Voting for Busses

The good people of the Lower Mainland are about to be asked to approve – or not – a half percent increase in provincial sales tax to fund… well, that’s kind of vague.

Some describe it as a “Congestion Tax,” some as a “Transit Tax,” and others as a “Translink Tax.”

twoballotAny way you call it, it would mean a large chunk of money going to things that, in theory, would reduce road congestion and/or improve public transit.

Allegedly. And questions abound.

Question: How come a provincial government that can fund massive bridges for cars at the drop of a hat feels that money for transit has to be cajoled out of the populace by way of a referendum?  If the Province supports public transit, why don’t they just increase the same tax on their own?

Question: If the Province doesn’t support public transit – and there’s a strong argument to be made – then will this referendum really change much?  If it passes can we be confident that the senior levels of government will actually come up with the matching funds to make things happen?

Question: If enough people vote for this referendum, will the Province finally do something to fix the insane thing that is Translink?  Will they finally allow the mayors to actually call the shots on transit?

Question: If the province won’t relinquish control of public transit, can we have any faith that the money collected by a new tax will go towards transit improvements, or should we expect it to wind up being used for yet more auto infrastructure?

Question: do our local MLAs support the “Yes” side, or the “No” side?  As far as I know only Thornthwaite has come out and actually said that she’ll vote yes.

Question: What was the thinking behind the Province’s unilateral changes to the question drafted by the Mayors, and what does this tell us about what might happen if there’s a “Yes” vote?  If the Province feels free to meddle in the question being asked, about money that will cost them nothing, why should we think they won’t continue to meddle in Translink’s affairs?

Question: What guarantee is there that the funds raised won’t be moved away from new services into refurbishing the thirty year old Skytrain system, or the four year old Compass system, or into some other money hole?

And finally, the elephant in the room: what happens of there’s a “No” vote?  It would be immensely valuable if the Province would tell us that.

My reading is that the Province doesn’t give a sweet damn about public transit – they’ve got their helicopters and limos, so why would they care?

If the referendum gets a “Yes” vote Christy Clark will declare it a victory for her and her party.

If the referendum gets a “No” vote she’ll blame Translink and the Mayors.

Ultimately this referendum is not about funding transit, or even new bridges. It’s about the province once again trying deflect criticism of their botched, expensive, and largely failed efforts at managing Lower Mainland transit via their Translink proxy.


Skool Daze!

Screenshot from 2014-11-10 17:53:29Is anyone bothering to look over the cream of the crop running for North Vancouver School Board? Nineteen people chasing after seven positions.

In the City, seven candidates for three spots; in the District twelve people are vying to fill four spaces.

There’s really not much chance that I’ll spend hours looking at all of these people’s Facebook or web pages.  (see below) I have though seen the sudden flurry of activity on Twitter – My God! What busy beavers these people suddenly seem to have become! It’s nice to know that those charged with overseeing our children’s education can express themselves in 140 characters or less.

I did read the North Shore News‘ profiles of all nineteen people.

What’s actually kind of sad is that you would have to look long and hard to find any difference between them all.

Have Kids? YES!
Active in PACS? YES?
Think we should sell schools? NO! (Unless we really need to.)
Montessori, IB? YES!
Role of School Boards? Community Voice! Planning and Finances! Something about communication with the Province!

Since what was on the NS News site didn’t tell me anything, I did visit the websites for the eighteen people who had them.

No matter what your political stripe, the recent battle between the BCTF and the Liberal government was the single biggest issue for anyone involved in education. It’s staggering that only one candidate even hinted that there are problems with how the Province handles education.

If you support the way that Christy handled those negotiations I want to know. And regardless of what you think, I want to hear about how you view the relationship between the Province and local Boards.

If you, as a School Board candidate, haven’t thought long and hard about this I sure as heck don’t want you on the Board.

And one more thing – if you’re running for School Board you should realize that spelling and grammar do count towards your final grade.

The Argument for Not Voting For ALL Vacancies in the Municipal Elections

voteElections are approaching, and once again I am being told “Bad Politicians are Elected by Good people Who Don’t Vote.”


Bad politicians are elected by people who hold their nose and vote for bad candidates under the misapprehension that it’s their duty to vote for someone, anyone, no matter how bad, in every election.

In my town the Mayor has been acclaimed, but there are fourteen candidates for six Council positions. Four of those are incumbents.

I actually gave some thought to what I would need to see in order for me to vote for a candidate. At the end of the day there only two candidates that I can support. To vote for another four would force me to give a vote to people who I am not convinced have much to offer our community.

1) I ignore platitudes about community and their love of the town, region, Canada, family, and seniors. Concerns about transportation and density without detailed discussion and proposed solutions. Likewise anything about transparency and honesty in government. If you mention those things I assume you’ll be neither.

2) I ignore candidates who have one, and only one real thing that they care about. If you can’t present yourself as a well rounded candidate I can’t be bothered with you.

3) I ignore candidates who refuse to accept real science and research – like engineering studies of local transportation – in favour of their own wild-eyed opinions. Believe it or not, experts often have what is called “expertise.” You don’t. And if you say “I don’t know.” when asked about an important issue I’ll applaud your honesty, but won’t vote for you.

hillary4) I ignore known party hacks, and people who obviously are using Council only as a stepping stone to higher office.

5) I ignore any candidate whose primary claim is that they’ll cut taxes. Unless they will state unambiguously what services they intend to cut. If you drag out the old canard about “cutting fat” I’ll call you on pure BS.

Once I’ve run through those items I’ll look at who, if anyone, is left, and look for some real opinions on matters of importance. Again, not platitudes, not something vague, but real, well thought out ideas that show knowledge and understanding.

At the end of the day there are two candidates that I actually would enjoy voting for, and one further incumbent who at least sounds knowledgeable and didn’t say anything that offended me.

So on election day I’ll happily vote for Lisa Muri and Linda Findlay, but will not waste my remaining votes on people that I don’t really care for.

This is important. The very first step to ridding ourselves of lacklustre candidates is to refuse to vote for them – even when you’re being made to feel guilty if you don’t vote.

And if all of the candidates are of low calibre – then don’t vote for any of them. If you vote for someone that you don’t think is up to the job you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Unite North Vancouver

(Mine, cross-posted from the North Vancouver Politics Blog.)

This week’s North Shore News has a cover story (with a rather dapper photograph) about George Pringle’s new organization Unite North Van.  The group plans to run candidates in both of the North Vancouvers during the upcoming municipal elections.

Do check out their web site for much more information.

As is almost always the case when amalgamations are proposed, the claim is that somehow great savings will be found and taxpayers will be enriched.  The fact this has yet to happen anywhere is never considered.

The fact is that after thirty years of successive politicians trumpeting their goal of “cutting the fat”, “trimming the budget”, “finding efficiencies”, “eliminating duplication”, privatising,  contracting out, and generally trashing the reputations of hard working municipal staff, there isn’t much of anything left to be cut.

Unless you’re prepared to start eliminating some pretty popular or essential services – say sports fields and fire trucks – there’s nothing left to chop.

Unless you believe that the employees of either the District or City are literally working only half time you can’t seriously argue that there are more than a handful of people that could be fired without it mucking up the delivery of essential services.

The stuff that District and City employees do now will still need to be done, and you’ll need pretty much the same number of people to it.

Still, despite all of that, amalgamation is good idea, and arguably many decades overdue.  The idea of the geographically tiny City existing in the middle of the District is an absurd one.

Whatever historical imperatives created that situation are surely no longer relevant.

My amalgamation experiences were with Toronto and Hamilton Ontario.  These were both forced marriages which tried to merge suburban communities with an urban core, and both have had serious problems.

In Toronto this is what created the political landscape that gave them Mayor Rob Ford.  In Hamilton it led to an outwardly focused series of Councils at a time when the urban core and the manufacturing centre of the city were both in deep decline.

In both cases the centre of the new city tended to be viewed as somewhere that residents commuted to and from.  Or in Hamilton’s case – avoided entirely.

The District and the City can’t be compared to Hamilton/Flamborough or Toronto/905.  I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of North Vancouver people neither know nor care where their respective municipalities end.

In practice it just doesn’t matter to most people. Lynn Valley residents drive into the City to shop, and City people drive over to Rona and Canadian Tire for hardware.  And both travel to West Vancouver for all of the things that you can’t buy here.

To a large degree there’s no significant cultural or demographic difference between the two.  Very, very few people will want to live only in the City or the District – they’re interchangeable.

It’s because the two municipalities are so similar that amalgamation makes sense.

The District and the City already share a lot of resources – fire fighting; the RCMP; recreational facilities ; the School Board.  District and City staff already talk, share ideas, and coordinate between them. Making the remaining services consistent and available to all North Vancouver residents just makes sense.

What a united North Vancouver would offer though is a stronger voice when lobbying for the things that only a Provincial or Federal government can provide.

One large city has more clout than two small ones when dealing the likes of Translink or various government ministries.  When you consider the many ways that the Province in particular calls the shots for municipalities that could be a valuable thing.


Russell Brand is Right. It’s Mouseland All Over Again.

British comedian Russell Brand has the Twitterverse in an uproar following a BBC interview during which he stated that voting is a pointless exercise because the entire system is set up to to maintain corporations and power-mongers, not to help ordinary folks.

As we speak commentators from every political stripe are piling on to say how wrong he is, how ill-informed he is, and how everyone should, like, just ignore him.

Problem is, he’s right.  The system is fixed, and there’s damn little likelihood that it will change.

There really is almost no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, or the Labour and Tory parties, or in Canada the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP.  They will all tell you that they are different, but at the end of the day the big, rich guys get richer, the poor get poorer, and ordinary people get shafted.  And it doesn’t matter which one of them you voted for.


The root of the whole thing is a system that requires insane amounts of money to be a contender for anything above dog-catcher.  Phones, polls, TV ads, signs, newspaper ads, and volunteers all eat up a lot of cash, and the people who might be inclined to actually change anything aren’t the ones with big fat bank accounts to buy an elected position.

And of course, the Media, all of whom are owned by extremely rich guys, will continue to slant coverage in the ways that support the people that they trust.  That swings enough votes to ensure that there’s no real change.

Or, to put it into a Canadian context:

  • If you vote for a Conservative, Stephen Harper will get re-elected.
  • If you vote for a Liberal,  Stephen Harper will get re-elected.
  • If you vote for an NDP,  Stephen Harper will get re-elected.

Yes – a vote for the Greens is a waste. And spoiling your ballot is about the most pointless thing that you can do.

“Oh, but it’s a protest and will send a message to the people in power!” you say.

Guess what – it doesn’t.  No politician cares in the slightest about spoiled ballots, or about people who don’t vote.

If you’ve ever worked on a campaign you’ll know that the entire population is divided into two groups that matter:

  1. People who you know will vote for you, and who you will work very hard to get to the polls.
  2. People who you know will vote for another party that might defeat you, and who you will work very hard to discourage from getting to the polls.

And that’s it. Anyone else does not matter.

As usual, Tommy Douglas had it right, way back in 1944.

“You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.”

MOUSELAND – A Political fable told by Tommy Douglas 1944

It’s the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.

They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.

Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for last 90 years and maybe you’ll see that they weren’t any stupider than we are.

Now I’m not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws–that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds–so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: “All that Mouseland needs is more vision.” They said: “The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we’ll establish square mouseholes.” And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, “Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?” “Oh,” they said, “he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!” So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.

Duffy, Wallin, Harper – Pfft on The Lot Of Them

duffy-brazeau-harperLet me begin by stating that I’ve never liked Mike Duffy. He’s fat, and arrogant, and quite obviously has had his head up the butt of whatever low-life was in power in Ottawa for most if not all of his career.

For me the lowest of all low points was the day when, in conversation with the always well-coifed Max Keeping, Duffy compared Svend Robinson – a man that I actually respect a lot – with a monkey.

If that’s what the Duffster considers “political reportage” I really have better things to do with my time.

Likewise I have never trusted Harper and his cronies.  This is a man that makes my skin crawl, and not just because I despair of the way that he is dismantling an entire country.

And surely the day when he appointed Duffy and Wallin to the Senate was the day that I lost whatever tiny shred of respect might have remained for any of them.

You can’t suddenly become intensely partisan and accept a political bag-man’s cushy appointment on Tuesday, and be able to claim that on Monday you were a professional journalist.

Nope. Doesn’t work.  Duffy and Wallin – you shame the journalist community by your actions.  You were obviously sucking up to Harper in the worst possible way, and cannot ever claim to have had journalistic integrity.

Then again, you can’t appoint the likes of Duffy and Wallin to the Senate, and have anyone believe that you’re actually engaged in careful and thoughtful governance.

Sorry Steve-O – these people are flakes, and and have neither the education nor the gravitas that should be found in a member of the Upper Chamber.  When you gave them these jobs for life you demonstrated that you don’t give a sweet god-damn about governance.  You embarrassed yourself, your party, and your country.

And, to the media covering this nonsense: if you didn’t call out Harper when he appointed these boobs, and if you didn’t write passionate editorials about how we need intelligent, thoughtful people in the Senate instead of cheap-ass party hacks, then you too fell down on the job.

Just because you drink with Duffy or Wallin, and just because you consider them to be part of your profession, does not mean that you should ignore the fact that they were both totally unqualified for any post like this.

And yes, I acknowledge that part of the problem is that Ottawa is a very, very small and insular town, and that politicos and journos hang out together, party together, and generally work together, and that under those circumstances they are never too likely to rock the boat.

Still, there are limits.

Now, here’s what’s going to happen.

Harper will in all likelihood find some way to stall this for a few months.  Right now someone on his staff is trying to figure out how he can prorogue the Senate.

Much mud will be flung, Duffy and Wallin will see dirt from decades past dragged up and will see their reputations in tatters.

They, in turn, will try to fling mud back.

The problem for them is that the media will tend to go soft on Harper, and let them go down the drain, because in Ottawa you always back the guys in power.

The RCMP will tend to ignore Harper’s wrongdoings for the same reason.

And of course, ultimately, Harper will get re-elected anyhow.  He’ll manage to slime his base into voting for him again, and the NDP and the Liberals will continue to split the that part of the vote that’s to the left of Harper.

Harper knows this. He knows that short of being photographed eating babies he cannot lose, because the Libs and NDP will just keep on losing election after election.

And that’s why, despite what Duffy is doing, he still flashes us that shit-eating Harper smile.


NDP Blames the Victims

Another NDP loss, and another chorus of whines about how that loss is the fault of every living person except the NDP themselves.

  • “Only 44% of the people of this province voted. What the hell is wrong with you people. Its not only your right but your duty and responsibility to vote. It s our only real opportunity to have a say. I am so disgusted with that number.”
  • “It could also be incumbent government propaganda and collaboration with corporate media combined with idealistic unwitting Green party pawn candidates to steer the electorate just enough to re-elect the Thieves, Cons and Liars.”

That’s right – it all comes down to lazy voters; corporate media, and the Greens “stealing” NDP votes.

I’m going to go out on a limb and blame a new culprit; The New Democratic Party of BC.

In order:

1) The NDP has no platform, no soul, and really no reason for being any more.  They don’t like Unions any longer, or at least Union money. They spend far too much time hanging out with Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade.  The environment? The Greens do it better. Poverty? The Greens do it better. Having photos taken with union leaders and activists? Hmmm… don’t see much of that.

Next time you meet a card carrying NDPer, ask him or her to tell you exactly what the party stands for. What are the things that are so important that they are untouchable.

They’ll stammer a lot, and eventually come back to “We’re not the Liberals.”  What they won’t be able to do is express anything like a coherent philosophy.

The Liberals don’t have that problem. They exist to further unfettered capitalism, to make rich people richer, and to reduce government to as little as possible.  They know it, business knows it, and the message is an easy sell.

Until the NDP manages to actually have an ideology, they will continue to lose.  You can’t sell “We’re mainly not the same as those guys.”

2) The NDP lives in a My Little Pony environment.  Obvious to everyone except the NDP was the inevitability of Liberal attack ads, their willingness to lie and deceive to reach their ends, and the role of the big media in undermining and attacking the NDP during the last weeks of the campaign.

These things work, and will continue to work. Playing Mr Nice Guy against the Liberals will be exactly as effective as it was against that third grade bully at school.  Unless the NDP is prepared to fight back, and hard, against all of this, they don’t stand a chance.

The problem is that the NDP believes that they deserve to win because they’re not as nasty as the opposition.  Like it or not, that means that they’ll lose.

3) The NDP believes that Greens “steal” votes from them.  In the first place, the Greens takes votes from both major parties, more or less evenly. In the second place, if the NDP had as good an environmental policy as the Greens, lots of those votes might come over.

How’s this for an analysis: Lots of voters are moving to the Greens because they’re unsatisfied with the NDP.

4) The NDP believes that they lost because lazy voters didn’t vote. Guess what NDP: those people aren’t voting because you’re not giving them a reason to do so.

Let me repeat that, in BIG RED LETTERS:

Those people aren’t voting because
you’re not giving them a reason to do so.

One heck of a lot of people fully understand the Liberal party and what they represent, and would never vote for them.  They might vote NDP, except that it’s pretty much impossible to see how they’re different from the Liberals.

Adrian: You cannot spend half of the campaign sucking up to Big Business, and then have us believe that you’re not the same as the Liberals. If photo-ops with corporate leaders outnumber ones with Union leaders, you’ve blown it.

If the NDP hope to ever form another government in BC they have to actually become a party that stands for something.

Since the Liberals and Conservatives pretty much have a lock on the right wing of the spectrum, the NDP will need to – oh heresy! – learn once again how to be Left Wing. Maybe even Socialist.

They’ll need to give up on trying be the slightly more progressive Free Enterprise party, and return to their roots, embracing poor people, working people, unionised people, activists, environmentalists – all of the groups that seem to be seen as an embarrassment instead of the grass roots of the party.

Addendum: Seems the folks at see things the same way that I do.


The Aftermath of NDP Failure

Quote of the day, from a commenter elsewhere,

We’ve NEVER been a progressive people. We just had a few progressive leaders for a while, and as long as there was enough cake to go around we didn’t mind “the poors” getting a few crumbs. But we’ll kick them to the kerb the moment we might have to share now that the cake is smaller. It’s easier than seriously questioning why the cake is so small.

Take time now to check out the excellent assessment that led to that comment.

In my lifetime, I have not witnessed the creation of a single truly significant social program of any kind. I almost share a birthday with the Constitution, which I revere, but it’s pretty much downhill from there: the erosion and now open elimination of universal healthcare; the rise of free trade and the consequent devaluation of Canadian citizenship; the selling off of most of the profitable elements of the public sector at both the federal and provincial levels; the beginning of the end of Employment Insurance, public pensions and Old Age Security; the rise of a political culture of naked deceit and overt criminality of a sort not normally tolerated in democratic countries with the rule of law and not seen in Canada for a century; the slashing and burning of public education…

How I Voted for Daniel Smith, Green, in North Vancouver-Seymour

Today was an Advanced Polling day in BC, and I popped into the local polling place to make my vote.

I had intended to vote for the NDP, as usual, but when I walked out of the voting booth I had marked my ballot for our local Green candidate Daniel Smith.  Here’s the primary reason why:

In very simple terms, Jane Sterk is the only leader who has actually stepped up the plate and promised to help, really help, the poor people in this province.  Neither Dix nor Clark seem to be willing to commit anything beyond lip service to addressing poverty, and increasingly I can’t see any difference between the two.

Despite my usually cynical outlook on politics, and despite my usual very strategic voting habits, at the end of the day I felt that I had to support the leader who actually stood for something I believed in, and who did so in an unambiguous fashion.

Yes, in this day and age it is still possible that one impassioned speech can change a voter’s mind.

BC Liberals are Keeping Calm

keepcalm_christyToday I was reading “The Art of the Impossible” Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975 by Geoff Meggs and Rod Mickleburgh.

Truly a great read, a good reminder that there was a time when BC politicians actually had principles and stood up for socialist values; when even right wing capitalists would nationalize services.  (How do you think we got BC Hydro and BC Ferries? WAC Bennett took them over!)

Anyhow, I was struck how little has changed in BC election campaigning in the last few decades.  Wacky may be gone, but the anti-socialist fearmongering carries on.

So I decided to help out Christy and her rapidly declining band of Liberals with a new slogan, and a new campaign poster. Circulate it freely.