Voting matters

Stay tuned if you want democracy on November 15

by Elizabeth Murphy

photo of Elizabeth Murphy• The November 15, 2014 civic election is upon us, with advance polling in Vancouver starting on November 4. This election is more important than those in the past. The election cycle has now been extended from three to four years.

This City of Vancouver election needs to be about restoring democracy through a more balanced City Council than the current majority rule under Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver. Over its last two terms, Vision has usually voted in block, often against the will of the people. In 2011, Vision only got support from 12% of eligible voters (34% of the 34% of eligible voters who voted) yet Vision used its majority to implement its agenda regardless of community opposition.

Vision’s track record has not been good for democracy. Moving away from long held practices of involving the community in the planning of their neighbourhoods they have created a quota system chosen by lottery, which they introduced in the ongoing plan for the Commercial Drive neighbourhood of Grandview. Entire neighbourhoods have been replanned without community support, such as Norquay, the West End, Downtown Eastside (Chinatown, Gastown, Strathcona) and Marpole. If Vision gets another majority, Kitsilano is next. We cannot let this happen.

Spot rezoning has now become the rule rather than the exception. Huge towers in neighbourhoods that oppose them are becoming standard practice. Recent community plans such as Mount Pleasant are ignored.

The obstacle to achieving a balanced council in this election is that there are too many alternatives to Vision which results in vote splitting. It will take careful consideration of voters before they go to the polls if there is to be a change for a more inclusive, representative and cooperative city council.

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) came together during the debate over EcoDensity policy that began in 2007. Across Vancouver, over 30 neighbourhood groups recognized serious negative implications and felt inspired to communicate with each other and to issue joint position statements. Like a previous coalition called Neighbour 2 Neighbour, NSV brought together diverse neighbourhoods that span the political spectrum.

The 2008 civic election resulted in a Vision majority due in part to the backlash against EcoDensity. Although Vision was elected on a promise to reconsider EcoDensity, that has not happened.

The effects of developer contributions to election funding continue to be a concern. Vision is the worst offender of accepting developer funding and resulting influence of decisions.

NSV’s goal is to move the City of Vancouver toward more democratic and genuinely sustainable planning. Although NSV ran candidates in 2011, in this election NSV is not running candidates because there are too many new parties and independents already splitting the opposition vote.

NSV will instead endorse a mixed slate as a Third Party Sponsor. Based on strategy and consistency with its principles and policies as posted on its website, a recommended slate will be posted as the election progresses. Keep an eye out for updates on their website.

Councillor Adriane Carr and the Green Party of Vancouver, the other Green Party candidates and COPE have endorsed the NSV principles and policies. At the time of this writing, the NPA and other parties are also in the process of responding.

Stay tuned and watch the Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver website at for updates as we get close to voting day, including advance polls on November 4.

Elizabeth Murphy is a private sector project manager and was formerly a Property Development Officer for the City of Vancouver’s Housing & Properties Department and for BC Housing.

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