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November 3, 2017

Arts Friday | VIFF's Magnificent Vancity Theatre

The Vancouver International Film Festival's year-round venue, The Vancity Theatre

Every year in late September thru mid-October, for 36 years now dating back to 1981, for 16 magnificent days the Vancouver International Film Festival brings the best of world cinema to our shores, offering as it has for so very long a humane, engaging window on our often troubled world.

But what of the remainder of the year?

Where will cinéastes find the best in world cinema over the remaining 50 weeks of the year? The answer is simple: the comfy-as-all-get-out 175-seat Vancity Theatre located at 1181 Seymour Street at Davie, designed by Hewitt and Kwasnicky Architects, and opened in September 2005 just in time for that year's tremendous-as-always annual Vancouver film festival.

Yes, the year-round venue of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is a warmly inviting not-for-profit cinema, operated by the film festival society on a site leased to VIFF at a nominal rate by the City of Vancouver, the City extracting from the developer, the Amacon & Onni Group (in exchange for greater height of their two Brava condominiums), a community amenity contribution that led to the construction of one of Vancouver's most important year-round cultural resources, The Vancity Theatre — for which construction contribution you would have to think the late, celebrated Vancouver City Councillor Jim Green played a pivotal role.

The Vancouver International Film Festival's year-round venue, The Vancity TheatreThe comfy year-round VIFF venue, the 175-seat Vancity Theatre on Seymour, at Davie

Unlike the Toronto equivalent of The Vancity TheatreThe Bell Lightbox Cinema — which is losing money and contributing to the many woes of the Toronto International Film Festival, our Vancity Theatre is doing just fine.

Globe & Mail Arts Editor Barry Hertz and Molly Hayes have reported ...

Audiences aren't showing up for screenings at the Lightbox building on King Street West, designed to provide a headquarters for TIFF year-round and serve as a draw for both local film lovers and tourists.

Conversations with more than 40 current and former TIFF employees, and two dozen other individuals close to the organization, present a picture of an institution whose vision is unarticulated and whose current business model appears to diverge with industry and audience trends.

Why is the Vancity Theatre doing so well in the era of streaming sites such as Netflix & Amazon Prime, which has viewers shifting their focus towards Dolby 7.1 surround-sound all-the-bells-&-whistles QLED home theatres?

Vancity Theatre programmer Tom Charity, Italian Cultural Centre Director Giulio ReccchioniVancity Theatre's Tom Charity, left, with the Italian Cultural Centre's Giulio Reccchioni

Two words: Tom Charity, who then VIFF Director Alan Franey (currently VIFF's Director of International Programming) identified as a potential saviour of a Vancity Theatre which had fallen on hard times audience-wise. Since 2012, the utterly calm and phenomenally astute Mr. Charity has tapped into the unconscious consciousness of every demographic of film lover who resides across the Metro Vancouver region, and programmed The Vancity Theatre to a dizzyingly captivating and undreamed of success.

Coming attractions to the Vancity Theatre, in November and December 2017

The new film from acclaimed Australian director Benedict Andrews, Una (just click on the preceding link for dates and times) — which given the current, righteously angry #MeToo furore couldn't be more timely, given the film's sexual trangression subject matter, stars Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn and Ruby Stokes in what can only be described as a challenging, transgressive film — opens today at The Vancity Theatre. There are only 7 screenings between this evening & Una's final screening, Saturday, Nov. 11th, so you'll want to purchase your tickets soon.

The Divine Order, one of VanRamblings' 5 favourite films at VIFF 2017, and Switzerland's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, opens two weeks from today, on Friday, November 17th. The Divine Order is simply a knockout, providing a gentle, humane, slice-of-real-life insight into the plight of Swiss women prior to 1971, when women were not allowed to vote, and were little more than chattel. The Divine Order, though, is as far as you could get from dour, this suffragette feminist film embracing hope, with a good deal of warmth and humour in the mix. We'll write more about Petra Volpe's The Divine Order on its opening day at The Vancity Theatre.

The Vancouver International Film Festival's Vancity Theatre, in the evening

Click on this link for a full listing of all the films Tom has booked into The Vancity Theatre between now and December 3rd. Tom always books a rockin' holiday season programme (one could almost live at The Vancity Theatre from early December through early in the new year, and be all the better for it). The Vancity Theatre. Make a commitment to yourself: attend VIFF's year-round venue this month or next. You'll be mighty glad you did.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:35 AM | Permalink | VanRamblings

November 1, 2017

Vision Vancouver | Rumours of Demise Greatly Exaggerated

Proposed Granville Street bridge pedestrian and bike lanes, as imagined by Vision VancouverBike lanes are a big vote-getter for Vision Vancouver with their cyclist coalition

Following a fifth place showing for Vision Vancouver by-election Council candidate Diego Cardona — not to mention a by-election loss of one seat (now down to 3 trustees) at School Board, with Vision finding themselves all-but-wiped-out at Park Board in the 2014 municipal, hanging on to only one seat — much has been written about the pending demise of the now 12-year-old municipal party that has held power at City Hall since 2008.

Veteran reporter and longtime Vancouver Courier municipal affairs columnist, Allen Garr, has even speculated about a possible, informal left-of-centre alliance involving OneCity Vancouver, the Greens and COPE ...

... with a Vision Vancouver 2018 Council ballot that would give room to the other parties. And that would likely mean at least one slot for OneCity, Judy Graves, for example; possibly Jean Swanson with COPE's blessing; and two slots for the Greens, including incumbent Carr. As well, Vision has apparently (in early negotiations) already promised a slot for their by-election sacrificial lamb, Diego Cardona.

Yawn. As if OneCity has any intention of forming an alliance with a "developer party like Vision," with much the same refrain commonly heard from most members of COPE and the Vancouver Greens. Could happen, but at this point in time such a left-of-centre alliance seems highly unlikely.

Vision Vancouver, majority political party at Vancouver City Hall since 2008

Even with the recently-announced provincial imposition of new municipal electoral finance reform limiting donations to $1200 per person, Vision Vancouver still maintains a distinct advantage as we head into next year's municipal election — by a wide margin, VanRamblings would suggest.

Why? Coalition and identity politics, the latter defined as "voters going to the polls in their own self-interest, based on issues such as Union membership, gender identity and LGBTQ+ issues, and generational issues" — think bike lanes, loved by the young, and the health conscious.

  • Unions. The new provincial legislation will not prevent Unions from across Metro Vancouver from operating dozens of phone rooms to get the vote out for Vision, with literature provided to the 45,000 Union members who reside in Vancouver reminding them that the last NPA administration locked workers out at City Hall for three months, as the Sam Sullivan administration attempted to gut CUPE's contract.

    Union members will be reminded that for the past decade Vision Vancouver has signed a series of Union contracts at 4% a year (including benefits), setting the standard for municipal bargaining across the province, and during the years of the Campbell-Clark Con-Liberal provincial government that had set a zero-zero-zero mandate, had moved the government off of that so-called mandate, the provincial government eventually signing Union contracts at 2% annual wage increases (plus increased benefits), all of which had a salutary effect on the non-unionized sector of the population, as well.

    Pocketbook politics. What are the chances that any Union member voting in Vancouver will cast their ballot for a return to the hoary old days of the NPA, particularly when there's a far-right-of-centre movement afoot to take over the NPA (as if the party wasn't right wing enough), with an eye to trashing workers rights on every possible level?

  • Cyclists. If the Union vote for Vision Vancouver is a lock, you know for certain that the 20,000+ strong cyclists' coalition will make their way to the polls in droves to support the only civic party in Vancouver in favour of active transportation, and bikes and bike lanes in particular.

    The more the right-of-centre folks whine about the "imposition" of bike lanes, or start thoughtlessly stupid anti-bike lane petitions, the more gregarious the voting cyclist population in Vancouver becomes, as they work to ensure their families get to the polls to cast a ballot for Vision Vancouver. Good on the NPA supporters for coming out against bike lanes — you may consider every whiny social media post against bike lanes as another sure vote for Vision Vancouver come October 20, 2018.

  • LGBTQ+ community. In the 2014 Vancouver municipal election the West End vote for Vision Vancouver was 73%. If Unions are working overtime to ensure their members cast a ballot for Vision Vancouver, and the cyclist coalition in our city are doing the same thing, neither of the groups can hold a candle to the power of the LGBTQ+ community to get the vote out for Vision Vancouver — who will turn out in droves for their favoured civic party, in each and every neighbourhood across the city.

The 2017 Vancouver by-election — for the most part — was an outlier vote, and in the greater scheme of things Vancouver-municipal-vote-wise means absolutely nothing as any kind of vote predictor for the next civic election.

Vision Vancouver — and the Union, cyclist and LGBTQ+ coalition — all-but-sat-out the 2017 Vancouver by-election, realizing there's a fair bit of voter hubris for the reigning municipal party, as is generally true in by-election voting when it comes to a political party that's been in power for 10 years.

Vision Vancouver and the federal and provincial governments to announce new Co-op HousingThe Trudeau government, John Horgan's provincial government and Vision Vancouver will announce thousands of new housing co-op homes under construction in 2018

And let us not forget, either, that with three progressive governments in power at the federal, provincial and municipal levels — for the first time in 45 years — Vision Vancouver finds itself in the catbird seat in the lead-up to the next civic election.

  • Housing? You can bet with recent Vision Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs in place as Premier John Horgan's Chief of Staff, and Vision Vancouver supporter / Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby sitting as a key member of the NDP government's Housing Cabinet Committee that a big time housing announcement involving the construction of thousands of genuinely affordable (mostly housing co-operative) homes will be announced either late next spring, or in early September — that pending announcement, at least in part, meant to bolster Vision's chances for re-election. The Trudeau government will also want to get into the housing announcement as a major funder, in order that by the time the 2019 federal election is underway, Mr. Trudeau can point to thousands of homes under construction thanks to funding from his government.

  • Transportation / Broadway Corridor. As much as VanRamblings would like to see light rail down the Broadway corridor, all three levels of government are wedded to the idea of a high-speed subway down the Broadway corridor, with all the preparatory work now complete. You can bet dollars to donuts that Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier John Horgan and Mayor Gregor Robertson will make a joint announcement in the lead-up to the October 20th, 2018 election confirming that funding is in place, and construction of the Broadway corridor high-speed, underground transportation line / subway will be underway by mid-year 2018.

Hallelujah, and save the day. Thousands of new affordable homes under construction in Vancouver, and a rapid transit line down Broadway also under construction — all due to the fine negotiating skills, don'tcha know, of our perspicacious and once-and-forever Mayor, Gregor Robertson!

Vote Vision Vancouver: the NPA are not work the risk!

The October 20th, 2018 Vancouver municipal election will be a whole other kettle of fish: Vision will put all the resources at their command into getting out the vote, their bike lane and cyclist supporter coalition will get out to the polls in droves, and Unions will be working overtime to ensure that the 45,000 Vision Vancouver Union-vote remains rock solid. And since attack politics worked so well for the BC NDP in the May 19th provincial election, you can bet that Vision Vancouver will pull out all the stops to ensure their progressive voter coalition sweeps them back into power a year from now.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 7:58 AM | Permalink | Vancouver

October 31, 2017

Green Party's Janet Fraser Elected Vancouver School Board Chair

On Monday evening, October 30th, in one of the most touching political inauguration ceremonies VanRamblings has ever had the privilege of witnessing, an utterly serene, ever-so-bright and warmly articulate, becomingly genuine and humble, and surprisingly humourous second term Green Party of Vancouver Board of Education trustee, Janet Fraser, was elected as the new, well-supported Chair of the Vancouver School Board.

Present for the inauguration of the new Board were ...

  • The families of the newly-elected trustees. It was all that the youngest daughter of NPA trustee (may we say, the incredibly fabulous) Lisa Dominato could do not to run up to her mom during the inauguration ceremony to sit on her mom's lap, while newly-elected Vancouver School Board Chair Janet Fraser made comment during her opening address as the new Chair that her two children were present for the inauguration ceremony, stating (with a becoming degree of wry levity) to the many well wishers gathered in the Board Room that she trusted her children had managed their time well, and completed their homework.

  • Past Vancouver School Board trustees. COPE's (now OneCity Vancouver's) Al Blakey was present, as was COPE / now OneCity Vancouver's Ruth Herman, Vision Vancouver City Councillor and early 21st century Vancouver School Board trustee, an absolutely radiant Andrea Reimer, and recent School Board Chair (still one of VanRamblings' favourite people on Earth), Christopher Richardson were all present to wish the new Board well in their endeavours.

  • Politicos galore. The NPA's generational leader Sarah Kirby-Yung, the principled John Coupar, and the gloriously humane and friendly Casey Crawford were present representing Park Board, as was VanRamblings' nemesis (?), the Green Party of Vancouver Park Board Commissioner, Stuart Mackinnon. Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr was sitting right behind us, next to Green Party Executive Director, Jacquie Miller. Failed NPA School Board candidate Rob McDowell was present (wondering why he wasn't elected, yet still beatific — next time, Rob, next time).

Senior Vancouver School Board administrative staff were also present, looking nonplussed, wondering what the heck kind of Board the public had just elected. As a public service, VanRamblings did our best to assure administrative staff that the incoming Board was a calm and respectful group, entirely focused on serving the needs of students in a decidedly non-political and non-confrontational manner, and that all was good — admin staff still seemed somewhat querulous as to what lays ahead.

Trustees

Newly-elected Vancouver School Board trustees take office at an inauguration ceremonyNewly-elected Vancouver School Board trustees take office at their inauguration, a moving part of which involved an indigenous ceremony wishing the new trustees well.

Green Party of Vancouver trustee Estrellita Gonzalez was, by far, the best dressed of the trustees, subtle, low key, gorgeous, and ready to settle down to business. Now, you could take an unlimited budget and dress and coif VanRamblings to the nines (as past NPA Mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe would like to do with us), and we would still not look 10% as business-like and utterly fabulous as was the case with Ms. Gonzalez — very much a woman with whom to contend, from all appearances.

The NPA's Lisa Dominato was utterly charming (and, perhaps, the only person in the room who was glad to see us). Carrie Bercic's presence at the Board table all but had VanRamblings in tears — we're not sure if we've ever met a kinder, warmer, and more authentically humane and values driven person than Ms. Bercic. Fraser Ballantyne was friendly and came over to say hello to Christopher Richardson and VanRamblings — now, if there's a person who has every right to want to tear us from limb to limb, it's Fraser ... instead, he was friendly, welcoming and utterly charming.

If Janet Fraser has any competition in the calm and serene department, it would be Vision Vancouver trustee Joy Alexander — who simply radiates joy in her very demeanour, her warm smile creating an aura of safety (no mean feat, that). Ken Clement brought a warmth and humane consciousness to the proceedings on Monday evening. What was missing from the last Board? The humane presence of Ken Clement, who Patti Bacchus told us she missed more than words can express on the last Board. Of course, the entirely tremendous Allan Wong was present — the single most calming presence at the Board, an utterly dedicated Board of Education trustee, serving the interests of all Vancouver students.

SFU's Dr. Judy Zaichkowski was also present, a quiet but authoritative presence on the new Board, who during the reception following the inaugural ceremony made a point of greeting as many of the good folks gathered in the Board cafeteria as was humanly possible, a reassuring presence who in her very demeanour seemed to radiate a commitment to respectful democratic engagement.

Vancouver School Board inaugural meeting, before Janet Fraser was elected as ChairpersonVancouver School Board inaugural meeting, before Janet Fraser was elected as Chair

Sources within Vision Vancouver told VanRamblings on Monday evening that the once majority party on the Board had decided this past weekend to support the candidacy of Green Party trustee Janet Fraser as the new Chair, as must be the case with OneCity Vancouver's Carrie Bercic — given that only Ms. Fraser and the NPA's Lisa Dominato were nominated as Chair (we're not entirely sure Ms. Dominato even voted for herself in the secret ballot that was held). VanRamblings predicts the time will come when Lisa Dominato serves as Vancouver School Board Chair, not as a person of division but as a unifying political force with an unerring social conscience.

VanRamblings was told Monday evening Dr. Fraser has already offered the position of Vice-Chair of the Board to one of her fellow trustees, this information passed on with a glint in the eye of the individual who gave us this bit of news. We could have pushed to find out who — but we'll wait.

For the next year, Dr. Janet Fraser will be the able, calming, incredibly hard-working and democratically-engaged Chairperson of the Vancouver School Board — VanRamblings couldn't be more thrilled!

As per the press release issued by the Vancouver School Board ...

In the coming days, trustees will be assigned to standing committees in consultation with the Board Chair, as liaisons to specific schools and as Board representatives to other committees and other organizations.

Dianne Turner, who had served for the past year as official trustee, now begins her role as special advisor to the Board.

At inaugural ceremony's end, Dr. Fraser announced the next meeting of the new Board of Education will take place on Monday, November 27th.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:47 AM | Permalink | Vancouver

October 30, 2017

BC Government: David Eby's 'Rockin' October 2017 Newsletter

British Columbia Cabinet of the John Horgan progressive & activist BC NDP governmentThe British Columbia Cabinet of NDP Premier John Horgan, sworn in on July 18, 2017

When Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby was sworn into government on July 18, 2017 as British Columbia's 36th Attorney General, members of the recently de-throned B.C. Liberal party government (and their supporters) targeted David Eby with a vicious take down campaign, in one of the biggest political blunders ever conducted by an 'out of government' political party. Vancouver City Councillor / B.C. Liberal farm team activist Melissa De Genova was assigned the role of conducting the 'take down David Eby' social media campaign, focusing on a 9-year-old letter from the Vancouver Police Union President, Tom Stamatakis, in which he declared that Mr. Eby "never let the facts or context" interfere with a "smear campaign" of Vancouver Police. The issue, at the time, was the August 13th 2007 police shooting of 39-year-old Paul Boyd, who had been shot eight times.

In a July 19th article in the Globe and Mail, newly-elected Liberal MLA Jas Johal elaborated in a statement: "David Eby has a long history of criticizing law-enforcement officials and making misleading statements about women and men in uniform.

David Eby wrote a book on how to sue the police, criticized police activities at the 2010 Olympics, and his anti-police activism has drawn sharp rebuke from the head of the Vancouver Police Union.

Now [Premier] John Horgan has put someone with a long track record of fighting the police in charge of upholding the law."

Mr. Eby, who was just turning 40 when the B.C. Liberal / NPA-generated brouhaha began had stated in an April interview with The Globe and Mail that he welcomed the combative approach Mr. Horgan brought to politics.

Tch, tch, Mr. Johal and Ms. De Genova — you know not what you do.

For, you see, over the course of the past four years — since first being elected to government — David Eby has emerged as one of the most trusted and beloved political figures to ever grace the hallways of the B.C. Legislature. As such, he has proven to be all but immune from the politics of personal destruction as played by a louche political opposition party. The phony mid-July "David Eby controversy" generated by the B.C. Liberals died almost as quickly as any notion that Donald Trump is somehow "presidential" — no one bought the B.C. Liberals' grievous line of malarkey.

David Eby & his lovely bride, with inauguration attendees in Victoria, on July 18th, 2017David Eby & his lovely bride, with inauguration attendees in Victoria, July 18th, 2017

So what has the indefatigable David Eby been up to since being sworn into cabinet on Tuesday, July 18th — aside from introducing electoral finance & lobbyist reform legislation, vetting all government legislation that makes its way onto the floor of the British Columbia Legislature, and doing yeoman's work as the Minister Responsible for ICBC — he'll wrestle those premiums down, in keeping with the mantra of the John Horgan government to keep life affordable for all British Columbians — and Minister Responsible for gaming policy and enforcement, and liquor control and licensing, announcing plans for an autumn 2018 referendum on proportional representation, working with stakeholders to reform B.C.'s justice system, and seeking (and achieving) intervener status in the current court case against Kinder Morgan, among a myriad of other successful endeavours?

For those of us fortunate enough to reside in the riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, we know — cuz David, and his able constituent support team posted a newsletter to us this past weekend.

Which is great for us, but not-so-great for those of you who do not live in the most westerly part of our wonderful city of Vancouver (and, no, not all of us who reside in Kitsilano / Point Grey are zillionaires — there are a great many students who live in the riding, as well as longtime renters who reside in affordable accommodation, and seniors, just like VanRamblings, who live on a small fixed income in a toasty warm housing co-operative).

Do you want to read David Eby's October newsletter? Yep — we thought you did. All you have to do to read the newsletter is click on the 'Read More' link just below, and VanRamblings will present to you the October 2017 David Eby Constituent Newsletter. Read it — you'll be glad you did!


Read More...
Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:57 AM | Permalink | BC Politics

October 26, 2017

2017 Vancouver By-Election Wrap-Up | School Board

Vancouver School Board 2017 New Trustees to Be Sworn in on October 30, 2017

At 7pm this upcoming Monday, October 30th in the main Board room of the Vancouver School Board — located at West Broadway and Fir Streets (your attendance is encouraged) — nine newly-elected Board of Education trustees with be sworn in to sit as our elected VSB representatives through until the next Vancouver civic election, set for less than a year from now, on Saturday, October 20th, 2018. The following nine novice and experienced trustees were elected by a bitterly small turnout of the voting electorate, with only 10.99 per cent of eligible Vancouver voters turning up at the polls on by-election voting day, held on Saturday, October 14th.

2017 Vancouver civic by-election School Board vote

The Vancouver School Board by-election was necessitated arising from the decision of the previous B.C. Liberal Minister of Education, Mike Bernier, and then Premier Christy Clark's administration to fire the Board for failing to pass a budget (which they were going to do on the evening they were fired by the Minister — but that's politics for ya as practiced by the previous, now ousted anti-public-education B.C. Con-Liberal government), and the campaign commitment by Premier John Horgan's newly-elected provincial administration to hold a Vancouver School Board trustee by-election at the earliest possible opportunity in his new administration.

PART THREE: THE VANCOUVER SCHOOL BOARD

2017 Vancouver Civic By-election VanRamblings Wrap-Up, Part 3: School Board

In today's column, the final by-election wrap-up column (be forwarned, it'll be lengthy, indeed) — sure to please no one, least of all the Green Party of Vancouver — where today we will attempt to provide insight into the exigencies of the by-election, and what the VSB by-election results will mean for all of us over the course of the next year, and into the future.

2017 Vancouver School Board Green Party by-election candidatesGreen School Board trustees Janet Fraser, Dr. Judy Zaichkowski & Estrellita Gonzalez

The Green Party, municipal, provincial or federal, is less a "party" than it is an amalgam of opportunists possessed of no overriding philosophy, other than supposedly being the "environmental party" — and, let's face it, they even have a hard time living up to that claim, given that the Greens believe in moral suasion over legislative inducement for corporations to "do better". Although most of the folks affiliated with the Green Party mean well, given that the Greens don't stand for anything in particular, what you have with the Greens is a rugged group of generally non-political neoliberal (for the record, VanRamblings hates that epithet), almost libertarian, iconoclasts.

Somehow, though — because Vancouver voters generally like federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr — the Green Party manages to secure the votes of a goodly portion of the electorate at the polls: members of the naïve left who believe the Greens are progressive (they're not), and right-of-centre folks who see the Greens as some form of Liberal / Red Tory alliance (which is closer to the mark).

All of which explains why Green Party candidates, including recently fired and even more recently re-elected Vancouver School Board trustee Janet Fraser, emerged as the top vote-getters in the recent by-election.

Incoming Vancouver School Board Chair Janet Fraser

Janet Fraser. The unassuming person in the picture above may, or may not be the incoming Chair of the Vancouver School Board, who up until mere hours before publishing today's column VanRamblings believed would be acclaimed in that position by all nine of the new Board of Education trustees, at the first meeting of the new Board next Monday, October 30th. We are no longer quite so certain — politics at the Board, as would seem to be the case at present, so thick and morbid as to fell a horse in mid-stride.

At no point during the recent Vancouver School Board by-election did VanRamblings endorse Dr. Fraser, nor for that matter any of her Green Party colleagues. We do not believe Dr. Fraser to be a particularly vocal proponent of public education — unlike the five Vision Vancouver by-election candidates, the two One City candidates, or COPE's Diana Day.

Not for no reason did Dr. Janet Fraser support 2014 NPA-elected school board trustee (and the lowest vote-getter) Christopher Richardson as the new Chair of the Vancouver School Board, and six months later when Dr. Fraser demanded that the very same Mr. Richardson step down, chose to vote for his NPA colleague, right-of-centre trustee Fraser Ballantyne (who, even as you read this, is doing his level best to stab Dr. Fraser in both the front and back) as the new Chair, her vote putting the "not at all advocates for public education" NPA in charge at the Vancouver School Board.

Still and all, Dr. Janet Fraser may become the new Chair of the Vancouver School Board. What would that mean for parents with children enrolled in the Vancouver school system, the children / students themselves, and for all those who consider themselves to be advocates of public education?

VanRamblings believes that with Janet Fraser at the helm, public education advocates would find they have a bloody-minded, take no guff, even-handed, largely non-political, dedicated and incredibly hard-working (let's repeat that: incredibly hard-working) Chair of the Vancouver School Board.

Rob Fleming, B.C. Minister of Education, and Mable Elmore, MLA and Parliamentary Secretary in charge of Poverty ReductionRob Fleming, B.C. Minister of Education, and Mable Elmore, MLA, Poverty Reduction

With Janet Fraser at the helm, there'd be no politicking when it comes to negotiating with Rob Fleming, British Columbia BC NDP Minister of Education, and Vancouver-Kensington MLA Mable Elmore, who has been put in charge of the important poverty reduction file by Premier John Horgan. Negotiations for a speeded-up seismic upgrading / school replacement programme would be straightforward and uncomplicated, with Chairperson Janet Fraser making no untoward demands of the Minister. The same would be true with MLA Mable Elmore when it comes to funding of breakfast programmes in Vancouver's inner-city schools: the negotiations between Chairperson Fraser and MLA Elmore would be straightforward and in the best interests of children enrolled in the Vancouver school system.

Janet Fraser is no flaming radical, nor is she a desk thumper. Rather, Dr. Fraser is even-keeled and thoughtful, with a strong tendency towards evidence-based decision-making. Clearly, Vancouver voters got things right when they cast their ballot for Dr. Janet Fraser as both a balm, and the glue who will hold a somewhat tattered Vancouver School Board together.

Still, as you read this, the NPA is seriously considering supporting second term Vision Vancouver trustee Joy Alexander as the new Board of Education Chair of the Vancouver School Board, Fraser Ballantyne's ignoble hatred and disdain for Janet Fraser so acute and abiding as to perhaps cause him to do the unthinkable: support a Vision Vancouver trustee as Board Chair.

With Dr. Joy Alexander at the helm of the Vancouver School Board, trustees would find they have a calm, reasoned, reassuring and generally non-partisan (or non-political, if you will) trustee at the helm, a calming presence who would listen to all voices at the table and in the community, and who would be a staunch advocate for public education — which would satisfy incoming OneCity Vancouver trustee Carrie Bercic's demand that whoever is chosen as Chair be both a progressive and a vocal public education advocate — and a Chairperson that all trustees, Board administrative staff and the provincial government could both respect and work with in support of a thriving public education system in Vancouver.

Dr. Judy-Zaichkowsky, newly-elected Vancouver Green Party School Board trustee

Dr. Judy Zaichkowski (pictured above): Newly-elected Green Party of Vancouver Board of Education trustee. Experienced. University professor of marketing in the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, five year member of SFU's Board of Governors and Associate Dean of SFU's Dean Beedie School of Business. Possesses a Bachelor's degree in home economics. Educator who taught at Vancouver's Point Grey and Templeton Secondary schools. Suffers from a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.

When VanRamblings attended the Vancouver Green Party by-election campaign kickoff, we heard Dr. Judy Zaichkowski give one of the most bizarro, intemperate speeches we'd ever heard a political figure make to a crowd of supposed sympathizers (and, no, we're not going to report what she said). Say senior Green Party officials, "Yes, we heard what Judy had to say at the campaign kickoff, and we spoke with her immediately after she gave her speech, strongly expressing our concerns to her. During the by-election campaign period, we worked with Judy to be more thoughtful in her remarks in a public setting and give thought to how the audience might receive her words, encouraging her to be more temperate in her remarks."

Now, we realize how odd it is that VanRamblings might be seen to express a concern about foot-in-mouth disease, given that VanRamblings has a well-known penchant for intemperance — several times in the course of a day, and more often than not requiring surgical intervention. Still. Chances that Dr. Zaichkowsky will make an off-putting, concerning and intemperate remark at the School Board table, causing her fellow trustees to look upon her aghast? VanRamblings would suggest that it's only a matter of time.

Says the Green Party, "We can only hope her professorial nature kicks in."

Estrellita Gonzalez. Founder / Director / President / small business person in charge at Vancouver's seemingly lauded westside Derma Bright Clinic (no mean feat, that). Self-styled "Queen of Living Clean." Has a son enrolled at Eric Hamber Secondary School. Graduate, Distance Education Programme, Thompson Rivers University, with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources Management. And the newly-elected Vancouver School Board trustee VanRamblings feels most sorry for.

Does Ms. Gonzalez have any idea what she's gotten herself into by being elected to the Vancouver School Board as a Board of Education trustee?

Where Vision Vancouver school board candidate Theodora Lamb brought vast community organizing experience to her candidacy, not to mention years of Board experience with the VanCity Credit Union, an organization where Ms. Lamb is Chair of the Governance Committee, and a member of the Audit and Digital Strategy Committees (not to mention her involvement with the BC Co-operative Association), and whose husband is Kurt Heinrich, a former Public Relations Manager with the Vancouver School Board (who knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak), we can find no such community involvement or Board, Council or Committee work in Ms. Gonzalez' résumé. Don't even get us started on newly-elected NPA School Board trustee, Lisa Dominato: mother of a daughter in Grade One at a Vancouver elementary school, Chairperson of the The Kettle Society Board of Directors, an educator with 10 years experience teaching in Vancouver, and most recently the Director, Integrated Services and Safe & Healthy Schools, British Columbia Ministry of Education. In other words, qualified.

Does Ms. Gonzalez have any idea what she's gotten herself into? Says an official with the party Ms. Gonzalez ran as a candidate with ...

"We in the Green Party believe that elected office should not be the personal preserve of those who have dedicated their lives to achieving elected office. As can be seen in the recent elections in Barcelona — which unseated a municipal government that had been in power for 30 years — the Green party is a Commons-based coalition of ordinary citizens, the Green Party — as is the case with Ms. Gonzalez' candidacy, and election to the Vancouver School Board — represents an authentic departure from business as usual in the political sphere. It isn't enough just to win elections; we have to change the rules of the game."

Still, we ask again: does Ms. Gonzalez have any idea of what to expect when she finds herself seated as a Board of Education trustee next Monday at the offices of the Vancouver School Board? We have no doubt about Ms. Gonzalez' capacity to learn, nor her work ethic — given that, as representatives from the Green Party were wont to point out to us, that Ms. Gonzalez made a huge contribution of time and energy to her run for office: there wasn't an activist 'meet the voter' street campaign she wasn't involved in, an all-candidates meeting that she didn't assiduously prepare for, nor a commitment to her party or the voter she didn't meet. But ...

Ms. Gonzalez should know that most trustees, on average (for the $20,031 she'll earn as a trustee) will put in 35 - 40 hours a week meeting the demands of her new job, according to a broad cross-section of current and former trustees with whom we've spoken, a trustee's duty including ...

  • Attendance at the bi-weekly Vancouver School Board meetings, which involves not only attendance at the Board meetings, but participation in the in-camera preparatory meeting that takes place in the two hours prior to the start of the public meeting, and the two hours afterwards. Not to mention, Ms. Gonzalez will be gifted with a thick binder of background information on all the issues to come before the Board, information (taking hours to read and digest) she will be expected to know.

  • Committee work. There are five standing committees — Management Co-ordinating, Planning and Facilities, Education and Student Services, Personnel and Staff Services, Finance and Legal — one of which she'll likely Chair, and another committee on which she'll be expected to sit, those committees comprised of Board administrative staff, members of the Parent Advisory and District Students' Councils, the two teachers' associations, the professional administrative staff association, CUPE union locals 15 and 407 and representatives of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 963, and both the Vancouver Elementary Principals' and Vice Principals' Associations and the Vancouver Association of Secondary School Administrators. As you might well imagine, these meetings take awhile, tend to be contentious (with a great many competing agendas), and require of the Board trustees a vast knowledge of the issues. There are those strange folks who love meetings (of which VanRamblings is one, as long as those meetings are run respectfully and democratically, and each participant is provided an open and welcoming opportunity for input). Ms. Gonzalez is in for quite an education over the next year.

  • Liaison. With 55,500 students enrolled in kindergarten to Grade 12, and over 3,000 adult students in adult education centres, with 18 secondary schools and 91 elementary schools in the Vancouver School District, each trustee is assigned as a liaison to at least ten elementary schools and two secondary schools, where they're expected to participate as the Board liaison to the Parent Advisory Committees, not to mention which attendance at the occasional teacher meeting is always a good idea. On top of that, trustees are the liaison between not only the teachers but the administrators at the schools to the Board — which means that trustees must develop an abiding relationship of respect and advocacy for student, parent, teacher and administrator concerns.

    And let us not forget, either, that the Board assigns a liaison to the Vancouver Library Board, and any number of the citizen advisory committees at Vancouver City Hall. Tired yet?

Make no mistake, sitting as a Board of Education trustee on the Vancouver School Board is nothing less than a full-time job.

A meeting of the Vancouver School Board, with trustees and administrative staff around the table

For all those citizens in the community who whine about our elected officials, believe us when we say: there is no higher calling than elected office, and no matter the party or political affiliation, all dedicated elected officials (VanRamblings knows not one who doesn't throw themselves into the work, whether at Park Board, School Board, City Council, provincially or federally) give their lives over to public service, and the public interest.

In terms of time commitment, making matters even worse for Ms. Gonzalez and her fellow elected trustees: from the moment each trustee takes their seat around the Board table, they're going to be in election mode. With the 2018 Vancouver municipal election set for next October 20th, all of the trustees will find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time on the hustings, attending party functions, raising money, working closely with school trustees in other Metro Vancouver school districts (and around the province) — so as to further raise their public profile — writing opinion pieces for The Straight, the Vancouver Sun and other mainstream media, and making regular appearances on our local radio and TV stations, speaking to educational (and other) issues at the Vancouver School Board.

The next Board year will prove to be an exemplary model of vox populi.

(Click on Read More for much more School Board by-election coverage)


Read More...
Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:44 PM | Permalink | 2017 By-Election

October 16, 2017

2017 Vancouver By-Election: Bitterly Low Electorate Turnout

2017 Vancouver civic by-election final Councillor vote

2017 Vancouver civic by-election School Board vote

PART ONE: THE NPA, JEAN SWANSON and CARRIE BERCIC

In this 2017 Vancouver by-election wrap-up, VanRamblings will address the elephant in the room. Why did the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) not poll as well as VanRamblings had predicted in our Friday post?

Hector Bremner, Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) candidate wins Vancouver City Council seat

The NPA: Saturday morning at 1:28am, VanRamblings received the following brief note from a senior official in the NPA campaign ...

"Read your VanRamblings column calling for an NPA victory later today. Me? I think either the left split guarantees Hector's win, or we finally see the lack of a machine within the NPA laid bare."

In conversations throughout Saturday's voting day with members of a surprisingly none-too-happy NPA crowd, there were several messages received by VanRamblings, the key points that were being made including the fact that ...

  • Mark Marissen (Christy Clark's ex, a mover and shaker in the B.C. Liberal party, and de facto NPA by-election campaign manager) — despite everything VanRamblings had been told throughout the by-election campaign — ran a disorganized, untargeted, underfunded and generally confusing / losing campaign for Council / School Board. Most NPA folks who weighed in would rather have had Greg Wilson and his Purple Mafia — the political racounteur par excellence who ran Vision Vancouver's successful 2005, 2008 and 2011 campaigns, before he saw the light, pulling a reverse Bob Ransford and joining the NPA — who were the more experienced winning team, with better political instincts and a track record that many NPAers looked upon favourably. So, what happened?

  • A philosophical split within the ranks. Half of the members of the NPA fashion the party as the New Progressive Association, this group made up of younger, non-partisan, nominally right-of-centre folks (think: former Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung): bright, educated, driven, democrats to their core, folks who want power for the public good that can be done. Many of these folks are populist, Trudeau-style Liberals.

    The other half of the NPA membership: Stephen Harper acolytes, decidedly right-of-centre, traditionalist Conservative / Reform party supporters, who believe less government is better government, folks who think God broke the mold after former provincial Finance Minister Mike de Jong and current B.C. Liberal party interim leader Rich Coleman were born. Never the twain shall meet, it would appear (there's the same push-pull going on in the B.C. Liberal leadership race, with Todd Stone targeted as a 'liberal' ... a nasty thing many B.C. Liberals believe).

    Internal political warfare within the NPA cost them votes, as did their lack of a get-out-the-vote machine on voting day, October 14th — all of which saw Hector Bremner eke out a bare victory for the vacant Council seat, and saw two outstanding candidates in Christopher Richardson and Rob McDowell go down to defeat at School Board, as the last returns were reported to the Chief Electoral Officer at Vancouver City Hall.

    The one bright light on the NPA campaign, and a person everyone in the NPA was enthused about: Mike Wilson, Hector Bremner's longtime friend and political associate and Bremner's 2017 Vancouver by-election campaign manager, about whom freelance journalist Bob Mackin has written, "Bremner is vice-president at veteran BC Liberal backroomer Norman Stowe's Pace Group and has Mark Marissen and Mike Wilson in his backroom. Marissen is the ex-husband of ex-Premier Christy Clark and was on the inner-circle of the party's disastrous 2017 campaign. Wilson is the former business partner of veteran BC Liberal and Vision message maker Don Millar at the FD Element advertising agency, which scored several no-bid contracts from Robertson's office and set-up a pro-Vision blog called Civic Scene." All said, Mike Wilson emerged as an NPA star-on-the-rise during the course of the 2017 by-election, and is a person whose career B.C. politicos will be sure to follow going forward.

A bitterly low voter turnout of 10.99% didn't help matters for the NPA, either. Once a poll-by-poll breakdown is completed by Vancouver City Clerk Janice MacKenzie (who was also the Chief By-Election Officer), results will likely show a depressed voter turnout in the traditional NPA strongholds of Arbutus Ridge, Yaletown, Dunbar, Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy and Point Grey.

Independent 2017 by-election Council candidate Jean Swanson almost emerges as victor

There were several good (and a few not-so-good) results and stories in the 2017 Vancouver City Council and Vancouver School by-election.

Let's start with the two most important outcomes of the by-election ...

Jean Swanson, independent 2017 by-election candidate for Vancouver City Council

Jean Swanson, the socialist, housing activist, revolutionary candidate running for a seat on Vancouver City Council, the only non-neoliberal candidate who put their name forward for the vacant Vancouver City Council seat, the candidate who ran on a platform of free transit, a rent freeze and a mansion tax that would raise $200 million annually to build housing for the most vulnerable among our citizens nearly took the prize on Saturday night, or the whole mcgillicuddy (as VanRamblings' mother used to say), reliant on a message of real, palpable change for the most vulnerable among us (renters, seniors, habitués of the DTES, the working poor, single parents), with the single most energized, organized, vibrantly alive, directed, enthusiastic, broad cross-section of activists election team — constituting everyone from humanist intellectual and community activist Daniel Tseghay, the heart-filled 'gets things done and always remains positive, directed and action-oriented' DTES activist Wendy Pedersen, to the good folks long involved on Vancouver's 'left front', as principled a group of folks as you'd ever want to meet and work with (Tristan Markle, Maria Wallstam and Nathan Crompton, just to name three key activists), former rabble.ca editor and current editor with the non-sectarian, progressive Canadian journal, Richochet, the co-founder of the late, lamented, Vancouver-based Seven Oaks magazine (with his best friend, the entirely tremendous writer, author, comedian, University of British Columbia writing instructor, and incredibly articulate and heart-filled, clear-minded political activist, Charles "Charlie" Demers), father and husband and means-to-make-a-difference Derrick O'Keefe, as well as Riaz Behra — longtime Vancouver political activist and VanRamblings friend and political associate, a co-founder of The Left Front Collective, and another person who means-to-get-things-done, who worked night-and-day on Jean Swanson's campaign, organizing marches, raising funds, assiduously working the line-ups outside the Vancouver International Film Festival venues, and everything and anything that needed to get done to ensure a victory for Jean Swanson, on October 14th, by-election voting day.

Jean Swanson might very well have won on Saturday night were it not for the misguided candidacy of OneCity Vancouver's Judy Graves, subject matter we'll explore in Part Two of VanRamblings' 2017 Vancouver civic by-election wrap-up coverage.

Part Three of our by-election wrap up will offer insight into the incoming Board of Education trustee contingent at the Vancouver School Board.

Carrie Bercic, OneCity Vancouver's first elected Board of Education trusteeVancouver School Board trustee Carrie Bercic with her daughter, Sarah and son, Jordan

On an otherwise disappointing Saturday evening, Vancouver's election day bright light is the woman you see pictured above with her children, the incredibly wonderful, bright, heart-filled, tough and tough-minded, informed, community activist, involved, humane, kind, generous, loved by everyone who has ever had the privilege of meeting or working with her, who just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary to her just as incredible husband, John, a public education activist extraordinaire, and the first elected public official for Vancouver's nascent OneCity Vancouver civic party, your voice around the Vancouver School Board table — the incredibly lovely (c'mon now, everyone knows it to be the truth) Carrie Bercic.

If you haven't read Ms. Bercic's commentary in The Straight, you oughta do so now. Ms. Bercic and her came-so-close-to-being-elected OneCity Vancouver running mate, Erica Jaaf — who, together, were the dynamic duo among the 19 candidates for Vancouver School Board — ran on an activist platform of neighbourhood school preservation (where the NPA wanted to close 11 Vancouver schools this past term, as per a recommendation from VSB staff, which thankfully didn't pass given last November's Supreme Court of Canada ruling re-instating the 2001 BCTF collective agreement torn up by ex-Premier and former B.C. Liberal [mis]-Education Minister Christy Clark) — because neighbourhood schools are the heart of a vibrant, diverse, inclusive, healthy & well-educated community.

Carrie Bercic: working with provincial Minister for Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Shane Simpson, and his absolutely outstanding 'can do' Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction, Mable Elmore, to ensure that no child goes to school hungry. Check. Working with provincial Minister of Education Rob Fleming to ensure that Vancouver schools requiring seismic upgrading or replacement occurs (much) sooner than later. Check.

Restoration of the all-important VSB band & strings programmes. Check.

Working collaboratively with her fellow Board of Education trustees to ensure that the Vancouver School Board integrates community input and representation in decisions taken by the Board, ensuring that the voices of LGBTQ2S folks, cultural communities, urban Indigenous peoples, those with disabilities, women, people living in poverty, and other marginalized communities are heard loud and clear, while working to end social, political, and economic injustice, and ensuring that when new School Board initiatives are in their nascent planning phase the communities most affected by decisions taken at the Board table will be heard, while ensuring that parents and students and the community-at-large have the power to impact on how those decisions are made, and finally implemented. Check.

Vancouver voters got one thing very right on October 14th: 10.99% of Vancouver's most engaged political citizenry heard Carrie Bercic's clarion message of inclusivity, public education advocacy, reconciliation with our First Nations peoples (and our students enrolled in the Vancouver school system) to ensure the academic and social success of our indigenous students, and her commitment to ensuring the safety and preservation of our neighbourhood schools loud and clear, and on Saturday, October 14th cast their ballot for their advocate at the School Board table.

Congratulations to all those engaged citizens of conscience who cast a ballot for Carrie Bercic, and congratulations to Carrie Bercic herself for a hard-fought, well-deserved victory at the polls this past Saturday night.

Part Two of VanRamblings' 'by-election wrap-up' may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:19 PM | Permalink | 2017 By-Election

October 13, 2017

2017 Vancouver By-Election: Christy Clark's Revenge

Vancouver's Worst Nightmare: NPA Sweeps to Massive Victory

PART ONE: VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL

For the very, very few of you out there who give a tinker's damn about the outcome of Vancouver's 2017 City Council / School Board by-election, the results of which will be broadcast late on Saturday evening, October 14th: the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) will sweep to a massive victory, both at Council — where Hector Bremner will ascend to Vancouver City Council — and at the Vancouver School Board, where NPA candidates Fraser Ballantyne, Lisa Dominato, Julian Prieto, Christopher Richardson and Rob McDowell will find themselves celebrating long, long, long into the wee and early morning hours of Sunday, October 15th.

Why is that, you ask? Well, dear and cherished VanRamblings reader ...

  • The NPA were the only functioning political entity in the 2017 Vancouver by-election with a well-organized political machine. Which is to say, the NPA campaign was well-funded (much better funded than any other campaign), conducted daily burmashaves — you know, where candidates stand along the street or at the entrance or exit to bridges or viaducts madly waving signs for their candidature, employed an effective door knocking campaign in the polling areas where they secured more than 50% of the vote in the 2014 municipal election (read: Arbutus Ridge, Yaletown, Dunbar, West Point Grey, Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale — the only neighbourhoods where the NPA did at all well, and where voters got out in droves to protect their class interests and cast a ballot for NPA candidates), and drove a well-funded social media and expensive advertising campaign to help ensure their victory on October 14th.

  • Most of the by-election candidates / campaigns were downright verklempt at the probability of an overwhelming NPA victory come Saturday evening, but none more so than the woebegone folks associated with the Vision Vancouver campaign, who found at the door that the 2017 Vancouver city by-election (and this tragically applies to School Board, as well) has emerged as a referendum on the administration of Gregor Robertson. Turns out the right and the left have proven effective at the demonization of the Mayor and his Vision Vancouver party — reasonably, on Saturday night, voters can expect 7% to 10% support for sacrificial lamb Vision Vancouver candidate, Diego Cardona. Anger. There's nothing like it as a motivating force.

  • Underfunded, untargeted campaigns by Vision Vancouver, OneCity, COPE and the Greens. The good folks at One City Vancouver have a great candidate for Council in homeless advocate Judy Graves, and two of the strongest candidates for School Board in the spectacularly grounded and bright (not to mention, informed) Carrie Bercic and Erica Jaaf — but who among the electorate knows who they are? Not many. OneCity has a tough road to hoe in electing candidates given that they have no elected presence at the municipal level. The Greens are in somewhat better shape, but apart from former VSB trustee Janet Fraser — who will secure support at the polls from both the right and the left, and could very well emerge as the top vote-getter for School Board come Saturday night — the prospects for the Greens are dire.

  • A dastardly, disreputable bullying campaign of disinformation by the NPA would seem to have played right into the "throw the bums out" mood of the electorate, and as such will ensure their victory on Saturday night. And let's not forget, either, the red hot anger of the provincial Liberals for both Vision Vancouver and the Vancouver electorate in leading the charge against the Christy Clark government. Not for no reason has Hector Bremner — longtime executive assistant to current BC Liberal party interim leader, Rich Coleman — emerged as the NPA candidate. If you harbour any illusion whatsoever that the NPA is not the BC Liberal farm team, Mr. Bremner's candidacy ought to give paid to that notion.

    Make no mistake, this is a payback election, Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberal party's revenge on the Vancouver electorate for turfing them from power in Victoria, a feeling that is only exacerbated by John Horgan choosing Geoff Meggs as his Chief of Staff. Why it is that Vancouverites — who overwhelmingly voted for the progressive forces of the NDP in May's provincial election — would allow the B.C. Liberal farm team to assume power at School Board, and elect a B.C. Liberal apparatchik at City Council beggars belief, but it's going to happen. C'est la vie.

All of the above said, the 2017 Vancouver City Council by-election result carries little weight politically, given that whoever is elected to Council on Saturday night to fill the vacancy created when Vision Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs resigned his seat to take on the job as Chief of Staff to Premier John Horgan will not affect the majority that Vision Vancouver will continue to hold municipally — Vision Vancouver, whatever the outcome, will continue as the majority party at City Hall, with six of eleven decisive votes (including that of the Mayor) at Vancouver City Council.

August 31, 2017 Justason Research poll on Vancouver City Council by-election

The success of the respective campaigns in the 2017 Vancouver by-election (this applies both to Council and School Board) will occur as a function of voter turnout. The Justason Research poll above — even if it is a month and a half out of date — could in fact be right ... if, and only if, voters supporting the Greens' entirely tremendous Pete Fry, or OneCity's Judy Graves, or Jean Swanson's invigorating, well-organized grassroots and near revolutionary community-based campaign for Council turn out in droves.

Sad to say, in this era of Trumpian dysfunction, and an 'enemy of their own class interests' anomie among the voting populace that almost beggars belief (honestly, it's as if we're living in some perverse, latter day version of Orwell's 1984) voter suppression would seem to be the order of the day. Former Vancouver School Board Chair Patti Bacchus posited in her column in The Straight last week that we're likely to witness a 10% turnout at the polls once the votes are counted on Saturday night, while Vancouver Courier columnist Mike Klassen was telling anyone who would listen the very same thing. When the left & right agree, you know we're in trouble.

VanRamblings continues to believe that we're likely to see a 15% voter turnout — as we've suggested previously, a 7% turnout on Vancouver's eastside, with a 10% turnout in the West End and Kitsilano neighbourhood, and a 30% or better turnout in the neighbourhoods where the NPA has traditionally done very well. We, of course, hope we're wrong, and that the 20% - 25% voter turnout posited by Vancouver's City Clerk proves to be the case. But we don't think so.

VanRamblings has made our support of Jean Swanson well known, and we're pretty darned enthusiastic about Pete Fry's candidacy, as well.

The tale will be told on Saturday night.

2017 Vancouver city by-election voting day, October 14th

Make sure that you get out to vote on Saturday, if you haven't already cast your ballot at the Advance Polls that were held on October 4th and 10th at Vancouver City Hall. Wondering where to cast your ballot? Just click on this link to be taken to the Vancouver.ca webpage, which will afford you the opportunity to place your address in a box made available to you. After clicking Submit, the locations where you may cast your ballot will come up, in this most crucial of elections (aren't they all?), particularly the School Board election, where the key issue is democratic and engaged advocacy for student interests vs partisan stasis. Remember: it ain't over til it's over.

PART TWO: VANCOUVER SCHOOL BOARD

On October 14th, get out to vote in the crucial Vancouver School Board by-election

If you believe that Vision Vancouver at City Council and Vision Vancouver at School Board are one and the same thing: give your head a shake. If you believe the malarkey that it is the Vision Vancouver trustees that were the bullies at School Board, and therefore you will not cast a ballot for the Vision Vancouver candidates for School Board: give your head a shake.

There are only 8 candidates who have placed their names forward in the 2017 Vancouver School Board by-election, who have a well-rounded and informed appreciation of the advocacy role that trustees must perform while sitting as elected Board of Education trustees on the Vancouver School Board, and these persons of conscience (for whom you must vote on Saturday, if you give a good galldarn about public education) are ...

Adi Pick, running for Vancouver School Board in the 2017 Vancouver by-election

Adi Pick. 20 years of age, a graduate of Magee Secondary (where she was the valedictorian in her graduating year), currently enrolled at UBC in her fourth year of studies as an international relations student, Adi Pick emerged as the star in the Vancouver School Board by-election: incredibly bright, articulate, down-to-earth, with an informed and fundamental understanding of all of the issues on which Vancouver school trustees must adjudicate, Ms. Pick gained support across the political spectrum during the course of her candidacy, and simply outshone all other candidates at the two Vancouver School Board all-candidates meetings, with her good humour, her pointed commentary, her reasoned passion, and her unrivaled advocacy for the interests of students.

Carrie Bercic's daughter Sarah suggests you save a vote for her momSarah Bercic asks you to save a vote for her mom, Carrie, for VSB trustee

Carrie Bercic. The other shining star in the Vancouver School Board candidate firmament, Carrie Bercic is the must, must, must vote in the current VSB by-election. Carrie Bercic has attended every meeting of the Vancouver School Board since 2014. Ms. Bercic has worked with her OneCity colleague Erica Jaaf (another must, must, must vote for in the current VSB by-election) on the Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) Board (they're both on leave at the moment), has sat as Parent Advisory Chair at both General Wolfe elementary school where her daughter was enrolled, and Parent Advisory Chair at Eric Hamber, where her son Jordan was enrolled. Quite simply, there is no more down-to-earth, better informed, more articulate public education advocate who has put their name forward for a position of trustee at the Vancouver School Board than is the case with Carrie Bercic. You would be doing yourself, and the students enrolled in the Vancouver school system a big, big favour by saving a vote for Carrie Bercic when you go to the polls on Saturday, October 14th.

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Make no mistake: VanRamblings wishes for you to cast a ballot for Adi Pick, Carrie Bercic and her OneCity running mate, Erica Jaaf, COPE's Diana Day, and every cotton pickin' one of the incredibly talented, humane, community advocate, Vision Vancouver defenders of public education who have put their names forward to sit as Board of Education trustees on the Vancouver School Board. If you've not already, please read VanRamblings' initial column on the 2017 Vancouver School Board by-election.

Vision Vancouver 2017 by-election team School Board candidate team

From l - r, the entirely tremendous Vision Vancouver school board candidate 'public education advocacy' team: newcomer to electoral politics Theodora Lamb, former VSB Chair Mike Lombardi, Ken Clement, Joy Alexander and Allan Wong, each one of whom deserve your vote October 14th.

One City Vancouver and COPE Vancouver's 2017 School Board by-election candidatesFrom l - r, OneCity Vancouver's Carrie Bercic and Erica Jaaf, and COPE Vancouver's Diana Day

The eight candidates for Vancouver School Board whose photos you see above — and let's not forget Adi Pick either, who is most deserving of your vote at the polls on Saturday — are heartily endorsed by VanRamblings and constitute for any caring person who is at all concerned for Vancouver's and British Columbia's public education system, the only candidates for Vancouver School Board you should consider when casting your ballot.

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You may read Part One of the actual election results column here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:20 PM | Permalink | Vancouver

September 20, 2017

Vancouver School Board By-Election: Advocacy vs Stasis

2017 Vancouver School Board by-election candidates

In her report on governance of the Vancouver School Board submitted to the public in February of this year, Vancouver-based lawyer Roslyn Goldner — who was commissioned by the then Acting VSB Superintendent, Steve Cardwell to conduct an investigation, following a complaint from the president of the BC School Superintendents Association respecting allegations of a toxic VSB administrative work environment, and the alleged harassment and bullying of administrative staff by trustees — Ms. Goldner identified the core issue at the heart of democratic school board governance, and the upcoming October 14th Vancouver VSB by-election.

"VSB Trustees hold differing views as to their role. Trustees have espoused either an advocacy model (ed. note: Vision Vancouver) in which they define the role as representing the views of their constituents in the District, or a stewardship model (ed. note: the Non-Partisan Association) which more closely aligns with the view of the British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA)."

When — what is bound to be a too small contingent of — voters go to the polls on October 14th to elect a new 9-member team of Vancouver School Board trustees, the issue of advocacy vs (an unthinking) maintenance of the (too often corrupt, and anti-democratic) status quo will, should and must be at the centre of voters' thinking when they cast their VSB ballot.

Vancouver Non-Partisan School Board Candidates Hypocritical Anti-Bullying Pledge

Almost the entire stand pat ("we're the provincial Liberal farm team and we sure as heck intend to give the BC NDP government in Victoria the gears") platform of the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association School Board candidates revolves around the hypocritical notion of an anti-bullying policy they intend to ensure is enacted by outgoing, Liberal government-appointed VSB trustee Dianne Turner (who was anti-democratically appointed as the sole VSB trustee last October when the then VSB Board of Education trustees were fired by Minister of Education, Mike Bernier) and new, incoming VSB Board of Education trustees. Note: Ms. Turner was recently appointed to a one-year term as 'special advisor' to the Vancouver School Board, by current BC NDP Minister of Education, Rob Fleming.

Why hypocritical? Although there was no reference made by Ms. Goldner in her report respecting the egregious and untoward conduct of the then sitting NPA Board of Education trustees, VanRamblings was present for all of the main Board meetings of the Vancouver School Board, from December 2014 through September 2016 — and we are here to report that it was the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association Board of Education trustees who consistently engaged in bullying conduct toward their colleagues, and not (read: not) either Green Party Board of Education trustee Janet Fraser, or any (any) of the elected Vision Vancouver Board of Education trustees.

Vancouver Non-Partisan School Board trustees Stacy Robertson and Fraser Ballantyne act out

In the last term, although matters commenced well in late 2014, by March 2015 the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Board of Education trustees became so incensed at the Vision Vancouver trustees' parent and student advocacy that the conduct around the VSB table became so heavily pro-Peter Fassbender (then, the BC Liberal government Minister of Education) — who, in the estimation of the NPA trustees could do no wrong (ardent NPA support for then Premier Christy Clark was equally vocal) — that reasonable discussion at the VSB table became all but impossible.

Although VanRamblings believes current NPA school board candidates Rob McDowell and Christopher Richardson to be men of honour and integrity (we possess immense respect for both gentlemen), and although we have heard nothing but positive commentary on NPA School Board candidate Lisa Dominato — the well-respected Ministry of Education Director of Integrated Services and Safe Schools in the recent provincial Liberal government — and we are impressed with the well-spoken, articulate and very bright Julian Prieto — graduate of the University of Toronto / University of Oxford — and believe that each one of these fine individuals has a contribution to make, let there be no mistake, the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) School Board candidate team constitute an arm of the B.C. provincial Liberal party, whatever their otherwise good intentions.

British Columbians residing in the urban areas of our province, and in Vancouver in particular, elected a progressive, education-friendly BC NDP government on May 9, 2017. What does that mean for public education?

VanRamblings believes that the electorate wishes to give our new provincial government the opportunity to implement 'change for the better' in our too long beleaguered education system — an expedited plan for the seismic upgrading / replacement of older schools, an expedited plan for new school construction, better and more consistent funding of education, support for adult basic education, programmes and substantial monies directed toward the education of First Nations students (note: for 16 years, the BC Liberal government took $58.3 million dollars of funding out of the Vancouver School Board budget each year, which circumstance changed only with the ruling of the Supreme Court last November) — and so much more.

The very last thing parents with students enrolled in the Vancouver school system want is for Vancouver Board of Education trustees to play politics with their children's education. Parents and educators want to see the implementation of education programmes that enhance student outcomes, and seek to provide opportunity for all students enrolled in the Vancouver school system. Elect the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) School Board candidates, and we risk partisan politics trumping student interests.

Vision Vancouver 2017 by-election team School Board candidate team

From l - r, the entirely tremendous Vision Vancouver school board candidate 'public education advocacy' team: newcomer to electoral politics Theodora Lamb, former VSB Chair Mike Lombardi, Ken Clement, Joy Alexander and Allan Wong, each one of whom deserve your vote October 14th.

Make no mistake, it was the Vision Vancouver Board of Education trustees who were the only Vancouver School Board trustees in the last term and in the previous two terms who advocated for the interests of students, who fought against the closure of Vancouver schools (and thank God for that, given the current shortage of classrooms resultant from last November's Supreme Court ruling), who advocated for funding for: aboriginal education, adult basic education, preservation of elementary school band programmes, maintenance of staff for each of the VSB LGBT, anti-racism and anti-homophobia mentor positions, and fought long and hard not to kowtow to the anti-education government of former Premier Christy Clark, and her partisan Education Ministers Peter Fassbender and Mike Bernier.

In the last term, the NPA Board of Education trustees fought against all 'non-core' programmes, and simply rolled over when it came time to implement and pass a budget that would for the 15th consecutive year take tens of millions of dollars out of the Vancouver school system. Bad enough that an entire generation of students enrolled in the Vancouver school system were not given access to English as Second Language, learning disability, speech language pathologist, and library teachers. Worse still: that the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association members of the Vancouver School Board acted as apologists for a government that was only too ready to increase funding for private school education from $66 million annually to $354 million, all at the expense of the funding of public education.

One City Vancouver and COPE Vancouver's 2017 School Board by-election candidatesFrom l - r, OneCity Vancouver's Carrie Bercic and Erica Jaaf, and COPE Vancouver's Diana Day

OneCity's Carrie Bercic and Erica Jaaf, and COPE Vancouver's Diana Day are three more must-elects running for a position on the Vancouver School Board, each one of them well-experienced public education advocates. Carrie attended every Vancouver School Board meeting in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and along with her longstanding Parent Advocacy Network 'public education advocate' colleague, Erica Jaaf, have emerged in recent years as two of the strongest public education advocacy voices in British Columbia.

Diana Day, an Indigenous First Nations from the Oneida Nation, graduated with an Honours B.A. in Psychology from the University of Windsor, and has worked as a leader in Aboriginal health, public education and community engagement over the past decade, and sits as Chair of the Vancouver Technical Secondary Schools' Parent Advisory Council (PAC), where her daughter Angeline is currently enrolled as a Grade 12 honours student.

"I have had the privilege of working alongside Diana Day in her capacity as executive on the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council and want to ask you to save a vote for her as a COPE Vancouver School Board by-election candidate. Ms. Day is a skilled facilitator with a passion for equity and looking out for our most vulnerable students and families. She brings a warmth and humour to her position while being firm, clear and focused. Diana Day is an effective advocate and an empathetic listener and will make an excellent Trustee."
Claudia Ferris, Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) Media Coordinator

The single most frequent issue to come before the Vancouver School Board? Aboriginal education. Funding, resources, preservation or expansion of existing programmes for First Nations students enrolled in the Vancouver school system, liaison with the federal and provincial governments, First Nations student achievement (that while improving continues to be regrettably and woefully low), and protection of the interests of indigenous children enrolled in Vancouver's school system, among a myriad of other concerns and interests. There is no more passionate and informed advocate of and voice for First Nations students than Diana Day — a vote for COPE Vancouver's Diana Day on October 14th is an absolute imperative.

All of us need to hear Diana's voice at the Vancouver School Board table.

Vancouver School Board 2017 By-Election All-Candidates Meetings

Update: Gleaned from former Chair of the Vancouver School Board Patti Bacchus' latest public education column in The Straight, "Voters will get a couple of chances to hear candidates talk more about their promises and plans at a couple of upcoming candidate forums.

The first VSB by-election candidate meeting will be held by the Institute for Public Education, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 2nd at the Trout Lake Community Centre.

The second VSB candidate meeting is set to be held at 6:30 p.m. the following evening, October 3rd, and it's being held by the Vancouver District Parents' Advisory Council, at John Oliver secondary school.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:44 AM | Permalink | 2017 By-Election

September 15, 2017

Vancouver Civic By-Election: October 14th. Get Out to Vote!

2017 Vancouver city council and school board by-election candidates

From top left: COPE School Board candidate Diana Day, Vision Vancouver Council candidate Diego Cardona and OneCity Council candidate Judy Graves, Green Party school board candidates Dr. Judy Zaichkowsky, Estrellita Gonzalez and Janet Fraser, bottom left, independent (who has been endorsed by COPE) Council candidate Jean Swanson, and in the next frame OneCity school board candidates Carrie Bercic and Erica Jaaf (both of whom deserve your vote), with NPA candidate for Council Hector Bremner below them, bottom right, Vancouver Green Party candidate for Council, Pete Fry.

Vision Vancouver 2017 by-election team of School Board candidatesFrom l - r, the Vision Vancouver school board candidate team (standing with Mayor Gregor Robertson, pictured in the middle): Mike Lombardi, newcomer to electoral politics Theodora Lamb, Joy Alexander, Allan Wong and Ken Clement, each one of whom deserve your vote on October 14th.

On October 14th, Vancouver residents go to the polls in a city by-election to vote for a City Council candidate to replace Geoff Meggs, who resigned his seat on Council to become Premier John Horgan's Chief of Staff.

In addition, voters will be given the opportunity to elect nine trustees to the Vancouver School Board (VSB), the former members of which were fired by the BC Liberal government last October 17th, allegedly for failing to pass a budget for the school year — which wrongheaded Liberal government decision was more about morbid, corrupt and anti-democratic politics as practiced by the Christy Clark government of the day, and much less to do with any sort of wrongdoing on the part of the then VSB school trustees.

Today, VanRamblings will offer a cursory look at the candidates for Vancouver City Council, with reflective commentary on their prospects.

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In the main, the fight for a seat on Vancouver City Council is in its essence a three-way fight between Vancouver Non-Partisan Association candidate Hector Bremner, a former executive assistant to current interim provincial Liberal party leader Rich Coleman; Pete Fry, a veteran community activist and the Jane Jacobs-like 'slow growth', neighbourhood-centred 'city building' Vancouver Green Party candidate, whose ascension to Council would provide the current Green Party member of Council, Adriane Carr, a needed seconder for the motions she places before Vancouver City Council; and in a neck-and neck race for the vacant Council seat, Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson, the principled candidate of substantive and meaningful change whose clarion voice we very much need on Council.

Longtime homeless advocate Judy Graves is the OneCity candidate for the vacant Council seat, while 21-year-old Diego Cardona was appointed as the Vision Vancouver candidate to challenge for the current vacant seat on Council. Although both Ms. Graves and Mr. Cardona are fine people, truth to tell there's a scathing and vicious takedown / whisper campaign (about which we may or not write about another day) that is being waged against both Ms. Graves and Mr. Cardona that makes it all but impossible for either candidate to secure enough of the 'up for grabs' vote for either candidate to be considered serious contenders for vacant Council seat. Alas ...

Hector Bremner, Vancouver Non-Partisan Association candidate for Vancouver City Council

As Charlie Smith recently wrote in the Georgia Straight, Vancouver Non-Partisan candidate for Council Hector Bremner (pictured above) is the candidate to beat in the upcoming October 14th by-election vote. Why?

Well, in addition to what Charlie has written, Mr. Bremner (or as he's more popularly known among his NPA confrères, the 'parachute candidate') has the full weight of the provincial Liberal party behind him (from October 2014 to December 2015, Mr. Bremner was Executive Assistant to provincial Liberal minister and current interim party leader Rich Coleman, responsible for natural gas development).

Now, Mr. Bremner's LinkedIn profile reports that Mr. Bremner was also responsible for housing (Mr. Coleman was the housing minister in the previous government), but sources tells VanRamblings that simply isn't the case and Mr. Bremner was focused solely on the LNG file.

According to other sources within the NPA, in support of Mr. Bremner the provincial Liberals have supplied to the NPA their entire list of 'marks' (Vancouver-based provincial Liberal supporters), which data when combined with the NPA 'marks' from the 2014 Vancouver municipal election (people who put up signs, donated monies, volunteered and otherwise indicated strong support for the NPA) provides Mr. Bremner with a reliable list of strong NPA supporters on which his campaign might laser focus their resources and attention, each vote from whom Mr. Bremner intends to get out to either the advance polls, or on voting day, October 14th.

And in their class interest (which is to say, not yours and my interests) those supporters are numerous, well-heeled and actually get out to vote.

That the core NPA / provincial Liberal vote resides in Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy, West Point Grey, Dunbar and Yaletown — in which neighbourhoods there was up to a 74% turnout of voters, with up to 74% of the vote going to the NPA in 2014 in these neighbourhoods — whereas in areas like Grandview-Woodlands the turnout was only 20% of eligible voters, with only 13% of the vote going to the NPA (Vision Vancouver secured 67.9% of the vote in this eastside neighbourhood) — means that the NPA has pretty much written off voters in 18 of Vancouver's 24 neighbourhoods as they mount their 2017 by-election campaign, although they will dedicate resources to polling 'stations' in the 18 neighbourhoods across the city where they did well in 2014's Vancouver municipal election.

As Tyler Michaels, by-election campaign manager for OneCity reminded VanRamblings last evening, historically only 33% of residents voting in a general municipal election turn out to vote in a by-election (a record 43.4% of eligible voters in Vancouver turned out to the polls in 2014), which means that all parties putting candidates forward in the 2017 Vancouver by-election expect only a 14% turnout at the polls on October 14th.

Hector Bremner and the NPA are focusing solely on their key constituent neighbourhoods, where they expect an up to 25% turnout, as opposed to 7% - 17% in all other Vancouver neighbourhoods. In 2017, prospects for an electoral victory are a numbers game, and sad to say success augurs well for the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association, the BC Liberal farm team.

Pete Fry, Vancouver Green Party by-election candidate for Vancouver City Council

The Green Party of Vancouver's Pete Fry has the highest profile of any of the candidates vying for a seat on Council in the 2017 by-election. As a provincial Green Party by-election candidate in February 2016 and a 2014 Vancouver municipal Green Party candidate, Pete Fry is a known quantity, and a popular and well-respected Vancouver politico, with broad support in neighbourhoods across the city, as well as the only 'city building' candidate: green-friendly low-form development in neighbourhoods, green-friendly at-grade transit development, and as Pete has written about his core issues ...

"housing affordability, income disparity, the Downtown Eastside, homelessness, communities under threat, red tape and a de-spirited micro-managed City Hall staff, short term rentals, bogus planning processes — and of course, that soft spot for corruption: the overt financial influence that the real estate industry has over the two big developer parties that run our city, and a commitment to a fairer and more equitable city where all Vancouver citizens might thrive."

Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr needs a seconder for her motions on Council; Pete is that seconder. Pete is a great communicator of untold resonance and empathy, and as a lifelong grassroots community organizer has committed to responding to the calls and correspondence from every constituent who contacts his office (as COPE Councillor Tim Louis did for years), has committed to working with the vibrant and responsive Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (with representation from all 23 neighbourhoods in Vancouver), while working with community centre, neighbourhood, resident and advocacy associations that span the breadth of our too often beleaguered pacific paradise by the tranquil ocean.

The secret to Pete's success? You. Vote for Pete Fry on October 14th.

Jean Swanson, independent 2017 by-election candidate for Vancouver City Council

To paraphrase late U.S. senator Ted Kennedy in his eulogy for his brother Bobby, "Some women see things as they are and say why? Jean Swanson dreams things that never were and says why not?" Or as Hillary Clinton averred in her 1971 commencement address at Wellesley, "Some see politics as the art of the possible. I see politics as the art of achieving the impossible. And those are the things I very much intend to get done."

With broad support from progressive peoples across our city, Jean Swanson's is the candidacy that could spark real and palpable change for the vast majority of citizens who reside in Vancouver, with a platform that promises that ...

Early in her term, as a newly elected Councillor to Vancouver City Council, Jean Swanson will submit a motion to Council to ...

  • Officially adopt the position that Vancouver City Council will work to ensure the implementation of a 0% rent increase for tenants over the next four years, while working with the new NDP government to ensure that rent freeze legislation will be introduced during the 2018 sitting of the BC legislature, ensuring that such legislation would prevent landlords from circumventing the Rent Freeze;

  • Grant renovation permits to landlords only if they demonstrate that any tenants forced to vacate will be provided the opportunity to return at previous rents;

  • Ensure that the city start immediate production of 2,138 units of modular housing on city owned lots, housing that would be available to singles, families and couples as temporary housing pending provincial construction of new co-operative and resident-managed social housing;

  • Hold a city-wide door-to-door voter registration for the 2018 city election, ensuring that renters, indigenous people and other racialized groups, as well as permanent residents, can vote in the next municipal election;

  • Reduce the police budget by 2%, turning the $5 million savings over to investment in community services that promote social justice;

  • Work towards implementation of a $5 a month transit pass for low-income Vancouver residents, similar to the programme successfully implemented by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi;

  • Acknowledge that 'No One is Illegal' by expanding and enhancing Vancouver's designation as a Sanctuary City by implementing city policies that would ensure that VPD officers do not report Vancouver citizens to immigration and Border Services.

You know, there was a time in the not-so-distant past when COPE City Councillor Harry Rankin was the top vote-getter, election in and election out, year after year and for decades, with his COPE cohorts Libby Davies, Bruce Eriksen and and Bruce Yorke finding themselves not only being re-elected term after term after term, but emerging as the most popular councillors at City Hall, with broad support in every neighbourhood across the city, especially in Dunbar, Point Grey and Kerrisdale, in times that were less partisan and less mean, and where each and every resident in Vancouver cared about the welfare of all citizens, and recognized theirs and our collective responsibility to care for the most vulnerable among us.

Jean Swanson's independent candidacy for Vancouver City Council is a return to the future, harkening back to a simpler and a better time, and in 2017 for all persons of conscience Jean Swanson is the only candidate for the vacant seat on Council who represents a truly revolutionary change that would mean a fairer and more just society for all, sooner rather than later.

Jean Swanson's is the compelling voice of change that you want and need to hear on Vancouver City Council. Vote for Jean Swanson October 14th.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:01 AM | Permalink | 2017 By-Election

November 24, 2014

Vancouver Park Board, 2008 - 2014: A Job Well Done. Thank you.

2014 Vancouver Park-Board Commissioners (missing: Sarah Blyth)

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 ...

Art in the Park, an initiative of the Vision Vancouver-led Park Board

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.

Langara Golf Course, Vancouver

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.

Hastings Park, on Vancouver's eastside

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.

The Vancouver Park Board's Trans and Gender-Variant Inclusion Working GroupThe Vancouver Park Board's Trans and Gender-Variant Inclusion Working Group

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.

Vancouver Park Board Local Food Action Plan

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.

Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 5:44 PM | Permalink | Park Board

November 20, 2014

John Skibinski: Taken From Us Too Soon. May He Rest in Peace

John Skibinski (1956-2014) with a friend. Passed away, Nov. 12, 2014. May he rest in peace.John Skibinski (1956-2014) with a friend. Passed away Nov. 12, 2014. May he rest in peace.

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.

Lund, British ColumbiaLund, the gateway to Desolation Sound. A view seen by John Skibinski while growing up

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).

In 1992, The Crying Game set international box office records for Vancouver's Varsity TheatreNeil Jordan's Cannes' Fipresci winner, The Crying Game. Jaye Davidson and Stephen Rea

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.

Festival Cinemas' Park Theatre, on Cambie Street at 18th Avenue, in Vancouver

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.

Emily Carr University, located on Granville Island, in the heart of VancouverEmily Carr University on Granville Island, in darkness, a memorial to the late John Skibinski

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.

Black Dog Video, on Cambie Street in Vancouver, a fine arts, and foreign film video outlet

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.

John Skibinski at a recent Vancouver International Film FestivalJohn Skibinski's Church of Cinema, at his beloved Vancouver International Film Festival

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 Skibinski, raconteur, a wit, and a lover of cinema

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 Skibinski Memorial, Thursday, November 20th, Black Dog Video, 3451 Cambie, at 18th

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:39 AM | Permalink | Vancouver

November 19, 2014

Wanted, Needed in Vancouver: A Mensch in the Political Sphere

As at the Academy Awards, in politics, acknowledging all those who supported you, is mandatory

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.

Thank you for your contribution to democracy, and for helping make ours a better city

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.

campaign-volunteers.jpg

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.

Yes: Civil Government in the City of Vancouver

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.

Elizabeth Ball, George Affleck, and Adriane Carr Working Together For The Benefit Of AllElizabeth Ball, George Affleck, and Adriane Carr Working Together For The Benefit Of All

Last evening, I received a note from newly re-elected to a third term Non-Partisan Association city councillor, Elizabeth Ball, who wrote ...

Dear Raymond,

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,

Elizabeth

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.

Amazing!

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.

Working for Our Democracy - Working for Change

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.

2005 opened a mean & confrontational era in Vancouver

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.

Wanted, Needed: Civil Discourse in Vancouver Municipal Politics

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.

Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:12 AM | Permalink | Vancouver

November 18, 2014

John Coupar: Incoming Park Board Chair, An Inauspicious Start

Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation

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.

Opposition NPA takes control of board, John Coupar To Become Next Park Board ChairJohn Coupar Wins Re-Election | Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost , PNG

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.

A whale being fed at the Vancouver Aquarium

VanRamblings posted the following to Facebook last evening ...

John Coupar announces reversal of ban on the breeding of cetaceans in captivity

[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]

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

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".

Ainslie Kwan, president of the Killarney Community Centre Society, will be in court ThursdayAinslie Kwan, President, Killarney Community Centre Society, in Supreme Court Thursday

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 7:57 AM | Permalink | Park Board

November 16, 2014

Decision 2014, The Aftermath: A Permanent, Dystopian Nightmare

With Vision Vancouver In Power, Vancouver Will Be Transformed Into A Dystopia

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.

A Much-Reduced In Size Tower Development at Broadway and Commercial DriveThe 'reduced' Commercial & Broadway 'plan', to get MUCH 'towier' with Vision back in power

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."

NEIGHBOURHOOD FRIENDLY RE-DEVELOPMENT OFOAKRIDGE CENTRE?Progress? Neighbourhood friendly? 11 'tower centres' planned for the Broadway Corridor

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.

Alert, people of Vancouver. There is no Batman who will save us from Vision Vancouver.Alert, people of Vancouver! Batman will not come to rescue us from Vision Vancouver

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.

The dystopian future with Vision Vancouver elected to a third term in powerLEAVE NOW: The dystopian future with Vision Vancouver elected to a third term in power

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 8:09 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 14, 2014

Decision 2014: Vancouver City Council Endorsements Rationale

VanRamblings' Vancouver Park Board Endorsements may be found here.

VanRamblings' Vancouver School Board Endorsements may be found here.

Forty-eight candidates are vying for a seat around the Council table at Vancouver City Hall

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.

vision-no.jpgSign idea by Outdoor Pools advocate Margery Duda - sign construction by Andrew Schmitz

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.

Laura Miller, Executive Director of the BC Liberal Party
BC Liberal Party Exec. Dir. Laura Miller tweets out about a night out with Vision Vancouver

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.

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VanRamblings Enthusiastically Endorses Kirk LaPointe for Mayor
Kirk LaPointe, VanRamblings' Choice for Mayor of Vancouver

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.

VanRamblings' 2014 Vancouver Civic Election City Council Endorsements
VanRamblings' 2014 Vancouver City Council Endorsements

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George Affleck, Vancouver City CouncillorAlong 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, Vancouver City Councillor 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.

Adriane Carr, Vancouver City CouncillorIf 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.

Vancouver Cedar Party, Nicholas Chernen, Candidate for Vancouver City CouncilNicholas 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.

Melissa De Genova, candidate for Vancouver City CouncilOver 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.

Vote Pete Fry, your candidate for Vancouver City CouncilThe 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.

Vote for Tim Louis, candidate for Vancouver City CouncilTim 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.

Ken Low, candidate for Vancouver City CouncilInvolved 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.

Vote for Rob McDowell, candidate for Vancouver City CouncilRob 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, candidate for Vancouver City CouncilIan 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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:00 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 13, 2014

Decision 2014: Vancouver School Board Endorsements Rationale

VanRamblings' Vancouver Park Board Endorsements may be found here.

VanRamblings' Vancouver City Council Endorsements may be found here.

Vision Vancouver School Trustees - Staunch Defenders of Public Education

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.

Non-Partisan Association Dines Out on Vision Vancouver "Refusal" To Accept Donation

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!"

Vancouver School Board - Justice Not Charity, as Board "Refuses" Corporate Donation

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.

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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.

All of Us Owe A Debt of Gratitude to the Patti Bacchus-led Vision Vancouver School Board

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.

NPA 2014 School Board Candidates: Christopher Richardsonson, Sandy Sharma, Fraser BallantyneNPA' School Board candidates Christopher Richardson, Sandy Sharma, and Fraser Ballantyne

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.

Vancouver School Board Chairperson Patti Bacchus, Speaking with the Media

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.

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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
Gwen Giesbrecht and Jane Bouey, Public Education Project candidates for Vancouver School Board

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.

Gwen Giesbrecht, Public Education Project candidate for Vancouver School Board

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.

Having voted a Vancouver citizen returns home in the rain

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.

NPA candidates for School Board stand with Kirk LaPointe

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."

2014 NPA School Board Candidate, Sandy Sharma

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.]

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

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!

2014 Mayoral Debate, at SFU Harbour Centre

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?

Probably not.

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."

Vision Vancouver School Board Chairperson Patti Bacchus, and NPA School Board candidate, Christopher Richardson, at the Pride FestivalPatti Bacchus and NPA School Board candidate, Christopher Richardson, at Pride 2014

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.


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Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 9:22 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 12, 2014

Decision 2014: Vancouver Park Board Endorsements Rationale

VanRamblings' Vancouver City Council Endorsements may be found here.

VanRamblings' Vancouver School Board Endorsements may be found here.

Vancouver's Parks System, Abandoned by Vision Vancouver

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.

Stuart Mackinnon, a 2014 Must-Elect for Vancouver Park BoardStuart Mackinnon, a MUST-ELECT Green Party of Vancouver candidate for Park Board

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, An Outstanding Candidate for Vancouver Park Board in 2014

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.

Mount Pleasant Park, Where Erin Shum is Committed to Building Oudoor PoolMount Pleasant Park, where Erin Shum is committed to seeing a new outdoor pool built

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.

Anita Romaniuk, Casey Crawford and Michael Wiebe, MUST-ELECT candidates for Park BoardPark Board MUST-ELECTS: Anita Romaniuk, Casey Crawford, and Michael Wiebe

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: An Advocate for the Soccer, Baseball and More, And Fixing Playing Fields

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!

VanRamblings' 2014 Vancouver Civic Election Park Board Endorsements

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.

Kitsilano Park Board All-Party Candidates Meeting, Nov. 3, 2014 | Video by Elvira Lount

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.


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Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:14 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 11, 2014

Decision 2014: Park Board Endorsements Rationale, John Coupar

VanRamblings' 2014 Vancouver Civic Election Park Board Endorsements

[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.]

Vancouver Park Board office, on Beach Avenue north-west of English Bay

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.

John Coupar - hopefully, Vancouver Park Board's next ChairpersonJohn Coupar, NPA Park Board Commissioner | Photo credit: Dan Toulgoet, The Courier

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.

John Coupar, Vancouver Park Board Commissioner, a panoramic landscape in the background

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.

A bridge to a better tomorrow with a John Coupar-led Vancouver Park Board
A bridge to a better tomorrow with a John Coupar-led Vancouver Park Board

Part 2 of VanRamblings' Vancouver Park Board Endorsements List Rationale will appear Wednesday morning.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 7:05 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 10, 2014

Decision 2014: Vancouver Civic Election Candidate Endorsement

VanRamblings' 2014 Vancouver Civic Election Candidate Endorsement List

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.

A panorama shot of Burrard Inlet, how Vancouver was transformed from the 1970s til 20141970 - 2014. Highrises are not progress: put an end to the tower transformation of our city.

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.

Vancouver Civic Election: Please Get Out & Vote

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.

Remembrance Day

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:36 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 8, 2014

Decision 2014: A Primer on Civic Politics in Vancouver, Part 2

Vote in the 2014 Vancouver Municipal Election

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 Vancouver City Council

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.

2014 NPA Slate of Candidates for Office in the Vancouver Municipal Election

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.

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Vision Vancouver, founded 2005Geoff Olson's editorial cartoon in the Vancouver Courier, on Gregor Robertson and Vision VancouverVancouver Courier: Geoff Olson's editorial cartoon in the November 6th edition of the paper

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.

Life in Vancouver Under Vision Vancouver An Orwellian Nightmare

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Green Party of Vancouver, founded 1984Green Party of Vancouver - A Better Vancouver, Together. With Your Help.

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.

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The Vancouver Cedar Party, founded 2013Nicholas and his brother Glen, Vancouver Cedar Party Candidates for City CouncilBrothers Nicholas and Glen Chernen, Vancouver Cedar Party candidates for Council

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.

Is There Moral, Financial and Ethical Corruption at Vancouver City Hall?

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.

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One City Vancouver, founded 2014One City Vancouver

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.

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vancouver-1st.jpg

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'.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:50 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 6, 2014

Decision 2014: A Primer on Civic Politics in Vancouver, Part 1

VanRamblings Goes Inside Vancouver Politics - An Exploration of the City's Political Parties

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.

City Councillor George Affleck performing the duties of office, in the Council chambers, at City HallCity Councillor George Affleck performing his Council chamber duties at Vancouver City Hall

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.

In 2014, Many Vancouver Voters Are Confused About What the Political Parties Stand For

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.

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Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), founded 1968Coalition of Progressive Electors' (COPE) 2014 Slate of CandidatesThe 2014 Coalition of Progressive Electors' (COPE) slate of candidates seeking office

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.

Larry Campbell Drives a Wedge Through COPE, Almost Destroying The Party

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).

In 2012, Vancouver's Coalition of Progressive Electors returned to its social justice roots

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.

COPE slate of candidates for Council in the 2014 Vancouver Municipal ElectionCoalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) 2014 slate for Mayor, and Council candidates

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.

The Coalition of Progressive Electors Commits to a $15-an-hour Minimum Wage in Vancouver

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.

Coalition of Progressive Electors 2014 Vancouver Civic Election Slate of Candidates

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.

Robert F. Kennedy On The Campaign Trail To Become President of The United States

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 7:56 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 5, 2014

Decision 2014: Endorsements Aplenty, But None for Vision

2014 Vancouver Municipal Election

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.

Neighbourhoods for Sustainable Development 2014 Vancouver Civic Election Endorsement List

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.

Grandview-Woodland's Jak King Endorses Candidates in the 2014 Vancouver Civic Election

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.

Grandview-Woodland's Jak King Endorses Council Candidates 2014's Vancouver Civic Election
Jak King's well-thought-out choices for Vancouver City Council, in 2014

Vancouver's Holy Trinity of City Council candidates: Ian Robertson, Rob McDowell and Tim LouisVancouver's Holy Trinity of Council candidates: Ian Robertson, Rob McDowell and Tim Louis

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.

Green Party of Vancouver Candidates - The Must-Elects in 2014Green Party of Vancouver candidates - the must-elects in 2014's Vancouver civic election

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 9:21 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 4, 2014

Grandview-Woodland: Inside Story of a Botched Community Plan

Ned Jacobs: Inside Story of a Botched Community Plan

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."

Ned Jacobs: Inside Story of a Botched Community PlanClick here for the unexpurgated text of Ned Jacobs' Open Letter to the citizens of 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.

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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 ...


Read More...
Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:48 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 3, 2014

Decision 2014: Vision Vancouver Has NOT Earned Your Support

Boko Haram kidnaps 200 Nigerian schoolgirls

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.

Vision Vancouver: Cruel, failed promise to end homelessness in VancouverVision Vancouver's cruel, utterly failed promise to end street homelessness in Vancouver

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.

Vancouver Civic Election Voting Day Nov. 15th - Advance Polls Open Tuesday, Nov. 4th

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.

Vision Vancouver Has Failed Every Neighbourhood in the City

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:52 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

November 1, 2014

Decision 2014: Election Debates, Where To Be Sunday and Monday

Last Candidate Standing, 2 til 5pm, SFU Goldcorp, 149 W. HastingsLast Candidate Standing | Sunday, Nov. 2nd | 149 W. Hastings, SFU GoldCorp Centre | 2 til 5pm

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!

Lauren Gill wins 2011 Last Candidate Standing Vancouver Civic Election Debate

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Park Board Candidate Debate, Monday, Nov. 3rd, at the Billy Bishop Legion, 7:30 til 9:30pm

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.

DO NOT re-elect Vision Vancouver to Park Board in 2014

Photos of Saturday afternoon's Kitsilano Beach Tarp Event available here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 8:43 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 31, 2014

Decision 2014: Vision Vancouver in a Breach of Its Fiduciary Duty?

Schlenker v. Torgrimson, BC Court of Appeals, 2013 - Councillor Conflict of Interest

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 ...

[1] 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]"?

[5] The penalty for conflict is disqualification until the next election.

[6] I would allow the appeal and declare that the respondents violated the Community Charter.

CityHallWatch has published a backgrounder on the case, with a link to a Fulton and Company LLP three-page summary of Schlenker v. Torgrimson.

Lawyer Jonathan Baker and Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr, advice on a matter of lawJonathan Baker advising Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr on a matter of the law

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.

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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.

Mea Culpa

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:38 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 30, 2014

Decision 2014: Politics and Class Warfare in Vancouver, Part 2

Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson Denies Allegations of Corruption

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.

2013 British Columbia Provincial Election Vancouver Voter Map2013 Vancouver provincial election vote distribution across the 11 ridings in the city

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.

2011 Mayoralty Race Vancouver Voting MapThe green areas on the map is where the NPA will need to make significant in-roads in 2014

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?

Canadian Union of Public Employees, CUPE BC

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.

Vision Vancouver Campaign Gala Fundraiser, October 29, 2014, List of AttendeesPhoto courtesy of Vancouver Courier, and freelance, journalist Bob Mackin

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Vote Kirk LaPointe and the entire NPA team, in Vancouver 2014's municipal election

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.

Geoff Olson editorial cartoon in the Vancouver CourierEditorial cartoon by Geoff Olson, in the Oct. 28, 2014 edition of the Vancouver Courier

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.

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The link to Part I of Politics and Class Warfare may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 5:56 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 27, 2014

Decision 2014: Politics and Class Warfare in Vancouver, Part 1

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.

2007 Vancouver civic strike

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."

CUPE works to get Vision Vancouver re-elected

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-4-workers

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.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson grilled on union at debate

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.

Anarcho-syndicalist flag

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.

Vision Vancouver rejects neo-liberal economic notion of the race to the bottom

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.

Class Warfare in Vancouver, Workers' Interests a Concern of Vision Vancouver

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).

Vancouver advance vote polls open on November 4th. Election Day, November 15th

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:23 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 25, 2014

Decision 2014: New ideas, candidates, are good for democracy

The Province: New ideas, candidates, are good for democracy

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 gclark@theprovince.com. Letters to the editor, specifically on the editorial above, can be sent to provletters@theprovince.com.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:42 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 21, 2014

A Brief History of Vancouver's Affordable Housing Movement

Housing Co-ops: The Solution to Vancouver's Affordable Housing Crisis

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.

Co-operative Housing equals Affordable Housing for All

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.

Two housing co-ops located on the south shore of Vancouver's False CreekPhase 2 housing co-ops: co-operative housing built along the south shore of False Creek

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.

Co-op Housing: The Non-Market Solution to Vancouver's Affordable Housing Crisis

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.

Housing Co-operatives = Housing for 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.

Co-operative Housing Built By Bosa Development as a Community Amenity ContributionCo-operative Housing Built By Bosa Development as a Community Amenity Contribution

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.

A Collective Vision for Non-Market, Affordable Co-op Housing in Vancouver

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
Watch the human-scale, informative video on housing co-ops, above. You'll be glad you did.

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.

Jimmy Pattison Development: No Affordable Housing Component

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.

Get Out and Vote November 15th for A New Vancouver Civic Administration

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:23 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 20, 2014

Decision 2014: Vote a Vancouver Distaff Slate at the Civic Polls

In 2014, Elect All-Women Slates To Civic Office in Vancouver

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.

Meena Wong, COPE's Mayoral candidate in the 2014 Vancouver civic election

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.

In 2014, the Top Women Candidates for Vancouver City Council

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.

In 2014, Vote An All-Women Slate for Park Board

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.

In 2014, Vote An All-Women Slate for School Board

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.

A fuzzy iPhone photo of Jane Bouey and Gwen GiesbrechtFuzzy iPhone photo of Public Education Project candidates Jane Bouey and Gwen Giesbrecht

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:12 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 19, 2014

Decision 2014: Vancouver Election Debates Calendar

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:22 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 15, 2014

Decision 2014: Voting Day One Month From Now, November 15th

Vancouver Civic Election 2014, Voting Day Saturday, November 15th

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.

Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods, CityHallWatch, Jak's View

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.

Vancouver civic affairs blogs: Frances Bula, Jeff Lee, Mike Howell

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 5:32 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 6, 2014

VIFF 2014: Vancouver's Film Festival Wends Its Way To a Close

33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival

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 2014

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, Uberto Pasolini's new film starring Eddie Marsan

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.

2015 Best Foreign Language Oscar Nominees

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.

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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.

As readers may recall, an evangelical church purchased The Centre in the spring of 2013. In respect of homophobia, as reported in Xtra West ...

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.

2014 Vancouver International Film Festival Must-See Films

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:48 PM | Permalink | VIFF 2014

October 5, 2014

VIFF 2014: A Note On, and Recommendation, Re: Tinseltown

2014 Vancouver International Film Festival

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

VIFF at the International Village

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]

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instructions.jpg

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.

VIFF's faboulously wonderful Brie Koniczek
No wonder Brie's smiling: with the most beautiful baby, and wonderful husband, in the world

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:42 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2014

October 2, 2014

Emerging: Growing Consensus for Kirk LaPointe Mayoral Candidacy

Kirk LaPointe, NPA candidate for Mayor, announcing his candidacy

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.

Gregor Robertson, Meena Wong, Kirk LaPointe, candidates for Mayor of Vancouver

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.

John Tory, Doug Ford, Olivia Chow, candidates for Mayor of Toronto

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.

Saskatchewan Progressive Party pamphlet, circa 1930

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.

Will VanRamblings have to write a mea-culpa?

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:12 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 1, 2014

VIFF 2014: Best Foreign Language Oscar Contenders at Our Festival

2015 Best Foreign Language Oscar Contenders screening at VIFF 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.

Mommy (Canada)

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.

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Vancouver International Film Festival

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:45 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2014

September 29, 2014

Decision 2014: Vancouver Civic Election Mayoral Race a Dead Heat

November 15th: Heading to the polls to cast a ballot

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.

Meena Wong announcing her candidacy at COPE's September 6, 2014 Nominating Conference


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:47 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

September 27, 2014

VIFF 2014: Opening Night Gala, Film, and the Festival is Underway

Waiting for August, the Hot Doc award-winning film by Teodora Ana Mihai

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.

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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
viff-gala1.jpgFilmmakers Laurence Keane, Elvira Lount, and Sandy Wilson, with VIFF's Alan Franey

VIFF's Alan Franey and Jacqueline Dupuis, with VIFF co-founder, Leonard ScheinVIFF's Alan Franey and Jacqueline Dupuis, with VIFF co-founder, Leonard Schein

viff-gala3.jpgHey's it opening night at the 33rd annual glorious Vancouver International Film Festival

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Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:27 AM | Permalink | VIFF 2014

September 26, 2014

Back to the Future: A Brief History of Vancouver, Pre-War to Now

A photo of Vancouver in 1950

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.

Vancouver's Raymur Housing Project, 1970Vancouver's Raymur Housing Project — social housing in Vancouver, circa 1970

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.

Tom Campbell, Mayor of Vancouver, 1966 - 1972Tom 'Not So Terrific' Campbell, controversial Vancouver mayor, in office from 1966 to 1972

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.

Vancouver's West End, 1960s, pre high-rise developmentVancouver's West End neighbourhood, 1960, pre high-rise construction. Photo, Fred Herzog.

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.

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Density For Whom, and in Whose Interests?
Vancouver highrise landscape, circa 2014What our beloved city will look like in every neighbourhood, if Vision Vancouver is re-elected

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.

Stop Marpole Re-Development

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.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:29 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

   



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