
VanRamblings has a question to ask the residents of Kitsilano ...
What part of, "If Vision Vancouver is elected to a third term of majority municipal government, a deal will be struck with developers for construction of a subway line, and stations, all along the Broadway Corridor — on the west side, in the Kitsilano neighbourhood, Oakridge Centre-style developments will be imposed at Arbutus, Macdonald and Alma, where developers will move into the neighbourhood to purchase properties at double the assessed market value, and for those business or homeowners who won't sell, the municipal or provincial government will expropriate properties on each of the four blocks surrounding the proposed subway stations," did Kitsilano residents not understand?
What part of, "When the developers build the massive four-square-block-radius, greenhouse gas consuming, neighbourhood-isolating, junctions at Arbutus, Macdonald and Alma, in our Kitsilano neighbourhood — that will consist of 40, 50, 60 and 70-storey highrises in Oakridge Centre-style like developments at each of the station junctions, the massive, out-of-scale to the neighbourhood "town centre" towers will cast a permanent shadow over single family and multiple-dwelling apartment buildings throughout Kitsilano, in the process creating a permanent, overshadowing darkness for nearby residents," did those Vision voters in Kitsilano not understand?"
Neighbours and friends look at me like I'm crazy when I say things like the above — and I say, "Come back to me in 10 years, and let's talk again."
The difference between a Vision Vancouver civic administration, and the one that Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe would have led, is that a Kirk LaPointe administration would consult with residents before taking a decision about development in a community, and act on the developed consensus of the neighbourhood's residents, ensuring a form of responsive democracy that would prove satisfactory to residents.
Vision Vancouver, on the other hand — and all you have to do is speak with anyone who lives in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, or Mount Pleasant, the West End, Dunbar, Marpole, and listen to their experience of "working with" Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver colleagues ...
"We worked on a community plan for two years, met regularly with city planning staff. When the community consultation had drawn to a close, and we had signed off on a visioning plan for our neighbourhood, the consensus plan was submitted for review to the Director of Planning, Brian Jackson, and to Vancouver City Council. When those of us who had worked on the community visioning plan appeared before Council to speak in support of the developed-consensus plan, rather than the neighbourhood development plan we had so painstakingly worked on over many, many, many months, what we heard and saw presented was arbitrary, unilateral, dramatic and disturbing changes made to our much-beloved community plan, a "new plan" that bore virtually no relationship to the plan we had carefully developed and signed off on."
However you felt about Kirk LaPointe, and those who ran with him on the Non-Partisan Association ticket, Kirk LaPointe would have listened, and acted on the community consensus, as would have his colleagues.
In municipal politics, we call that democracy.
Vision Vancouver, on the other hand, never listens, or adopts the community plan developed by residents in neighbourhoods across the city, and doesn't feel it has to, or as Geoff Meggs is so often wont to say ...
"After all, a majority of Vancouver residents elected Vision Vancouver to consecutive terms in office. We must be doing something right. Why change a good thing? Residents don't really want to be consulted, they know that our Mayor, Gregor Robertson, and our committed, hard-working Vision Vancouver councillor team, are better-informed than ill-informed, uneducated, visionless residents. That we're better able to make appropriate decisions on the residents' behalf, that to listen to residents would be to give away our power.
The residents of Vancouver voted for the Vision Vancouver team so that we could exercise our power, even if some residents across the city accuse us of abuse of power. What do they know, those whiners & complainers, that rent-a-crowd bunch? We'll do what we think is best, and damn those ill-informed, unsophisticated and uneducated residents, those NIMBYs who don't have the best interests of the city at heart. We're the electeds, don'tcha know — we'll do as we damn well please!"
And so it goes. Given all of the above, given that the Vision Vancouver administration will not consult, given that Vision Vancouver knows what is best, given that a subway line will be built no matter what the residents want, no matter the protests, given that businesses and family homes will be expropriated, given that residents don't know what they want, and Kitsilano residents voted in overwhelming numbers for Vision Vancouver — damn the consequences to the livability of the Kitsilano neighbourhood.
With an arrogant, newly-elected Vision Vancouver civic administration in office for a four-year term, with the prospect of a subway line cutting through Kitsilano's tree-lined neighbourhood, residents are well on their way to living the nightmare scenario of a DC Comics-style, Vision Vancouver dystopia, through and across the very heart of the Kitsilano neighbourhood, where residents in the future can all look forward to our Vision Vancouver civic administration spinning the line to us that ...
"Your children will do fine growing up in the darkness. Sun causes melanoma. We're your elected civic government. We're just trying to help them, to keep them safe. And to create a better tomorrow."
All together now, let us sing in chorus as we salute the gigantic wall mural of our once and forever leader, the one true profit, Gregor Robertson ...
The sun won't come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
there'll be darkness
Just thinkin' about tomorrow
Don't clear away the cobwebs and the sorrow 'til there's none
When I'm in luck and there's a day that's grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say, oh ...
The sun won't come out tomorrow
So why wait to hang on
'til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You're only a day away!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow
You're always a day away.
Soon enough, and not so long into the future, Vision Vancouver will move to rename Vancouver, Gotham City. The difference between the newly-renamed Vancouver version of Gotham City, and the DC Comics version of Gotham City is that, unlike the comic and the Christopher Nolan movies we have all come to love so much, in the renamed Vancouver version of Gotham City, there will be no Batman-like figure to come to our rescue.
No, Vancouver residents, given that you did not awaken from your Vision Vancouver, cult-like, drug-induced slumber we are, all of us, doomed to live in the forbidding and ominous gloom to follow, a creation of a once-and-forever Vision Vancouver, with no prospect of any help on the distant horizon, a hero-like figure who might rescue us from ourselves, and the decision we took last evening to vote Vision Vancouver back into power.
Forgive us, dear Father, we did not know what evil lurked. Please save us!
Soon, the wise ones will look around them, and in time to rescue themselves and their families, they will seek to leave the city, to find order and something akin to a quality of life that was once available to all citizens of Vancouver, for such no longer will exist in the city we once called home.
In electing Vision Vancouver last evening to a third consecutive term of majority power in city government, we have consigned ourselves to the torment of the dystopian nightmare that will come to pass, a permanent, perpetual, gloom-filled agony that will become the Vancouver that we once loved so much. For its has come to pass that thoughtless, uninformed, if well-intentioned citizens of good-heart, voted for a Vision Vancouver civic administration to a determinative, destructive and ultimately city-destroying third-term in the seat power where all decisions, mostly bad, are made.
November 14, 2014
VanRamblings' Vancouver Park Board Endorsements may be found here.
VanRamblings' Vancouver School Board Endorsements may be found here.
Polls open at 8am Saturday for the 2014 Vancouver municipal election.
Most voters will likely be taken aback at the 121 names on the civic ballot, the 29 contenders vying to fill nine slots on Vancouver School Board, the 31 contenders who want to fill one of seven vacant spots around the Park Board table, or the 48 Council candidates who fancy a job at City Hall.
As a service to readers, VanRamblings today will present a truncated Vancouver City Council Endorsements Rationale, the third and final in a series, that started out with VanRamblings' choices for Park Board, and went on to explore VanRamblings' choices for Vancouver School Board.
Vancouver City Council is the place where decisions will be taken over the next term of government at City Hall that will impact on the quality of life of every single citizen across every neighbourhood in our city, for whoever holds office and the seat of power in the upcoming four-year term of office.
For the past five months, VanRamblings has argued long and loud that Vision Vancouver has abrogated its right to a third consecutive term of office at City Hall (and Park Board), as perhaps the most developer-driven, dismissive of community concern, aggressively tyrannical civic administration since the hoary days of Mayor Tom Campbell, in the late '60s & early '70s.
In it's last-minute bid for a majority Council at City Hall, Vision Vancouver has ramped up their fear-based campaign against Kirk LaPointe, pointing out his non-existent ties to The Fraser Institute — the totality of the allegations so off-putting and egregious they hardly warrant a repeating in today's VanRamblings endorsement post for Vancouver City Council.
Quite franky, VanRamblings finds Kirk LaPointe to be a gentleman of the old school, and a thoughtful man of integrity and character — traits that are sorely lacking in our current Mayor.
Vision Vancouver's 2014 campaign of character assassination and their dedication to the politics of personal destruction are little short of despicable. Vote for Kirk LaPointe, if for no other reason than the discomfort you feel in the pit of your stomach when you hear terrible things being said about him, a decent person — as you've probably assessed for yourself — a loving husband and father, a well-educated man of great experience and accomplishment, who has in some great measure created his own success through hard work and determination, the love and support of those around him, and a dedication to making a difference.
When you go to the polls on Saturday, you will want to make sure that Gregor Robertson, and his Vision Vancouver team, hear the message loud and clear: enough is enough, we are not fools, we don't believe your last-
minute mea culpa — so many crocodile tears those, a mean and dishonest tactic designed to create sympathy for an administration that has, more wholly than any civic administration in a generation, given itself over to the interests of greedy developers, than any reasonable person could possibly have thought imaginable. We want a City Hall that will govern for us.
Vision Vancouver has painted the Non-Partisan Association as the BC Liberal farm team, died-in-the wool right-wingers who will turn the city into some kind of romantic, Benzedrine-popping Ayn Rand, survival-of-the-fittest, dystopian nightmare. Thus the dozens of fear-mongering, we're oh so sorry, we're bad but they're worse, telephone calls you've received this week that have invaded your home like so much acid rain.
Do you see the picture above? You're looking at BC Liberals' Executive Director Laura Miller's tweet of Vision Vancouver's very own Director of Communications, Marcella Munro, sitting right beside Laura's good friend, Don Millar, Vision's head of for-profit flack company FD Element, the guy who "manages and promotes" Mayor Gregor Robertson whenever he can.
And that @diamondisinger mentioned in the tweet? Could that be the very same Diamond Isinger who was Christy Clark's key online strategist in the Premier's bid for office last year who, don'tcha know, is now working for Clark's best friends, Vision Vancouver, performing the very same function?
And wasn't it former Non-Partisan Association President, Michael Davis, a spin doctor for big oil who was endorsing Gregor Robertson last week?
Let's see if we can make sense of all this: almost the entirety of Vision Vancouver's 2014 campaign strategist team are performing identical roles to the ones they played in Christy Clark's bid for the Premier's office in last year's British Columbia provincial election. Strange "coincidence", huh? Make no mistake, Vision Vancouver have painted themselves as the anti-tanker defenders of the environment. What utter nonsense: it's Vision Vancouver who are the BC Liberal farm team, all dressed up in 'green liberal', progressive New Democrat Party clothing. Just look at the picture above.
VanRamblings Enthusiastically Endorses Kirk LaPointe for Mayor
As Grandview-Woodland's respected community activist Jak King wrote in his endorsement today, "Kirk LaPointe represents a return to the glory days of the NPA, the days in which the NPA introduced both CityPlan and the Four Pillars strategy. By his very public endorsement of the Principles & Goals planning document of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, LaPointe has grasped the future of collaborative planning. LaPointe's demeanour and quick intelligence on the campaign trail and in smaller meetings leads many of us to believe that he is a man one can work with."
VanRamblings could not agree more with Jak King's expressed sentiment.
Kirk LaPointe could very well become the Vancouver Mayor of a generation. Meeting the needs and serving the interests of a broad cross-section of the community in every neighbourhood, addressing social issues like child hunger, focusing on the economy and a jobs strategy to strengthen Vancouver's economy, restoring civic government based on openness, transparency and intent of purpose, consulting with the public and acting on the developed community consensus, a Kirk LaPointe-led administration would restore public confidence and lustre in Vancouver civic government.
Tomorrow, at the polls, vote Kirk LaPointe and a majority Non-Partisan Association Vancouver City Council and Park Board, as well as a significant contingent on School Board. Create the conditions to allow Kirk LaPointe and his Non-Partisan Association team to begin the transformation of our city in order that civic government be placed in the hands of the people.
Along with Adriane Carr, George Affleck is the conscience of Council, a tireless advocate for the people's interest, a Councillor who puts in 60 hour weeks and still finds time for his beloved wife and the children he loves so much. George Affleck is a gift to our political landscape, devoted to public service and to furthering the interests of the community, in every neighbourhood across our city. In the 2014 civic election cycle, George Affleck was the star of the all-candidates meetings, and flat-out the most sympathetic and compelling presence on the dais, week-in and week-out. There's a cynicism among some about politics and politicians — if you knew George as I and thousands of others have come to know George Affleck, the City Councillor, all doubt there exists a shining star in the maelstrom that is Vancouver politics would be erased, for George Affleck is a city councillor who knows in his bones what it is to be a democrat, to live it, to feel it, to practice it — and to do it all in service of the community, and for you.
Elizabeth Ball has, in two previous terms, gained the confidence of voters. First elected to Council in 2005, when she is re-elected to a four-year term on Saturday evening, she will embark on her seventh year of service to the people of Vancouver. I came to know Elizabeth Ball in the 1990s when I was an arts reporter and she was the Managing Director of the Carousel Theatre — which she had founded some 20 years earlier. Always ready with an open smile, Elizabeth was a fount of information — there wasn't anyone, or anything, in the theatre world with which she wasn't familiar. The same dedication to task that she brought to the management of the Carousel Theatre, and the mounting of my very favourite productions over the many, many years I visited Carousel, has been matched by Elizabeth Ball's dogged work on Council, her ability to get to the heart of any matter, her peerless research skills, her advocacy for the public unmatched by anyone other than her NPA Council colleague, George Affleck. Chair of the NPA caucus, it was Elizabeth — working with Fraser Ballantyne and Rob McDowell — who spear-headed the expulsion of Ken Denike and Sophia Woo from the NPA caucus, and from any association with the Non-Partisan Association.
If you go to your dictionary and look up the word democracy, you will find Adriane Carr's picture next to the word — because Adriane Carr has come to define responsive, always on your side, honest, sincere, fight for what is right, democratic engagement in Vancouver municipal politics, her time on Council in her first term (when she squeaked in — I predict that she's going to top the polls in 2014) the most salutary manifestation of Abraham Lincoln's precept, as applied to our little burgh (with just the slightest change in wording) that in Vancouver "civic government is of the people, it is by the people, and it must always be for the people." Adriane Carr lived that axiom every single day of her first term of office, as she does each and every day of her life. You know it, I know it — Adriane Carr is the most beloved political figure in the Metro Vancouver region. How fortunate we all are to have Adriane Carr — a person of character, a person of integrity, a person of wit and intelligence and passion and reason, a tireless advocate always, representing each one of us, and ... within our midst. Vote Adriane Carr.
Nicholas Chernen has the royal jelly. In the 2014 vortex that was the run to secure office on our city's highest elected body, Vancouver City Council, onto our civic political scene there arrived a guileless, astute, sturdy and staunch, perceptive and charmingly innocent philosopher king, a dreamer who dreams as did Robert F. Kennedy that, kissed by the wind & good fortune, a boy who over the past twelve months was transformed into a formidably inspiring man of impossible grace and principle, looked around him & asked, "Why," and dreamed a dream of a thing that never was with Vision Vancouver holding the seat of power in our municipal government, and asked himself another question, "Why not," which, perhaps, in the fullness of time became less a question than an instruction, a call to duty, a re-awakening in him a long suppressed democratic commitment to the his family, and to our community. In 2014, Nicholas Chernen is one of two nascent political figures to emerge on the political scene whole (the other? the Greens' must-elect, Pete Fry). Nicholas Chernen: a leader, a future Mayor and Premier (as is the case with Pete Fry), brother to Glen, who arrived on the political scene in Vancouver and wrote the story of Campaign 2014.
Over the course of the past three years, working with her Non-Partisan Association colleague, John Coupar, in her role as a Vancouver Park Board Commissioner, Melissa De Genova emerged as the hardest-working, most dedicated to democratic engagement and populist political figure to emerge on British Columbia's tumultuous political scene in more the 40 years. If not for Melissa De Genova, there would be no Killarney Seniors Centre, if not for Melissa De Genova's tireless advocacy for the public interest, the voice of the people would not have been heard at the Park Board table — and our city, and parks and recreation system in Vancouver would be worse for the lack of Melissa De Genova's hourly, daily commitment to making our home the most livable city anywhere on this planet; which is not rhetoric, but rather a reflection on the efforts of a dogged and sincere public figure who aims to, and has, made a difference. Please, save a vote for Melissa De Genova at the polls.
The Green Party of Vancouver's Pete Fry has the best chance of any new candidate seeking the position of Vancouver City Councillor of any who have offered themselves for elected office in the 2014 Vancouver civic election. Pete Fry is the single most intelligent, pioneering, committed to democracy, engaged, generous, on your side political figure to emerge on Vancouver's political scene since ... well, since the emergence of his Green party running mate, Adriane Carr — what a duo they will make sitting on Vancouver City Council together, how fortunate we all will be to have two elected representatives in Pete Fry and Adriane Carr, whose dedication to our democracy is unparalleled in our city. Voting the Green Party of Vancouver's Pete Fry is not something you should just consider, voting for Pete Fry is an absolute imperative when you head to the polls in this, the most important civic election in more than 40 years. A vote for Pete Fry will be the single most important decision you will make in this election.
Tim Louis is the most important must vote in the 2014 Vancouver civic election, as the single candidate with the most wit, the candidate most committed to a fairer and more just city for all, the candidate who doesn't just argue for a better city, better transit, the construction of more affordable housing (and he means, non-market affordable housing, which is our only way out of our present affordable housing morass), the candidate most committed to social justice, and the only 2014 Vancouver municipal election candidate for office with a well-thought-out plan on how to get us there, and the candidate who will best hold his Vancouver City Councillors' colleagues feet to the fire — and always, always, a peerless advocate for the public good. Please, please save a vote for my friend, the most generous and thoughtful person of my acquaintance, the incomparable Tim Louis.
Involved in community services across the Metro Vancouver region for more than four decades, a now retired professional engineer who worked for the City of Vancouver, the senior city of Vancouver manager responsible for Chinatown's innovative Millennium Gate project, and a key member of Vancouver's Transportation Planning Team for the 2010 Olympics, Ken Low knows how things work and how to things done at City Hall. A husband and father dedicated to his two children, Ken Low is the legacy candidate in the 2014 Vancouver civic election, a reasoned, achingly intelligent and fit athletic figure who — more than any other candidate running for office in our current Vancouver civic election — possesses the skills and the ability to hit the ground running in the hours following his election to Vancouver City Council, to begin the process of change that will help to build a better Vancouver for you and for your family, and all your neighbours and friends.
Rob McDowell is, by far, my favourite new candidate for Vancouver City Council in the 2014 Vancouver civic election, the most articulate, generous, thoughtful, progressive new candidate on Vancouver's civic scene — and endorsed everywhere, by every one, across the political spectrum — the one candidate for Vancouver City Council who has built a broad, public consensus for his election to Vancouver's senior decision-making body, a person who would be a mediating force on Council who, having gained the confidence of his peers, would work to create the conditions necessary to move our city forward. A vote for Rob McDowell is a vote for change, a vote for reason and a vote for a better, and more equitable Vancouver. Vote Rob McDowell when you mark you ballot — and in doing so, you will have voted for the best new candidate seeking office as a Vancouver city council councillor, in the 2014 Vancouver civic election.
Ian Robertson is the most able new candidate running for office as a Vancouver city councillor, the smartest — going to get things done — political figure on Vancouver's civic scene, the candidate most committed to our democracy and to a generous outreach to the community, and as is true of the candidates written about above, committed to a fairer and more just Vancouver, a Vancouver that will serve the needs of all. As a two-term Park Board Commissioner, Ian Robertson proved day in, day out that he was a tireless, hard-working, consensus-building advocate for the public good, who in his years of service to the people of Vancouver earned the respect of his peers, and a broad cross-section of our city's always wise voting population. Along with the other new candidates for Vancouver city council written about above, Ian Robertson is the most important vote you will make when marking your ballot. Vote Ian Robertson for a better Vancouver.
November 13, 2014
VanRamblings' Vancouver Park Board Endorsements may be found here.
VanRamblings' Vancouver City Council Endorsements may be found here.
Support for public education was the criterion employed by VanRamblings in the candidate selection for Vancouver School Board Trustees.
As such, it is with a heavy heart that VanRamblings has chosen only three Vision Vancouver candidates to sit around the School Board table in the 2014 - 2018 term of office.
For, make no mistake, this past six years, the Patti Bacchus-led Vancouver School Board has emerged as our province's staunchest defenders of public education, Patti Bacchus and Mike Lombardi, in particular, emerging as two of the most important voices defending the interests of our children, their parents, and all of us who recognize that a well-educated, informed populace consisting of students who have been embued with critical thinking skills constitutes our democracy's greatest hedge against tyranny.
In Victoria, with the misnamed Liberal party we have an anti-education provincial government which, for all the world, appears to be dedicated to the dismantling of our most cherished public resource, our free, open and accessible-to-all public education system, and seem intent on replacing our public schools with privatized, Fraser Institute-endorsed charter schools.
Witness the unfortunate and utterly misleading foofaraw surrounding the completely erroneous, Non-Partisan Association "debate" over the "refused" $500,000 donation from Chevron to our Vancouver School Board.
According to Claudia Ferris, who works on the Communications Committee with Vancouver's District Parent Advisory Committee (DPAC), on behalf of her parent board Claudia talked informally with Patti Bacchus to discuss the prospect of Chevron's proposed donation.
The district parents then sought to engage in a dialogue with Chevron. Despite several calls to Chevron, DPAC never heard back from their supposed Chevron contact, or anyone else associated with the oil giant. Imagine Patti and DPAC's surprise when they turned on the news only to discover that a representative of Chevron, having called a press conference, set about to proclaim to the world that, "The Vancouver School Board has refused Chevron's generous donation, and have given into the anti-oil politics for which the Vision Vancouver civic party is so well known!"
Note should be made, too, of a concurrent Coalition of Progressive Electors Education Conference — the entire focus of the Justice Not Charity forum revolving around "the complex nature of privatization" in our public school system, where VanRamblings sat next to Patti Bacchus throughout the day, where we discussed the rising level of child poverty in our province, the failure of our British Columbia government to fund breakfast programmes for the children of wont and need, the increasing dependence on parents for fundraising, and on individual and corporate donors to fund a public education system that, for years, has been starved for funds by a provincial government seemingly intent on creating the conditions that would lead to the dismantling of our increasingly malnourished public education system.
Now, some VanRamblings' readers will read the previous paragraph as overtly "political", and it is. As a blogger, I am afforded the opportunity to be political on this blog. When it comes to the majority Vision Vancouver School Board caucus, though, Patti Bacchus and her colleagues have remained steadfast in their support of the children enrolled in the Vancouver school system, and have not ever indulged in the rhetoric of ...
"The current provincial government, our Premier and our education minister are the most reprehensible and despicable representatives of an anti-education movement anywhere in Canada."
The Vancouver School Board could, VanRamblings certainly would, but Patti Bacchus and her Vision Vancouver School Board caucus have focused on the provision of structuring a viable, open and accessible to all, public school system in Vancouver which, despite all the challenges, the provocations from Christy Clark's provincial government, the name-calling from the likes of Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, attacks from a Non-Partisan Association campaign that while supporting their School Trustees campaign for office, has called into question the integrity and honesty of the most ethical, most in support of the interests of students, and public education, Vancouver School Board in the entire 128-year history of the institution.
Let me be very clear: As an educator with some 40 years experience teaching in schools across the province, now retired, a proud member of the British Columbia Teachers' Federation, having sat on teacher contract negotiating committees, having been elected to the office of BCTF Learning and Working Conditions Chairperson, as the Assistant Director of PDP 401 / 402 — the first semester education programme at Simon Fraser University — and as someone who has taught at both the college and university levels, and as the COPE campaign Chair for Pauline Weinstein's successive victories in the 1980s, when she sat as the beloved and cantankerous Chairperson of Vancouver's School Board, I have never admired a Board of Education more than I do the Patti Bacchus-led Vancouver School Board.
Thoughout the entirety of my life I have fought for the preservation and promotion of public education as a central feature of how I have brought myself to the world, and prioritized my political activities around forwarding the cherished goals set by the British Columbia Teachers' Federation ...
To represent and advocate for the social and economic goals necessary to ensure a quality pluralistic public school system, through leadership and advocacy, and service;
- To represent values and principles that reflect a democratic perspective on public education, incorporating the principles of conceptual and procedural clarity, and to work to provide a standard of professional development that incorporates a repertoire of collaboration, research, mentorship, workshops, reading, course work, peer coaching, and reflection;
- To extend and support Aboriginal education across our province, and promote the practice of social justice to meet the needs of all students enrolled in British Columbia's public education system; and ...
- To advocate always for a quality public education system that is free and equitable for all students, and to resist privatization and commercialization in our province's schools.
In all of my 45 years of political organizing, and nearly that long as a teacher, despite my great respect and admiration for Pauline Weinstein, and for Noel Herron (Principal at my children's elementary school when they were growing up, and later a COPE Vancouver School Board Trustee, and a true friend), in all my time as an educator and an education activist, never have I been more proud and more in awe of a defender of public education than has been the case in what I acknowledge to you today as my undying admiration and respect for Patti Bacchus, for Allan Wong, Cherie Payne, Mike Lombardi, and the entire Vision Vancouver School Board caucus.
Vision Vancouver Board of Education Trustees: Thank you for your service to our community, to our province, to the preservation and promotion of public education, and for your service to our children for whose education you have been entrusted and for their beleaguered parents, as well, and for your support all of the dedicated educators and support staff who teach and work in the Vancouver public school system, who day-in, day-out must contend with an underfunded-by-the-province public education system.
As is the case with you, Patti, and as is the case for all the outstanding members of your Vision Vancouver Board of Education caucus who, despite all, have worked together to create the best possible educational experience for our children, securing theirs and our future, your Vision Vancouver Board is owed an expansive and warmly appreciative debt of gratitude from every citizen, in every community, across this province.
The legacy of your Board will live on through the ages, through the students whose lives you have touched, and played a pivotal role in enhancing, and for whose education you have taken on a responsibility of immeasurable proportion, for each and every boy and girl enrolled in the Vancouver public education system, working with parents and educators, you have played a critical role in shaping the minds and destinies of the boys and girls who will become the future hope of our world. Thank you.
Kirk LaPointe is running as a candidate for Mayor of Vancouver. I like him. One of Kirk's jobs is to ensure that a goodly number of his candidates running for City Council, Park Board and School Board are elected to office.
In much the same way that the NPA campaign has dined out on the secret tape revealed by Bob Mackin that suggests a pay for play / quid pro quo deal between CUPE Local 1004 — and their $102,000 donation to the Vision Vancouver campaign — and a "supposed commitment" by Vision Vancouver not to contract out union jobs, Kirk LaPointe has set as one of his many tasks to ensure the election of a goodly number of his — dare I say, not ready for prime time — Vancouver School Board candidates.
To that end, the Non-Partisan Association campaign has made a great deal about the "decision" by Patti Bacchus, and her Vision Vancouver Board of Education, to allegedly "refuse" a corporate donation from Chevron, the sordid details of which are explored above.
Truth to tell, VanRamblings is not displeased that the viciousness (one could say tenacity, but viciousness covers it so much better) with which Vision Vancouver has pursued elected office, and has been met blow-for-blow by a focused, driven, wildly inventive (& just a tad negative) campaign for office by folks associated with the Non-Partisan Association.
Quite honestly, VanRamblings has experienced perverse joy that, finally, a well-funded political entity has come on the political scene to challenge the arrogant, almost cult-like, presumed "supremacy" of Vision Vancouver.
But, not when it comes to the Patti Bacchus-led Vision Vancouver Board of Education. Politics is politics, and Patti and her colleagues have been taken aback — as has the whole discombobulated Vision Vancouver campaign team — with the effectiveness of the Non-Partisan Association targeted campaign for office. To some greater or lesser degree, several members of the Vision School Board caucus are likely to become casualties in the war of attrition that we will see come to pass this coming Saturday evening.
With the above in mind, VanRamblings has endorsed — and focused on — only three Vision Vancouver (incumbent) candidates for School Board: the incredibly principled Patti Bacchus, Cherie Payne and Allan Wong.
VanRamblings lost sleep over not endorsing Mike Lombardi — whom I've known since the 1970s when we worked together on COPE campaigns, and later as workmates at the offices of the BCTF — and I am verklempt that nowhere on the endorsement list above can be found the name of "new" Vision Vancouver School Board candidate, Joy Alexander, about whom everyone of my acquaintance is genuinely and spectacularly enthusiastic.
As I say above, this is politics, and things will be what they will be, very soon now the voice of the people will be heard, as the result of the people's will becomes clear late on Saturday evening, November 15th.
In the 2014 Vancouver civic election, there's much pressure been placed on pundits to endorse a mixed slate, so that's what VanRamblings has done.
The Public Education Project
To not vote for Jane Bouey & Gwen Giesbrecht, candidates for the nascent Public Education Project, is to say you don't give a damn about public education. All persons of conscience must vote for both Gwen and Jane.
Jane Bouey, former COPE Trustee and vice-chair of the Vancouver School Board, and absolutely beloved by Patti Bacchus — there's many the conversation I've had with Patti about Jane, and of how much Patti misses Jane's input on the Board on a vast range of issues, and of how invaluable was Jane's contribution to the Board — is a must-elect for School Board.
For VanRamblings, among the many initiatives that will come before the 2014 - 2018 Vancouver School Board, there is the implementation of the Board's new gender-variant policy. Here's an excerpt from a recent Jane Bouey post on Facebook ...
"I am deeply troubled by the Vancouver First School Trustee candidacies of Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, and their fear-based election campaign. I don't want to give them more attention, but there is a real danger, particularly if voter turn-out is low, that they could be re-elected to School Board.
In 2005, I was targeted by homophobes because of my role in the development and implementation of the Vancouver School Board's LGBTTQ+ Policy.
In 2011, I lost in my re-election bid for School Board.
I was targeted by homophobes and transphobes because I was working on early drafts of the updated Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities Policy. I lost because I am queer and proud. I will never stop standing up for LGBTTQ+ kids, and all of our children who face barriers in receiving the education that is their right.
My colleague, Gwen Giesbrecht of the Public Education Project, has been a vocal ally and stood alongside me, in this struggle.
The Vision Vancouver Board (especially Patti Bacchus and Allan Wong) have been vital and strong allies. Please take this into account when you are voting for School Board. Let your friends know — do not reward those who fan hate, or stand aside in silence.
Trustees have a duty to respect and uphold kids' legal and human right to accommodation, and to not fan fear and spread misunderstanding."
Gwen Giesbrecht, a parent & small business owner, is one of our city's true treasures, her life-long activism in support of public education and strong communities, both community driven, and in her work in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood where she lives — and where she serves as President of the Britannia Community Services Centre board of management, and Chair of the Britannia Secondary Parent Advisory committee — and across the city, has proved throughout a lifetime of activism of invaluable service to the larger community that is Vancouver.
In her work with Britannia, Gwen has worked toward the creation of an integrated model for community service delivery, and works closely in partnership with the Vancouver School Board, the Vancouver Public Library and the City of Vancouver. Working across the city, Gwen is a past chairperson of the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), the COPE Education Committee, and was a co-founder of the Justice Not Charity education forum, featured above in today's VanRamblings' post.
On this upcoming Saturday, November 15th, most of those who intend to vote will go to the voting stations in their neighbourhood.
While walking, riding your bike, or driving to your local polling station, ask yourself, "What kind of world do I want to create for my children, for my family, for my neighbours, my friends, my colleagues and myself? Do I want a world of where all are provided an equal opportunity for love and acceptance, and if that is so, for whom do I cast my ballot?"
Reading Jane's discourse above, any person of principle is left with no other option than to cast their ballot, and place a checkmark beside the names of Jane Bouey, Gwen Giesbrecht, Patti Bacchus and Allan Wong — for there is the rock solid guarantee that in this too often confusing world that a vote for Jane, Gwen, Patti and Allan is a vote for a better world, a fairer and more just world, a more inclusive world where every boy and girl enrolled in the Vancouver school system will be afforded an equal opportunity to live the dream they dream for themselves to lead a productive, fulfilling life where love and acceptance for each and every one is the mantle they will carry throughout their lives. Vote Bacchus, Bouey, Giesbrecht, and Wong.
Were the above true of all the Non-Partisan Association candidates for office; it's not. Make no mistake, there are no homophobes or transphobes in the NPA campaign for office. Rather, outside of the outstanding NPA candidacies of Christopher Richardson, Stacy Robertson and Fraser Ballantyne, the Non-Partisan Association candidates are weak tea, indeed.
Now, VanRamblings likes, nay adores, NPA candidate for School Board, Sandy Sharma. The Straight writes about Sandy yesterday, "a progressive parent activist for many years and is well-versed in education issues, including the board's financial affairs." Sad to say, such has not been VanRamblings experience. In respect of Sandy's run for office, even her running mates have been concerned over Sandy's focus on cutting out contract-negotiated Professional Days, and shortening the Christmas and spring breaks — when the former is unchangeable, and the latter is, although to some extent within the Board's purview, provincially-mandated.
[Update: In response to the paragraph above, Sandy Sharma writes to say that she feels that the construction of her commentary, as written above, is "both misleading and inaccurate." Ms. Sharma is clear that it is not Professional Days to which she refers — and insists that she has always been "a proponent of Professional Days, and the very important role they play in furthering the goals of a vibrant public education system."
Rather, says Ms. Sharma, it is "District Days" to which she refers — a few years back, the Vision Vancouver School Board, to save money, extended Spring Break by 3 - 5 days, and closed schools on other days in the calendar school year, lengthening the school day for students in order that provincially-mandated hours / days of education would be met. Sandy Sharma believes that Vision Vancouver policy is the wrong way to go.
Sandy Sharma believes, and it is NPA policy she had a role in drafting, that to close schools for so many days each school year is wrong, and that an NPA School Board would look for cost savings elsewhere, restoring full school days, in support of the interests of children, and their beleaguered parents, whose pocketbooks are already strained, and who must arrange for childcare during the Vision Vancouver-imposed "District Closure" days.]
Me, I want a vocal advocate for public education. Even given the above, VanRamblings would not be concerned, and perhaps might experience some degree of joy for Sandy were she to be elected to School Board.
Were VanRamblings able to say that about NPA School Trustree Penny Noble's candidacy — a walking disaster if we ever saw one. Migawd!
Last week, when returning from the Mayoral debate at SFU Harbour Centre, sitting in Christopher Richardson's comfy SUV as he transported Penny to her car at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis & Badminton Club (don't ask), we got to talking about the amount of time electeds often put into their jobs.
For instance, on School Board, I know that Patti Bacchus and Mike Lombardi often put in 40 - 60 hour weeks — they're dedicated, there's a job to be done, they're passionate defenders of the public education system, the media come calling and there they are out front of the VSB offices, or out front of their homes, answering the question of the day.
At Park Board, although NPA Park Board Commissioner John Coupar is reluctant to reveal the number of hours he puts into his work as a Park Board Commissioner (he's such a humble man), a 40+ hour a week is not uncommon for John, as is the case for fellow NPA Park Board Commissioner, and current NPA candidate for Council, Melissa De Genova.
While Christopher was transporting Penny and I over the Burrard Street bridge, the subject of committees at School Board came up, and a concern that had been expressed to me by one of the Vision Vancouver school trustees that Fraser Ballantyne didn't like committee meetings, and never turned up for them, even the ones he was supposed to be chairing. There are six standing committees at School Board: Education and Student Services, Planning and Facilities, Finance & Legal, Personnel & Staff Services, Management Co-ordinating, and Education & Student Services.
As you might well imagine, it is at the committee level where the lion's share of the Board's work occurs, all the planning, development of policy, co-ordinating, resolution of personnel issues, etc. The VSB committees play a pivotal role at the Board, they're time-consuming but productive, and all the Board members (save Fraser Ballantyne, apparently) attend.
Interjecting in the discussion Christopher Richardson and I were having about committees, and the certainty he felt that Fraser Ballantyne's contribution to the Vancouver School Board, and certainly to the Non-Partisan Association School Board campaign, was without compare — who am I to disbelieve Christopher, I trust Christopher on every single word I have ever heard from him, and we talk together frequently and at length, usually when he's riding his bike, and comes roaring up, at which point we engage in gregarious discourse — Penny Noble had his to say ...
"Committees. We don't need no damn committees. They're time-consuming, they're useless. The first thing I'll do when elected to office is cancel all of those committees. I'm going to shake up School Board when I'm elected. Forty hours a week! I've got better things to do with my time than spend 40 hours a week at the School Board offices. I'll spend ten, and no more!"
Gosh, one wonders if Penny is aware that School Board Trustees are also liaisons with the at least a dozen schools to which they're assigned?
Penny exits Christopher's vehicle, as Christopher rolls his eyes, assuring me that "we'll take it slow and easy, get our feet, get a feel for things, meet people, talk with everyone we can, attend committee meetings, find out what the priorities are, and work together with the other electeds, one of whom I would imagine and hope would be Patti Bacchus, with whom I'm really looking forward to working with should I be given the opportunity."
VanRamblings asks a question to which the answer is clear, but tests Christopher Richardson (it's a good question to ask of any potential School Board Trustee candidate): First order of business upon being elected, Christopher? The answer, "With the resignation of Superintendent Steve Cardwell, who's taking on the job as a Professor, teaching and a Director of Executive Educational leadership, at the University of British Columbia, the search for and appointment of a new Vancouver School Board Superintendent would have to a first priority for the incoming Board."
You pass, Christopher. Like I knew you would.
As VSB Superintendent Steve Cardwell told The Courier's Cheryl Rossi ...
The Vancouver School Board oversees 92 elementary schools, 18 high schools, seven adult education centres and the largest distance education school in the province. Vancouver schools serve some of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Canada and some of the poorest. Fourteen per cent of students participate in a school meal programme.
We have 55,000 students. We've got over 100,000 parents that have a real stake in our education system and fewer than 40 per cent voted. They need to exercise their democratic right to vote and have influence on our education system by voting for school trustees and voting for the city, for the mayor and council, as well, as part of this, and when provincial elections come around, of course, for them, too."
I know that Christopher Richardson has ridden his bike to every school in the district, introducing himself to the administration at each of those schools, and as many teachers as he could, not to get votes — although, he's good at that — but to get a feel for the depth and breadth of the Vancouver school district, and to hear from administrators, teachers — and when he runs across them, the parents — concerns that each would like to see addressed in this next term of the Vancouver School Board.
Christopher Richardson is, quite simply, one of the best people I know — I am over-the-moon about Christopher's candidacy for School Board.
Patti Bacchus has told me that she would look forward to working with Christopher — a progressive of the first order, who was enthusiastically endorsed by The Straight yesterday, and several other School Board candidates running for other parties have said the same thing about Stacy Robertson, with affection expressed for Fraser Ballantyne, as well.
Penny Noble? NPA candidate for School Board? In a word: disaster.
November 12, 2014
VanRamblings' Vancouver City Council Endorsements may be found here.
VanRamblings' Vancouver School Board Endorsements may be found here.
If you haven't read Part 1 of VanRamblings' Vancouver Park Board Endorsements List Rationale, you'll want to read it first, the post focusing mainly on VanRamblings' favourite candidate for Park Board, John Coupar.
Arriving at the conclusions I have in respect of identifying those candidates I believe possess both the gravitas to become true defenders of the public interest and, pragmatically, have a decent chance of gaining the trust of Vancouver voters and defeating what is for many the worst Park Board in the 128-year-young history of that august body was not an easy task.
Vancouver's Park Board Commissioners have — up until this past six years, when a Vision Vancouver-led majority Park Board slate was elected to office — acted as stewards of our parks and recreation system.
Let's have a look at the remaining Vancouver Park Board candidates endorsed by VanRamblings earlier in the week.
Following John Coupar on my list of must-elects to Park Board, my next favourite must-elect is the Green Party of Vancouver's one-term Vancouver Park Board Commissioner (2008 - 2011) Stuart Mackinnon who, as he says on his blog, "has fought for the preservation of our foreshore and our natural beaches, who believes in our Park Board's community services system," and who has always been a staunch defender of the independence of our neighbourhood community centre associations.
In addition, as a well-respected educator for some 26 years, central to Stuart's campaign platform is his belief that "every child should be able to play in their own neighbourhood," which means parks nearby and playgrounds, and a livable city for all of us who live across the vast expanse of our metropolitan city by the sea, is central to Stuart's belief system.
Earlier today, I received the following e-mail from my friend Margery Duda, an advocate for the restoration of community outdoor pools, who writes ...
Stuart Mackinnon advocated for outdoor pools when he was on Park Board, 2008 to 2011, and as a Green Party of Vancouver candidate for Park Board in 2011 was instrumental in having the Greens adopt a plan to replace outdoor pools fallen into disrepair, and build new ones.
Outdoor pools have gained a lot of traction in this election campaign, and that is music to the ears of pool advocates.
With the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) being on the record supporting outdoor pools via past Park Board Chairperson and current Park Board candidate, Anita Romaniuk, thanks to Stuart and Anita, the Non-Partisan Association's game-changing commitment to build three outdoor pools if elected, and now with the Greens making it official, too, outdoor swimming pools are sure to return as a part of Vancouver's recreation network, a development for which we are glad, indeed.
Note should be made, as well, that the smaller parties such as the Vancouver Cedar Party and IDEA have also committed to outdoor pools, as have some of the independents.
Those of us who have advocated for outdoor pools believe that it is unfortunate that six years were wasted under Vision Vancouver, when we could have been replacing our outdoor pools. When Vision Vancouver Park Board Commissioners first ran for office in 2008, a central tenet of their platform was a replacement of our outdoor pools network — since their election, they have reversed themselves on that very important commitment made to many of us who live in neighbourhoods across our city. We've continued our fight, in the community and at Park Board.
The Mount Pleasant Outdoor Pool could have been completed as early as 2010, when Mount Pleasant Park was re-developed following a public consultation that rated the pool as the community's top priority. During the six years of Vision Vancouver governance at Park Board, opportunities for green technology grants and federal infrastructure funding were passed over by Vision in favour of building expensive indoor destination pools only.
Although Vision voted against a proposal to fund an outdoor pool in the current Capital Plan presented to voters, with the great support that has been forthcoming from the Green Party's outstanding candidate for Park Board, Stuart Mackinnon, and support from our good friend, COPE's Anita Romaniuk, we believe that should a mixed Park Board slate of Green Party of Vancouver, the Non-Partisan Association, COPE and perhaps one or two independents — such as IDEA's Jamie Lee Hamilton or James Buckshon — outdoor pools are attainable within the current Capital Plan.
Outdoor pool advocates: Sharpen your pencils and get out to vote between Wednesday November 12th and Saturday November 15th."
With a Green Party of Vancouver platform that advocates for community-driven planning — that regards community centre associations as partners, not adversaries — replacement of outdoor pools, zero waste, local food systems and access to nature, and a revitalization of Park Board facilities and our parks' infrastructure, the Greens' Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe, are two absolute must-elects for Vancouver Park Board.
Erin Shum, running with the Non-Partisan Association, is — far and away — VanRamblings' favourite new candidate seeking office for Park Board.
For the past year, Erin has regularly attended the bi-weekly Park Board meetings, and on several occasions has spoken at the Park Board table advocating for the community interest on a range of issues of concern to residents living in neighbourhoods across our city. Erin's is a strong, reasoned and clarion voice, a welcome advocate for the public interest.
Having spoken, and worked, with Erin for the past year, VanRamblings can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the woman you see pictured above is one tough cookie, a candidate who possesses a clear, informed understanding of the issues at play before Park Board; it was John Coupar and Erin who argued for the inclusion of a plank in the NPA platform calling for the restoration of our outdoor pools system; it is Erin Shum — working with John Coupar and fellow NPA candidate for Park Board, Casey Crawford — who have vowed to restore $10.2 million in funding for the redevelopment of the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre, monies that were approved in the 2011 City of Vancouver capital plan, but never spent.
In respect of the NPA's outdoors pools initiative, at the announcement of the NPA's Park Board platform, it was Erin Shum who told the media that were gathered, "Vancouver is dramatically underserved when it comes to outdoor pools. Going forward, we make this commitment to the people of Vancouver that we will consult with the community on where the new outdoor facilities should be located, and in our first term of office, we will commit to the construction of three new, or replacement, outdoor pools."
Make no mistake, Erin Shum is a person of sage wisdom well beyond her years, an advocate for the Gen-Y voters of her generation and for all of us, and for the burgeoning community of citizens of Chinese descent who have come to regard Erin Shum as a champion of the community interest.
VanRamblings is in complete accord with the belief that Erin Shum is a voice for the people, an activist and an advocate of the first order for the public interest, one of the brightest and strongest political figures to emerge out of Vancouver's increasingly buoyant municipal political scene in years.
In a world where too often those in elected political office simply dedicate themselves to serving the interests of the political parties that got them elected, while remaining mute on the issues of the day, Erin Shum has emerged as a vocal champion of the public interest, a partner for fellow Non-Partisan Association candidates John Coupar and Casey Crawford — and a candidate for Park Board who has vowed to restore $10.2 million in funding allocated in the failed Vision Vancouver 2011 capital plan for the necessary re-development of the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre.
Erin Shum, along with her NPA running mates John Coupar and Casey Crawford, Green Party of Vancouver Park Board candidates Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe, and COPE's Anita Romaniuk — should voters place their confidence in them — are the candidates for Park Board who, commencing on December 1st, 2014, when the newly-elected Park Board Commissioners will be sworn into office, will transform governance at Park Board, and restore our desecrated parks to their former, natural beauty, and end once and for all the hostile, Dr. Penny Ballem-driven — endorsed by the Vision Vancouver caucus — heartbreakingly contentious Vancouver City Hall relationship with our beleaguered community centre associations.
Make no mistake, VanRamblings' loves John Coupar, Stuart Mackinnon and Erin Shum, but as complementary must-elects to Vancouver Park Board, I am just as over the moon about COPE's Anita Romaniuk, the NPA's Casey Crawford, and the Green Party of Vancouver's Michael Wiebe.
Vancouver's School Board and Vancouver City Council candidate endorsement lists cost me sleepless nights, and hours on the phone, responding to e-mails and online explaining myself — it's been a tough slog, let me tell you. The VanRamblings' Park Board endorsements — well, they were a no-brainer, the choices so obvious, the quality of the candidates so high, there was no other direction VanRamblings could go.
Anita Romaniuk, Chair of the Vancouver Park Board in 2004 and Chair of the Park Board Finance Committee from 2003 to 2005, Anita has ...
- Served six years on the Board of the Douglas Park Community Association;
- Six more years as a member of the Douglas Park Arts Committee and the Park Improvement and Heather Park Committees;
- Since 2006, Anita has worked with Margery Duda, and others, as a member of the Mount Pleasant Community Association's Pool Committee, where she's still advocating for the replacement of their outdoor pool;
- In 2009, Anita became a founding member of the Vancouver Society for Preservation of Outdoor Pools;
- In 2008, Anita joined the Board of Directors for the Save Our Parklands Association, and has served as its President since November 2011.
As VanRamblings has written elsewhere, Anita and I served on COPE's Parks & Recreation Committee, and together with Jamie Lee Hamilton drafted much of COPE's Park Board platform.
John Coupar, VanRamblings' very favourite candidate for Park Board, has said that he hopes Vancouver voters elect Anita to Park Board, that her institutional Park Board memory, and the likelihood that she'd hold his feet to the fire — John is nothing, if not a humble man — were he to become the next Chairperson of the Park Board
For the purposes of reference, all Park Board Commissioners vote on who the Chair will be, each year of their term in office.
In 2014, there is general consensus among all the serious candidates VanRamblings has endorsed that, given all of his good work this past three years and his commitment to our parks and recreation system, John has earned the right to become the next Park Board Chairperson, and thus they will vote that way when the time comes.
For VanRamblings, a vote for the candidates on VanRamblings' endorsement list is mandatory for anyone who cares about the welfare of our parks, our recreation system, restoration of our outdoor pools system, a return of Hastings Park to Park Board jurisdiction, implementation of the gender-variant policy, and all of the myriad issues — some known, some not yet known — that Park Board will face over the next four years.
VanRamblings urges you to save a vote for Anita Romaniuk for Park Board.
Casey Crawford is the unsung hero of the 2014 Vancouver civic election, the under-the-radar candidate for Park Board who has more knowledge in his little finger about the state of our playing fields across Vancouver — in a word, dreadful — and how that impacts on the boys and girls who play soccer, rugby, baseball or field hockey, and the jeopardy into which the children have been placed by a politicized, out-of-touch Vision Vancouver majority Park Board, than all of the other Park Board candidates combined.
VanRamblings looks at the NPA's campaign website for Casey Crawford, and believes most who would surf to the site would say, "What? Who's this Casey Crawford fella, and what kind of Park Board Commissioner would he make?" Without wishing to become profane, VanRamblings would suggest the answer to that question is, "Casey Crawford would be a damn fine Park Board Commissioner, an advocate for our children, an advocate for children's sports, and during his term of office, there is little doubt in my mind that the media would identify Casey Crawford as the go-to guy on amateur sport in our city, and on any issue related to our playing fields."
Vote for Casey Crawford? Your darn tootin' you should - you MUST!
Last, but certainly not least, there's the Green Party of Vancouver's Michael Wiebe, the new kid on the block, so to speak, business owner and community leader who, when he was 16 became a Park Board lifeguard (and later co-founded the Vancouver Lifeguard Association), who earned his Bachelor's in Business Administration, worked for the B.C. government administering public board appointments — and is, to boot, a charter member of the Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee.
Michael says that as a Park Board Commissioner he's committed to ...
Building more natural parks — under Vision Vancouver there's been only one new park built in the past six years, the neglected pocket poodle park and 18th and Main — working towards the creations of a healthier, sustainable food system, fostering grassroots community initiatives in every neighbourhood across our city; and working to create a sustainable waste management programme that meets the needs of all of the citizens of Vancouver.
Truth-to-tell, it'll probably take Michael a few months to get up to speed — which is the case for every new member of Park Board — but according to my friend Gena Kolson, Michael's Grade 12 teacher ...
"Michael is extremely bright and a hard worker, picks things up faster than any student I ever worked with, is dedicated, passionate, a democrat to his core, someone people turn to, and a natural born leader. There's no question about whether I'll cast a vote for Michael; of course, I would. Michael will be a real asset on Park Board — voters won't be sorry they voted for Michael."
Well, there you go, VanRamblings' top six candidates for Vancouver Park Board, each one of whom we endorse enthusiastically.
November 11, 2014
[The following post constitutes the first part of a two-part series to be published today and tomorrow, on the rationale for VanRamblings' Vancouver Park Board Endorsements, the issues with which our incoming 2014 Park Board Commissioners will be confronted, and how the platforms of the three civic parties who have received a VanRamblings endorsement will impact on the resolution of the issues that will come before Park Board. In Part 2 of the Vancouver Park Board series, readers will find an apology to independent Park Board candidates, Jamie Lee Hamilton and James Buckshon — who we know to be persons of passion & integrity & immense caring for our parks — for having left them off our endorsements list.]
As the Vancouver Park Board watchdog (so named by The Courier's Sandra Thomas), VanRamblings is in a unique position to identify the issues that Park Board will confront in the next term, 2014 through 2018, and of all the candidates who are running for the position of Park Board Commissioner — and, who are likely to garner favour with the voters — we believe will best serve the interests of the citizens of Vancouver during the next four year term at Vancouver's cherished, 128-year-young, Vancouver Park Board.
First and foremost is John Coupar, already a sitting Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Park Board Commissioner. Over the course of the past three years, I have come to know John very well, as a man of uncommon intelligence and compassion, articulate and achingly bright and principled, whose love (and knowledge) of our parks and recreation system is unparalleled among any of my acquaintances — and I know and am close to COPE's Anita Romaniuk, long my mentor and teacher on all things Park Board. Yet I am still able to designate John Coupar as the most passionate and knowledgeable on all things Park Board among all of my acquaintances who possess a love for our city's parks and recreation system.
Married to the love of his life, Heather, for some 35 years now, John — a native of Vancouver — raised his 2 children in the Dunbar neighbourhood. As his children grew and left the family nest, a few years back, John and Heather downsized, moving into the Village on False Creek, considered by many to be one of the greenest communities on the continent.
A past president of the Friends of the Bloedel Association, and past governor of the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, John has long been a passionate advocate for horticultural excellence in parks and green spaces, his passion arising as a result of the times spent in his youth with his father Charles, a renowned horticulturalist who served the Vancouver Park Board with distinction for 42 years.
John Coupar is perhaps most well known for his successful effort to save Vancouver's Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, his work on that project catapulting him into elected office as Park Board Commissioner, in November 2011's Vancouver civic election.
In his initial term of office at Park Board, John was the first to identify Vision Vancouver's egregious, inchoate decision to pave over a significant portion of Hadden and Kitsilano Beach parks, as he went on to play a key role in defeating Vision Vancouver's proposal of a 12-foot-wide asphalt bike path through two of Vancouver's most venerated west side parks, a well-used recreational resource for citizens across the Metro Vancouver region.
If there is one wish that I could have fulfilled in this election, it would be that John Coupar become our next Park Board Chairperson, leading an activist group of parks and recreation advocate Park Board Commissioners, who together would work toward restoring the beauty of Vancouver's parks, long untended to and desecrated by a Vision Vancouver-led Park Board, who have proven more interested in scoring political brownie points with Vancouver City Manager Dr. Penny Ballem and their "betters" at City Hall, the Vision Vancouver councillors who sit around the Council table.
Three anecdotes about John that will provide insight into the man ...
- The most common sentiment you'll hear expressed by members of the public in attendance at Park Board meetings who, after listening to the deliberations of the Commissioners on the issue of contention that has brought them to the Park Board offices, are most often wont to say, "John Coupar, he's the green advocate at the Park Board table, he's the advocate for the public, not the Vision commissioners. I voted for Vision last time because I wanted to leave a green legacy for my children and grandchildren. Never again. In 2014, I will vote for John Coupar, and anyone on the team he is running with!"
- Last spring, when the gender-variant policy was presented to Park Board, the most moving address to those gathered in a crowded Park Board conference meeting room was that given by John Coupar, who thanked all of those who had presented to Park Board on an issue of importance to each person in attendance, and to him, saying in part, "Sitting on Park Board for the past almost three years has proven to be the most enlightening and moving experience of my life, and never more so than was the case this evening. I want you to know that you have an advocate in me, and in my fellow Park Board Commissioner, Melissa De Genova, that we will fight for you, we will fight for inclusivity in our parks and in our community centres. Working together with all of the Commissioners around the table, I commit to you today that our parks and community centres will become welcoming and safe havens for you, where you will be respected always. I look forward to working together with you, and with Park Board staff, on the early implementation of all facets of the gender-variant policy on which you have worked so hard, and has proved of such service to our community. Throughout my life, I have made a commitment to inclusivity, fairness and equity — let us work together, go forward and write a new chapter in our social and political history, as we work toward a community of comfort, respect and acceptance that serves the interests of all of our citizens."
- One morning, in the spring of this year, I received a call from John, asking if I might meet with him near his home in the Olympic Village. I hopped on my bike, and about half an hour later, the two of us met at Terra Breads, and following a late morning repaste, John and I set out on a walk from the village to Yaletown, adjacent to the waters of south False Creek, along the winding path past Science World, Concord Pacific's contentious sales centre, through until we reached Yaletown.
Along the way, John pointed out the invasive species that had choked out the trees and shubbery that had been planted at the time of the construction the Olympic village. The path on which we walked was overgrown with untended to, 6-foot high weeds along the centre median, and on the north side of the Science Centre, on the fenced off area between the path and early spring blue waters of False Creek were strewn a motley assortment of shopping carts, blankets and water-soaked and torn mattresses, and every kind of garbage imaginable, most of which had clearly found a home of some long duration, ignored by the city and by Park Board — not because Park Board General Manager Malcolm Bromley, and Vancouver's first-rate (and lovers of our parks) Park Board staff, had failed in their duties to the citizens of Vancouver in keeping the paths and lands adjacent to the waters of False Creek free of unwelcome detritus, but rather because a Vision Vancouver Park Board led by Aaron Jasper, and before that Sarah Blyth and Constance Barnes, had allowed the lands around False Creek to fall into a state of abandon, as they pursued the "higher" political goals of attempting to rename our parks after Vision Vancouver financial supporters, plan a foreshore destroying seawall 'seaside greenway' bike path from Kitsilano Beach to Jericho Beach, or to hive off half of the well-utilized and much-loved by the community, Langara Golf Course — green space of value to all members in the Langara community in an under-parked neighbourhood, we learned on the night 150 angry Langara residents turned up at Park Board to oppose the destruction of the golf course in favour of "low cost", Gregor Robertson-endorsed $1.8 million dollar affordable condominiums, while the other half of the golf course would become a "new" park.
Langara residents weren't buying it, as pandemonium broke out at the Park Board office that night, as so often has proved the case before a discredited Vision Vancouver-led Park Board.
That overcast, still chilly, now spring afternoon, John turned to me as we headed back toward the village from Yaletown, and with an audible sigh said to me, "You know, Ray, if I am given the opportunity to become the next Chairperson of the Park Board, all that we have seen today on our walk will be remedied and repaired, invasive species that destroy the beauty of our parks will be a thing of the past. Sometimes, I reflect on what the reaction of my father might be to the disregard of our parks and recreation system under a Vision-led administration at Park Board — I know he wouldn't be happy to see his service and his legacy to our city so abused, our parks and all the trees in our parks so mistreated. Our staff at Park Board are world class, as caring and committed a cadre of park preservationists as I've ever had the privilege to work with. But with millions of dollars of cuts to our Park Board budget, with the priorities of Park Board placed on everything but the maintenance of our parks, Park Board staff are overwhelmed with all that needs doing, and chairperson after Vision chairperson has prioritized political initiatives that have little or nothing to do with maintaining our parks, and everything to do with promoting an agenda they think will serve their political supporters.
Please forgive me, but I have to say that I am more than a little disquieted with what we've seen today. I hope the people of Vancouver might see their way clear someday to electing a Park Board who will become true stewards of our parks and recreation system, and not political apparatchiks whose duty is not to the citizens of Vancouver, but to their political masters from whom they take instruction."
Please vote for John Coupar when you mark your ballot at the polling station. And please give consideration, as well, to voting for the candidates whose names appear at the top of today's VanRamblings' post — for those identified persons of conscience will work with John to restore the lush beauty of our parks and resolve, once and for all, the years-long Vision Vancouver-led dispute between Park Board and our community centres.
Part 2 of VanRamblings' Vancouver Park Board Endorsements List Rationale will appear Wednesday morning.
November 10, 2014
A neighbour of mine was saying to me last week when referring to the political parties, and the candidates, currently seeking elected office — on all three civically-elected bodies in the Vancouver municipal election — "They're all the same, they're all in it only for themselves. They could give a damn about us, they care only about what they can get out of it for themselves."
With all due respect to my neighbour, the cynical, simplistic, wrong-headed, uninformed and disempowering notion voiced above, with the advance polls open this week, and with election day this upcoming Saturday, there are simply too many voters out there — such as my neighbour — who will stay home and risk the possibility for all of us that the most developer-friendly, most dismissive of the concerns of folks like you and me civic party will be elected to office for four more years, so that they might once again roll over our collective interests, and over you & me.
Change does not come about by cynically sitting at home on your hands — change comes by becoming informed and engaged, by giving a damn, and by fighting to make a difference. As Robert Kennedy said when running for the Democratic party presidential nomination in 1968 ...
"The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better. Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, misery, ignorance, and violence.
And so it is. This week, vote for a change in government in the city of Vancouver. I promise you — I guarantee — that you'll be glad you did.
In 2014, should Vision Vancouver find themselves elected to a third majority term and a four year term of office, Vision Vancouver will work towards the completion of a programme that will lead to the destruction of neighbourhoods across our city, and a parks and recreation system that has well-served the interests of all of us who live in communities across Vancouver, such that our city will be transformed for ever more, no longer a human-scale city of livable neighbourhoods, but a city of towers and cement and a below-ground subway (really — in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet?), a city for the monied interests of the foreign national wealthy, and no longer a city for you and me, for our neighbours and friends and colleagues, and our families, for whom we care so very much.
By 2018, if Vision Vancouver is elected to a third consecutive term at Vancouver City Hall, given all the untrammeled development Vision Vancouver will have put in place, our city — our west coast paradise — will be unrecognizable and, even more, unlivable — unless we intervene at the polls this week and on election day to take our city back from the economic interests of the haute couture crowd of speculators who would seek to create yet another playground for themselves and their rich, amoral friends.
All of which means, of course, that you must not consider, and must not vote for Vision Vancouver, or any Vision Vancouver candidate running for office on Vancouver City Council, or on our beleaguered Park Board.
The social and political differences between the two major political parties seeking office in the 2014 Vancouver Civic Election could not be more stark: on the one hand, there is Vision Vancouver — secretive, vicious, Orwellian, dismissive of the community interest, and wholly given over to bettering the interests of their corporate and union bosses, and utterly dismissive of the interests of the vast majority of Vancouver's voting electorate; and on the other hand, there is a renewed Non-Partisan Association, a party of servants of the public interest who will return open and transparent, community responsive and fiscally responsible civic government to the city of Vancouver — a party that represents your needs and that of your family.
At the outset of today's VanRamblings post, you will find VanRamblings' well-considered 2014 Vancouver Civic Election Candidate Endorsement List, offering a list of the names of those candidates for elected office on all three civic bodies — and the parties they are running with — who we believe represent Vancouver voters' best opportunity to defeat an arrogant and out-of-touch (the very best thing that might be said about the current ...) Vision Vancouver municipal administration.
Now, we know that the surfeit of the names of representatives of the Non-Partisan Association — particularly given that the list was composed by a left activist of some forty years — will cause distress to some of our more progressive friends, and most particularly to our colleagues in the Coalition of Progressive Electors — in 2014, there is so much on the line that it has become necessary to vote strategically, to vote for a majority candidate slate of representatives of the Non-Partisan Association, in order that we might, at the very least, give a time out to Vision Vancouver, and provide the NPA (and the members of the Green Party of Vancouver, who we believe will be elected to Council and Park Board) the opportunity to open the books, slow development in our neighbourhoods, and restore our — what once was, but is no longer — world-class parks & recreation system.
Throughout the remainder of the week, VanRamblings will provide the rationale behind the composition of the 2014 Vancouver Civic Election Candidate Endorsement List you see above, the very important issues that are at play at Vancouver City Council, at Park Board and at School Board, and what the re-election of a majority Vision Vancouver civic administration would mean for our city going forward, if in the blinkered wisdom of the electorate, Vision Vancouver were to be elected to a third majority term.
Tuesday is Remembrance Day, a day when we reflect on the sacrifices of those who came before, who fought valiantly for the preservation of our, sometimes flawed, but absolutely necessary democratic form of government, so many among us take for granted. On Saturday, November 15th, voters across Vancouver will be given the opportunity to return good government to our city — please get out and vote to make a difference.
November 8, 2014
If you've arrived on this page of the VanRamblings blog, and haven't read Part 1 of A Primer on Civic Politics in Vancouver, you may want to read it first, as the initial post contains elements which may be of interest to you.
Today, we present a cursory insight into the history, the platforms, the principles and the raison d'être of the remaining six Vancouver municipal political parties (we covered COPE - The Coalition of Progressive Electors, in Part 1), and the candidates for these parties who are seeking office in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election. As per usual, today's post will be given over to some of VanRamblings' patented, some would say florid — and, we hope entertaining and informative — and always idiosyncratic commentary.
As we've said repeatedly over the past near five months now, the 2014 Vancouver civic election is the most crucial election in our city in the past 42 years, since Tom 'Terrifying' Campbell was ousted as Mayor of our west coast paradise, and good government — under the auspices of The Electors' Action Movement (TEAM), a progressive and truly visionary centre-left municipal government — was installed at Vancouver City Hall, for multiple successive pioneering and innovational terms of civic government.
From the 1970s, we have Mayor Art Phillips and his eight TEAM Councillors of the day — UBC professors Walter Hardwick, Fritz Bowers, Setty Pendakur and William Gibson, who made up the Council's sagacious academic quartet; respected urban planner and landscape architect, Art Cowie; future Vancouver mayor and British Columbia premier Mike Harcourt; activist, feminist and future provincial NDP cabinet minister Darlene Marzari, who fought like hell against the proposed freeway both the federal and provincial governments wanted to impose on Vancouver; as well as lawyer, & future (and eventually discredited) Vancouver mayor, lawyer Jack Volrich — to thank for the livability of the Vancouver we know and love today.
As reported by Rod Mickleburgh in his April 23, 2013 obituary, covering the life and many accomplishments of Art Phillips' term as Mayor, he writes ...
For years, the city had sold off property it owned and used the proceeds to keep taxes low. That was wrong, Phillips said. Several years ahead of Alberta's famous Heritage Fund, he established a property endowment fund, where all revenue from the city's extensive holdings would be deposited, invested and used, when needed, for the benefit of the city.
The list of accomplishments included an end to the city's prevailing secrecy, holding public hearings at night so working people could attend, killing off all freeway plans, saving the storied Orpheum Theatre, improving accommodation in the benighted Downtown Eastside, the introduction of mixed-income housing, and altered zoning to allow apartment living downtown. Mr. Phillips was big on that.
"Instead of being dead at night, we wanted the downtown core to be more European, a place to live and enjoy," he said, in his 2005 interview. "The changes we made then are taken for granted today."
The startling decision to convert the industrial, waterside flats of False Creek just west of downtown into mixed housing was also a landmark."
In 2014, Vancouver faces many of the same challenges that the TEAM Council of the day addressed, as they both set about to undo the harm done by overly-developer-friendly mayors, in the case of TEAM, Mayor Tom Campbell, and in the case of the Non-Partisan Association, the Vision Vancouver civic administration that has held office at City Hall since 2008.
Non-Partisan Association (NPA), founded 1937
In 1937, when Vancouver's oldest and most established municipal political party, the Non-Partisan Association, was formed to counteract the rise and burgeoning popularity of the democratic socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (which transformed into the New Democratic Party, in 1961), as revolutionary fervor and the presumed success of a workers' government in Russia swept the western world, and as the demand for a radical shift in the dynamics of the worker-employer relationship predominated, the Non-Partisan Association emerged as Vancouver's centre-right alternative to the radicalism of the left, promising always good government, and maintenance of a comforting status quo.
Since its inception, the Non-Partisan Association has emerged as Vancouver's natural governing party, holding the reins of power at City Hall, and at Park Board and School Board, as well, for all but four short terms of municipal government since the founding of the civic political party.
Drawing its strongest support from the business community and Vancouver neighbourhoods on the wealthier west side of the city, the Non-Partisan Association has remained the civic political party that has dedicated itself to the maintenance of city services, almost a serene form of government where decisions are made in the public view, and election after election the voting electorate of the city have given their consent to another salutary term of government to the always ethical and principled NPA.
The NPA, then, has generally been given to the provision of what we would all acknowledge as 'good government', focusing on services to meet the needs of Vancouver residents — clean and safe streets, a thriving parks and recreation system, fiscally responsible decision-making that has kept property taxes low, and a form of government where elected officials believe, to their core, in the concept of service to the public interest. No communists or radicals these, but rather humble, good-hearted, well-intentioned folks whose simple purpose is to listen to, and act upon, the wishes of the electorate, in every neighbourhood across our city.
Over the years, of course, the Non-Partisan Association has moved to change with the times, as circumstances dictated.
When the centre-left Art Phillips-led TEAM administration formed civic government in Vancouver 1972, and radical and boisterous Premier Dave Barrett formed a majority New Democratic Party provincial government in Victoria, the NPA could sense the shifting winds of change, and moderated the more conservative elements of its platform and approach to municipal governance. After the brief, but salutary, TEAM interregnum the NPA incorporated the more democratic and neighbourhood-oriented elements of TEAM's approach to municipal governance, as the NPA once again became Vancouver's natural governing party of responsible and good government.
In 2014, Non-Partisan Association mayoralty candidate Kirk LaPointe has dubbed the NPA, the Naturally Progressive Association, with a plethora of both small and big-L federal Liberals running with the party in the current civic election, under Mr. LaPointe — who is wont to say, "This is my party now. It is not the party of your fathers and mothers" — the NPA of 2014 has re-dedicated itself to serving the interests of a broad cross-section of the community in every part of the city, addressing social issues like child hunger, focusing on the economy and the promotion of resource sector jobs to strengthen Vancouver's economy, and the restoration of good government that is based on openness, transparency and intent of purpose, which is to say, listening to the concerns of residents in every neighbourhood across the city, consulting with the public and acting on the developed community consensus, which in 2014 — after six years of Vancouver's secretive, non-consultative, neighbourhood-and-park-destroying Vision Vancouver administration is, when you get right down to it, quite a radical — and dare we say, welcome — change, indeed.
In many ways, Kirk LaPointe and those running with him to form municipal government in the city of Vancouver are a mirror reflection of and not dissimilar to the TEAM party of Art Phillips — for the NPA of 2014 are a forward-thinking, well-educated, balanced and progressive team of candidates who will seek to undo the harm done by the Vision Vancouver administration of Gregor Robertson, while restoring open government and transparency of decision-making, as well as an opening of the books, while ensuring that no child goes to school hungry, and restoring a respectful relationship with residents across every neighbourhood in our city.
Whereas the current Vision Vancouver municipal government, and the Coalition of Progressive Electors — both of which parties employ and have a long history of a Marxist-oriented, top down, "we are the vanguard of revolutionary change, we know what's good for you, and we're going to give it to you whether you want it or not" — approach to governance that is given to an unrepentant arrogance, the Non-Partisan Association's plea to the voting electorate in 2014 offers a a simple and clear message: we know the Vancouver you want, and given the confidence and the support of the voters, those of us who are elected to serve you will set about to reinstate good government on all three civic elected bodies, as we ensure the provision of city services that meet the needs of all Vancouver citizens — from the promotion of pedestrian safe streets and more bike lanes and bike paths, to the acquisition of street sweepers to keep our streets clean, and the maintenance and building of new parks, and recreation centres.
Since 2008, when Vision Vancouver first formed government in the city of Vancouver, the NPA have been out of power but have formed a vibrant and engaged opposition, and in many ways have proved to be the conscience of city government, responsible, consultative, and dedicated to advocacy and responsive government. For many in our city, the messaging of the Non-Partisan Association is resonating like never before — all of which could / might / let's hope it does lead to change in the structure and application of the governance of our city, most particularly at City Hall and Park Board.
Vision Vancouver, founded 2005
Okay, you don't arrive at VanRamblings expecting to find balanced coverage of the entirely despicable and bullying Vision Vancouver civic party. As far as VanRamblings is concerned, the sooner we're rid of Vision and their arrogant Richard Daley-style of city government, the better off we'll all be.
Now, you see Geoff Olson's Vancouver Courier editorial cartoon above. The cartoon's thesis is that Vision Vancouver is in the pockets of big business & the big unions, that the decisions Vision Vancouver takes at City Council and Park Board are to better the interests of their corporate and union bosses — which decision-making is, of course, contrary to your interests and the interests of the vast majority of Vancouver's voting electorate.
As background on one aspect of the allegations, in an October 16th article in The Courier, journalist Bob Mackin details what might be considered a pay-for-play / quid pro quo deal that many in the community — including Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe — have read and interpreted as a form of corrupt governance at City Hall, about which LaPointe wrote in an opinion piece published in The Province newspaper ...
"Being clearly beholden to the city's workers right now is an irresponsible service to the city. The union is approaching contract discussions, and any early definition of the city's bargaining position is a breach of fiduciary duty. It gives away the store."
Corporate donations were written about in The Straight, and reference is made to Vision Vancouver's corporate donation base in an e-mail distributed this morning by COPE, the Coalition of Progressive Electors, that is excerpted below, detailing yet another facet of Vision Vancouver's win-at-all-costs "dirty tricks" campaign style. Principles and ethics in the Vision Vancouver universe? — alien concepts. Little wonder that in the waning days of Campaign 2014 — as voters become aware there's an election going on — support for Vision Vancouver has plummeted.
An excerpt from this morning's e-mail to COPE members ...
You may have received a robocall today from former City Councillor David Cadman, asking you to vote Vision. We're told he makes a plea to COPE members not to split the vote — essentially, to hold their nose and vote Vision. We're not sure how Vision got all these numbers but we're going to find out.
In a sense, this is good news. It means Vision is running scared.
The same day (former COPE city councillor) Cadman endorsed Vision, the public got to see Vision's donations. This year Vision took $1.4 million from corporations. They took $75,000 from Holborn Properties, the company that worked with the BC Liberals to replace Little Mountain public housing with luxury condos.
Yesterday, Vision held a press conference where Gregor Robertson warmly welcomed the endorsement of former NPA president, Michael Davis, a spin doctor for oil tankers.
VanRamblings knows many of the folks in the Vision Vancouver party, and we honestly and truly like them, and will probably work with many of them in future days on various New Democratic party campaigns.
That said, the experience of many of us across Vancouver who are engaged in daily political life in our metropolitan centre have come to believe that, collectively, there is a shocking, appalling and disturbing psychopathy in Vision Vancouver's approach to governance that in Vision's woeful six years in power has meant ill for Vancouver residents across our city, and in every Vancouver neighbourhood in our beloved community of communities.
Jak King and Garth Mullins, activists who have organized in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood; Stephen Bohus, and the members of his Residents Association of Mount Pleasant; Randy Helten, and all those who have worked with him in the West End Neighbours Association; Tracey Moir, working with the Oakridge Langara Area Residents; and hundreds more engaged community activists who love our city, love our parks, love our livable and walkable and human-scale neighbourhoods, and our beloved and accessible community-run neighbourhood community centres, have risen up against Vision Vancouver this past three years, and more. You should, too!
In an article published in the Globe and Mail this morning, journalist Frances Bula makes reference to the hostility that the Mayor and his Vision Vancouver colleagues have met with at the all-candidates meetings that have been held across our city this past month. No kidding!
If you have any idea at all about what Vision Vancouver has been up to the past six years (read Decision 2014 coverage on VanRamblings for a bare hint of why engaged citizens across Vancouver have risen up against Vision Vancouver during the course of this election cycle, and in the past three years), you won't even consider casting a vote for a Vision Vancouver candidate running for office for Vancouver City Council, or for Park Board.
For a somewhat more dispassionate take on Vision Vancouver, its formation, and the history of Vision Vancouver and its faux Green liberalism, information may be found in the Wikipedia entry available online.
Green Party of Vancouver, founded 1984
The Green Party of Vancouver is a municipal political party in Vancouver that nominated Green Party of Canada deputy leader Adrianne Carr as their sole nominee for Vancouver City Council in the 2011 Vancouver civic election. Carr subsequently went on to win the seat in that year's November 19th civic election, and is the sole Green member of Vancouver City Council.
As we wrote of Carr in Part 1 of A Primer of Civic Politics in Vancouver ...
Isn't everybody voting Green this time around, given that Green party City Councillor Adriane Carr was, throughout this last term, the conscience of Council, where over the course of those three, very trying years (when Vision Vancouver treated her despicably, and as she maintained her dignity, and her advocacy for the interests of Vancouver citizens), Adriane Carr emerged as not only the most beloved political figure in Vancouver, but across all of western Canada, as well. Make no mistake, the Green Party of Vancouver, in this hard fought municipal election campaign, will garner many, many votes at the polls, from the grateful and appreciative citizens of Vancouver ...
The Green Party of Vancouver was founded in 1984, and has elected representatives to School Board, Park Board & most recently, City Council.
As above, in 2011, Adriane Carr — one of the party's original founders — was elected as Vancouver's first ever Green City Councillor.
Since that time, Adriane has gained the respect and admiration of Vancouver citizens who value her independent voice on Council, her strong democratic principles, and her readiness to listen to what citizens have to say and then to be a voice for them at City Hall.
In 2014, Adriane Carr is seeking re-election to Vancouver Council along with Council running mates Pete Fry and Cleta Brown. Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe are the Green party candidates for Vancouver Park Board, and Mischa Oak — who many consider to be the hardest-working candidate running for office in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election — and Janet Fraser, are the Green Party of Vancouver candidates for School Board.
In some very real sense, the Green Party of Vancouver candidate team is your independent, non-aligned voice in civic politics. Given Adriane Carr's overwhelming & deserved popularity with voters, her political coattails in this election could very well elect all, or almost all, of the Green Party of Vancouver candidates running for Council, Park Board and School Board.
Here's the Green Party of Vancouver's platform, which explicates a programme which will ensure that the public interest will be placed first, that people-centred planning will predominate, where your voice will be heard, and the crisis arising from the lack of affordable housing will be addressed, and our city Vancouver will remain a compassionate, safe and inclusive city.
The Vancouver Cedar Party, founded 2013
Full disclosure: in the 2014 Vancouver civic election, VanRamblings has frequently met with the members and donated monies to the Coalition of Progressive Electors, the Green Party of Vancouver, and the newest political force on the civic block, the Vancouver Cedar Party, headed up by Glen Chernen (on the right above), and his brother, Nicholas Chernen.
As it happens, the Vancouver Cedar Party campaign headquarters is located just three blocks down the way from the housing co-operative where VanRamblings has resided for the past 30+ years (and where we raised our children), the campaign office located directly across from the shuttered Hollywood Theatre on West Broadway. VanRamblings has made a point of dropping by the Cedar Party's offices almost every day — which I'm sure on some days has driven them nuts, but even so, both Nicholas and Glen have proved invariably kind and welcoming, and forthcoming about the campaign.
More than any other party running candidates for office in the current civic election, the Vancouver Cedar Party has held Vision Vancouver's feet to the fire — releasing one devastating press release after another detailing the egregious, secretive, wrong-headed, anti-community (some would say, corrupt) decision-making that has gone on behind closed doors at City Hall, and inside the Mayor's office, as Vision Vancouver has sacrificed the community interest in favour of the interests of their developer friends.
Awhile back, arising from one of the Vancouver Cedar Party's press releases, VanRamblings wrote about the hidden-from-public-view decision taken in the Mayor's office to — without any hint of consultation with the community, never mind the elected members of Council and Park Board, including elected representatives from their own party, and a bewildered, deer-in-the-headlights Park Board General Manager, Malcolm Bromley — sell off 12 parcels of city-owned land at the north-east end of the Granville Street bridge, move the Aquatic Centre from its current location to a land-locked location east of the bridge, tear down the Continental Hotel, and seek to sign a development contract for the newly gathered together, city-owned property with one of their insider developer friends.
The Vancouver Cedar Party offers 7 reasons for entering the political fray as candidates for Council in 2014's Vancouver civic election — and assure voters that a vote for the Cedar Party will mean that elected Council candidates will be unbeholden to anyone but you, and that elected members will work toward the restoration of fiscal responsibility at City Hall, and environmental stewardship at Vancouver Park Board.
Chances are the Vancouver Cedar Party will not elect any candidates the first time out seeking political office — although Nicholas Chernen has garnered the endorsements of community groups and political activist Jak King, as will be the case with VanRamblings when we announce our slate of candidates for endorsement in the coming week — but it's worth your while to take a gander at their 'Rooted in Democracy' website, and / or drop by their campaign office for an unenlightening chat about Campaign 2014.
Honestly, Glen and Nicholas Chernen — and fellow Council candidates Charlene Sayo and Jeremy Gustafson — are worthy candidates in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election, and deserving of your attention.
One City Vancouver, founded 2014
Formed by an activist group of citizens once affiliated with the The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), One City Vancouver is running only one candidate in this election, RJ Aquino, an individual who ran as a candidate for COPE in Vancouver's 2011 municipal election and who, in 2014, is running as a candidate for the nascent One City Vancouver civic party. RJ has acquitted himself well on the campaign trail, emerging as a thoughtful and informed candidate for Vancouver City Council, who would well serve the interests of the citizens of Vancouver were he elected to Council.
Still, there's this niggling thought in the back of my mind that, forever however much VanRamblings likes and respects RJ (and we do!), that if push came to shove, and he was the deciding, swing vote on Council, that he'd line up with Vision Vancouver when it came down to the crunch.
VanRamblings knows well, and has worked with, many folks who are behind the creation of One City Vancouver, and I know them all to be honourable citizens of conscience who have always had the interests of the broader community at heart, have organized to ensure democratic decision-making and citizen engagement in neighbourhoods across our city, and worked throughout their lives to work towards a fairer, more just Vancouver, and a more just world, for all — political activists who made a difference.
With the above in mind, a vote for RJ Aquino would not be a wasted vote.
As blogger and freelance civic affairs journalist Frances Bula wrote earlier today, it's difficult to figure out why Vancouver 1st has candidates running for office in this election, what they stand for, and why voters would give even a passing thought to voting for any of their candidates?
Awhile back, Vancouver 1st announced that right-wingers Ken Denike and Sophia Woo — current members of Vancouver School Board — who were unceremoniously kicked out of the Non-Partisan Association, would run as School Board candidates for the party. Really?
At the same time, the party announced the candidacy of Olympic bronze medallist Brent Hayden for Park Board, not that he's been seen anywhere on the campaign trail. Former President of the Thunderbird Neighbourhood Association, Massimo Rossetti, has acquitted himself well in the campaign, as has Vancouver 1st's Jesse Johl (who's running for Council) — but at the end of the day, unless you're a rabid right-winger (and how many of those are there in Vancouver?), why would anyone give even a passing thought to casting a vote for any Vancouver 1st candidate? Just sayin'.
November 6, 2014
Voter participation in Vancouver civic elections is abysmal.
In 2008, when Vision Vancouver was elected to its first majority term, the voter turnout rate was 30.79%. Of the 403,663 registered Vancouver voters, the office of the Chief Elections Officer at City Hall reported only 124,285 Vancouver residents filled out a ballot, a decrease of 1.66% from the 32.45% turnout for the 2005 municipal election.
In 2011, after Vision Vancouver spent $657,000 in a massive television ad buy the final five days of the campaign (bringing out an extra 10,000 votes for the party, according to tracking results released internally by Strategic Communications, Vision's pollster of record), voter turnout registered at 34.57%, mainly as a consequence of that Vision ad blitz, which alerted a sleepy Vancouver populace to the pending civic election polling day.
Recently, at an all-candidates meeting, current Non-Partisan Association city councillor George Affleck — who, in 2014, is seeking voter support for a second term at City Hall — expressed wonderment at the low turnout rate.
"We're the level of government that is closest to you. Unlike the senior levels of government, you can actually reach out and touch us, you can put your hand on my shoulder. As a city councillor I am more available to you as an elected representative than would ever be the case with your federal or provincial representative. What Council, or Park Board, does day-in, day-out affects the quality of your life. You have a stake in the outcome of the election, you can determine the kind of city that you want going forward, and play a role in helping determine what civic priorities will be in the next term of your local government."
Yet, nine days out from election day — Saturday, November 15th — insider polling for Vancouver's two major political parties indicates a woeful level of citizen engagement, and a probable 28% voter participation rate this year.
Earlier in the week, I was speaking with a doctor friend of mine — one of the brightest, most accomplished people I know — about the current civic election, and who I would be supporting as candidates in the election. During the course of the conversation, my friend revealed to me that he didn't know the names of any of the political parties in Vancouver, nor was he aware of the names of any of the current members of Council, or possess the foggiest notion of what any of the parties stood for, what they'd accomplished, what the issues are in this election, and why he — or his lovely bride of some 30 years — should vote one way or the other.
Another friend of mine, someone I often attend movie previews with, although he has some vague notion that Gregor Robertson is our Mayor, doesn't know what party Mr. Robertson is a member of, is unaware of not just the platforms but the names of the opposition parties, who their candidates are, and why there's this big hue and cry — among some, including me — to oust Gregor Robertson from municipal government.
At the request of not just the two friends mentioned above, but many, many others in the community, in today and Saturday's posts on VanRamblings, I'll publish a primer on civic politics in Vancouver, where I will seek to provide insight into the six political parties that are vying for office, on all three civic bodies — Council, Park Board and School Board — write a bit about the history of these parties, what they stand for, and the primary issues of concern that have been identified by engaged voters.
Given that for most of my political history, dating back to the 1970s, I was (and remain) a member of the Coalition of Progressive Electors, the section on COPE will run longer and in more depth than is the case with the remaining parties seeking office in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election.
Not to mention, to this point in time, VanRamblings has not given COPE it's rightful due — for the Coalition of Progressive Electors has run a first-rate campaign, setting the agenda for the issues of importance in our city (affordable housing, the economy, openness and transparency at City Hall).
COPE mayoralty candidate, Meena Wong, has in particular acquitted herself passionately and well on the campaign trail, as have all of the candidates COPE has presented to Vancouver voters in Campaign 2014.
In Part 1 of A Primer on Civic Politics in Vancouver, COPE's history, from the party's inception til now. On Saturday, readers can expect to find an idiosyncratic take on the Non-Partisan Association, Vision Vancouver, the illustrious Green Party of Vancouver, about which I have written elsewhere:
Isn't everybody voting Green this time around, given that Green party City Councillor Adriane Carr was, throughout this last term, the conscience of Council, where over the course of those three, very trying years (when Vision Vancouver treated her despicably, and as she maintained her dignity, and her advocacy for the interests of Vancouver citizens), Adriane Carr emerged as not only the most beloved political figure in Vancouver, but across all of western Canada, as well. Make no mistake, the Green Party of Vancouver, in this hard fought municipal election campaign, will garner many, many votes at the polls, from the grateful and appreciative citizens of Vancouver ...
... and will write about, as well, the near-independent civic election party, IDEA, and the nascent Vancouver First political party.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), founded 1968
The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), formed in 1968 — then known as the Committee of Progressive Electors — was mainly a creature of the activist Vancouver chapter of the Communist Party, and the Vancouver & District Labour Council. The VDLC's Frank Kennedy and gruff, outspoken lawyer Harry Rankin were key figures in shaping the coalition, along with activists from the provincial New Democratic Party, social justice organizations, and an amalgam of left-wing, activist community groups.
These were the days when many of us believed that the contradictions of a corrupt, unjust capitalist economic system were so great that it would lead to the imminent collapse of western society as we knew it (as Marx had long ago predicted), leading to a socialist revolution that was, we were all certain, just around the corner. If I remember correctly, it was current Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs — among many, many others — who would be my comrade-in-arms, as we set about to man the barricades.
Even given all of the above, and given our heartfelt belief in the imminent, forthcoming socialist revolution, COPE was formed espousing somewhat more modest goals, which is to say, as a Vancouver municipal party that would effectively organize against the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) — a centre-right political party that had dominated civic politics in Vancouver for nearly three decades. The formation of COPE, and its importance as a voice for working class people, and the most vulnerable in our city, came about in response, as well, to the extreme right-of-centre (some would say, corrupt) leadership of independent Mayor, Tom Campbell.
For most of its history, COPE has had an uneasy relationship with centre-left parties at the municipal level. From 1972 to 1986, COPE competed with The Electors' Action Movement, which in the 1970s governed the city under prominent federal Liberal, Mayor Art Phillips.
By the late 1970s, a breakaway faction of TEAM, comprised mainly of supporters of the provincial NDP and led by, now former, TEAM city councillor, and future NDP premier, Mike Harcourt formed an electoral alliance with COPE, from which both parties benefited. Led by Harcourt, the coalition governed from the centre and, although it ran a unified slate with COPE with the co-operation and support of the VDLC, Harcourt's three-person Civic Independents party quite often voted with the NPA, and the remaining TEAM councillors, and against COPE's more socialist policies.
COPE'S Harry Rankin ran for office more than a dozen times before finally being elected to Vancouver city council in 1966, as the sole independent alderman — and champion of working class people — on a Council dominated by the NPA, where he served for 20 consecutive years, often topping the polls, with great support from across the city, including the west side neighbourhoods of Kerrisdale, Dunbar and West Point Grey, who continually re-elected him to Council to hold the NPA's feet to the fire.
The Council debates between the NPA's George Puil and Harry Rankin became legendary — although the perception was that the two were bitter enemies and rivals who hated one another, in fact the two remained friends throughout their long and celebrated political careers, and were always respectful of one another. Ah, for the bygone days of Vancouver politics.
Rankin was so popular that voters not only supported him, but consistently elected a COPE opposition consisting of downtown eastside activist Bruce Eriksen, housing activist Bruce Yorke, and current Vancouver East federal Member of Parliament and deputy leader of the federal NDP, Libbi Davies. When Rankin lost his bid for Mayor in 1986, the provincial NDP and members of the British Columbia Teachers' Federation staged a coup and ousted Rankin, as the party went on to fallow years on Vancouver's municipal political scene, electing only Jenny Kwan to Council in the 90s, and COPE stalwart Tim Louis, and Donna Morgan, to Park Board.
All that changed, however, in 2002 when the Non-Partisan Association became riven with division, as a bitter battle between a right-wing faction led by Jennifer Clarke and a moderate faction led by then NPA Mayor Philip Owen all but destroyed the party, creating the conditions for what became a long-awaited COPE victory at the polls, when every candidate running under COPE's banner was elected, on all three of Vancouver's civic bodies.
Following the 2002 election, COPE itself became riven with internal conflict.
Going into the 2002 election, COPE had sought a high-profile mayoral candidate, and they found one in Larry Campbell — a former RCMP officer, and coroner in the Vancouver District Coroner's office from 1981 through 1996, much of Campbell's eventual success with voters attributed to his charismatic personality, colourful background, and the belief that his life inspired a popular CBC television drama of the day, Da Vinci's Inquest.
From the outset, following his election to the Mayor's office, Campbell — a self-described moderate centrist (so moderate, in fact, that the opposition NPA approached him to run as their mayoralty candidate in 2005) — and not previously a member of COPE — refused to caucus with the party he'd run with as mayoral candidate, which as you might well imagine wreaked havoc within COPE, making it nearly impossible to develop a governance programme that might, or might not, find favour with the maverick mayor.
Infighting and internal strife within COPE reached such a fevered pitch that three COPE councillors (dubbed "COPE Lite" or "Diet COPE" by the media) separated and formed a new party, Vision Vancouver, which ran for office for the first time in the 2005 municipal election, choosing former COPE Councillor Jim Green as their mayoralty candidate.
Green lost by a hair's breadth when dirty politics attributed to winning NPA mayoralty candidate, Sam Sullivan, was accused of / thought to have colluded with an individual by the name of James Green, who placed his name on the mayoral ballot — confusing voters — and ushering in the Sam Sullivan mean-spirited regime at City Hall. COPE, however, won only one seat at the Council table, electing David Cadman to a second term in office.
COPE did not run a mayoralty candidate in 2005, nor in 2008 or 2011, as an uneasy "co-operative agreement" was struck between the nascent Vision Vancouver civic party and a weakened, and disheartened, COPE. In 2011, COPE elected only one candidate to a civic body, Allan Wong at School Board (Wong has since left COPE, & is now running with Vision Vancouver).
Arising from COPE's near wipeout at the polls, in April 2012, at a sometimes rancourous COPE annual general meeting, a coalition of left activists — led by former two-term city councillor, Tim Louis; former Green Party leader Stuart Parker, and left activists affliliated with online The Mainlander journal — succeeded in taking over all but four positions (out of 12) on the COPE Executive, the remaining "appeasing four" resigning from COPE in the fall of 2013. Since that time, left coalition activist / COPE exec member Stuart Parker — and many of his ardent supporters — also left COPE.
Still and all, returning to its roots as an activist social justice party, in 2014 the Coalition of Progressive Electors is running longtime COPE member Meena Wong as the party's first mayoralty candidate in 12 years, and COPE members have selected a first-rate slate of dedicated social justice advocates who, although the party will likely not form government following the current civic election (nor, it is probable, elect many candidates to civic office) has set the political agenda in Vancouver's Campaign 2014.
What does COPE stand for, what are their goals? According to COPE's constitution, Vancouver's second oldest municipal party has three aims:
- To unite individuals and groups behind a programme of progressive civic reform;
- To involve Vancouver residents and community organizations in public action in furtherance of their interests and the collective interests of Vancouver; and
- To nominate and endorse candidates for election to civic office in order to promote these purposes, and to provide direction and guidance to such candidates, both before and after they have been elected.
For the first time in a generation, COPE is living up to its constitutional goals, and in 2014 is running on a social justice platform of addressing the affordable housing crisis, as the party's candidates have set about to advocate for the construction of a City-built and City-owned affordable housing stock. The Coalition of Progressive Electors is the only municipal political party that has placed before the voting public a realistic plan for ensuring the construction and provision of affordable housing.
In addition, in the current civic election COPE has campaigned on ...
- The adoption of a $15-an-hour minimum wage, already a successful initiative in the city of Seattle, and a referendum item that met with success in five states and numerous cities and counties across the United States in Tuesday's U.S. election;
- A U-Pass, a $30-a-month universal transit pass programme for all residents of Vancouver, not dissimilar to the universal (U-Pass) programme that has proved a massive success at colleges and universities, which served to increase ridership while reducing fares, congestion, and carbon emissions;
- Transparency and local democracy, including long overdue campaign finance reform, enhanced and respectful neighbourhood consultation and local democratic governance, as well as electoral reform that will allow Vancouver residents to choose between the current at-large voting system, or replace it with a more democratic and neighbourhood-based ward system (as is the case in every municipality, outside of British Columbia, across the great expanse of Canada), among other democratic propositions that have much resonance with the voting electorate of Vancouver;
- Ending renovictions, implementation of a vacant property tax, and the development of guidelines for the retention and creation of affordable live music venues and art spaces, among many other salutary initiatives that would have much appeal to the broadest cross-section of Vancouver's beleaguered voting public.
COPE is the party of principle, it is the only Vancouver civic party that exists that has as its primary goal working towards a Vancouver based on fairness, equity, and social justice — in other words, a Vancouver for all.
There are some folks who believe that COPE, in being a party of the left, has set unrealistic goals, that it is a party of ideologues with its head in the clouds, out of touch with the concerns of Vancouver's voting public.
Such a cynical and hopeless notion couldn't be further from the truth.
In fact, the goals that many of us set back in the 1960s are the goals that COPE continues to fight for today. Perhaps, as a reminder of the principles of what we as citizens once stood for, and the principles that we might once again embrace as we make our journey through the 21st century, let us recall the words of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and 1968 candidate for President of the United States — hardly an individual and public figure who anyone would consider to be a radical or a revolutionary, yet who believed, as do the members of COPE, that ...
"The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better. Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, misery, ignorance, and violence.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation. A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — but a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not.
There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why ... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?"
Make no mistake, COPE is the future. Perhaps the future is not now — but if you look for it, you can see it; it is just off on the horizon.
Voters will want to save a vote for COPE, or two, or three or four.
For Vancouver City Council, voters may want to consider such outstanding candidates as Tim Louis, Gayle Gavin, Lisa Barrett, Sid Chow Tan, Keith Higgins and Audrey Seigl. I can tell you, as well, that young, passionate and articulate (also a wonderful writer) social justice advocate Jennifer O'Keeffe has garnered the support of many people of conscience in Campaign 2014, and that my good friend and social justice advocate, Wilson Munoz, will also garner many, many votes at the ballot box.
Read the candidate profiles of the very fine folks who are running with COPE — and for you — in the 2014 Vancouver civic election.
And, please, take the time to look at COPE's platform, the issues COPE has identified in this vigorous and hard-fought campaign for elected office, and the campaign for change COPE has dedicated itself to in Campaign 2014.
November 5, 2014
With only 10 days to go til the 2014 Vancouver civic election wraps, and we learn the final outcome of the voting decision take by Vancouver's voting electorate, two influential community activist interests have come out with their — some would say, surprising — list of endorsements.
Surprise or not, there's no question that our city's political class will insist that no thinking voter of conscience should consider casting a vote for any Vision Vancouver candidate running for re / election to either Vancouver City Council, or to Vancouver's beleaguered-under-Vision Park Board.
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) ran four candidates for Council in the 2011 Vancouver civic election; in 2014, the nascent grassroots political party has chosen to sit things out, while engaging with candidates from the diverse parties who are seeking elected office this year.
NSV's recommended candidate list is informed, but not one with which VanRamblings is necessarily whole-heartedly in accord.
NSV offers a thoughtful rationale for their choices that is well worth reading. Also worth reading, Carlito Pablo's Georgia Straight NSV story — as well as some of the commentary, below the article, by The Straight's readers.
VanRamblings is debating with several of our readers on the efficacy of publishing a specific candidate endorsement list (although we've provided one privately to several of our friends and associates) — whatever the case, we will be endorsing candidates for all three of Vancouver's civically-elected bodies and may, in fact, publish a specific endorsement list.
Those endorsements will be published next week on VanRamblings.
Respected Grandview-Woodland community activist, and inveterate blogger, Jak King, has this week endorsed a diverse slate of candidates for Vancouver City Council, and a surprising, yet principled, choice for Mayor.
VanRamblings is thrilled with the inclusion of the NPA's Ian Robertson and Rob McDowell — who are our two favourite NPA candidates, and must-elects as far as we're concerned — and we're over-the-moon with the inclusion of longtime friend and political associate, Tim Louis, one of the hardest-working, most principled men we've ever met.
In 2014, how could any thinking voter not cast their ballot for the Green Party of Vancouver candidates running for office? And, brothers Glen and Nicholas Chernen would make great members of Vancouver City Council. Nice to see COPE's incredibly well-informed Lisa Barrett on the list, as well as RJ Aquino, who has often outperformed almost every other Council candidate running for office, at the all-candidates meetings he's attended.
For Mayor, after much thought and consideration and choosing to endorse strategically, Jak King today endorsed Kirk LaPointe, the articulate, accomplished and thoughtful Non-Partisan Association candidate for Mayor.
Click here for insight into the reasoning behind what we're sure was a very difficult decision — but VanRamblings believes an absolutely necessary one — that caused Jak to make a choice we feel assured will be the imperative voter conclusion that will be reached by a plurality of Vancouver residents.
November 4, 2014
A couple of weeks back when arriving home from an afternoon all-candidates meeting, an old associate, decades-long City of Vancouver planner, and neighbour — knowing of my time on Vancouver's Board of Variance, and my consuming interest in all things community planning — asked if he could speak with me for a few minutes about a concern he had respecting a recent community planning process gone awry.
The crux of the concern raised was this: the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan on which he and his City Hall colleagues had spent considerable time in consultation with residents on drafting and submitting to City Council, bore no relation to the finalized plan presented to Council.
Interference from the Mayor's office, he suggested, as well as highly suspect and unilateral changes to the community plan had been made subsequent to the submission of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan to the office of Vancouver's recently-appointed General Manager of Planning and Development, Brian Jackson — including the addition of a mass of 26 - 40 storey towers at both Clark and Commercial Drives, along East Broadway, and mid-rise 8-storey multiple-unit residential buildings along the expanse of Nanaimo and Hastings Streets, neither of which was included in the original plan submitted to Jackson.
As per standard journalistic practice, VanRamblings set about to second-source the information provided to us above, when what should land in our e-mail inbox but a 1410-word Open Letter, titled Inside Story of a Botched Community Plan, written by housing, development and community activist Ned Jacobs, subtitled "How the Robertson administration has betrayed the public trust and is destroying community planning in Vancouver."
The information contained in Jacobs' letter, virtually word-for-word reflects the information that had been provided to me two weeks ago. Speaking with Jacobs on Monday afternoon, we discovered that his source was not the same senior city planning staffer who had earlier spoken to me.
Jacobs' letter makes repeated reference to a Mayor Gregor Robertson / Dr. Penny Ballem (Vancouver City Manager) / Brian J. Jackson triumvirate who were involved in the drafting of, and inclusion in, a revised and substantively changed Grandview-Woodland Community Plan. In fact, according to the city planning official with whom VanRamblings spoke, Mike Magee, the Mayor's Chief of Staff, as well as several Vision Vancouver City Councillors, played a pivotal role in the redrafting of the community plan that would finally be presented to Vancouver City Council.
Note should be made that at the Grandview-Woodland all-candidates meeting last week, incumbent City Councillor Andrea Reimer told the crowd in attendance that neither she, nor her Vision Vancouver Council colleagues were aware of the contents of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan prior to its initial presentation to Council.
The response of the crowd to Reimer's statement was jeers, while the response of her fellow all-candidate panelists was, at best, querulous.
Councillor Reimer also set about to assure the citizens who had gathered at Britannia Secondary School, that she felt quite certain the Citizens' Assembly created as a "new tool in the city's public-engagement toolbox," when it reported out, would not recommend, nor agree to, the mass of towers along East Broadway, between Clark and Commercial Drives, that had caused so much consternation among Grandview-Woodland residents.
Again the audience jeered.
Clearly, the residents of Grandview-Woodland — as is the case in neighbouhoods across the city, ranging from Mount Pleasant on the eastside to Dunbar on the westside, through to the West End, Yaletown and False Creek North in the downtown core, not to mention, Marpole — are unbelieving of a Vision Vancouver civic administration where honest, thorough, citizen-engaged consultation has been in short supply.
Time and time again, under Vision Vancouver, the city has failed to adhere to best practices in neighbourhood planning, most often defined as ...
- An opportunity to involve citizens in considering their future that provides effective tools for examining their community;
- Collaborative citizen involvement in neighbourhood planning and development, and ...
- Neighbourhood planning that brings together multiple city departments, community organizations, citizens, business improvement associations and related community stakeholders, and social service providers, who working together would seek to co-ordinate their collective efforts to ensure the delivery of a wide range of quality services at the neighbourhood level, so as to provide a more responsive, interactive environment for residents to express their concerns and needs.
Generally, best practices neighbourhood planning involves a years-long process that encourages citizens, through workshops and task group meetings, to become involved in neighbourhood planning — not unlike Vancouver's successful Gordon Campbell-Ann McAfee-inspired City Plan process of days gone by, a planning process that engaged all sectors of the community in what was most often a years-long effort that encouraged a broad range of citizens to become involved in their neighbourhood planning, a truly democratic and citizen-engaged community visioning process.
During the course of the present Vancouver civic election campaign, NPA mayoralty candidate Kirk LaPointe has talked about reinstating City Plan.
Vancouverites are well aware that with a Vision Vancouver administration at City Hall, and a development on speed ethos driving development across the city, that citizen-engaged neighbourhood planning processes in our city have become nothing more than a nostalgic, warily abused & hoary fiction.
Update: For further insight into the botched Grandview-Woodland Community Plan, it's worth reading the commentary of Scot Hein — the City of Vancouver's Senior Urban Designer at the time the Grandview-Woodland process was tabling built form — his team "... absolutely did not support towers outside the focused "Safeway Precinct," he writes.
Here is Ned Jacobs' Open Letter, posted to VanRamblings, and others ...
November 3, 2014
We live in a complex, too often cruel world.
On the evening news, we listen to reports about the ongoing negotiations to free the 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped six months ago by Boko Haram, followed by a report interviewing a young Kurdish father who, despite not being paid for six months by a corrupt Iraqi government continues his fight against the extremist ISIL forces in order that he might "protect my family from harm, my wife and my young daughters."
We blink, our eyes water, we know we are powerless to do anything to change the cruelest of circumstances occurring across our globe.
Where and when do we possess the agency to help make this a better, a kinder and more just world, where children will awake each morning and know that this will not be a day of hunger, where shelter will consist of more than a blanket and a mat within a bedbug-infested hostel, where the needs of our families will be prioritized over the pecuniary demands of developers dedicated to ensuring the re-election of a government whose sole grievous purpose is to line their own pockets at the public expense?
Charity, as you have heard throughout your life, begins at home.
Tomorrow, the advance polls in the 2014 Vancouver civic election open, giving us the opportunity to make a difference, to improve the lives of all those who live around us. Advance polls will be open 8 a.m. thru 8 p.m., Tuesday, November 4th thru Monday, November 10th, and again on Wednesday, November 12th, at any one of the following locations:
- Vancouver City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue, at Cambie
- Kerrisdale Community Centre, 5851 West Boulevard
- Killarney Community Centre, 6260 Killarney Street
- Kitsilano Community Centre, 2690 Larch Street
- Roundhouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews
- Sunset Community Centre, 6810 Main Street
- Thunderbird Community Centre, 2311 Cassiar Street
- West End Community Centre, 870 Denman Street
Collectively, on election day, Saturday, November 15th, those of us who live in Vancouver have the opportunity to return democratic governance to City Hall and our Vancouver Park Board, where human-scale over highrise development once again becomes a priority for our elected officials, where our community centres will once again receive the funding and supports necessary to meet the needs of our community, and where our parks might once again be transformed into green oases rather than the increasingly desecrated, untended to lands that has become the case under our present shockingly unjust and self-serving Vision Vancouver civic administration.
There's just no other way to say it: in Vancouver, we have a godawful, undemocratic, secretive, oppressive government at City Hall & Park Board, dedicated to meeting the needs of their developer funders over your needs. Vision Vancouver has not earned and does not deserve your vote.
Over the course of the past 6 years of Vision Vancouver's term in power ...
- Our parks have become overrun with invasive species;
- Highrise-driven "town centres" were approved in far too many of our neighbourhoods, and many, many more are on the way in every neighbourhood across our city, if Vision Vancouver is re-elected;
- More homeless than ever sleep on our streets;
- Children go to school hungry because our current Vision Vancouver civic administration refused to fund children's breakfast programmes when a cruel provincial government withdrew funding;
- A war on cars has driven the price of parking and fines (the latter now without benefit of appeal) into the stratosphere, in order to fund bike lanes through parks, along our foreshore & through our green spaces;
- Gentrification takes place in our most livable neighbourhoods, where affordable, market-driven rental accommodation has been replaced by condominiums marketed to offshore buyers;
- One community cinema after another has closed its doors (The Ridge, The Hollywood Theatre), while The Pantages Theatre, The Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Playhouse Theatre are no more.
Whether it's the failure to protect the arts, rampant tower-driven densification in our neighbourhoods (you think it's bad now, just elect a majority Vision Vancouver administration, and I promise you won't recognize the city you love, nearing the end of their next term), children going to school hungry, clogged thoroughfares, pitiless bus service, underfunded community centres, Vision Vancouver has failed us, all of us.
The time has come to give Vancouver's cruelest, most-serving of developer's interests municipal administration the heave-ho, to send a clear message that the enough is enough.
When you head to the polls, no matter for whom you choose to cast your ballot, make sure of one thing: do not cast one vote for a Vision Vancouver City Councillor, and not one Vision Vancouver Park Board candidate deserves a checkmark beside her or his name. We must take our city back.
Do not vote Vision Vancouver.
Preserve what is good about our city, invest in our city and in Vancouver's future as a city of livable neighbourhoods, and love the city we all call home. At the advance polls, or on election day, cast your ballot as you wish — but please, please, do not support Vision Vancouver at the polls.
November 1, 2014
In 2011, in a Vancouver municipal election campaign event organized by the Vancouver Public Space Network and UBC's School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, featuring live indie music between rounds, and an unusual round-robin-meets-applause-meter debate style — hosted by Steve Burgess, the panel of judges including CBC's Theresa Lalonde, VPSN chair Alissa Sadler, UBC professor Matthew Soules, and The Tyee's David Beers — independent candidate for Council and Occupy Vancouver's Lauren Gill won the "sweaty, irreverent" and often raucous event. Said Gill ...
"My power and your power lies in the streets, and it lies in holding the politicians accountable and attending City Council hearings. We are the people who hold the power in this city. You see that at Occupy Vancouver — they haven't moved in yet. Why? Because we hold more power than they do."
Well, here we are in 2014, and the Last Candidate Standing debate is upon us, once again. This is going to be one of the standout events of the current election season, and Sunday afternoon, from 2pm til 5pm, at SFU's Goldcorp Centre (in the Woodward's building, 149 West Hastings, at Abbott), will be the place to be. Come one, come all. See ya there Sunday!
Certain to be the 2014 Park Board all-party candidates debate, all you have to do is take a gander at VanRamblings' Save Kits Beach coverage (read on down), and you'll know what Vision Vancouver is in for Monday evening.
It ain't gonna be pretty.
In preparation for Monday evening's debate, on Saturday afternoon some scalliwags (or should that read community activists of conscience) laid a tarp through Kitsilano Beach, as a reminder of the horrendously wrong-headed decision Vision Vancouver initially took to run a 12-foot-wide asphalt bike freeway through Hadden and Kitsilano Beach parks.
You think the residents of Kits, or residents anywhere across the city for that matter, have forgotten what Vision almost foisted upon us within one of Vancouver's most beloved parks? Not on your life.
C'mon along to the Billy Bishop Legion on Monday evening.
The beer is cheap, the community space is cozy yet surprisingly spacious, and VanRamblings can all but guarantee that Monday's Park Board debate will be one of the highlights of Campaign 2014. If Vision shows up.
Photos of Saturday afternoon's Kitsilano Beach Tarp Event available here.
October 31, 2014
Wednesday evening, former Vancouver City Councillor and respected civic affairs barrister Jonathan Baker wrote to VanRamblings to apprise us of Schlenker v. Torgrimson, a BC Court of Appeals case heard in 2013, which ruled that Salt Spring Island Councillors were in a conflict of interest arising from a direct or indirect pecuniary interest, in respect of having voted to award two service contracts to societies of which they were directors (see Reason for Judgment in the Schlenker v. Torgrimson link above).
In the written reasons for Judgment in the BC Court of Appeals, the Honourable Mr. Justice Donald — concurred in by The Honourable Madam Justice Newbury, and The Honourable Mr. Justice Hinkson — wrote ...
 Elected officials must avoid conflicts of interest. The question on appeal is whether the respondents were in a conflict when they voted to award two service contracts to societies of which they were directors. In the words of s. 101(1) of the Community Charter, S.B.C. 2003, c. 26, did they have "a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the matter[s]"?
 The penalty for conflict is disqualification until the next election.
 I would allow the appeal and declare that the respondents violated the Community Charter.
Arising from an at-length conversation VanRamblings had with the learned Mr. Baker, a determination was made that it may very well be that Schlenker v. Torgrimson could be the determining case law that, upon adjudication and a ruling on the matter before a Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, could result in an order of the Court that would prevent Vision Vancouver City Councillors who are elected in the next term from seeking a further term of elected office, in 2018.
Mr. Baker offers this précis of Schlenker v. Torgrimson ...
The Court of Appeal said direct or indirect pecuniary interest doesn't just refer to money, that a politician has a fiduciary duty to the Council on which they sit as a member, without built-in bias.
The bias that arises from a member of Council serving two masters is, in Schlenker v. Torgrimson, one, perfectly benign in relation to the environmental group of which he is a member, and his duty to his taxpayers, which loyalties are divided and in conflict.
The Justices held that it was important the Court come down with a decision. Paragraph 34 of the Judgment reads, "to prevent elected officials from having divided loyalties" in deciding how to spend the public's money, one's own financial advantage can be such a powerful motive, that putting the public interest second leads to a conflict. The Court must then rule that the Council member could not run for a succeeding term of office.
The benefit — or direct or indirect pecuniary interest — potentially derived by Mr. Meggs, and Vision Vancouver City Councillors, would be the monies received in compensation for duties performed as an elected official.
A direct conflict link, and a decided conflict of interest by Vision Vancouver, might be made — involving the receipt of monies from CUPE 1004 in exchange for favours or benefit, the commitment made to CUPE 1004 by Geoff Meggs on behalf of Vision Vancouver that there would "no contracting out", this commitment to members of CUPE 1004 made in advance of the bargaining of the upcoming December 2015 collective agreement, and payment in the form of monies paid by taxpayers to elected officials, in this case the Vision Vancouver members of Vancouver City Council.
As per Bob Mackin's article in the Vancouver Courier, the CUPE 1004 local donated $102,000 to the Vision Vancouver re-election campaign, as was made explicit, in exchange for a commitment by Vision Vancouver not to contract out the jobs of city workers.
The Criminal Code of Canada, Section 123, reads ...
Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years who directly or indirectly gives, offers or agrees to give or offer to a municipal official or to anyone for the benefit of a municipal official — or, being a municipal official, directly or indirectly demands, accepts or offers or agrees to accept from any person for themselves or another person — a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind as consideration for the official."
Mr. Baker suggested to VanRamblings that in the case of CUPE 1004's commitment to the payment of monies to Vision Vancouver — the details of which are explicated in an October 16, 2014 Bob Mackin article in the Vancouver Courier — the circumstance is worse, as in ...
"We're going to give you money. There are strings attached. And they respond, 'Yeah, we know.' So, it looks like you have a contract, which is a horrible breach of their fiduciary duty to those citizens who elected them to office, and the populace of the city, in general."
Section 38 of Schlenker v. Torgrimson was, in part, based on the Ontario Divisional Court ruling in Re Moll and Fisher, which reads ...
This enactment, like all conflict-of-interest rules, is based on the moral principle, long embodied in our jurisprudence, that no man can serve two masters. It recognizes the fact that the judgment of even the most well-meaning men and women may be impaired when their personal financial interests are affected. Public office is a trust conferred by public authority for public purpose. And the Act ... enjoins holders of public offices ... from any participation in matters in which their economic self-interest may be in conflict with their public duty. The public's confidence in its elected representatives demands no less.
Given all of the above, VanRamblings has now come to believe that Kirk LaPointe was right when he wrote in his opinion piece in The Province ...
Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs, speaking for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, recently told a meeting of CUPE Local 1004 that the mayor was committing to not contract out any other city jobs. In turn, Vision was given financial and political support. No wonder Vancouverites don't trust city hall under Vision. Corruption corrodes confidence and this commitment smacks of political backroom deals of yesteryear.
It puts Vision's interests ahead of the city's and taxpayers.
Being clearly beholden to the city's workers right now is an irresponsible service to the city. The union is approaching contract discussions, and any early definition of the city's bargaining position is a breach of fiduciary duty.
Once again, as happens on occasion, VanRamblings finds itself in the position of having to offer a mea culpa to an aggrieved party, in this case Non-Partisan Association candidate for Mayor, Mr. Kirk LaPointe.
We apologize, unreservedly, to you Mr. LaPointe. You were right, you are right. In fact, VanRamblings has now come to believe that the actions of Councillor Meggs represent, as you write, "an irresponsible service to the city", and that the verbal contract agreed to by Councillor Meggs, on behalf of the Vision Vancouver municipal political party of which he is a member, may and perhaps does, in fact, represent a breach of his fiduciary duty to the electorate, such matter yet to be officially determined in a court of law.
October 30, 2014
Allow VanRamblings to remind readers of a fact: there are 11 provincial ridings in the City of Vancouver. Do you know how many of those ridings were won by Liberal party candidates in the 2013 provincial election? Four. That's right, four out of eleven. 37% of the Vancouver electorate voted for the "right wing" party, 63% voted for the left-wing party. As VanRamblings is sure you're aware, all Canadian urban centres tend to vote left-of-centre.
Kirk LaPointe and the Non-Partisan Association's main job in 2014 is to convince 10,000 more voters than voted for the NPA in 2011 to vote for them in 2014. Where's that vote going to come from? The 63% of Vancouver voters who voted for the NDP in 2013's provincial election.
At the start of Kirk LaPointe's New Progressive Association campaign to become Vancouver's next mayor, the always affable and thoughtful Mr. LaPointe presented himself to the voting electorate of Vancouver as the fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidate with a heart, who also possessed a very fine mind and a well-developed sense of ethics.
Over the course of the past couple of years, current Non-Partisan Association Council candidate Rob McDowell performed something akin to a feat of magic: he re-branded the Non-Partisan Association as the New Progressive Association (or, as Kirk LaPointe would prefer, the Naturally Progressive Association — which is pretty much what we've as heard as the campaign narrative from the day Kirk LaPointe announced his candidacy for Mayor, in mid-July through until mid-September), as the party of the Purple Revolution, a new and renewed party of progressives well able to put city government back into the hands of the people, where it rightfully belongs.
Of late, though, LaPointe appears to have stepped into the muck of seeming anti-union, even if in fact and in reality that is not — as he assures VanRamblings is the case (and we believe him) — his intention. Kirk LaPointe has told VanRamblings that he is committed to negotiating a fair contract with city workers, when next the city sits down with CUPE at the bargaining table, that there are no plans to contract out city worker jobs, and that a Kirk LaPointe-led civic administration remains committed to the re-engendering of a fair, just and respectful relationship with city workers.
As we're all aware, Campaign 2014 is a campaign of optics. Kirk LaPointe as the leader of a renewed Naturally Progressive Association of humble servants of the public interest works as a strong and abiding narrative — and accurately reflects his intention of working towards a much-improved working relationship with Vancouver city workers — a narrative and a commitment to workers that has much appeal to the citizens of Vancouver.
In the final 16 days of the Vancouver municipal campaign, voters will have to hear a great deal more of that humble servant refrain from the Non-Partisan Association if the renewed party of the Purple Revolution is going to proceed to victory late in the evening of Saturday, November 15th.
What Did Vision's CUPE Deal Mean for Workers Across the Province?
In December 2012, Vision Vancouver settled a 3-year contract with CUPE for 6.87%, and a much-increased and lauded pension and benefits package.
Now, as it happens, and as was the intention of CUPE (and, one would think, lifelong union activist and two-term Vision Vancouver City Councillor, Geoff Meggs), the 3-year contract with CUPE for 6.87% became the template for every other Metro Vancouver municipality, as CUPE whip-sawed Councils across the region into adopting Vancouver's union contract template. What's more, the Vision Vancouver contract with CUPE became the template for settlement in every other municipality across the province.
The Vision Vancouver / CUPE contract also caused / forced the provincial government to move off their much-despised '0-0-0' mandate with the public sector, and even went so far as to achieve an impact on wages across the private sector, with many private sector workers seeing the first rise in their take home pay in years.
So, the $1.5 million spent by CUPE on getting Vision Vancouver re-elected in 2011 certainly paid off handsomely for CUPE, and for all working people across the province. Of course, CUPE coffers were filled with the increased pay 2.75% - 3.25% portion of union members' paycheque deduction.
CUPE's narrative to its members across British Columbia: Vision Vancouver as a friend to CUPE, and to all working people across the province. No doubt that is why CUPE purchased two $250-a-person tables at Thursday night's Vision fundraiser at the Westin Bayshore, and soon-to-retire BC Federation of Labour head honcho, Jim Sinclair, could be seen prancing around the hall where the dinner / fundraiser was being held.
In the Non-Partisan Association candidate stump speeches, as was the case with current NPA City Councillor George Affleck at the RAMP Council all-candidates debate last week, NPA candidates have repeatedly referenced the low morale of City of Vancouver employees, talked about the cutbacks in staffing levels, about the mistreatment & politicization of city staff, about the lack of transparency at City Hall, and the utter lack of respect for the independence of the public service in the employ of the City of Vancouver.
And, of late, Non-Partisan Association candidates have even commenced to point out to CUPE workers employed by the city, and to the voting electorate of Vancouver, that — in fact — Vision Vancouver's / Geoff Meggs' much-ballyhooed commitment to not contract out the jobs of city workers is nothing other than another Vision Vancouver lie. The fact is that with a Vision Vancouver administration in charge at City Hall, the waste removal and recycling contract for businesses was awarded to various haulers in the private sector in Vision Vancouver's most recent term of office.
So much for Vision's commitment to not contract out CUPE jobs!
Given the reported upon fact that city workers are dissatisfied with Vision Vancouver as their employer, and given the fact that Vision Vancouver is, contrary to their commitment to city workers, contracting out jobs formerly performed by city staff, it would seem to make sense that the Non-Partisan Association would want to do all in their power to reassure the city's public service that with the election of a majority NPA administration at City Hall, a return to actual and palpable respect for city workers would become a central feature of city governance for the much-beleaguered members of CUPE 15 inside workers, and CUPE 1004 outside workers.
And that the Non-Partisan Association, while not cutting any side deals with the Union — which many in the community believe to be "influence peddling and corruption pure and simple, and one hopes that once the legalities are sorted out that someone will be properly charged and face a judge" — will settle a fair and responsible contract with City workers.
All of the above constitutes a great, and important narrative in Campaign 2014 that will take the voting electorate of Vancouver through the next week, when the advance polls open, til election day, November 15th.
And, finally, awhile back, in an informal, off-the-cuff conversation, CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Paul Faoro told VanRamblings that CUPE BC will spend $2 million in 2014 to secure a victory for Vision Vancouver at the polls.
The Non-Partisan Association, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), the Vancouver Cedar Party, and the Green Party of Vancouver have their work cut out for them in the next 16 days — theirs are under-funded campaigns (including that of the NPA, contrary to what you may have heard), at least compared to the $6-million developer-funded campaign of Vision Vancouver, with fewer dollars and fewer resources to get their clarion message of change into the hearts and minds of Vancouver's voting public.
Vancouver voters will soon see, at least, who the contributors to the NPA campaign are, given that on Thursday afternoon the Non-Partisan Association promised to reveal NPA donors before election day, an announcement that was soon followed up on by the Vision Vancouver campaign team. As a mid-afternoon headline in a story by editor Charlie Smith in The Straight reads, "campaign disclosures mean nothing without dollar figures attached." Those figures will be published early in 2015.
The link to Part I of Politics and Class Warfare may be found here.
October 27, 2014
Under the Non-Partisan Association administration of Mayor Sam Sullivan, a long and divisive civic strike of Vancouver's inside, outside, and library workers began on July 26, 2007, dubbed "Sam's Strike" by the union.
The strike lasted 88 days.
The unions, mustered by CUPE, blamed Sullivan's intransigence at the bargaining table for prolonging the strike, the union citing that the city's failing to table a written counteroffer as evidence of the city's bad faith.
Eventually, a mediator was called in, who recommended 17.5% [21% compounded] in a five-year contract, which was the amount accepted by all the other municipalities in Metro Vancouver. When two of the civic unions rejected the recommendation, public support collapsed; within a week a new vote by the three civic unions, with 1% more added to the contract than was the case across Metro Vancouver, and a deal was accepted.
In fact, the strike was purposefully prolonged by then CUPE 15 President Paul Faoro to create animus for the NPA, such ill-feeling that might lead to a victory for the nascent Vision Vancouver civic party. During the course of the strike, Mike Magee, Geoff Meggs and Paul Faoro struck a deal — with the election of a Vision Vancouver civic government, Vision would guarantee to CUPE that the city would pull out of the regional labour relations bureau.
Daniel Fontaine, writing in CityCaucus, wrote about "the deal", in an October 29, 2009 article titled, "Geoff Meggs hands CUPE a major victory."
In mid-2011, longtime CUPE 15 President Paul Faoro once again sat down with now Chief of Staff to the Mayor, Mike Magee, and first-term Vision Vancouver City Councillor, Geoff Meggs.
The deal that was struck this time was this: the City of Vancouver would guarantee to CUPE the City would settle an upcoming 3-year contract at 9%, as they had with the VPD and the firefighters. In fact, CUPE settled for 6.87%, with strict "no contracting out" provisions, an increase in benefits & pension plan provisions, the contract now coming in at 9%, as promised.
Once the deal was done, CUPE committed to spending $1.5 million to get Vision Vancouver re-elected; that's $1.5 million not as a direct, accountable donation, but $1.5 million that would be off-the-books. As elucidated in Bob Mackin's article in the Vancouver Courier, donations to Vision Vancouver from CUPE topped $245,250 — and that figure doesn't include the $63,000 donation from the HEU, a CUPE sister union.
Vision Vancouver turned over to CUPE their 16,000-name membership list. CUPE has a master list of 45,000 Union members who live in the City of Vancouver. CUPE hired 1,600 workers to get the vote out for Vision Vancouver, running a fear campaign against the NPA, "the party that brought you 'Sam's Strike', will contract out jobs at City Hall, put city workers on the bricks, and as the Liberals' farm team will set the tone to allow the Liberals to keep to their '0-0-0' mandate."
We all know how the last election went: in 2011, almost every one on the 45,000-strong Union member list came out to cast a ballot for Vision, as was the case with the 16,000-strong Vision Vancouver membership list.
Kirk LaPointe and the Non-Partisan Association's job in 2014 is to steal away 5,000 to 8,000 Union votes from Vision, by assuring these union members that the NPA will negotiate a fair contract with city workers, that an NPA administration does not intend to contract out jobs, and that although an NPA administration will not negotiate side deals with CUPE and other unions, an NPA administration would settle with its workers for no less than the standard union contract agreed to across Metro Vancouver.
With all due respect to Non-Partisan Association campaign manager, Doug Leung, and the affable and very bright Kirk LaPointe, the NPA's number one job between now and election day, if the NPA wants to secure victory on November 15th, is to garner a fair percentage of the Union vote.
In terms of securing a portion of the union vote, Kirk LaPointe had a bad week last week. In a Province newspaper opinion piece response to Bob Mackin's article, titled "Vision Vancouver's cash-for-jobs deal with city union is corrupt", LaPointe wrote ...
Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs, speaking for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, recently told a meeting of CUPE Local 1004 that the mayor was committing to not contract out any other city jobs. In turn, Vision was given financial and political support. No wonder Vancouverites don't trust city hall under Vision. Corruption corrodes confidence and this commitment smacks of political backroom deals of yesteryear.
It puts Vision's interests ahead of the city's and taxpayers.
Being clearly beholden to the city's workers right now is an irresponsible service to the city. The union is approaching contract discussions, and any early definition of the city's bargaining position is a breach of fiduciary duty.
It gives away the store.
Mr. LaPointe, guess how much Union members care about "giving away the store"? About as much as Mike Magee, and the Vision folks, want to see an overwhelming NPA majority victory come late evening November 15th.
Union workers, like all workers, already feel hard done by, that they're not getting their piece of the pie, that the corporate 1% (which is how your opposition Vision Vancouver opponents have defined you) are ever-intent on grinding the interests of workers into the ground.
Kirk LaPointe and the Non-Partisan Association never, ever want to play into that narrative. Rather, if the NPA want to win this election, they must present Kirk LaPointe in much the way Naheed Nenshi, Calgary's mayor, was presented when he won back-to-back terms in the mayor's office.
The Non-Partisan Association, if they're interested in victory at all, would want ensure that their mayoralty candidate is defined as, "Kirk LaPointe, a Mayor For All The People, Union Members, Our Multi-Cultural Population, Teachers, Health Care Workers, The Poor and the Downtrodden, Children Who Go To School Hungry Every Morning, A True Man of the People, The Once and True Leader of the West Coast Progressive Purple Revolution."
In a Globe and Mail article published today, titled "Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson grilled on union at debate", freelance Vancouver civic affairs writer Frances Bula writes, " ... the Vision Vancouver mayor didn't have an answer when he was prodded at the four-candidate debate Sunday about what his party might have promised to a major city union in exchange for $102,000 in campaign donations."
There was a back-and-forth between Gregor Robertson and the NPA mayoralty candidate, Kirk LaPointe, who lambasted the mayor for tying "the hands of the city in the next round of bargaining" with the outside workers, whose contract is due to expire in December of 2015." Yada, yada, yada.
Bula goes on to write that Robertson, "during the debate and in a scrum afterward, would not acknowledge that the party has a long-standing commitment to maintaining the contracting out of city services at current levels, even though Mr. Meggs has said it does." No kidding. It's not as if Mike Magee, Geoff Meggs and Paul Faoro have ever shared the information with the Hollyhock cult king of Vancouver (oh sorry, "Mayor") — why would they, "Mayor" Robertson is only a sorta handsome sock puppet?
Vision Vancouver relies on four distinct voting blocs as its base of support: union members, a rabidly engaged cycling community, voters of Chinese descent, and members of the LGBTQ community, each of which voting group Vision Vancouver pursues with not a small degree of abandon.
The massive vote of union workers who reside in Vancouver, mustered by former CUPE 15 (City Hall inside workers) President, and current CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer, Paul Faoro, represents the largest constituency of voter support for Vision Vancouver — given such, there is virtually no end to which Vision will go, no reasonable promise that Vision is not prepared to make, to secure their largest and most crucial-to-their-re-election vote.
Although not for Mr. Juice Boy / Sock Puppet / Hollyhock cult boy (aka "The Mayor"), Vision Vancouver's raison d'être — well, at least Geoff Meggs' raison d'être — revolves around a rejection of the contemporary economic notion of the race to the bottom, where business and government — think the provincial Liberals or the federal Conservatives — set about to grind workers' economic interests into the ground. In B.C., and in most other North American jurisdictions, we've been down so long it looks like up.
In rejecting the neo-liberal notion of the race to the bottom, Vision Vancouver has set about to create the economic conditions where they will ensure their support for, first, the economic interests of their own city workers, and globally, the economic interests of workers' across the province. Here's how Vision Vancouver expresses their contemporary version of the Wobblies' 'workers of the world unite' narrative ...
"We've got your backs, we know you have families to care for, bills to pay, that as the cost of living continues to rise, you deserve a fair wage increase when next you bargain for a new contract, we know how important your job is to you, how important your job is to your family, and we here today commit to you that under a Vision Vancouver civic administration city worker jobs will not be contracted out."
Vision Vancouver, then, has announced a central tenet of their re-election platform, even if this particular aspect of the platform is surreptitious in its application, and held from the view of the voting electorate of the city.
There are a great many aspects of Vision Vancouver's time in power that may be criticized with fulsomeness. A Vision Vancouver civic administration protecting the economic interests of city workers is not one of them.
Geoff Meggs has spent a good deal of his life sitting in Marxist reading rooms, along with his contemporaries.
Kirk LaPointe and his Non-Partisan Association colleagues, naïfs that they are, wouldn't know a Marxist reading group if it smacked them upside the head. And, really, when you get down it, the acceptance of such notion is, well, kind of sweet (in a naive and somewhat becoming, and innocent way).
Still and all, for better or for worse (and much to the chagrin of VanRamblings), the Non-Partisan Association seems to have found a winning election issue — corruption at Vancouver City Hall, the promise to city workers that the public service in the employ of the city will be treated fairly at the bargaining table when the next contract is negotiated.
Somehow, in our contemporary economic climate, and in accord with the accepted economic notion of the race to the bottom, City of Vancouver workers getting a fair shake for themselves and for their families is a terrible thing, an egregious breach of political ethics — as one might imagine, an issue in this election that has found resonance with the electorate — and the one, sustaining election issue that may lead to the ignominious defeat of Vision Vancouver at the polls, come the evening of November 15th.
We live in strange, and perilous, social and economic times, indeed.
October 25, 2014
The following is an October 23rd editorial in The Province newspaper.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision strategists clearly think that pointing out their main opponent's lack of elected experience is a winning strategy. Robertson and other Vision politicians have repeated the point of late, including during Wednesday's mayoral debate at Langara College when Robertson finally deigned to face off against Kirk LaPointe of the NPA. But it demonstrates, as is too often the case with Vision, real arrogance that voters should really think about.
LaPointe may not have been elected to office before but as a senior journalist, CBC ombudsman and adjunct professor at UBC he's been involved in politics and thinking about political issues for a lot longer than Robertson.
What's the mayor saying? That it is ridiculous for LaPointe or other newbies to run for office? That only elected politicians have enough brains or ideas to be elected? If that's true, what expertise did Robertson bring to the mayor's job when he was first elected after short careers as a juice maker and opposition MLA?
LaPointe is raising issues that many Vancouverites are concerned about — the appalling traffic, secrecy at city hall, the lack of real public consultation in city planning and Vision's focus on issues outside the city's mandate. He may not have detailed solutions yet to all those issues, but Robertson either has none, doesn't care or is the source of the problems.
Democracy thrives on new ideas and new people; Robertson sounds like he believes he has some divine right to rule. The mayor should stop attacking LaPointe's résumé and start debating the issues.
The Province newspaper's editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at email@example.com. Letters to the editor, specifically on the editorial above, can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 21, 2014
Canadians hold this axiom true: we are our brother's (and sister's) keeper.
In Canada, we live in a compassionate society, where the common good is the responsibility of all. Our socialized medical system is world class, as is our education system. Government fulfills its responsibility to provide a functioning judiciary that ensures public safety, an active and well-
functioning transportation system meets the needs of all sectors of our society, and we strive to care for those among us who are most in need.
In Abraham Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs, we satisfy our needs in a well-defined order. At the pinnacle of Maslow's pyramid? Shelter. With our need for food, shelter, good health, safety and community met, the conditions are present where we might lead a fulfilling, purposeful life.
In post-WWII Canadian society, as was expressed in our earlier post on development, the need for shelter was met, predominantly, through the construction of single-detached family homes. In the 1960s, Canadian society sought to ensure the provision of shelter for those most in need, as federal and provincial governments moved to build non-market housing.
When urban social housing projects like Raycam in Vancouver, and Regent Park in Toronto proved a ghetto-ized failure, at the behest of the federal government, a commission was struck to develop a 'made in Canada' solution to meet the need to house not just the indigent population, but members of the creative class, low-wage workers and single-parent families.
Through amendments to the National Housing Act, in the early 1970s the federal government launched the first programme to develop housing co-operatives, creating more than 60,000 non-market homes in co-ops across our land. Housing co-operatives ("co-ops") provide a place for people to live. In 2014, there are currently more than 2,000 housing co-ops across Canada, housing more than 111,000 community homeowners.
Housing co-operatives come in all sorts of forms and sizes, ranging from collections of townhouses and small, condominium-style buildings with 4 — 20 units, to large apartment-style buildings with hundreds of units. What sets co-ops apart from private rental housing is that they are democratic, community-owned housing developments, where residents take on the full responsibility for making decisions on how the co-op functions, for its finances, its ongoing maintenance, and for its members' responsibilities.
Current T.E.A.M. member / architect, and 1972-74 T.E.A.M. Park Board Commissioner, Bill McCreery, has written to VanRamblings stating that the construction of housing co-operatives "was a joint effort on the part of the City (T.EA.M.), federal Liberal minister of the day, Ron Basford (and his Deputy, Peter Oberlander), and Shirley Schmidt, acting for Dave Barrett's early 1970's provincial NPD government. This era of intergovernmental co-operation is unprecedented, and it highlights what can be accomplished when it happens. Something we should be striving for today." Bill goes on to point out that all Phase1 co-ops were 2 or 3 storey townhouses, while Phase2 co-ops, as above, were mostly mid-rise, 4 to 6 storey structures.
Among the first housing co-operatives built in Vancouver were the co-ops along the south shore of False Creek, between Granville Island and the Cambie Street bridge. With the support of the province, and under municipal by-law, one-third of all large-scale housing development would be housing co-operatives — which is to say, one out of every three buildings along False Creek's south shore is a housing co-op, as was the case when the construction began in the 1970s, and as it remains to this day.
Government does not own the housing co-operative; rather the co-operative is owned collectively by its members. Almost the sole role of the federal government is to provide surety to the financial institutions that lend the monies to the members of the co-operative for the purchase of land and construction of the housing. No housing co-operative in Canada has ever declared bankruptcy — the federal government has never had to assume the financial obligations of housing co-op members, at any time.
No one in a housing co-operative pays more than one-third of their income for their housing, the co-operative model mandating that one-third of the members of the co-op will receive full subsidy out of the operating funds of the co-op, while another third are granted a partial subsidy, the remaining one-third of members required to pay the low-end of market housing rate.
Co-op members pay no more than 30% of their income for housing.
Note should be made that a significant portion of housing units in a co-operative housing complex are set aside for 3-bedroom, affordable family housing — meeting the most pressing need of young families who have been unable to find suitable homes to raise their children in a safe and secure community environment, in Vancouver's woefully underserved housing market for our city's burgeoning population of young families.
Generally, the one-third of members on deep subsidy consist of single parents, pensioners and members of the disability community. The middle third are generally comprised of low-wage income earners, and members of the creative class (writers, artists). The final third, that part of the co-operative membership who pay the low-end-of-market rate are comprised of a broad cross-section of our community, business persons, teachers, and other higher income earners, each one of whom is a person of conscience dedicated to the interests of the community — for being a member of a housing co-op entails work, and a great deal of personal and social responsibility on the part all of the co-operatives' members.
In the 1970s, in Vancouver and across British Columbia, with the election of Dave Barrett's NDP provincial government, and the election of the TEAM civic government of Art Phillips, we moved away from the social barbarism of the years of provincial premier WAC Bennett and Vancouver's misguided mayor, Tom Campbell, into a new, enlightened era of social responsibility.
In the 1980s, with a faltering provincial economy, the social obligation that mandated that one-third of all large-scale housing development consist of housing co-operatives was reduced to one-quarter, or 25%. For instance, when a developer such as BOSA set about to construct the mass of highrises along Main and Quebec avenues between the Georgia Viaduct and Terminal avenue, and as BOSA built 2000 condominium units, the company was required to construct 500 social and housing co-operative units.
In the 1990s, that obligation was reduced to 20%, in the early 2000s to 15%, and under both the NPA administration of Sam Sullivan and during both terms of the Gregor Robertson-led Vision Vancouver civic administration, the obligation of developers to construct social housing units and housing co-operatives was eliminated entirely. Thus, we are left with the affordable housing crisis we face today, and the number one issue on the minds of the electorate in 2014's Vancouver municipal election.
Back to the Future: Electing a New Vancouver Civic Administration
Fortunately, with the prospect of a socially responsible and progressive Non-Partisan Association municipal administration at Vancouver City Hall, supported by members of the Green Party of Vancouver and COPE, the Coalition of Progressive Electors, the potential to once again engage in the construction of housing co-operatives exists not far off on our horizon.
In the 1970s, the TEAM administration of Art Phillips created the Property Endowment Fund (PEF), consisting of the real estate assets of all city-owned property, designated by Mayor Phillips and the Council of the day as a rainy-day fund, a portion of the PEF that might someday be dedicated to the construction of housing for those in need. You've probably noticed that it's not just raining out there, there's a deluge.
At present, there's $3½ billion dollars in the Property Endowment Fund — the time has long since past that Vancouver's civic administration dedicate a portion of the PEF to the construction of housing co-operatives. Why co-operatives, and not COPE's housing authority? A couple of reasons.
COPE's housing authority would require a new and costly level of civic administration at City Hall, when there's already attendant bureaucracies in place that administer housing co-operatives, which are a joint responsibility of the provincial government through its housing agency, B.C. Housing and through its arms-length provincial Agency for Co-operatives, as well as B.C.'s much-heralded and respected Co-operative Housing Federation.
Secondly, housing co-operatives provide a salutary, non-market form of home ownership, where collectively the members of the co-operative assume the day-to-day responsibility for the operation of the co-operative, as we do our own homes. Members of a co-operative are not tenants, we are homeowners, which is to say we are maîtres de notre propre maison.
When the Vision Vancouver civic administration approved Jimmy Pattison's massive development at Drake and Burrard, $42.6 million in community amenity contributions was extracted from the developer, Reliance Holdings. Do you know how much of that $42.6 million was set aside for the construction of social housing, or housing co-operatives? Nada, zero, zilch — Vision Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang and Mayor Gregor Robertson expounding that "there's no shortage of social housing in the West End."
The no-cost to the taxpayer, no cost to a Vancouver municipal administration solution to the affordable housing crisis in our city?
Extract parcels of land from the Property Endowment Fund, lease the land to members of the proposed housing co-operatives (with oversight provided by the provincial government, and the Co-op Housing Federation), and require that no less than 25% of developer Community Amenity Contributions be set aside for the construction of housing co-operatives.
The income derived from the member housing charges is paid to the city, a portion of which is set aside for annual co-op maintenance, for the co-operatives' replacement reserve fund, for any administrative costs that might be incurred by the co-op, and for property tax paid to the city.
A new Vancouver civic administration must tackle the issue of affordable housing in the city of Vancouver, upon assuming office. Vision Vancouver has proven themselves to be not up to the task. A renewed and progressive Non-Partisan Association municipal administration, working with members of the Green Party of Vancouver, COPE, and the Cedar Party will provide responsive and responsible government at the municipal level.
When you fill out your ballot — at the advance polls, or on November 15th — vote for a new Vancouver civic administration: vote Green Party of Vancouver, vote Vancouver Cedar Party, and vote for the candidates running under the Non-Partisan Association banner. For only the NPA, COPE, the Cedar Party candidates, and the Green Party's Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Cleta Brown have dedicated themselves to a community-led solution to Vancouver's present appalling and dire affordable housing crisis.
October 20, 2014
The angry, power-hungry, dissolute male of the human species has made a hash of things, when it comes to the political realm and the common weal.
In Vancouver in 2014, we have two male mayoral candidates in Gregor Robertson and Kirk LaPointe who have set about to beat each other about the head, it is men who are in control of political campaign management in the current election cycle, developers who are all male and union leaders who are also all male who control the bulk of the party campaign financing, as these latter males set about to ensure that you vote the "right way".
In Vancouver's dysfunctional, debauched political system, there's not a lot of principle, and perhaps even a dearth of ethics, in the choices with which we are being confronted when we head to the polls on November 15th.
VanRamblings is here to suggest to you that there is a better way, a more principled path forward in Vancouver's political realm, where government of good conscience would be all but guaranteed, where consensus and respect and fairness in the political process and for the participants involved in the decision-making process would carry the day, where the disquieting political maelstrom with which we have become all too familiar would finally, once and for all, draw to a salutary and certain-to-be-celebrated close.
VanRamblings' advice? When you go to the polls on Saturday, November 15th, vote only for the principled, bright, able, capable, insightful, ethical, and outstanding women of conscience who have placed their names on the ballot for Vancouver City Council, for Park Board and for School Board.
Note should be made that one of the side benefits of voting all-women slates on Vancouver's three civic bodies is that no one party would have a majority — in consequence, in order for governance to take place a working consensus would have to be developed, reason would come to prevail, and the likelihood would be that the decisions that would be taken at Council, Park Board and School Board would, almost inevitably, be very much to the benefit of the broadest cross-section of the Vancouver electorate, and families of every description living in every neighbourhood across our city.
In 2014, Meena Wong has emerged as the only mayoral candidate who will make a difference, as she has advocated for the construction of 4,000 affordable housing units in Vancouver over the course of the next 10 years, raising the monies to pay for COPE'S campaign promise through the imposition of a tax on absentee homeowners, and a renewed focus on the construction of affordable housing, through developer community amenity contributions; advocating, as well, for changes to the Vancouver Charter that would allow both the implementation of a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and putting an end to renovictions in the city of Vancouver.
For Vancouver City Council, there is no better choice than our hardest working City Councillor, Vision Vancouver's Andrea Reimer. Vote for her colleague Niki Sharma, as well — for there is no more principled candidate for office in 2014 than the incredibly thoughtful and articulate Ms. Sharma.
In the Non-Partisan Association's Suzanne Scott, voters have discovered a community activist who holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from UBC who has emerged as the hardest working candidate for City Council in the current election cycle. In her colleague, the entirely wondrous, hard-working democrat Melissa De Genova, as those who follow Park Board have long been aware, in Melissa voters have a citizen advocate who is without equal.
When it comes to the Green Party of Vancouver, since her election to Council in 2011 there has been no more powerful advocate for the public interest than Adriane Carr. In 2014, vote for her Green Party colleague, Cleta Brown, as well — a retired lawyer and tireless social justice advocate who has impressed with her cogent writing on the political process, and at each of the all-candidates meeting she has attended.
When it comes to marking you ballot in November, cast a vote for Coalition of Progressive Electors' candidate Gayle Gavin, who in her law practice has advocated for tenants' rights, won precedent-setting judgments enshrining the rights of disabled persons to dignity, and fought for local food security in the successful campaign to save the UBC farm. Social justice advocate and artist Jennifer O'Keefe — young and principled, a wonderful writer with a clarion vision, and whose energy we very much need on Council — is a must-elect at the polls on November 15th, a voice of hope to ensure a future where fairness becomes a central principle of municipal governance.
In the Vancouver Cedar Party's Charlene Gunn, voters have heard an unparalleled voice of intelligence and compassion, and have found a slow growth advocate committed to empowering those of us who live across Vancouver's diverse, engaged neighbourhoods. Service to community has set Vancouver First's Elena Murgoci apart from her Vancouver First colleagues, a multi-lingual MBA in International Business Management who would well serve the interests of Vancouver citizens.
And let us not forget, either, the Non-Partisan Association's caucus chair and arts advocate, two-term City Councillor, Elizabeth Ball. Or, Heather Deal, Vision Vancouver's three-term Councillor, who is Council's majority party arts advocate, and who was key in the realization of Vancouver's successful food cart programme.
COPE's Lisa Barrett, a former Mayor of Bowen Island, impressed at last week's St. James Hall all-candidates meeting, and her COPE colleague Audrey Siegl has been front-and-centre in the fight against homelessness. Vancouver First's Mercedes Wong, whose 30-year career in corporate finance and two decades as a residential and commercial realtor, is worthy of your consideration, as an informed advocate on development issues.
The question that is posed most often to VanRamblings in this current Vancouver civic election cycle is, "Who should I vote for, which candidates are worthy of my placing a checkmark beside their name when I cast my votes for Council?" In 2014, the answer is clear: vote for the principled women of conscience running for office in the Vancouver municipal election.
At Vancouver Park Board, the choices are easy: the very able consensus builder, Catherine Evans, and her Vision Vancouver colleagues, Coree Tull and Sammi Jo Rumbaua; the Non-Partisan Association's Erin Shum and Sarah Kirby-Yung; former Park Board Chair, COPE's Anita Romaniuk, and one of her colleagues Cease Wyss, or Urooba Jamal. Or, save a vote for independent candidate and Park Board watchdog, Jamie Lee Hamilton.
At School Board, re-electing Patti Bacchus to a third term in office is the easiest decision you'll have to make in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election. The same is true for the incredibly bright and hardworking Cherie Payne. Newcomer Joy Alexander is also worthy of your consideration as Vision Vancouver's newest candidate for School Board. The NPA's Penny Noble and Sandy Sharma are first-rate candidates for School Board, as is COPE's Diana Day — one of the new must-elects for School Board.
Ms. Day's COPE School Board candidate colleagues Ilana Shecter, Heidi Nagtegaal and Kombii Nanjalah are more than worthy of your consideration, as well. The Green Party of Vancouver's Janet Fraser is one of the most talked about education activists seeking office this year — and the word on Ms. Fraser is good, very good, indeed. You'll also find Vancouver First's Susan Bhatha's name is on the ballot, for School Board.
Apart from must-elects Patti Bacchus, Cherie Payne, Joy Alexander, Diana Day and Janet Fraser, by far the most-qualified, hardest working and most committed education activists in the current election cycle are the Public Education Project's Jane Bouey and Gwen Giesbrecht — who catapulted into the must-elect category the minute they both announced their candidacies for Vancouver School Board. Save two votes for Jane & Gwen.
October 19, 2014
The Vancouver Election Debate calendar below is dynamic / ever-changing. Click on a debate event for more information on that particular debate.
The Vancouver Election Debate calendar above is entirely the creation of Randy Helten and Stephen Bohus, the publishers of CityHallWatch, and is supplied to VanRamblings as a courtesy to the voters of Vancouver.
October 15, 2014
One month from today, on Saturday, November 15th, British Columbians will go to the polls to elect City Councils across the province, no current civic election more important than the one taking place in Vancouver.
Before commencing today's post, a note: flu has felled VanRamblings for much of the past 16 days (it's still hanging on), which has prejudiced the regimen of daily posts — going forward, I'll do the best I can to post as frequently possible, given the vestiges of my advanced age and ill health.
First things first. Tonight, it is mandatory that you take time out of your busy schedule to attend an all-important pre-election meeting ...
The 2-hour meeting will take place tonight, Wed., October 15th, from 7pm til 9pm, at St. James' Hall, located on Vancouver's west side, at 3214 West 10th Avenue. The theme of this evening's all-important civic meeting: Planning, Development, & Community Engagement: Putting The Community Back Into Community Planning.
Over the past year, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods has sought to bring together representatives from Vancouver's 23 neighbourhoods, in response to a chorus of discontent across our city.
The laudatory principles and goals of the Coalition may be found here.
With one-month to go til Vancouver civic election day, come out to tonight's meeting to learn about the issues, and to make your voice heard.
Note should be made that there is a competing Town Hall that will take place from 6pm til 8:30pm tonight, at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, to be moderated by deposed Vision Vancouver Park Board candidate, Trish Kelly. We could say something about the grimy politics inherent in a Visionite holding a competing all-candidates meeting opposite the long-scheduled Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods civic election meeting — make of that unseemly coincidence what you will.
While VanRamblings is under-the-weather, there remains a plethora of well-conceived, well-written, and engaging blogs where the civically-minded might get their civic affairs / Vancouver municipal election politics fix.
- CityHallWatch. Day in, day out, former Vancouver mayoralty candidate Randy Helten, Stephen Bohus & others have made CityHallWatch the 'go-to' place for news on Vancouver's civic scene. Well-researched, chock full of information you'll find nowhere else, and clearly a labour of love (for our too often beleaguered city), CityHallWatch is the site you visit for up-to-date news on development in our city and, as they say, "Tools to Engage in Vancouver city decisions."
- State of Vancouver. Vancouver's no-nonsense, "I've got no time for fools" media eminence gris of Vancouver's political scene, Frances Bula tells us like it is (but respectfully so) on her incredibly well-researched, and absolutely invaluable State of Vancouver blog. Without a doubt, Vancouver's hardest working, most insightful civic affairs reporter, Ms. Bula's State of Vancouver blog is the must-read for aficionados of politics as it's practiced in the City of Vancouver.
- Civic Lee Speaking. A reporter's reporter, there ain't no sacred cows in Jeff Lee's award-winning reporting on Vancouver's often tumultuous civic scene — with Jeff, you're always going to get the straight goods (mixed in with not a little wit, and a flair for writerly prose that is matched only by the indefatigable Ms. Bula). All of us who live in Vancouver are damn lucky to have a respected journalist of the calibre of Jeff Lee covering our civic scene, and reporting out to us.
- Jak's View. Community organizer and activist, Grandview Woodland advocate, author (2011's The Drive: A Retail, Social and Political History of Commercial Drive, Vancouver, to 1956, and 2012's The Encyclopedia of Commercial Drive), and tireless blogger, communicator and passionate democrat, Jak King's blog, Jak's View has long been a daily must-read for anyone who gives a tinker's damn about Vancouver civic affairs democracy (or lack thereof), an always engaging, human scale and informative read.
- 12th and Cambie. My favourite read on Vancouver's civic scene, the Vancouver Courier's Mike Howell brings a sense of humour, incredible wit (and a becoming sense of wonderment), in perfect conflation with the reportial expertise and writerly prose ability he shares with Frances Bula and Jeff Lee, to make his always engaging 12th and Cambie a Vancouver civic affairs blog must-read. When writing about Vancouver civic politics becomes too much, you can depend on Mike to inject some much-needed human-scale humour. Thank god for Mike Howell!
Let us not forget, either, veteran reporter and Vancouver Courier political commentator Allen Garr who, for two decades now, has each week provided a cogent analysis of the machinations of Vancouver City Hall politics.
See you all tonight at the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods' pre-election all-candidates meeting at St. James Hall. If you can't make tonight's meeting, not to worry — there are debates galore upcoming.
The Vancouver Election Debate calendar below is dynamic. Click on a debate event for more information on that particular debate.
The Vancouver Election Debate calendar above is entirely the creation of Randy Helten and Stephen Bohus, the publishers of CityHallWatch, and is supplied to VanRamblings as a courtesy to the voters of Vancouver.
The debates calendar is dynamic, and will be updated as Messrs. Helten and Bohus are apprised of new debates. The debate calendar covers all debates leading up to the November 15th Vancouver municipal election.
October 6, 2014
Although only days remain until our beloved Vancouver International Film Festival shutters its doors for another year, there are still a great many recommendable films on tap that are worthy of your attention.
In today's VanRamblings, a potpourri of items to intrigue your sensibilities.
VIFF Repeats: VanRamblings received a note from the splendidly wonderful VIFF and Vancity programmer, Tom Charity, this morning (there must be a very special additive that's been placed in the water a VIFF HQ, for VIFF admin staff constitute an incredibly great group of folks!) where he informed that, "There will be 2 full days at The Cinematheque plus half days at SFU, and a couple more matinées on Monday."
The Festival published the list of VIFF Repeats on Tuesday afternoon, films that will screen ...
... over the long weekend, Saturday October 11th through Monday, October 13th. Festival passes, exchange vouchers and ticket pack redemptions are not accepted for these screenings. A VIFF or Vancity Theatre Membership is required.
Enjoy VIFF's encore series. See ya there.
Still Life: To date VanRamblings has failed to give Uberto Pasolini's new film, Still Life — by far the consensus best, under-the-radar English-language indie film at VIFF 2014 — its full due. Let's rectify that: Still Life is an absolutely superb, low key wonder of film, the success of which emerges from the performance of the festival: Eddie Marsan not only plays his most sympathetic character to date, his emotionally-nuanced performance of humane integrity absolutely rivets the attention of the viewer to the screen.
The film's synopsis reads, "As a modest council case worker in a London suburb, John May's (Marsan) job is to find the relatives of those found dead and alone. Despite his efforts, he is always on his own at their funerals, having to write their eulogies himself. When his boss intends to fire him, John decides to double his efforts on a case that will change his life and prove that he hasn't said his last word."
That Still Life takes us on an utterly unexpected, yet always human-scale journey, and that Downton Abbey's Joanne Frogratt (who plays the PBS series' most sympathetic character, Anna Bates) is just as wonderfully tender on the big screen as she is the small, catapults this film into the first rank of VIFF 2014 entries, a film always of tremendous poignancy, a sublime and delicate story about loneliness, sadness and death, yet utterly inspiring and uplifting in a counter-intuitive way. Disarmingly emotional.
Go prepared: you're in for an unexpected treat.
Still Life screens twice more, both times at The Playhouse, this afternoon at 4pm, and on Wednesday, October 8th, at 7:15pm. Not to be missed.
VanRamblings has updated our Best Foreign Language Oscar nominees post that provides insight into the nominees that are screening at our 33rd annual festival by sea. Click on this link to be taken to the updated page, or if you're on the front page of VanRamblings, just scroll down the page.
Perhaps the untold story of the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival is the rampant homophobia, intimidation and discriminatory practices that has been directed towards VIFF volunteers working at The Centre, specifically those volunteers who have been perceived by members of the Westside Church (owners of The Centre) as living an "alternative lifestyle", the volunteers made to suffer while working their shifts at VIFF's Centre for the Performing Arts, which conduct by The Centre's church members has led to multiple resignations of VIFF volunteer staff.
The pastor of the Westside Church (owner of The Centre for the Performing Arts) cautiously yet unambiguously reaffirmed the stance that homosexuality is a sin in his June 17 sermon ... Norm Funk, 46, offered the sermon on homosexuality as part of a series titled "You Asked. Jesus Answers." ... Before founding Westside in 2006, Funk was youth pastor at Willingdon Church, whose members spoke out against the Burnaby school board's anti-homophobia policy last year.
Evangelical churches, particularly Baptist churches, are notorious for their fire-and-brimstone message that homosexuals will go to hell ... "It is never okay to respond in any way that is not loving to whomever, regardless," he told followers. But Funk didn't embrace gay people, either, grouping homosexuality with "temptations" like greed and lust.
In 2013, Vancouver City Council — at a meeting best remembered for the tears of the young children whose hopes to dance in the Goh Ballet's Christmas production of The Nutcracker were dashed when the church purchased The Centre — "forced" the Westside Church to allow the film festival and Goh Ballet to use The Centre for their scheduled programming.
In 2013, VIFF supplied all the volunteers at The Centre, during the Festival.
In 2014 it was reported to VanRamblings, the pastor insisted that church members join VIFF's volunteer staff, VIFF never suspecting that such practice would lead to the present intolerable circumstance.
When volunteer staff at The Centre first apprised VanRamblings of the unconscionable situation described above, we approached VIFF admin staff to enquire as to what measures were being taken to rectify the improvident circumstance. Although VIFF admin were clear that "negotiations are ongoing to remediate the clearly unacceptable practices of some members of the church who are volunteering at The Centre this year", as of this writing the situation has not been rectified; it seems doubtful that there will be resolution before the festival comes to a close on Friday evening.
To wrap today's post, before we head out to the festival for this evening's screenings of Force Majeure and the French policier 24 Days, please find below a list of a few of the must-see films in the final days of VIFF 2014.
- Force Majeure. A film that reportedly delivers what it promises, one of the buzz films at VIFF 2014, if you're only seeing a few films, make sure that Sweden's nominee for the Best Foreign Language Oscar is one of them. Screens for a final time tonight, 6:30pm at The Centre;
- The Fool. VanRamblings can be hit and miss on our recommendations (fortunately, we're right more often than we're wrong, otherwise readers would stop coming to our site). We were a bit disappointed in Leviathan which, although a superb film, delivered less than what we'd been expecting. VIFF cinephiles to the rescue. Buzz on Yuri Bykov's Russian drama is through the roof, Variety reporting that "Russian helmer Yury Bykov's forceful social drama pits an idealistic plumber against a system of corrupt bureaucrats, putting his life and those of 800 unsuspecting citizens on the line." The Fool screens for a final time this Wednesday, October 8th, 4:45 pm at The Cinematheque;
- Hope and Wire. If you can't get into what is sure-to-be a sold-out screening of Force Majeure tonight, then you'll be doing yourself a big favour by catching tonight's 6:45pm screening of Hope and Wire at the intimate Vancity Theatre. One of VanRamblings four favourite VIFF 2014 docs, Hope and Wire is not-to-be-missed, the film offering a devastating chronicle of the lead up to and after effects of the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch, New Zealand 6.7 earthquakes;
- Here are a few more VIFF films on which we have heard very positive buzz, stating with those films on offer on Tuesday: Bruno Dumont's Li'l Quinquin; Australia's 52 Tuesdays; this upcoming Wednesday, if you haven't already seen it, Cannes award-winner Mr. Turner is not-to-be-missed; on Thursday, the second-to-last day of the Festival, Germany's Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee Beloved Sisters ranks as yet another must-see film at VIFF 2014.
Of course, there are many more Vancouver International Film Festival films that VanRamblings will take in over the course of the next few days, but the films above offer a starting point for superb VIFF films to consider.
October 5, 2014
Here we are in the final stretch of the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival, and VanRamblings has let down our regular VIFF followers.
To some degree we'll try to make amends with a longer than usual VIFF post tomorrow. Today's post attends to VIFF logistics "business" that may, or may not, be of interest to readers looking for rave film reviews.
Could Still Very Well Be: Paradise at VIFF's Cineplex Tinseltown Site
Note: The following represents a note to VIFF Tinseltown exhibition staff.
Prelude. Honest, warm, human communication involving volunteer and VIFF theatre management staff at the Cineplex site has been at a premium in 2014; which is to say, palpable human connection has been, thus far, an uncommon feature of the interaction of staff and patrons. In the final five days of VIFF at the Cineplex site, that unholy circumstance must change.
Trust. VIFF exhibition staff must trust that patrons have the best interests of the Festival at heart, that patrons and staff are in this whole big VIFF schmozzle together — that all of us want the experience to be as pleasurable, memorable, efficient and friendly as is humanly possible.
VIFF staff at Cineplex: patrons are not your enemy; they're your allies.
[Note to VIFF admin, esp. Mickey and Brie: you've got a darn wonderful management person in Kaen, and Aubyn seems to connect surprisingly well, given how such friendliness seems not to be supported this year and, oh yeah, when it comes to volunteers Janet Smith is just aces]
[Note to VIFF admin, Part II: Congratulations on appointing Sean Wilson as Exhibitions Manager. I cannot imagine a better choice than Sean]
As VIFF exhibition management staff your primary duty is to see patrons gain entrance into the theatre complex in as reasonably efficient a manner as possible. And on that level, VIFF Tinseltown logistics has worked fairly well, outside of the first couple days (which is, of course, to be expected).
In response to a litany of concerns expressed to VanRamblings by VIFF patrons (for some time now, we've been VIFF's unofficial Ombudsperson — something thrust upon us, & not assumed), please find recommendations intended to enhance your experience, and lighten your load.
1. Smile. That's right, no matter how busy you are, take a moment to recognize that the patrons who are in the lines, or are making their way in or out of the theatre are real, live human beings, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, members of familes of every description. No matter how busy you are, no matter how stressed you feel, smile — it'll lighten your load, and vastly improve the patron experience. Honest ...;
2. Trust. Expanding on the paragraph on trust above: most of the VIFF exhibition staff at the Cineplex are new this year to the maelstrom that is the VIFF exhibition experience at Tinseltown (just ask the hero of VIFF Tinseltown 2013, Mr. Human Dynamo himself, Alan Franey — I'm not kiddin', Iulia and Alan working together last year was nothing short of wondrous!). Please keep top of mind always that most of the patrons in the lines love the film festival, have been attending for years and years and years (even before many of you were born!), travel hundreds of miles to get here in many cases, and have lives that revolve around our 16-day film festival each year. Trust always that VIFF patrons have the best interests of the Festival at heart. Think about it, incorporate it into your management style. And smile, actually look at people & smile;
3. Communication. When you're speaking with someone, smile, a genuine smile, a warm and warming smile, a reassuring and calming smile. Make eye contact. Seriously, make eye contact. Connect. And never forget to let the patrons know what's going on: communicate with them, keep them in the loop — that's part of your job.
Acknowledge the patrons' humanity. Look for their names on the pass, or if they have tickets, ask for their name, and say hi. Remember their faces so that the next time you see them, you can greet them. Ask the patrons if there's anything you can do for them. Humanize the management experience for yourself — you'll be glad you did, & you'll get the job done even better.
Now, I know you're thinking to yourself, "Is he out of his cotton pickin' mind? Does he have no idea about how busy we are, how many different facets of exhibition management for which we are responsible?" Yes, I do, and I say: smile, be friendly, be welcoming, smile some more, connect, hear what patrons have to say, acknowledge that we're all in this together, that your primary responsibility revolves around ensuring the best patron experience possible, and part of achieving that goal involves consciously acknowledging the humanity of the patrons you see milling about the Tinseltown complex each and every day;
4. Emulate Brie Koniczek, your boss, well-experienced VIFF exhibition management staff person, and provider to VanRamblings of the most transcendently wonderful experience of exhibition management to which we have been witness in our 33 years of attending the Vancouver International Film Festival — and that's going some, because VanRamblings loves, I mean really loves, Iulia Manolescu's exhibition style — in the centre of an early morning storm at the Cineplex site one morning this past week Brie, and Brie alone, working with volunteer staff, remained calm, always smiling, always genuine (utterly, utterly genuine and humane), always lovely and engaging beyond words, communicative, warming, welcoming and reassuring.
Brie Koniczek. How one assumes the onerous responsibility of taking virtually sole responsibility for overseeing the ingress of three long lines of patrons, distributes the tickets, directs volunteer staff quietly, efficiently, and humanely, all the while interacting with and re-assuring patrons (who would seem to be at the bottom of the list of priorities for some other of the exhibition management staff) in all three lines, and down in the will call / rush line-up, that all was well, outlining the exhibition dynamics of the morning, working towards the movement and ingress of patrons into the theatre, all the while smiling — it wasn't just the warm, reassuring smile that lit up Brie's face and her whole countenance, it was the near magical transfer of that warm, reassuring and calming energy into the crowd, an Alan Franey-like zen countenance, a warm Iulia Manolescu communication style with everyone she ran across, and a commitment to and the actual achieving of a logistically pristine exhibition management experience.
Honestly, if I attend the Vancouver Film Festival for another 30 years, I am sure I will never be witness to as transcendently lovely a VIFF exhibition experience as was the case one morning this past week, involving Brie Koniczek's utterly in control, and utterly humane exhibition management.
October 2, 2014
There's a coalition of progressive voters coalescing around Kirk LaPointe, the socially progressive Non-Partisan Association candidate for mayor.
For VanRamblings, the most surprising aspect of the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival arises from the dozens of approaches by filmgoers that have been made to us by community activists working across every neighbourhood in the city — folks with whom VanRamblings has worked on countless NDP, COPE and Vision Vancouver electoral campaigns, as well as on community activist projects too numerous to mention — who have, chapter and verse, detailed the egregious anti-parks and recreation, neighbourhood destroying, pro-development, covert, and pharisaic decision-making that has gone on at City Hall and Park Board this past six years under an execrable Vision Vancouver civic administration.
Make no mistake, a well-organized Anyone But Vision movement has begun to form, and almost all of those with whom VanRamblings has engaged are what Andy Yan, a planner and public data analyst with Bing Thom Architects, refers to as engaged voters — those citizens who live along the golden horseshoe, the crescent of big-turnout polls that extends from the Commercial Drive / Grandview Woodland area, through Mount Pleasant to Fairview and Kitsilano, the city's inner ring of neighbourhoods.
Andy Yan may well be right, but if VanRamblings were to take into account the dozens of infuriated telephone callers, e-mails, texts and direct social media messages we receive each day, dissatisfaction with Vision Vancouver would appear to extend far beyond the golden horseshoe, and well into both the LGBTQ+ and Chinese communities, both of which latter voting groups have indicated they'll leave Vision Vancouver in droves this election, as they head back to the warming embrace of the Non-Partisan Association.
And let us not forget, either, the rampant and vocal dissatisfaction that has emerged this last term with Vision Vancouver in the Hastings-Sunrise, Dunbar, Killarney, West End, Yaletown and Marpole neighbourhoods.
Among progressive voters, the move to support Kirk LaPointe emerges not out of a lack of support for COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong, but rather from the realpolitik that Ms. Wong cannot defeat Gregor Robertson.
The progressive voters who've contacted VanRamblings by phone and social media, and stopped us on the streets and in coffee shops by the hundreds these past four months want Gregor Robertson and his ne'er-do-well band of Vision Vancouver colleagues gone from the Vancouver civic scene — in Kirk LaPointe, these progressive voters have identified a viable, socially progressive, thinks for himself (one of the salutary comments we hear often) and electable alternative for the mayor's chair, and a candidacy around whom a growing coalition of progressive voters has formed, an under-the-radar bloc of community-oriented activists who are working in neighbourhoods across our city to ensure that Kirk LaPointe becomes Vancouver's new mayor late in the evening this upcoming November 15th.
In Toronto, a burgeoning alliance of voters has formed around the mayoralty candidacy of former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, the once beleaguered John Tory, whose current 49.2% standing in the polls is both testament to his middle-of-the-road, socially liberal candidacy, and more than double that of challengers Doug Ford and Olivia Chow. Make no mistake, the vast majority of Toronto voters want the Ford family out of Metro Toronto civic politics, and everyone from provincial Liberal cabinet ministers to longtime members of the provincial NDP have come out in groundswell support for the socially liberal, fiscally conservative John Tory.
A similar dynamic would appear to be emerging in Vancouver.
In Kirk LaPointe, progressive and engaged voters see a Red Tory, who just as is the case with the seems-certain-to-win Toronto mayoralty candidate John Tory, offers socially liberal programmes, fiscally sound city management, and open and transparent municipal governance.
Imagine, in John Tory and Kirk LaPointe, the two largest English-language speaking cities in Canada could, and might very well, have socially progressive mayors in place, leaders who could actually engage in a respectful dialogue with senior levels of government (unlike you know who) to achieve much that would be beneficial to the concerns, and wants and needs of their respective electorate — leaving open the possibility, as well, that such socially progressive candidate wins could serve to redefine the concept of conservatism in Canada, consigning Stephen Harper's mean-spirited concept of conservatism rightfully to the dustbin of history.
Kirk LaPointe and John Tory as latter day incarnations of Bill Davis.
There's even a rumour extant that former premier, and Vancouver mayor, Mike Harcourt will endorse Kirk LaPointe late in this electoral campaign.
Rumour has it, too, that independent mayoral candidate Bob Kasting, and the startup Vancouver Cedar party, will also endorse Mr. LaPointe's candidacy for mayor late in the current Vancouver municipal election cycle.
Most engaged voters know that the roots of the Progressive Conservative party emerged from the post WWI United Farmers movement, a radical grassroots, socialist amalgamation whose supporters founded the Progressive Party of Canada (what we refer to today as the — albeit, almost extinct — Red Tories within the Stephen Harper-led Conservative party), before amalgamating with the Conservative party proper in the early 1940s.
Progressive voters — traditional NDP voters — have a long history of voting strategically to support socially liberal, Progressive Conservative candidates whose grassroots ideals reflect those of the more left-leaning NDP.
In 2014, that would appear to be what we have in the Non-Partisan Association — a small "c" conservative municipal party that reflects the ideals of a broad cross-section of the voting electorate, a made-in-Vancouver civic political party comprised of honest, hard-working and humble servants of the public interest whose electoral platform consists of:
- Working with senior levels of government to develop affordable, and social housing, programmes to meet the broadest cross-section of the needs of the voting electorate in Vancouver, and their families;
- As Vancouver's population ages, we have in Kirk LaPointe, a mayoralty candidate who is committed to investing in affordable housing and amenities for seniors citizens;
- A socially progressive Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate who grew up in rank poverty (a far cry from the silver-spoon-in-his-mouth mayoral incumbent), who has committed that with an NPA administration at Vancouver City Hall no child will go hungry, and more — that 365 days a year no child in our city will go hungry.
What Kirk LaPointe hasn't said is that he will work with senior levels of government to ensure that child poverty in Canada's third largest city will become a grievous and deplorable feature of Vancouver's past — make no mistake, Kirk LaPointe is committed to this latter goal, but has not made an announcement because he can't promise he'll deliver on it his first term in office. Unlike our incumbent mayor, the principled and socially conscious Kirk LaPointe, the mayoral candidate with the Non-Partisan Association, does not overpromise and under-deliver;
- Talking about overpromising and under-delivering, Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have promised us free wi-fi across the city since before they were first elected. Kirk LaPointe has promised the same thing, beginning on Vancouver's eastside, he says. The difference between the two promises? Kirk LaPointe will deliver on his promise, while you'll be waiting til the cows come home before Gregor Robertson follows through on yet another empty Vision campaign promise;
- A municipal party in the NPA that will not increase property taxes in their first year in power, as the new civic administration conducts an audit of Vancouver's likely to be woeful financial affairs;
- A party that does not practice the faux greenwashing of Vision Vancouver, but a municipal party that is committed to the health of its citizens, and is a vocal opponent of Vancouver's waste to energy plans, as well as Metro Vancouver's plan for a garbage incinerator and Vancouver's current plan for a gasification plant at the city's garbage transfer station. The NPA will instead concentrate on ways to increase reducing, reusing and recycling the City's solid waste.
- A mayoral candidate in Kirk LaPointe who will end Vision Vancouver's game-playing and get the long-awaited Southeast Vancouver Seniors Centre facility built; will create an open and transparent City Hall Lobbyist Registry, as well as the first ever Office of the Ombudsperson in Vancouver, an office that would seek to resolve citizens' disputes with the City fairly and without necessitating resort to the courts, in the process returning trust and transparency to City Hall.
Here's a link to information on the Ombudsman Office, in Toronto;
Yes, there is something of the aspect of the merry-go-round in covering civic politics. It has oft been said, though, that a day in politics can seem like a lifetime, so changeable is the political dynamic from day-to-day.
While it is true that the party polling conducted early last week by Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association does not, as yet, reflect the growing groundswell of support for Kirk LaPointe's "Anybody But Gregor" candidacy, perhaps that's more a function of polling that was done outside of the golden horseshoe. VanRamblings has consulted widely in Grandview Woodland, Mount Pleasant, Fairview and Kitsilano, and we can tell you that for weeks now organizing drives have been afoot to dampen / hinder / annihilate the vote for Vision Vancouver; it's just a matter of time before the polls reflect a much-increased support for the candidacy of Kirk LaPointe, whose electoral coattails could very well permanently dislodge a damnable Vision Vancouver administration from City Hall and Park Board.
In August, VanRamblings published a column, the headline of which read
"Mayor Gregor Robertson Virtually Unbeatable." At the time, we had no firm idea that our concerns respecting Vision Vancouver's governance of our city was so widely shared. Seems that the mayoral dynamic has changed a month and half later. VanRamblings may have to issue a mea culpa yet.
October 1, 2014
The criteria that cinephiles set for which 40+ films they'll take in at our annual autumn Vancouver International Film Festival varies.
Some folks want to make sure that they see every one of the films that took the 2014 Cannes Film Festival by storm, while other folks feel that taking in all of the screenings of award winning films arriving from festivals that span our globe — Sundance, San Sebastián, Tribeca, Instanbul, Seattle, Shanghai, Karlovy Vary, Berlin, Newport Beach, and Venice, just to name a few — rank as must-sees at our beloved festival by the sea.
Others, looking ahead to the 2015 87th Academy Awards — set for Oscar Sunday, February 22, 2015 — want to ensure that they're part of the "in crowd" that has seen more than a handful of the films that have been nominated by their respective countries for the prestigious Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. And thus we set our VIFF task for the day ...
Best Foreign Language Oscar Contenders Screening at VIFF 2014
Haemoo (South Korea)
Turning a real-life human trafficking tragedy into a comment on social inequality and the cost of survival, Haemoo dramatizes a stark nautical ordeal fraught with tension, the meticulously crafted production having generated widespread critical acclaim and healthy domestic box office, even if the subject did spark associations with the Sewol ferry disaster. Produced and co-written by internationally recognized Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) this directing debut by helmer-scribe Shim Sung-bo echoes Bong's trademark cynical vision of human nature. A gripping cinematic ride, with powerful imagery, a simple and accessible story and a stellar performance from Kim Yoon-seok, Haemoo is set in 1998, three years before the Sewol incident, and offers a journey into darkness that begins when trawler captain (Kim) finds himself broke (and broken), his fortunes hit hard by the fallout of the Asian financial crisis.
Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed (Spain)
In David Trueba's whimisical feature début, a trio of misfits set out to meet the Beatles, traveling across Spain in 1966 to meet their idol John Lennon on the set of How I Won the War, in hopes of clarifying some lyrics they couldn't quite understand. Inspired by the true story of Spanish schoolteacher Juan Carrión Gañ án, as Stephen Farber writes in the Hollywood Reporter, "This small gem offers a lovely evocation of Spain as well as a touching tribute to an unforgettable moment in time when the Beatles seemed to offer brand new possibilities, the idea that strawberry fields might indeed go on forever."
To Kill A Man (Chile)
A quiet drama that cares as much about familial alienation as with getting away with murder, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras retells a true story of last-ditch self-defense, about a timid man who does what he must to protect his family. To Kill A Man is a grim, fat-free revenge thriller that extracts an impressive degree of moral equivocation from its exceedingly simple premise of a family man, tormented by neighborhood thugs, who resorts to unseemly measures when the authorities fail him. Almendras' début feature is a slow burner, bearing some of the eerie social disquiet of pre-eminent Chilean auteur Pablo Larrain's work. A grand jury prize winner at Sundance, this hard-edged best foreign film nominee has emerged as one of the early favourites at VIFF 2014.
The Golden Era (Hong Kong)
Ann Hui's ambitious, lustrously mounted biography of eminent feminist Chinese novelist, poet and essayist Xiao Hong declares its intentions right from the outset, opening with a black-and-white shot of Xiao Hong (played with gleaming intelligence by Tang Wei), who directly addresses the audience, stating her name and when and where she was born and died. Crucially, it is the only time Xiao herself breaks the fourth wall. The Golden Era's title refers to a more introspective sense of time and opportunity, but can also be taken as an ironic comment on the 1930s, an especially tumultuous period in Chinese history that saw the rise of the Communist party and the invasion by the Japanese. Handsomely mounted with a score that resists a ripe opportunity for excess romanticism, The Golden Era offers sophisticated storytelling, narrative and historical sweep, and a meticulous re-creation of a China long since passed.
The Gambler (Lithuania)
A feature début so self-assured as to really only ever only be marred by its show-offiness, the Latvian/Lithuanian co-production, The Gambler, which played in competition at the Marrakech Film Festival earlier this year, marks director Ignas Jonynas' emergence on the scene as a talent to keep an eye on. Taking a skewed, and ever so slightly surreal story about a team of emergency medics who develop a highly successful and lucrative game involving betting on when patients are going to die, and basing the odds on complex and arcane analyses of the medical information to which they have access, the film, to its credit, is less interested in this high concept than it is in its lead character, the bearlike Vincentas (Vytautus Kaniusonis), his moral descent and eventual redemption.
Rocks in My Pocket (Latvia)
A very personal animated film that explores depression and suicidal tendencies with wit, surreal invention and insight, New York-based Latvian director Signe Baumane (Teat Beat of Sex) gets personal in her depression-themed feature that combines paper-mache sets and hand-drawn animation. This partially autobiographical tale chronicles the lives of three generations of Baumane's family, covering roughly a century of history, during which the small Baltic state (current population: just under 2 million) was occupied several times. But though the film's historical-political background provides texture and interesting parallels — since depression could be seen as an undesired subjugation of the mind — Rocks in My Pockets is mainly concerned with a very subjective personal history of three generations of women, all prey to depression and dark thoughts. Animated in a striking combination of real paper-mache sets and props and hand-drawn 2D figures, the film explores with wit, surreal invention and insight something left far too often undiscussed.
The Liberator (Venezuela)
An impressively mounted, but perhaps overly truncated take on a great historical figure about whom much more needs to be known, the extraordinary story of Simon Bolivar onscreen in two hours represents a Sisyphean struggle of the first order. This physically impressive Venezuelan-Spanish co-production clearly lays out both the ideological forces at play in the early 1800s and the nature of the physical challenge of pushing the Spanish out of South America after 300 years of control. Edgar Ramirez does an entirely respectable job limning Bolivar's idealism, bravery and natural leadership qualities, although the man himself remains elusive , more icon than flesh-and-blood being. Still, a compelling film to watch, and a VIFF film the audience appreciated with rapt attention, and appreciation.
Two Days, One Night (Belgium)
In this impassioned and moving new film by Belgian sibling directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes brothers, another excellent social-realist working-class drama, Marion Cotillard appears in every scene as the frantic Sandra, who learns in the opening minutes that she's been laid off from her job at an energy plant just before the weekend. Fighting off tears in the mirror, she discovers a semblance of hope in the promise of a new vote among her co-workers come Monday. A mesmerizing odyssey, with no soundtrack or melodramatic confrontations, the Dardennes plunge viewers into a terrifying world of unknown variables. Two Days, One Night emerges as another hugely admirable entry in the Dardenne canon: thoughtful, humane and superbly composed.
Sorrow and Joy (Denmark)
Danish auteur Nils Malmros (Tree of Knowledge) revisits a personal tragedy, turning the camera on his own tragic backstory in Sorrow and Joy, a deeply personal auto-biography about how the director's wife murdered their infant daughter in 1984. In this drama starring Jakob Cedergren and Helle Fagralid, Malmros paints an unflinching portrait of himself as critical and emotionally neglectful, the story told through the device of a psychiatrist's questioning, and in flashback to the start of the couple's relationship. At the same time, we watch the director attempt to ensure his wife receives treatment in a psychiatric hospital rather than a prison.
A funny, heartbreaking and utterly original work from 25-year-old Canadian enfant terrible Xavier Dolan — the writer and director of five critically acclaimed movies, and co-recipient of a jury prize at Cannes — Mommy is a blast of pure cinema, an intense, intimate drama about a harried mother and her troubled teenage son that vividly captures a range of exhilarating emotions from elation to despair. Dolan plays with well-chosen music and strategic silence, demonstrating a more experienced filmmaker's technical proficiency, coupled with the bold exuberance of youth. With Mommy, Xavier Dolan has solidified his standing in the pantheon of great directors with his new work, a film of explosive freshness, offering a delicate balance between humour and tragedy that's simply intoxicating. Dolan's Mommy is a beautifully realized film that is certain to speak to the VIFF crowd.
Corn Island (Georgia)
A virtually wordless, elegant tone poem — and all the more captivating for its quietness — Georgian director George Ovashvili's top prize winner at Karlovy Vary is, as Variety's Peter Debruge suggests, "an astonishing feat of cinema", a life and death fable that tracks the lives of an aging Georgian farmer (Ylias Salman) and his innocently flirtatious granddaughter (Mariam Buturishvili), who work together to build a rudimentary wooden shack and plant a crop of corn on a temporary island in the middle of the Inguri River, amidst the warring factions of Georgia and the republic of Abkhazia. Audacious, powerful, utterly compelling, and melancholy, Corn Island represents the best of foreign language film at the 2014 Vancouver International Film (we saw it in preview), and is a must-see at our festival.
Winter Sleep (Turkey)
Palme D'Or winning Turkish photographer, screenwriter, actor, and film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan can do no wrong, his latest — Winter Sleep — masterful and multi-layered, inspired by a Chekhov short story, the film — at three hours and sixteen minutes (not an unusual length for a Bilge Ceylan film) — offering a richly detailed, subdued and mesmerizing depiction of the full spectrum of the human condition.
Novelistic in structure, Winter Sleep revolves around Aydin, a retired stage actor (Haluk Bilginer) — a bearded, middle-aged grouch who operates a hotel in Cappadocia, high on a hill above inherited land owned by his late father — and his much younger wife, Nihal (Melisa Söezen), who spends her days gazing out the window, bored with their empty, privileged lives.
From Eric Kohn's review on Indiewire ...
Winter Sleep contains a few surprising moments of levity, from scenes of drunken men dueling with Shakespeare citations, to the peculiar nature of Aydin's relationship with a disadvantaged horse. At one point, a rabbit-hunting session leads to one of the movie's darker signifiers, while conveying a strange feeling of existential uplift on the character's terms. Such signifiers are never forced, however, as each telling moment arrives in the context of the movie's enthralling pace.
In its broadest terms a character study, as Ben Croll writes on Twitchfilm:
The film can be easily criticized as being too talky, overlong and a tough sit. All of which is entirely true! But there is some kind of cumulative value in the stacks of minutes and words that pile up and topple onto each other. Something that is also reflected in Ceylan's rather agoraphobic decision to keep things mostly indoors for the duration of the film. Twisting the familiar, a simple interaction or the inside of a living room, into something heightened and uncanny highlights the film's final verdict on Aydin. To turn the idiom around, he is proof of the evil of banality.
Winter Sleep. Another can't miss at our Vancouver International Film Fest.
Beloved Sisters (Germany)
An exquisitely detailed period piece, as Variety's Scott Foundas writes ...
An enthralling, gorgeously mounted depiction of the complicated relationship between the post-Enlightenment writer and philosopher Friedrich Schiller and the sisters Charlotte von Lengefeld (who would become his wife) and Caroline von Beulwitz (his eventual biographer), Beloved Sisters maintains novelistic narrative density in its enveloping canvas, as director Dominic Graf sets about to create an unusually intelligent costume drama of bold personalities torn between the stirrings of the heart and the logic of the mind, all the while casting his revealing gaze upon Western Europe's bumpy transition from the 18th to 19th century.
Be forewarned: another long sit (171 minutes), but very much worth it.
Force Majeure (Sweden)
One of the key films about which VIFF's Director of Programming, Alan Franey, waxed poetic at the opening press conference of the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival, as Boyd van Hoeij writes in The Hollywood Reporter, "An avalanche does no bodily harm but leaves a Swedish family entirely wrecked nonetheless" in Force Majeure, an ice-cold Swedish drama about a family torn apart by cowardice. Director Ruben Östlund's new film comes across like Ingmar Bergman with a wicked streak.
Writes Peter Debruge in Variety ...
In its very calculated way, the film serves to document all that will inevitably be omitted from the family's official record of their five-day ski vacation, as suggested from the first shot, in which this seemingly perfect clan — father Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke), mother Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), son and daughter (real-life siblings Vincent and Clara Wettergren) — poses for a contrived group portrait on the slopes. Whereas they self-edit their memories to fit their own narrative, Östlund observes the minutiae, right down to the bathroom breaks.
The film uses the daily structure of life on vacation to show us small variations in how things work between Tomas and Ebba. Once the fractures begin to appear in their marriage, things fall apart very quickly over the five-day skiing holiday in the French Alps, a pricey-looking getaway for a well-heeled couple.
Theatrically structured, yet a bracingly cinematic film, Force Majeure takes the family, and us, on a ski trip down a black run into a blacker chasm.
Have we mentioned that the film festival is not about force-fed, mindless Hollywood pap, but is rather all about offering an honest reflection on the human condition (ain't no passive-aggressiveness goin' on here), and that chances are the films screening at VIFF are likely not to be an easy sit?
Bottom line: either you love film, or you don't. Either you're willing to confront your demons (the characters on screen often represent a disturbing, and often unexplored, aspect of the deepest, inner core of your being, your id), or you're not. VIFF as therapy: you better believe it.
Final note: we'll update the list of Best Foreign Language Oscar nominees screening at VIFF 2014 as the information becomes available, and point you back in this direction periodically over the course of the next four weeks.
September 29, 2014
With the 2014 Vancouver civic election finally heating up, the internal polling conducted for the two major mainstream parties seeking office in the Vancouver municipal election — Bob Penner, Stratcom founder, president, CEO, and former employer of Gregor Robertson's Chief of Staff, Mike Magee, for Vision Vancouver; and Maple Leaf Strategies' partner and pollster Dimitri Pantazopoulos (who conducted last year's spot on election polling for the provincial Liberals), and currently Non-Partisan Association lead pollster — released resonant internal polling results on the Vancouver Mayoral race to their anxious political masters, late last week.
Whereas the polling conducted for newspapers and the broadcast media — done on the cheap, or for free (in exchange for the marketing advantage to the pollster), and utterly meaningless for purposes other than their entertainment value — generally results in highly inaccurate polling data — not least because of the small sample size — the much larger, poll-by-poll sample conducted for the major political parties, with extrapolated numbers that take into account the 'most likely to vote' segment of the voting populace, produces as near to accurate polling results as is possible.
So, you want to know: what are the Vancouver mayoral race insider party polling results, with a sample size for each of Vision Vancouver and the NPA in excess of 2,000 most likely to vote Vancouver residents?
The answer ...
Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson, the Non-Partisan Association's Kirk LaPointe, and COPE's Meena Wong are in a statistical dead heat.
In the three weeks following the entry of the Coalition of Progressive Electors' mayoral candidate into the mayoral race, Gregor Robertson's approval / intent-to-vote rating has dropped a calamitous 17 points! Statistical dead heat polling results: 32%, COPE's Meena Wong / 34%, the NPA's Kirk LaPointe / and 32%, Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson.
The Non-Partisan Association is both sanguine, and over-the-moon about the results. Sanguine, because as VanRamblings was told, "Kirk has room to grow", and over-the-moon because Meena Wong has knocked our city's sitting Mayor off his previously-thought-to-be unassailable perch. "This will be a horse race," say NPA insiders. "We're confident that in the final weeks of the campaign Kirk LaPointe, as he becomes better known to the electorate, will pull well ahead of our deeply unpopular incumbent mayor."
Vision Vancouver apparatchiks with whom VanRamblings spoke simply yawned at the polling results, recalling how in 2011's civic election Vision Vancouver was in tough in the polling, and seemingly on their way to defeat. The final five days of the 2011 campaign — which witnessed a saturation $657,000 (and mightily effective) television ad campaign that ran on all local TV station newscasts, morning, noon, early evening and late night, turned the tide for Vision Vancouver, wiping out previously dire internal polling results, propelling the incumbent majority party to victory.
Emerging as perhaps the biggest surprise in the 2014 Vancouver civic election: COPE's Lazarus-like restoration to political relevancy. Who'da thunk that the folks currently directing the COPE election machine, and the members of COPE's Left Front, have a taste for retail politics — which is to say, sophisticated ground game, grassroots, mass appeal politics designed to appeal to both the broadest constituency of voters, as well as to the diverse communities that comprise the Vancouver in which we live?
At a time when many on the left (not to mention, almost all members of Vancouver's political class) were writing off COPE's chances to make an impact in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election campaign, with the energizing emergence of Meena Wong on the Vancouver municipal scene — honestly, a first-rate candidate for Mayor, who's been setting the election issue agenda this past three weeks — and an exceedingly strong, high profile community activist COPE Council slate, representing both the largest and the strongest COPE Council slate in a generation, make no mistake: COPE is now a factor in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election.
September 27, 2014
The first couple of days of the wonderfully overcast, and cooly-inviting 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival brought everything and more that had been promised: great cinema of consequence offering cinephiles a window on the world, seamless entry into the cinemas, a couple of glitches here and there (the subtitles for the films screening at The Rio on Friday night were out of sync), the well-attended Opening Gala screening of Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild (rumour has it that Matt Damon was in the audience) going off without a hitch — screening at 3pm today for a final time at The Centre for the Performing Arts on Homer Street, plus there've been enthusiastic conversations galore while waiting in the lineups full of tales of shared memories and enthusiastic analyses of the films on offer.
Waiting for August (Grade: A+): My favourite film the first couple of days at VIFF was the very first film I saw at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning at The Cinematheque, Waiting for August — Teodora Ana Mihai's Karlovy Vary / Hot Doc's Fest best doc winner, the intimate, wondrous, fabulously humane slow-boil Romanian social non-fiction feature about a 15-year-old girl who cares for her six siblings while her mother earns a living abroad.
At its essence, Waiting for August is a film that examines the Christian doctrine of original sin, and the true nature of man. The film poses the question: will the seven young children left to fend for themselves and their own devices become feral, or will a finer sense of humanity and the collective interests of the family predominate? The defining characteristics of the nature of the siblings' relationship that emerges? Love, and honour.
Alone in the world except for one another, the three girls and four boys in the family arise each morning for breakfast, attend to their hygiene, dress well in togs sent to them from their mother living in Italy, and attend school (except the youngest) — where they do well, socialize and have friends — all set amidst the safe and caring community of Bacau, within one of the Romania's poorest provinces. Sleeping collectively on a large mattress placed on the floor, the bodies of the children tangled together possesses the innocence of puppies all snuggled together in blissful repose.
An incredibly lovely film full of hope and charity, there are two more screenings of Waiting for August: today at 4pm, and next Thursday, Oct. 2nd at 9:15pm, both times at Cineplex International Village, Cinema 8.
VanRamblings is on record as liking this year's free, glossy film fest guide.
Despite VanRamblings' salutary appreciation of the guide: a smattering of folks (some getting on in years, which is a category — one supposes — into which we would seem to fit these days) much preferred last year's full catalogue "book", with its larger print, more expansive content, and fuller presentation of information on the 350+ films screening at VIFF.
Here's what Curtis Woloschuk, Editor and Publications Co-ordinator for this year's VIFF programme had to say on the matter, when we approached him on Thursday: last year's VIFF programme catalogue did not sell well enough to warrant this year's publication of another VIFF programming "book" — research indicated, as well, that most patrons depended on the free VIFF guide that was distributed three weeks prior to fest kick-off. Note should be made that the type font in this year's programming guide, Curtis told us, is a font-size larger than last year's free preview guide.
Still and all, Curtis took note of the concern, and committed to us that at fest's end, as senior festival staff are conducting their annual administrative review of the festival, the issue raised above will be given due consideration.
Some pics of VIFF's 2014 Opening Gala, + VIFF videos
September 26, 2014
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, 83% of Canadians lived in the rural areas of Canada, mostly as members of farming families, leaving only 17% of the population to reside in hub cities like Montréal, Toronto & Vancouver, with much lesser populations in the prairie cities, and provincial capitals.
Following the end of the overseas conflict, with the industrial heartland of Germany, not to mention a great swath of Europe, and the production capitals of Japan leveled by the ravages of war, North America soon became the industrial heartland, and the bread basket, for the world.
Soldiers arriving home from Europe, rather than choosing to return to the farming communities from whence they had come prior to the outbreak of the conflicts in Europe and Japan, remained in the cities, many of them choosing to marry. The late 1940s and 1950s witnessed an unprecedented mass in-migration of highly-skilled, mostly European, industrial workers to populate the factory floors, and run the means of production.
In the 1950s, with a burgeoning population requiring housing, Vancouver became one of the three major Canadian cities to experience a building boom, a boom that has not been equaled since on our shores. The form of development chosen? The single-detached family dwelling. Apartment buildings were few and far between, the Vancouver economy thrived, and new homes were offered on the market at a $2000 price point, or less.
In Vancouver, as was the case across the North American continent, the populace adopted the much-ballyhooed economic notion of "a car in every garage" (requiring that a house be attached to that garage). With personal motor vehicles all the rage, the population was encouraged to consider streetcars as a relic of the past, an outmoded means of transportation.
In the mid-1950s, the Interurban streetcar service — a service that had been inaugurated in 1891 to transport British Columbians across the southwest region of our province — was moth-balled, the entire service dismantled, track-by-track, the invaluable, inexpensive and well-utilized Interurban streetcar lines seemingly gone forever.
In the 1950s, provincial government social planners spanning the nation, in concert with their federal government counterparts, set about to create "urban social housing complexes" to house the provinces' poorest citizens. In doing so, Canadian provinces adopted the multiple family dwelling, or "apartment", model as the housing form to shelter the indigent population. In U.S. cities like Detroit and Chicago, we are much more apt to call these "urban social housing complexes" by a more colloquial name: ghettos.
In Toronto, the constructed, soon-to-be-crime-ridden, concrete tower neighbourhood was named Regent Park. In Vancouver, the new community to house the poor was named The Raymur Project, with residents from across British Columbia brought to Vancouver to live in the newly-conceived, virtually free urban social housing complex.
As is so often the case with our current gentrifiers without a heart Vision Vancouver civic administration, folks already resident in the neighbourhood were displaced when the construction of Raymur commenced — an estimated 860 full-time residents of the downtown eastside neighbourhood were left to the vagaries of 1950s Vancouver to find alternate accommodation on their own, over half of their number longtime residents of the community, of Chinese descent.
Both social housing projects failed in their initial iterations, developing into crime-infested urban ghettos, as had been the American experience.
In 1966, running as an independent, a brash and confrontational Tom Campbell defeated sitting NPA mayor, Bill Rathie, to become Vancouver's 31st mayor. From the outset, Campbell's ascension to the Mayor's office heralded a pro-development ethos that would make even Vision Vancouver blush, in the process advocating for a freeway that would cut through a large swath of the downtown east side, require the demolition of the historic Carnegie Centre at Main and Hastings, and bring about the construction of a luxury hotel at the entrance of Stanley Park, as well.
In the West End, where Campbell — a wealthy, successful developer — owned substantial property, the newly-elected Mayor all but ordered the demolition of almost the entirety of the well-populated West End residential neighbourhood — housing mostly senior citizens in their single detached homes — as he set about to make way for the rapid construction of more than 200 concrete high-rise towers, transforming the West End forever.
All of these "changes" augered wild controversy among large portions of the Vancouver populace, leading to regular, vocal and sometimes even violent protests throughout Campbell's treacherous tenure as Mayor, finally leading to his defeat at the polls in the November 1972 election.
Density For Whom, and in Whose Interests?
VanRamblings would suggest that there are parallels to be drawn between Tom Campbell's leadership, and that of Mayor Gregor Robertson, and his majority Vision Vancouver administration.
- Under Vision Vancouver, five blocks on either side of every arterial in the city has been re-zoned for mid-rise building construction, with the potential to upzone to highrise towers across every one of the 23 neighbourhoods that comprise our beloved city. Hell, if you didn't know better (then, maybe again, you do), you'd almost think that Mayor Gregor Robertson is Tom Campbell reborn with a somewhat more handsome visage, given the "development-at-all-costs" ethos that his Vision Vancouver civic party has initiated and carried through all throughout their development on speed six-year tenure in city government. Tom Campbell would be proud of Gregor Robertson;
- In the next term of government, with a Vision Vancouver administration in place, the approved multi-tower Oakridge development will pale when compared to the proposed scale of the planned re-development of the Langara Gardens neighbourhood, the area situated between 54th and 57th Avenues, just west of Cambie. And let's not forget, either, that Gregor Robertson tried to hive off half of the Langara Golf Course for a massive condo tower development, depleting Vancouver's already diminishing green space (yet another attack on the collective interests of Vancouverites, under Vision Vancouver), attending solely to the pecuniary interests of their development community masters;
- Under a Vision Vancouver administration, our current sitting civic majority party ignored the concerns of neighbours respecting Wall Corp's out-of-proportion to the neighbourhood redevelopment of Shannon Mews, approving an almost four-fold increase of units (from 200 to 700) in the massively re-developed housing project, proving once again that Vision Vancouver is dedicated to serving the interests of their development masters, with nary a consideration for the livability of our neighbourhoods, whatever area of the city in which we may live;
- And while we're on the subject of Wall Corp., do you recall reading, above, of the 860 residents who were displaced when The Raymur Project began construction? Vision Vancouver, too, likes to displace longtime residents from their neighbourhood when they approve development — and, gosh, wouldn't you know that it's not social housing that Vision would intend to build when they displace residents, but fancy condominiums to cater to ... Take a moment to remind yourself of the controversy surrounding the sale of three tracts of land at 955 East Hastings that displaced 200 longtime, low-income residents — also left to fend for themselves. That's gentrification under Vision Vancouver, for ya. We'll write about Wall Corp.'s massive Wall Centre Central Park development at Boundary and Kingsway — another day; that development requires a full column to properly explore.
- Subway. Let's talk about transportation for a moment. Vision Vancouver wants to build a subway down Broadway. Gee, one wonders why a "subway", when cities across North America have adopted the low-cost, virtually greenhouse gas free, inexpensive to maintain, neighbourhood-reviving streetcar system? Gosh, it couldn't have anything to do with the "town centres" that developers would build (and make a fortune on) at each subway station along the route — the city of Vancouver expropriating the four blocks surrounding each station, at Clark, Fraser, Oak, Arbutus, Macdonald, Alma and Blanca streets — all to serve the interests of their developer masters.
Patrick Condon, University of British Columbia Chair of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, likes to refer to this transportation-centred, town centre development style as "gleaming glass towers spread like beads on the string, disconnected from the surrounding communities they overshadow, sentencing neighbourhoods between stations to a future of slowly aging residents, gradually shrinking populations, more empty classrooms, restricted access for young families, fewer commercial services, and an increased dependence on the car to get around";
- No re-development proposal in Vision Vancouver's last term was more controversial than the Grandview Woodland development plan, which all but ignored the initial report of the City of Vancouver planner charged to consult with Grandview Woodland residents, and develop a plan the neighbourhood could live with, the report almost completely re-written by staff in the Mayor's office. Vision Vancouver demanded from the neighbourhood the realization of tower-driven "town centres" at both Clark & Commercial and Broadway, as well as 8+-storey towers along the entire expanse of Nanaimo and Hastings streets;
- In their next term of government, a Vision Vancouver administration would demolish the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, turning over the land beneath the viaducts to large-scale developers, Concord Pacific and Polygon. With the viaducts gone, without saying so in so many words, Vision Vancouver proposes to complete the highway through the east side that many of us fought against more than 40 years ago, driving a six-lane freeway through Strathcona and Trillium parks, as well as two, cherished community gardens;
- And let us not forget, either, that under a Vision Vancouver administration, the Marpole neighbourhood has been transformed as Vancouver's least expensive, largely rental-driven neighbourhood, to a developer's paradise of tower-driven condo highrises, mostly catering to a wealthy — and often, offshore — elite.
In 2014, over the course of the past six years, Gregor Robertson has conducted the affairs of City Hall, and the re-development of our city neighbourhoods, as if he is a more contemporary, perhaps somewhat handsomer, yet equally oleaginous, venal, and even more corrupt version of Tom Campbell, objectively, Vancouver's worst mayor ever.
Come this November 15th, Vancouver voters will face the same question as voters faced in 1972. Do those of us who live in Vancouver want to see continued, untrammeled high-rise development in our neighbourhoods, or do we want livable, sustainable neighbourhoods across our city, where we can raise our families, get to know our neighbours, and preserve the peace and prosperity of the Vancouver that we have all come to know and love?
The choice is yours. Make sure you get out to the polls, 48 days from now.
September 25, 2014
For lovers of cinema, happy, happy days are here once again!
Yes, the spectacular, gorgeous, incredibly moving 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival commences today for a glorious 16-day run of the world's best cinema, brought to our shores by a first-rate programming team, headed by longtime VIFF Artistic Director, Alan Franey.
More than ably aided by well-experienced Programme Manager and Senior Programmer, PoChu AuYeung, and her programming colleagues, the Vancouver International Film Festival once again presents more than 350 films, from more than 65 countries across our globe, and as you have read above: the very best in world cinema has been brought to our shores.
As VanRamblings has reported previously, the Vancouver International Film Festival is a much-changed film festival in its 2014 iteration. The Georgia Straight's Craig Takeuchi would seem to agree (ahem, supplemented by some commentary from me), writing about VIFF's ...
- Digital revolution: "This is the first year in our history that we're not actually showing a film," Franey announced. In 2014, none of the selections will be presented on celluloid — all the films are digital.
- Festival guide: In previous years, a free, brief preview guide was released prior to the official print guide, which was available for purchase. This year, the two have been amalgamated into one free, glossy guide, available all across Metro Vancouver.
- Marketing: Have you seen that knockout 'sizzler' ad above highlighting the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival? And wait til you see the BC Spotlight sizzler video below. The film festival is marketing itself like never before — and that's all to the good. I'm willing to bet that those 'ads' translate into a much-increased box office for the Festival in 2014.
- Best New Director award: For 20 years, the Dragons and Tigers Award for Young Cinema was given to an emerging director from Pacific Asia who had not yet won significant international recognition. This year, that award has been expanded to the Best New Director (International) award.
- VIFF Industry: A re-branded and revamped VIFF Film and Television Forum, a singularly important industry conference that coincides with the fall festival each year that will in 2014 engage more with the local film industry, including Vancouver's booming visual effects and animation industry. The four-day VIFF Industry Conference offers professional development for registered participants, and wide-ranging industry-relevant topics, from content creation and financing, to marketing and direct distribution, to storytelling and audience engagement. Betcha NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe will be interested in knowing more about the re-imagined VIFF Industry.
- Style series: VIFF Executive Director Jacqueline Dupuis announced that a new series, Style in Film, will showcase six films covering the themes of fashion, style, art, iconoclasts, and aesthetics. VIFF will partner with Eco Fashion Week to produce Q&As and events, such as a VIP post-event screening at Holt Renfrew (October 5).
- Gala films and special events: From the wow, wow, wow Opening Gala Film, the Reese Witherspoon-starring Wild (yes, we're talking Academy Award nominations here), to the closing Gala Film, Whiplash, the film that took the Sundance Film Festival by storm earlier this year, to the incredibly moving Special Gala presentation of The Vancouver Asahi (about which we will write again very soon), VIFF 2014 has absolutely outdone itself this year in booking films of special merit that will resonate with filmgoers like mad!
In 2014, how is the Vancouver International Film Festival the same?
Venues are the same this year as last (nine screens, 7 venues, including the 1727-seat Ford Centre for the Performing Arts across from the Vancouver Public Library, on Homer). Full venue information is available here.
The festival will run 16 days as per usual — kicking off today and running through until late night, Friday, October 10th. There are 355 films from 65 countries, in a programme that includes 26 non-fiction (documentary) features, 9 films in the Spotlight on France series, 27 films in the Dragons & Tigers (Cinema of East Asia) series, with more Canadian and U.S. films than ever in 2014, and a first-rate BC Spotlight film series, with 14 features.
As always, there are all sorts of ticket options: from single tickets at $13 to a range of ticket packs. Call the VIFF Info line at 604-683-FILM (3456) for more information. You can also get more info, and buy your tickets, online. Ticket acquisition is generally easy peasy, nice and easy.
What are the highlights in 2014, films that are must-sees?
Leviathan: The single most talked about film at Cannes this year, the film that took the critics by storm, Andrei Zvyagintsev's extraordinary tragic drama of corruption and intimidation in contemporary Russia is the must-see of VIFF 2014, and not just because Jeff Wells loved it, writing ...
It's a drop-dead brilliant, awesomely-composed-in-every-respect melodrama and moral tale that concurrently serves as a microcosm of (or metaphor for) a morally compromised, ruthlessly malevolent, bare-knuckled Russia. Vladimir Putin will love it! (Kidding.) Political corruption, lust and infidelity, way too much vodka, blackmail and thuggery, gunshots, bromide-dispensing priests who kowtow to powerful scumbags, huge whale skeletons, crashing waves, rotting ships — this puppy has it all plus the aura of a majesterial art film plus opening and closing musical passages by Phillip Glass plus the most beautifully lighted, handsomely composed widescreen photography (by Mikhail Krichman) I've seen in a long time.
Or, because The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave Leviathan a paltry five stars, writing that the picture is "full of extraordinary images and magnificent symmetry, a film acted and directed with unflinching ambition. Leviathan is a forbidding and intimidating work, and a film of magnificent ambition, scope and grandeur." Aw, shucks. Me, I'm taking in the Friday night, October 3rd, 9pm screening at The Playhouse. See ya there!
The Wonders. Alice Rohrwacher's Cannes Grand Prix winner, the film which I've most looked forward to seeing, and the picture I'd prayed to the gods (and to Alan Franey) to please, please bring to 2014's Vancouver International Film Festival, will indeed screen at VIFF 2014! VanRamblings absolutely loved Rohrwacher's début film, 2011's exquisite, resonant, melancholy, tremendously lovely, authentic, quiet and beautifully observant Corpo Celeste. The Wonders in Vancouver — I am in heaven! See you at Friday night's 9pm screening at The Rio!
[Digression: yes, yes, it's true. My entire year revolves around the film festival. I am in love with the film festival, in love with the volunteers, in love with the administration and staff, in love with the films that screen at VIFF, in love with my fellow filmgoers, cannot wait to shed buckets and buckets of tears, and feel more emotionally-wrenched during the 16-day run of the film festival than I am at any other time of the year (no wonder I am so crazy in the lead up to, and during, our annual Vancouver International Film Festival — I am in love, completely, utterly out-of-control, as if I am 19-years-old again, and I am in love with the love of my life!)]
Oh yes, where was I?
Here's a quick rundown of the films that are at the top of my list as must-see five-star films screening at VIFF 2014, each of these films garnering immense praise and recognition from the critic cognoscenti ...
- Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Cannes Palme D'Or winner Winter Sleep
- Argentinian director Damian Szifron's marvelous satire Wild Tales (an overwhelming favourite at Cannes this year)
- Ruben Ostlund's finely observed Force Majeure
- Mike Leigh's Cannes Best Actor (Timothy Spall) winner, Mr. Turner
- The Dardennes brothers' intimate new drama that plays with thriller-like intensity, Two Days, One Night (stars the peerless Marion Cotillard).
And, oh yes, my two favourite films in VIFF preview, also rush-right-out and get your tickets must-sees, two of the most unusual, groundbreaking each in their own way, moving and gratifying films at VIFF 2014: Uberto Pasolini's wondrous Still Life, and the doc (well, kind of "the doc") of the festival thus far for me, Hope and Wire, about the aftermath of the Christchurch, New Zealand 6.7 earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Me, if I am brought to tears while watching a film, if I am pulled in that much, I am sold, the film goes into my memory bank forever and forever — a feat achieved by both these films, as was the case with Ishii Yuya's entirely magical The Vancouver Asahi, which is a must-see for baseball fans, and anyone who professes to — and really does — love the city of Vancouver.
Of course, there are many more films about which I could write — but you'll just have to wait til Saturday (this year, in a departure from past practice, I will cover the Vancouver civic election one day, and VIFF the next).
I'll see fewer films this year, it's true, but there's a job to be done to save the city (I'm not kidding) — the 2014 Vancouver civic election is a critical election that will determine Vancouver's future.
Do you want a city consisting almost solely of green-glass towers, energy-inefficient, soon-to-crumble highrises that cater only to the (often non-resident, sorry to say) wealthy, or do you want a livable, sustainable city for the rest of us, and our families? That's what it's all about in 2014.
Make no mistake. The 2014 Vancouver civic election is a legacy election.
September 23, 2014
The defining narrative of the 2014 Vancouver civic election revolves around the notion that voters have a choice to make: either we can vote for "the developer parties" (Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association), or we can vote for the "good guys" ... Vancouver First, the Cedar Party, the Greens, or COPE, those municipal parties that do not accept donations from the development companies which operate in the city of Vancouver.
At best, this "good guys" vs "bad guys" narrative is simplistic.
At its worst, this untoward and unnecessary narrative is a vicious, wholly unwarranted and degrading condemnation of those fine potential public servants who choose to run with the so-called "developer parties."
As if, somehow, the narrative suggests, principled and hard-working Vision Vancouver Council candidates like Niki Sharma and Andrea Reimer, or equally meritorious Non-Partisan Association Council candidates Suzanne Scott and Melissa DeGenova, upon being elected this next term, would sit up nights scheming to do the business of developers while subverting the interests of the electorate — all the while stuffing their pockets with loot secured from the likes of Ian Gillespie at Westbank, Michael Audain at Polygon, Wall Corp's Bruno Wall, and Terry Hui at Concord Pacific.
What a harmful, destructive, libelous, slanderous and soul-destroying deceit to perpetuate — utterly unique to the political maelstrom on Canada's west coast, for you will hear this narrative nowhere else — and how demeaning to the democratic interests of the political process.
And, it's not as if either Vision Vancouver or the Non-Partisan Association can venture a considered response to this syllogistic argument based on false premises — lest they risk lending credence to the logically fallacious and destructive argument by very dint of deigning to offer a response.
To make matters worse for all of us, rather than encouraging the voting electorate to get out and cast their ballot for the "non-developer-funded parties", instead this destructive, ultimately counter-productive narrative serves only to suppress and depress voter turnout, fitting conveniently, as it does, into a narrative myth often promoted in our news media, in the films we watch in our local multiplex, and on our television screens at home: that all politicians are corrupt, there's nothing that can be done to change that circumstance, that politicians run for office simply to pad their own pocket, are "in it" solely for self-aggrandizement, and while in office consciously mean to do barbarous, malicious harm to the public good.
Little wonder that turnout at the polls in 2008 was a paltry 30.79% (there were only 124,285 recorded ballots from 403,663 registered voters) in what was a crucial municipal election, a figure hardly bettered in 2011 with only 34.57% of eligible voters choosing to cast their ballot in that election.
As Non-Partisan Association candidate for mayor, Kirk LaPointe, has been wont to point out, "All of us feel quite comfortable in the idea we've got rich, fertile territory to criticize policy ..." — which is as it should be.
In recent weeks, Vision Vancouver has enunciated a transportation policy that commits the party to working with senior levels of government towards the construction of a subway down Broadway. Just yesterday, the NPA announced a plan to appoint an independent Ombudsperson at City Hall to ensure accountability and transparency, and protect citizens' rights.
Nowhere in Vision Vancouver or the Non-Partisan Association's declaration of either party's platform tenet did I read a criticism of the "underfunded parties running in this election who don't have a hope in hell of getting elected." I mean, they could have, but they didn't — and they won't.
Why? Because the Non-Partisan Association and Vision Vancouver are remaining true to their commitment to run an issues-based municipal election campaign, giving the people of Vancouver a choice between two distinctly different competing visions on how our great city might move forward into the future, should one or the other party triumph at the polls when the ballots are counted on Saturday evening, November 15th.
In 2014, is it necessary that the smaller, competing parties engage in the shopworn cliché of the "developer parties" vs. the forces of good that are the other parties seeking office at Council, Park Board and School Board?
Surely there are a plethora of civic issues out there to engage the attention of voters. Is it necessary to continue to peddle a simplistic, and I would say ultimately offensive to voters, myth of those dastardly "candidates for the developer controlled parties"? There must be, there has to be, a better way.
Fortunately, the Coalition of Progressive Electors mayoral candidate, the principled Meena Wong, has chosen the higher road in enunciating hers and COPE's vision for the future of Vancouver — a realistic vision that includes setting a $15-an-hour minimum wage in Vancouver, and charging a surtax on "empty homes" bought for speculative purposes, which tax money would be applied to the construction of social housing in Vancouver.
The Green Party of Vancouver, as well, has mostly kept to the issues — green issues, as you might imagine, that have much appeal to Vancouver's voting electorate, as Vancouver's nascent political party strives to hold the balance of power at city council in this next term of office. The Cedar Party has taken research in this election to new and glorious heights — rooting out a "secret development" at the north end of the Granville Street bridge.
Let's make the 2014 Vancouver civic election about the issues: openness and transparency in municipal government, development of a workable strategy that will ensure the provision of affordable and social housing in the city of Vancouver, form of development (high-rise vs low-and-mid-rise) in our neighbourhoods, a transportation strategy that will meet the needs of all residents (a $4.2 billion subway down Broadway vs a network of at-grade light rail / streetcars across our city), a return to a long-held city policy of 2.75 acres of park space for every 1000 residents, and robust consultation and people-centred planning, among a raft of other issues.
Vancouver does not have to be the wild west of municipal politics. Let's strive for something better, something finer. Let's conduct a municipal election in Vancouver that will engage the interest of voters, and ensure a record turnout of the Vancouver electorate at the polls this November.
September 19, 2014
The past 36 hours has proved to be busy in the Vancouver civic election campaign, as COPE, the Green Party and the NPA are front and centre making game-changing campaign announcements, while lawyer Bob Kasting announced his candidacy for the Mayor's chair, and the Cedar Party issued a press release on a major campaign announcement, for Friday at 1pm.
In the coming days, VanRamblings will provide coverage of COPE's absolutely necessary $15 an hour minimum wage proposal (which we wholly support, we believe is entirely do-able, and has worked in Seattle), the Green Party of Vancouver's platform and proposals for good government, and the Non-Partisan Association's humane "no child will go to school hungry" campaign announcement (the one thing you know about the NPA is that when they make a campaign promise — all of their campaign commitments are eminently do-able — they will keep that promise).
In today's post, we'll focus on Bob Kasting — Vancouver-based lawyer and community leader, winner of the bronze medal and carrier of the Canadian flag at the 1972 Munich Olympics, adjunct business law professor at BCIT, and administrative law at UBC's Faculty of Law, architect and hero of the triumphant win that halted construction of a 12-foot-wide asphalt bike path through Hadden and Kitsilano Beach parks, and currently the legal counsel for the False Creek Residents Association, who are battling Concord Pacific over commercial use — a sales centre — of land zoned for park space.
Vision Vancouver, you ask? Well, they've been quiet on the campaign trail, the Mayor mute, the campaign seemingly in hiding — Vision's campaign honchos seem to think that remaining quiet, hiding the Mayor and Council, not agreeing to debates, and relying on the $800,000 in happy face television ads they'll run in the final 2 weeks of the campaign will win them the election. Cynical Vision electioneering — par for the course with them.
Bob Kasting announces his candidacy for Mayor of Vancouver
At 5pm Wednesday afternoon, lawyer Bob Kasting announced he will run for Mayor, as an Independent candidate in 2014's Vancouver civic election.
From Emily Jackson's Vancouver MetroNews story ...
"The lawyer who helped two neighbourhood groups launch legal action against the City of Vancouver over the past year is officially vying to become the city's next mayor. Kasting believes the two major parties, Vision Vancouver and the NPA, are both too attached to developers and wants to bring a focus back to neighbourhoods."
Make no mistake, Bob Kasting will perform a forensic audit of Vision Vancouver's six sorry years in power, as only a powerful municipal affairs barrister is capable. Members of the Kasting campaign team have told VanRamblings that by the time a dogged, investigative Bob Kasting is done with Vision Vancouver, Vision will be left bloodied and begging for mercy.
Perhaps the definitive perspective on the Bob Kasting for Mayor candidacy comes from respected writer, historian, and longtime Grandview Woodland community activist, Jak King, who writes of Bob Kasting ...
Yesterday afternoon, lawyer Bob Kasting announced his run as an independent candidate for Mayor of Vancouver. I had rather hoped he would announce many months ago in the hope that he could corrall behind him some of the seven or eight parties running for Council in November, But he is in now, and that's good, especially as he is a great supporter of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhood's Principles & Goals document that outlines a much improved community engagement process for our growing city.
I support Bob Kasting as Mayor of Vancouver. He is a man of extraordinary learning and intelligence, he understands the nature of the City as a collection of definable neighbourhoods, he is willing to listen to a range of ideas for dealing with our Vision-generated affordability crisis, and I believe he has the ability to mold an "independent" Council into a tool for burnishing Vancouver into an even greater future. If we are ever to move Vancouver away from the idea of political parties in municipal politics (we are one of the last holdouts for that corrupting system) then having an Independent Mayor is a damn good start.
In supporting Bob Kasting for Mayor, Jak is clear that "four or five different parties vying to put together issue-based solutions" is his preferred option for the 2014 - 2018 Vancouver City Council.
In saying so, Jak supports the Council candidacies of the Green Party's Adriane Carr and Pete Fry, and the Vancouver Cedar Party's Nicholas Chernen (VanRamblings couldn't agree more with Jak's top three picks for Council!), and an amalgam of candidates from the NPA and COPE.
Time will tell as to who, come election week, will emerge as the most viable anti-Vision-Vancouver candidates.
Make no mistake, there are no circumstances under the sun in which the citizens of Vancouver should give even a passing thought to electing Vision Vancouver back into government for a third term.
For now, VanRamblings is pleased as punch with the candidacy of Bob Kasting for Mayor — we know him to be a fine man, and incredibly bright. Bob's voice can only add to the din of criticism against the viability of another majority Vision Vancouver term at Council, and for that we are grateful for his candidacy, his wit, his integrity, and his commitment to the people of Vancouver, and to a fairer and more just city for all of us.
September 17, 2014
In 2014, longtime COPE member Meena Wong has come to the rescue of a beleaguered Coalition of Progressive Electors in announcing her candidacy as COPE's Mayoral hopeful. COPE is fortunate, indeed, to have identified a hard working and well-respected member of the party to step forward, to lead them into what could be a treacherous 2014 Vancouver civic election.
COPE member Michael Stewart writing on rabble.ca suggests that Ms. Wong offers a strong alternative to Vancouver's blancmange mayoral race (by the way, for those not in the know, blancmange is defined as "a sweet opaque gelatinous dessert made with cornstarch and milk" — take that you angry old white men of privilege, Gregor Robertson and Kirk LaPointe!) ...
"The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) attempted to offer an alternative today to the blancmange buffet currently masquerading as Vancouver's municipal election — in which two wealthy, pro-developer, white, male candidates vie for the mayoral seat.
Wong, fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese and English, frustrates this mano à mano narrative crafted by Vision and the NPA. With connections to activist, immigrant and progressive communities as well as her involvement with the federal and provincial NDP, Wong has the capacity to build a robust left-wing opposition to the false choice of this or that real estate speculator.
"COPE has helped to shape the Vancouver that we love today," Wong said at her press conference on the steps of City Hall, flanked by about two-dozen supporters and attended by English, Mandarin and Cantonese media. "Since 1968, COPE has fought for a just city that is based on compassion, respect and duty to all."
Only one week into the campaign, and Wong has already registered on the civic election radar, raising an issue that other mainstream Vancouver civic parties, previous to Ms. Wong's ascension to becoming COPE's mayoral candidate, wouldn't have touched with a 10-foot barge pole: the hot-button issue of foreign ownership of Vancouver real estate.
From a Barbara Yaffe story published in the Vancouver Sun on Monday, titled Absentee homebuyers targeted by mayoral candidates ...
"The push for a tax on vacant housing units was introduced recently by Meena Wong, the mayoral candidate for the Coalition of Progressive Electors, reflecting the first time a candidate has made a campaign pledge aimed at dampening speculation in Vancouver's increasingly unaffordable property market. Wong, an unsuccessful federal NDP candidate in Vancouver South in 2011 who is unlikely to win the November election, has touched a local nerve as the need for housing grows and prices continue their upward trajectory.
Wong would use the tax revenues generated for affordable housing.
Taxing owners for their vacant properties could become a prominent issue in the civic election if embraced by other candidates. That Wong herself is ethnic Chinese — she emigrated to Canada from Hong Kong 34 years ago — will dampen any chatter about racism, or anti-immigrant overtones.
Strange that, because only 17 short months ago, activist COPE member and editor of the left wing online journal, The Mainlander, Nathan Crompton, was issuing cries of racism and political scapegoating when local columnist Mark Hasiuk and political observer Sandy Garossino sought to tackle the issue of foreign home ownership in Vancouver head on. Hmmm.
For the indefatigable Ms Wong, it is unfortunate too that she is saddled with an unpalatable & politically inept Left Front-developed electoral platform that, when the media finally gets around to taking a good hard look at its central tenets, could flatten her candidacy (hint: read COPE's 'out in space' policing platform), an unsalutary development that could take her out of the race, and any serious consideration as a candidate for the Mayor's chair.
Not to mention that COPE is nearly broke and on the verge of bankruptcy.
If nothing else, the optics look bad. Sure, COPE brings in $2000+ each month in PAC money (automatic monthly donations), but for a party that spent more than $1 million in the 2002 municipal election campaign, and between $360,000 and $650,000 in each of the 2005, 2008 and 2011 electoral campaigns, borrowing money from the bank (which they've been doing all summer to keep the party afloat) to fund a near bankrupt campaign hardly suggests that COPE could reasonably be considered by potential voters as good fiscal managers and protectors of the public purse.
Thank goodness that COPE has Meena Wong heading up their campaign, and credible COPE stalwarts like Tim Louis, Gayle Gavin and Sid Chow Tan heading up their Council slate (word is also very positive on Keith Higgins and Jennifer O'Keefe), and former Park Board Chair, Anita Romaniuk, heading up an otherwise undistinguished COPE Park Board slate.
Even COPE's co-founder, the Vancouver District and Labour Council (VDLC) has abandoned the party, endorsing all Vision Vancouver candidates, but offering support only to COPE Council candidate Gayle Gavin (who was not one of the candidates endorsed by the Left Front), and COPE Park Board candidate Anita Romaniuk — an unprecedented decision by the house of labour that only adds to COPE's innumerable woes. Labour not supporting COPE for the first time in the party's 46-year history — it beggars belief!
COPE. A website that is near dead. A dearth of press releases issued by the party. No videos. No ads. Virtually no public political presence in the electoral campaign (save coverage of Meena Wong), online or elsewhere, an electoral party that is so hamstrung it can't even get around to making a decision as to who the 8th candidate on their Council slate will be (John Yano and Wilson Munoz tied at 116 votes apiece) — some 11 days after the nominating convention! — a civic electoral party that has virtually no presence in neighbourhood activist groups across our city ("NIMBY issues", according to some not-so-good folks in COPE, don'tcha know).
Ticket sales for the Kshama Sawanta forum later in the month looking at best forlorn (with half the money raised going to Ms. Sawant, and $1000 to be paid to the Maritime Labour Centre for rental of the hall — with COPE, if it doesn't rain, it pours), a party that for all intents and purposes looks like a meaner version of Vision Vancouver (now, that's going some), the only political party not to take Vision Vancouver to task for dropping top-vote-getting candidate Trish Kelly from their Park Board slate (note that there is no mention of Vision Vancouver in COPE's press release — maybe the rumours are true, that COPE has been bought-and-paid-for by Vision Vancouver, now that would be a fine kettle of fish), while Vision placed the 6th and 7th ranked candidates on the parks slate six weeks later. Tim Louis thought that David Chudnovsky sold the party out to Vision Vancouver — David couldn't hold a candle to the damage that's been done by the current group of Vision appeasers in control of the COPE political apparatus.
Migawd, you'd have to be dead not to realize that the morally and financially bankrupt Coalition of Progressive Electors is in dire straits, indeed.
September 15, 2014
The folks who are seeking political office as members of the Non-Partisan Association, and have put their names forward in this 2014 Vancouver civic election campaign to garner your vote, constitute a retinue of decent, humble, and very bright, publically-minded servants of the public interest.
From the outset of the current Vancouver civic election campaign, NPA mayoralty candidate Kirk LaPointe made it clear that his party would run a "clean campaign". All NPA candidates would be required to sign (and did so) an "issues not insults" code of conduct pledging that there would be no personal attacks by members of his party that would be directed to their "political foes". As LaPointe stated when signing the pledge, "There is a very clear intersection with your conduct and your ability to perform your duties. All of us feel quite comfortable in the idea we've got rich, fertile territory to criticize policy, we don't ever have to go into personal lives."
In this 2014 Vancouver civic election campaign, mayoral hopeful Kirk LaPointe has made liberal use of a withering line about Vision Vancouver's wrong-headed six years in power: "Vancouver is a great city, badly run."
Who knows where the NPA grabbed that tag line — it's effective, though.
On the face of it, "Vancouver is a great city, badly run" would seem to suggest that those running with the Non-Partisan Association would be better city managers, and more astute protectors of the public purse.
In practice, though, "Vancouver is a great city, badly run" serves as a reminder to voters, who have repeatedly taken Vision Vancouver to task for their egregiously "bad", anti-neighbourhood, tower-driven, anti-park decisions. "Vancouver is a great city, badly run" implores us not to forget about just how unhappy we've been with Vision Vancouver in power.
Those living in the Langara neighbourhood were apoplectic about Mayor Robertson's proposal to hive off half of the Langara Golf Course to sell to developers, while turning the other half of the golf course into a "park".
A bad proposal with no support from neighbours of the golf course, and the residents of Langara, who saw through the sham, and realized that Vision's actual intent was to diminish already scarce green space in their under-parked neighbourhood. Women who spoke up at Park Board were adamant that the trails around the golf course were safer as a consequence of the eyes of golfers on the runners and walkers. There was even a young Olympic medalist who told Park Board she trained on those trails as a child.
In this instance, as will be the case in so many other neighbourhoods across our city, "Vancouver is a great city, badly run" only serves to remind Langara residents about the anti-neighbourhood, anti-park policies of the Vision Vancouver civic administration, and the resource they could very well have lost, and might still lose if rumours of Vision's intent to follow through on their original plans prove to be true, should Vision be re-elected.
And it's not just Langara residents who will recall with ill feeling Vision's "in the pocket of developers" ethos.
- Mount Pleasant residents mounted a vigorous opposition to the Rize Development at Kingsway and Broadway, and lost;
- Grandview Woodland residents decried Vision's plan for massive tower complexes at both Clark Drive and Commercial Drive, six storey townhouses along Nanaimo Street, stacked townhouses along East 1st Avenue, and increased heights along East Hastings Street;
- Hastings Sunrise residents won't soon forget Vision Council's decision to block Park Board from taking control of Hastings Park, in order that a "massive $310.5 million redevelopment" of the park might continue. You can bet that there aren't going be a great number of Hastings Sunrise residents who'll being casting a vote for Vision in 2014.
Whether you live in Kitsilano, where Vision Vancouver sought to pave large portions of Kitsilano Beach and Hadden Park.
Or you're a West End resident who was opposed to STIR (the city's wildly unpopular Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing programme, a giveaway to developers), which resulted in the tearing down of a church at 1401 Comox (originally slated for park space), putting up a 22-storey tower in its place, while at the same time adding a sixth tower to the Beach Towers complex, to name just a couple of examples of Vision development plans that met with West End neighbourhood opposition.
Or you're a former resident of the Downtown Eastside who lost their affordable housing when Vision Vancouver failed to respond to adamant opposition to Wall Corp's proposal to build a massive condominium complex at 955 East Hastings — which, when it was approved by a thoughtless Vancouver Council, displaced 200 longtime DTES residents.
Or, you're one of the residents of the Fairview neighbourhood's affordable housing development, Heather Place, who will be displaced as a consequence of Vision Vancouver's decision to redevelop the site as a "market rental" development — effectively doubling tenants' rents ...
You can bet that with the litany of secretive, wrong-headed, non-consultative, anti-neighbourhood proposals that became fact over the course of Vision Vancouver's six years in power that "Vancouver is a great city, badly run" will almost certainly emerge as the devastatingly powerful and understated meme of the 2014 Vancouver civic election campaign, a constant, daily reminder by Kirk LaPointe, and his Non-Partisan Association colleagues, that Vision Vancouver is not a municipal political party that is on your side, or was ever on your side, that indeed Vancouver was a great city, but under Vision Vancouver our city has been unforgivably badly and terribly run, and not run for you, but rather in the interests of developers.
"Vancouver is a great city, badly run" offers cogent, reflective comment — and a devastating indictment of Vision Vancouver's six years in power, and a reminder that with Vision Vancouver gone from the municipal political landscape come the evening of November 15th that under a revitalized Non-Partisan Association municipal administration (members of the NPA would suggest), Vancouver might once again become a truly great city.
September 4, 2014
The 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival is much-changed.
Oh sure, there are the same folks involved this year as in recent years, the venues will be the same as they were last year, but the films that will be screened at this year's Festival (more A-listers than in years!) ... and the utter loveliness that is newly-installed Executive Director Jacqueline Dupuis. And let's not forget about that knockout 'sizzler' VIFF prelude video above, created by the folks at post pro media (I mean, like wow, wow, wow!).
As I have written previously, Alan Franey stepped down from the day-to-day running of the Festival, just after last year's Festival came to a close. Alan, and Festival staff with whom I was in contact last autumn, insisted that there was a succession plan in place — and lo and behold, the successor was right in their midst, in the form and person of Jacqueline Dupuis, who had already worked with the Festival for a couple of years, in a (perhaps?) more 'restricted' Executive Director capacity.
In 2014, Ms. Dupuis has put her stamp on the festival, emerging very much as the reigning intelligence of VIFF 2014. Who'da thunk? Certainly not me, if you read last autumn's October 13th VanRamblings column.
(By the way VIFF folks, mea culpa — I was wrong)
What were the chances that Jacqueline Dupuis, arriving from Calgary three years back, would find a family in the programmers and staff at VIFF, and in 2014 would emerge as the eminence gris of the Festival? In person, Ms. Dupuis possesses the charm and lack of guile you would find in a 22-year old, an openness to experience, and an almost wide-eyed wonderment in the living of a life encompassing the hours of her day — and here she is now, today, the matriarch of the Festival — lovely, strong, bright and principled, the leader in whom festival staff have vested their faith.
For those who are not familiar with the staff of the Vancouver International Film Festival, let me tell you about my observations: there is about the folks who work with VIFF an uncommon kindness, integrity and humanity, as well as an intelligence matched with an unerring sense of purpose.
There is amongst the fine folks who work with the festival, a feeling that is palpably shared among all those who are associated with the festival, of a higher purpose, a humanity and warmth and caring — not just for the city, or for those of us diehard cinephiles who live for our festival-by-the-sea each and every autumn, but for one another, full-time and part-time administrative staff, and volunteers. VIFF may be possessed of the most functional administration of any arts organization on the continent.
There is the quiet, zen-like presence of the festival's Director of Programming, Alan Franey, right on through to Alan's longtime second-in-command PoChu Au Yeung (a relationship of equals that has sustained for years), through to this year's kind and generous programme guide editor Curtis Woloschuk, as well as longtime Canadian Images programmer Terry McAvoy, the entirely magnificent Shorts International programmer Sandy Gow — about whom we wrote a couple of years ago — with longtime VIFF stalwart Jack Vermee back from France for another go-round, and Vancity programmer Tom Charity very much a part of the family, all of whom share a common sense of purpose, but more, oh so much more.
As per the title of this blog post, you probably want to know how it is that VIFF33 is different from all of the previous VIFFs. Okay, here we go ...
It would appear that with the Toronto Film Festival engaged in a dispute with the Telluride Film Festival, the Vancouver Film Festival has snuck in and snagged a record number of A-list Hollywood films — a welcome departure in programming orientation from years past.
From Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild — starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffmann — the Opening Gala film at VIFF 2014 (the film played to raves at Telluride, and is also on the TIFF schedule), to the closing Gala Film, Whiplash — the breakout film at Sundance earlier in the year, and also on the TIFF schedule — through to certain Oscar nominee, Bennett Miller's incredibly well-reviewed Foxcatcher — débuted at Cannes, just screened at Telluride, and screening at TIFF; Olivier Assayas' Cannes stunner, Clouds of Sils Maria; David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars; Jason Reitman's much-anticipated Men, Women & Children; Xavier Dolan's Mommy; to the five-star, scalp-prickingly scary It Follows, the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival will be a festival to be savoured and appreciated.
Second, in all the years I've covered VIFF, I've never heard Alan Franey wax as poetically enthusiastic about as wide a range of the films that are scheduled to screen at VIFF. When video of Alan's address to the VIFF Launch / Media Conference is made available (apparently, a week Monday), I'll post it on VanRamblings. Believe me when I write that Alan's "guide" to VIFF33 could very well prove to be the definitive guide to this year's Fest.
This year, for the first time, the VIFF guide will be FREE (yes, you read that right: free). The guide is glossy (forgive the photo above — the guide is actually a brilliant white), may be found at your favourite video store or book store, at libraries and all around town, as well as at the Vancity Theatre, and is available now, at least a couple of weeks earlier than usual, just as valuable as ever, and an absolute must cinephile acquisition.
What is the same about this year's Festival, compared to previous years?
Fabulous, mind bogglingly beautiful films, a great team of VIFF administrative staff and volunteers, incredible venues (The Centre for the Performing Arts is back again this year!), and the best (if, often, most challenging) time you'll have in a darkened cinema all year long, as well as a window on our diverse world that provides a par excellence experience.
What is different?
Well, I'd say a brighter, more contemporary, more business-like and almost aggressively engaging spirit that is just going to draw you in like never before, incredible 'of this age' sizzler videos that will drive business to the Festival like mad (I'll post them as they become available), a renamed and focused VIFF Industry Conference (more on this in the days to come), a raft of new sponsors, that great new free VIFF programme guide — and more, of course, but you're just going to have to check it out for yourself.
Tickets are now available online, and as of September 13th will be available in person at the Vancity Theatre box office, from noon til 7pm daily.
On the weekend, I'll write more about the specific VIFF 2014 series and films, will post more video, provide more information on venues, and will publish much much more. This is gonna be a great festival — see ya there!
August 27, 2014
Reprinted with the permission of the author of the article, Tim Louis. Mr. Louis was a two-term member of Vancouver City Council, and will be a 2014 Coalition of Progressive Electors candidate for a Council nomination. COPE's nominating conference will be held Sunday, September 7th.
Mr. Louis was a two-term member of Vancouver City Council, and will be a 2014 Coalition of Progressive Electors candidate for a Council nomination. COPE's nominating conference will be held Sunday, September 7th.
In politics, as in our personal lives, sometimes we need to revise our expectations. Other times, we have to admit we are wrong; we are required to concede that we simply did not do enough.
In the case of Vision Vancouver's highly touted and infinitely flexible promise to end homelessness, it appears that a rather shady third option is taking place. Rather than admit fault, Vision is redefining the terms to distract the public while keeping developers as its main allies.
Since its inception in 1937, the NPA (Non-Partisan Association) has been the developer's party.
For the NPA, an attitude of "everyone should enjoy the fruits of their labour" means that a developer's application for rezoning is rarely turned down. Under the old NPA and relative newcomer Vision, Vancouver has been governed to maximize developer profit, not public well being.
Today, the political landscape consists of not one developer party, but two: NPA and Vision. As such, COPE has always run at a disadvantage because the NPA is lavishly funded by developers, as is Vision.
Although both of the developer-backed parties make showy presentations of their dedication to free enterprise and good business practice, it is COPE that actually practices truth in advertising.
COPE candidates are pledged to uphold the policy positions democratically adopted in open meetings, unlike the developers' parties, who enjoy the fruits of developing their platform behind closed doors by a chosen few.
Vision Vancouver is a version of the NPA with bicycle lanes. Some observers refer to Vision as NPA Lite.
Meanwhile, COPE is sticking to the principles of social justice and offering an unambiguous alternative to these developer parties.
COPE is the only party offering a clear and concrete proposal to address the crisis of homelessness. With the creation of a Vancouver housing authority, COPE proposes to build thousands of units of subsidized and affordable housing which would be owned and operated by the city.
Instead of following a plan to produce results, Vision has played games with the issues of housing affordability and homelessness.
Here is one example of Vision game playing. Vision simply redefines the term "affordable housing" to include any rental housing so that when a developer applies for rezoning, the bylaw that requires a certain number of units to be affordable is meaningless. Permits are issued because any rental units, no matter how expensive, are being considered affordable when there are actually very few who are able to pay the rent.
Earlier this year, the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count revealed that homelessness has increased in our community. Vision's 2008 campaign promise to end homelessness by 2015 has been a failure. Scrambling to save face, Vision has changed the message to claim that what they actually intended to do was end street homelessness.
Although someone who uses a shelter may not be considered street homeless, they must still be counted as a person without a home. Anyone staying in a shelter is required to leave in the morning and stay scarce until evening is essentially homeless during the day.
A home is more than a place to sleep.
Vision arbitrarily changes the meaning of terms at will, in a dazzling example of what the great English satirist George Orwell called "Newspeak" in his classic study of tyranny, 1984. Rumours that the book's character Big Brother is now on stipend to write press releases for Vision cannot be confirmed at this point, but remain plausible.
Regardless, Vision's underhanded revisions of language are the party's attempt to convince the public that they are standing firmly on some sort of platform rather than tumbling with the lint in developers' pockets.
Don't we want a city council that positions itself firmly outside the fiscal influence of developers?
It's COPE that has the real plan to address the important issues of homelessness and affordable housing.
August 21, 2014
The folks in the Cedar Party are at it again, telling us stuff that we already know. Like how there was only one bidder — WestBank Corp, owned by Mayor Gregor Robertson's bestest pal and big time Vision Vancouver supporter, Ian Gillespie — on the property where the much-touted Gesamtkunstwerk Vancouver House will be built. We say, so what? If the Mayor wants to gift his good friend Ian with 'special favours', so be it.
But are the noisome folks in the Cedar Party prepared to leave it at, "That Ian Gillespie fella, he has this in with the Mayor, and with Vision Vancouver, you see, and there's just something a little unsavoury about the whole circumstance where there was only one bidder allowed on the Vancouver House site, and don'tcha know that bidder was Ian Gillespie, and doesn't it somehow seem wrong to you that Ian Gillespie 'was allowed to tie up this property for several years without paying for it until final approvals were granted, which only occurred recently?" Nope. They just can't leave it alone!
That Glen Chernen fella — you know, he's the Mayoral aspirant for the Vancouver Cedar Party — and his hearty band of civic miscreants — I mean, really, who are they to be asking questions of our esteemed Mayor and his fabulous gang of demogogues at Vancouver City Hall, the once and forever Vision Vancouver party that will rule over us for our own good, whether we like it or not, for generations to come — where does the Cedar Party get off having the temerity to ask a question like, "How can the interests of Vancouver residents be seen to be looked after if our local government gives itself the unilateral right to sell off city-owned land without even passing consideration being given to the notion of competitive bidding for the sale of our precious, 'belongs to the people of Vancouver', property?"
Who do the folks at the Vancouver Cedar Party think they are? Heck, you'd think they live in Vancouver, and have a dog in our 2014 civic electoral fight.
Oh, you mean, these Vancouver Cedar Party folks, they do actually live in Vancouver, and they're running candidates to defeat Vision Vancouver this November 15th. Good luck to them, those newby civic electoral naïfs — as if that's going to happen, given the millions of dollars that developers have poured into Vision Vancouver coffers these past six years, and more!
And to top it off, Chernen and his bothersome, irksome group of detectives go about quoting a July 28, 2014 Sam Cooper article in The Province newspaper — but three weeks late, cuz Green Party of Vancouver Council candidate Pete Fry had already written a blog post about the 52-storey Westbank project at the north end of the Granville Bridge.
And, just like the folks at the Cedar Party, Pete Fry goes and sticks his nose where it don't belong, and casts aspersions on the character of the Mayor and his Vision Vancouver colleagues, in having approved the Vancouver House development (you remember Vancouver House, with that annoying 'star' architect Bjarke Ingels on our TV every night, endlessly overselling just how wonderful Vancouver House will be once it's finished) — not that anyone in Vancouver will be able to afford to live there, but like who cares anyway, except maybe the Cedar Party, and Pete Fry, both of whom point out that Vancouver House is being marketed exclusively (an allegation since corrected) to wealthy overseas buyers — replete with (gosh, wouldn't it be nice?) "special absentee owner concierge services and a fleet of luxury BMWs on reserve". But there you go again, with those annoying Cedar Party folks, and Fry, chiming in with a quote from Cooper's article:
"According to the South China Morning Post, two sales offices were opened in Hong Kong in June ... (with units) marketed in Singapore ... reserved for overseas buyers ... (meeting with an) overwhelming response."
As we say, looks like folks from Vancouver won't be able to afford Vancouver House, anyway — well, certainly not you or me.
Like, so what, eh? The folks who live in Vancouver have bigger things to worry about — will the kids be back in school on September 2nd, or when to set aside some time to go to the PNE, and important stuff like that.
Who does that Pete Fry guy think he is, anyway, questioning his betters — I mean, Geoff Meggs and Andrea Reimer, they done got themselves elected to Council, and the folks who live in Vancouver put their trust in them, and now youse got this Pete Fry fella askin' questions, like somehow he's got a right to ask questions of his betters. Gosh, we think not. Heck, you'd think that there was an election going on, or sumptin' like that there.
And, don'tcha know — probably under a threat of a lawsuit — The Province pulled the original story, and all readers can find now is this correction.
Thank goodness the Non-Partisan Association seems to think that the Vancouver House skullduggery is just fine, with nary a peep from NPA Mayoralty hopeful Kirk LaPointe — although, one supposes, these are early days in Campaign 2014. LaPointe will certainly have to enunciate a position on development once the civic election campaign begins in earnest.
Let us hope that the NPA narrative on development in our city differentiates itself from the Vision Vancouver development narrative, which is ...
"Hey folks, it's only development we're talkin' about here. You should let your betters make decisions on your behalf, cuz we know what we're doing, and you don't. Honest, there's nothing to see here folks, just move along. Don'tcha know, the PNE is on, and there's this darn teacher's strike that's happenin', you don't want to worry your pretty little heads with something as stupid and arcane as development. Ewww, that's yucky stuff — you're not really interested in that. Oh look — a bright shiny object. Pretty, isn't it?"
And thank god, too, that the naïfs and ne'er-do-wells over at COPE headquarters could give a good goddamn about secretive and unsavoury development in our city — gosh, they're only concerned with turning our city into a communist paradise. Me, I can't wait til they issue the drab grey uniforms that we'll all have to wear when COPE takes over — gosh that'll be no fun, and don'tcha know that's exactly what COPE wants, for all of us to live under the yolk of COPE oppression. Gosh, that oughta be great!
And best of all, thank God we've got such a subservient media, who wouldn't say shit if their mouths were full of it. Well, it is Vision Vancouver, after all, and who in the media would dare to question the majority party that has reigned supreme at Vancouver City Hall these past six years?
August 18, 2014
A couple of weeks back, in an interview with The Straight's Carlito Pablo, former three-term Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) City Councillor David Cadman predicted that Vision Vancouver would likely win a third consecutive majority term in office at City Hall come this November 15th.
"I'm not a betting person but I would think, and I haven't seen any of the polls, but I would think...that they will get another majority, yeah."
As it happens, VanRamblings concurs with Mr. Cadman's prediction. Let's take a closer look at Vision Vancouver's prospects for re-election in 2014.
Vancouver Civic Election: The Mayor's Race, Robertson vs LaPointe
In the 2014 Vancouver civic election, Mayor Gregor Robertson would seem to have another win at the polls, come November 15th, virtually in the bag.
In 2011, Mr. Robertson took 53.17% of the vote, as 77,005 electors cast a ballot for the sitting Mayor, almost 10,000 more votes than were cast for him in 2008. Meanwhile, in 2011, the opposition Non-Partisan Association garnered only 58,152 votes, or 40.15% support. In order for Kirk LaPointe, the NPA's mayoralty candidate in 2014, to triumph on the evening of November 15th, the Mayor's popularity would have to drop by almost 10,000 votes, with a concomitant rise in popularity for the NPA. What are the prospects that the Mayor will lose 10,000 votes, while Mr. LaPointe transfers Mr. Robertson's lost votes into the winning column for the NPA?
VanRamblings' answer to that question: bloody unlikely.
For all the kvetching of the opposition poli parties about City Hall secrecy, development run amuck, Vision's failure to build affordable housing, and the utter collapse of the Mayor's commitment to end homelessness by 2015, a recent Justason poll indicates that the Mayor maintains the support of 59% of the electorate, an almost insurmountable lead in popularity over the NPA's Kirk LaPointe, who registers only 41% support from the electorate.
Opposition parties don't win elections; the party in power loses government, generally arising from scandal, utter incompetence, in-fighting within the party, or a weariness among the electorate. None of those latter attributes apply to Vision Vancouver, who would not only appear to have maintained the support of the electorate, but have, as well, an experienced, well-funded, and professionally-run electoral machine that has won majority government twice, and means to win a third majority mandate in 2014.
As we've written previously, in 2002 the NPA lost office at Vancouver City Hall when City Councillor Jennifer Clarke succeeded in a party coup to dislodge popular three-term sitting Mayor Philip Owen, much the same circumstance as occurred in 2008, when NPA City Councillor Peter Ladner defeated sitting Mayor Sam Sullivan to run — in what proved to be a losing bid — as the NPA mayoralty candidate. Both times the party was trounced at the polls. As we say, the electorate simply doesn't like party in-fighting.
In 2005, the Non-Partisan Association was once again able to gain a win at the polls, when the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) — the sitting civic government of the day — found itself rent with division.
What could cause Mayor Robertson to lose in 2014? Character issues, or evidence of financial impropriety. Rumours continue to abound about indiscreet behaviour involving the Mayor. Meanwhile, there are rumours afloat about the Mayor's involvement in financial / development transactions where the Mayor and / or his friends have unduly, or 'illegally', benefited.
VanRamblings' perspective on these politically-inclined rumours: political partisans opposed to the Mayor's re-election are dreaming in technicolor.
At this point, there are only three Mayoralty candidates, other than the Mr. Robertson, who've announced their intention to seek office at Vancouver City Hall: the NPA's Kirk LaPointe, the Vancouver Cedar Party's Glen Chernen, and independent candidate for Mayor, Colin Shandler. COPE, as well as TEAM, had been rumoured to be running mayoralty candidates, but that prospect seems to have dimmed in recent months.
The Non-Partisan Association is the only civic party, other than Vision Vancouver, that has the funding necessary to mount a winning campaign for office. For all that the Cedar Party's Glen Chernen is a fine fellow, his party is underfunded and understaffed, with little or no history of involvement on the civic scene — as such, Chernen's potential for success at the polls is remote, his role in a bid for civic office that of spoiler, most probably as it relates to the prospects of the NPA's mayoralty candidate. Colin Shandler's prospects for a win are nil — he'll just not find himself in the conversation, however much of a decent guy he may be.
All is not necessarily lost for the NPA's mayoralty candidate, though.
In Kirk LaPointe, the Non-Partisan Association has a handsome, informed, articulate, grounded and charismatic candidate, a mayoralty hopeful who thinks on his feet, writes well, connects in a palpable manner, and has staked out firm positions on the issues that have arisen over the summer.
Unfortunately, Mr. LaPointe would seem to be suffering from Left Foot Syndrome — which is to say that Mr. LaPointe would seem to favour that particular appendage for regular placement in his mouth (at least it's not both feet!). It's difficult to disagree with what Green Party of Vancouver Park Board candidate Stuart Mackinnon has to say when he writes ...
"While I'm not a fan of the current regime at City Hall and agree that we need change, I think Kirk LaPointe should choose his examples a little more carefully. All three examples he uses — Aquarium, tankers and Granville Island ownership — are very important civic issues. The Aquarium because it sits on public park land and leases this from the Park Board, tankers because even one mishap could have irreversible consequences for Vancouver, and Granville Island because what happens there has great effect on the City as a whole.
There are many examples to show why we need a new government in Vancouver, these 3 are not amongst them."
VanRamblings believes the points Mr. Mackinnon raises to be unassailable.
Even if Kirk LaPointe hasn't proved to be too much the politician to this point in the civic electoral race — why would he take a position on a hot-button issue like the Aquarium, and risk alienating a goodly portion of the electorate who don't agree with his enunciated position of 'Park Board should leave well enough alone, things are fine at the Aquarium'? — these are early days in Campaign 2014 for elected office in the City of Vancouver.
As much as Vision Vancouver aims to emerge victorious at the polls come November 15, 2014, Kirk LaPointe and his ready band of NPA colleagues are just as intent in securing a majority victory on that very same evening.
In 2014, Vancouverites may just find themselves witness to an honest-to-goodness civic election campaign that engages the hearts and minds of the electorate. In the coming days, VanRamblings will publish analyses of the Councillors' race for elected office, as well as Board of Education and Park Board. Welcome back. Nice to have you reading VanRamblings again!