Why I am (still) voting No in the Transit tax vote

governmentlion

From the very beginning, the entire Transit tax referendum turned non-binding plebiscite, has been a stunning example of the inadequate leadership and poor governance we find ourselves under as a province.

Worse yet perhaps, is how the mayors plan is being promoted as a complete cure-all for the congestion that clogs our streets and highways as it does nearly every other single major metropolitan area in North America – even those with better transit than what we currently have.

I live in Surrey close to two major arteries and still can’t get home by transit after 9 pm without having it involve a costly cab ride, or a scary 10 block walk in the dark.Weekends are even more difficult and I know I’m not alone in thinking how badly public transit is lacking in many areas south of the Fraser river.

This confuses people trying to figure out why I feel so strongly about voting NO in the upcoming vote. I take transit, I understand it’s failings but because a vehicle is also a must, I also understand how frustrating it is to sit in gridlock.

Traffic jams are a very big issue in most cities in Metro Vancouver regardless of where you are driving. They cost us time, money and raise our stress levels. I strongly support better transit, but I also strongly believe that this tax is wrong, and that the arguments of better transit being the cure-all for what ails the Metro Vancouver region are disingenuous at best. These are the reasons why.

1. First and foremost, a sales tax increase is a punitive, regressive form of taxation.  

It doesn’t matter who you are, or how much you make – you will be paying this tax. Senior on a limited income? You are going to pay this. On disability? Get ready to fork over some more cash. Are you one of the working poor, a single parent, or perhaps on assistance? You are going to pay the same sales tax on your goods as Chip Wilson.

Ironically, many of the same people who opposed the HST because it was a punitive tax, are now advocating for this increase justified I am told- because transit is a worthy cause – and it is. I just don’t think this is the way to fund it.

Readers here have been very vocal in recent months about the impact rising prices on food and household goods have had on their budgets- to the point that the reduction of a 50% discount on food about to expire was a big issue. 

There are better ways to fund transit expansion,along with providing revenue for other government needs – it’s called progressive tax reform.

Why aren’t these items being considered by our mayors and provincial government? Where was the mayors discussion on having developers and property owners along mayor transit routes and expansion,help fund the projects since they will benefit the most? 

Visionary isn’t a non-binding plebiscite pushing a punitive tax.

Visionary is saying “We’ve already taken more than many people can afford- let’s find another way.”

http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/BC%20Office/2013/01/CCPA-BC-Tax-Options_0.pdf

2. In the end, there are absolutely no guarantees to anything but paying more sales tax- if the province honours the results of a YES majority. 

This is yet another elephant in the room when it comes to the Transit tax vote that YES supporters never have an answer to, when I ask them why I should suddenly start trusting this government after everything I’ve seen,read and/or written about. Some refer to the Liberal tenure as the ‘decade of deceit’, with good reason.

In fact, this was a very big point in the No-HST campaign that the supporters of this new proposed tax once trotted out at every opportunity! (inconvenient truth as that may be now)

What’s suddenly changed with the Clark government? Mt. Polley? The health ministry firings? LNG prosperity funds and a gazillion jobs by 2030, no wait… 2060… or is that the year 2100 by now? ( Humour me, I honestly can’t keep track of the claims tossed out there as often as tissues during flu season…)

You get the point. This is not a government that has shown or earned much trust.

Adding fuel to this mistrust are the changes in the ballot that removed some of the specifics of individual projects that will benefit from this “Congestion Improvement Tax”

– you can read all about that here, in this piece from The Vancouver Sun:

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Changes+transit+plebiscite+ballot+keep+voters+guessing/10755759/story.html

“Changes:

Heading: The new ballot calls it a “Metro Vancouver transportation and transit plebiscite,” not a “transportation and transit referendum.” This stipulates the tax only applies to Metro Vancouver. Meanwhile, a plebiscite, which is non-binding, is being held because the vote is being conducted by the South Coast British Columbian Transportation Authority Act, which governs TransLink, and not the Referendum Act.

Wording: The main wording is tightened up to remove the rationale for the plebiscite. For instance, the ballot removes the line that states “one million more people will live and work in Metro Vancouver by 2040” and that the plan is needed to reduce congestion on roads and bridges.

Projects: Clarifies the overall plan with more succinct wording. The new ballot takes out references to “11 new B-Line rapid bus routes” for a more generic statement that the funding “will add bus service and new B-Line rapid bus routes.” It also states new “rapid transit” for Surrey and Vancouver rather than citing a subway and light rail.

Explanation: The new ballot is clearer than the original in stipulating the tax will be called a Metro Vancouver congestion improvement tax and dedicated to the majority of goods and services in the region.

Ballot question: The approved question does not include the line “with independent audits and public reporting.”

Hmm. Why all the changes?

Why does the ballot not include independent audits and public reporting?

Why so vague on the specifics of the projects?

Again, no answers from the Yes supporters other than: “There is no Plan B, so hold your nose and vote YES!” Many yes supporters agree with me on all these points,admit it’s a lot of concern,but feel this time, the government can’t ignore the people.

( We haven’t even gotten into the fact that this tax increase doesn’t fund the entire cost of any of these projects, and neither the provincial or federal government has committed to dedicating those funds… but trust us they say.  Trust us…)

I look at this ballot and I shake my head. Non-binding. No guarantee’s on anything and government commits to nothing in it. You vote yes and your vote says you agree a sales tax increase should go to fund transit improvements, or you vote no.

It’s basically a very costly opinion poll, and nothing more.  If the province wanted to show good faith, it would be a binding referendum. It’s not.

3. There is no Plan B

Houston, we have a problem.

The same people who residents in Metro Vancouver elected to govern, to make hard decisions, to…lead… have no plan B. Nothing. Nada, except for Surrey mayor Linda Hepner who already said  her LRT plan is happening no matter what the vote is. ( election promise,so take that with a grain of salt)
Granted this provincial government is about as easy to work with as a porcupine in heat but regardless, what are these mayors being paid to do?

Mayors just elected have nearly 4 years to govern.Each of them needs to look at what residents in their communities need… and perhaps.. how it is that city planning has contributed to the current situation. In Surrey, poor planning has resulted in bedroom communities where a car is a must. Many of them. Some out in the middle of nowhere where it’s not feasible to run even community shuttles.

I’ve been doing a bit of research and there is a lot the mayors of our cities could do to relieve congestion… if they have the will to ruffle some feathers and do so.

In fact, this article I located has a wealth of ideas cities should have considered in planning their neighbourhoods. https://nowtoronto.com/news/transportation/on-the-buses/

From dedicated bus lanes, to no parking zones during transit peak times to enforcement actions, much of gridlock begins and ends with our municipal leaders and how they plan and run our cities. They could be increasing Development Cost Charges or adding a new or bigger transit levy to the current charges- developers wanting to build high density will benefit from a bus route. ( an unpopular suggestion I am told, because developers tend to give good donations in civic elections…)

I can assure you this. In the private sector no plan B, means no second chance. The mayors of Metro Vancouver would do well to remember this when digging into our pockets again and again.

4. Research shows in other cities and countries, that improved transit alone doesn’t cut congestion without road pricing.

As with most things you must sign your name to, the devil is in the details.

YES side proponents in social media and in forums have been telling people that better transit will cut congestion.

In fact some have been telling me that if a No vote prevails, transit will be set back twenty years, making it sound like a No vote will instantly transform the Canada Line into an Amish wagon train form of transport! Guess what? That isn’t going to happen. Nor will the new  proposed Surrey LRT or Arbutus subway  Line stop traffic jams anywhere in the region.Why?

Because regardless of how amazing these projects are, research shows that improved transit isn’t enough to reduce congestion. And even the mayors acknowledge this in their own plan:

mayorsplan

No kidding. Why isn’t the yes side talking about this?

I mean, all one has to do is use ‘the google’ to search ” Does transit reduce traffic congestion?” to determine in most cases, it doesn’t – not on its own.

Look at Singapore-even with exceptional transit, it was only the hefty road pricing that moved drivers to transit.http://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/roads-and-motoring/managing-traffic-and-congestion/electronic-road-pricing-erp.html

This is where the mayors suggestion that if a YES vote prevails, they will introduce the idea of road pricing into the discussion comes into play.

There is a significant and credible amount of research showing that transit improvements alone do little to ease congestion, but that paired with road pricing as a dis-incentive to drivers, it will have an impact.

What is road pricing?Alternatively known as congestion pricing, it’s how cities outside of Europe where the lifestyle is vastly different from North America, deal with congestion.

As the Georgia Straight published last year, I suspect as a way of easing drivers into the idea:

” …road pricing. It’s necessary. It’s contentious. And it’s coming to Vancouver.

As a congestion-reducing/transit-promoting strategy, it comes in myriad guises. In California, for example, the strategy appears as transponder-linked high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in L.A. and San Diego. Rates posted roadside for HOT–lane occupancy constantly change with time and traffic volumes. In San Francisco, road pricing means a soon-to-be-instituted $3 road-usage charge for all drivers entering that city’s cordoned downtown core. In Hong Kong, in Dallas, in Rio, in Rome, and in scores of other jurisdictions: if you use roads, you pay.”

In fact, the first place you would have seen road pricing is between the Port Mann Bridge and Vancouver.. that is, until the people said enough and refused to take that bridge. I suspect it will still be the first line of attack, along with Hwy 99 and the SFPR, aka the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

It’s acknowledged far and wide as a crucial part of reducing congestion, so why aren’t the mayors, provincial government and the YES campaign talking about this more before the vote? Because in my opinion, it negates the often used line that transit improvements will improve congestion.

Ask your mayor about this one before you vote.

5. I’ve had enough of the premier and our mayors playing with people’s lives… and livelihoods.

Forgive me for living in a dream world, but I really do believe elected officials must put the needs of their community before anything else. Regardless of whether it is a city,a provincial riding or our province, those with power hold immense influence in decision making, and policy direction.

How many of those deemed to make these decisions, take transit? How many understand how hard it is to drop kids off at daycare, go to work, come home, pick up kids and get something for dinner… on transit? Anyone going to soccer practice on transit?

You just can’t do it easily outside of Vancouver. Its nearly impossible in Surrey or Langley. Frankly I’m very tired of people who live,work and play in Vancouver telling me how this plan will benefit me, when they haven’t even been out to this part of Surrey! There is a complete disconnect. One fellow I know recently took a planning bus tour in Surrey and was shocked to discover how much sprawl planning has occurred.

Please, don’t tell me how good this plan is going to be for all of us, unless you will come out here and find out what it’s like here first. If you’ve never been to Surrey,I don’t even want to talk to you!

This is just part of what is so disingenuous about this cut congestion tax.

Transit alone will not cut congestion. And those promoting the YES side know this.

Did the Canada Line cut traffic congestion into Richmond or Vancouver? No. There are still backups over the bridges back and forth.

Did a new express bus down King George in Surrey magically reduce the gridlock? No. In fact the bus gets stuck in traffic too.

They make it seem like a vote yes is a guarantee you won’t wait in traffic as long as you did before… 20% less reduction is the number on their website – a stretch if you ask me and a bait and switch tactic much like the Liberals have used in BC before.

Coming from politicians and politico’s,many who only take transit when a camera crew is involved, it’s a bit rich.

In closing...

I can’t tell you which side to vote for, but I can tell you how I am voting, and why. I tend to ask a lot of questions and those questions always lead to more questions that really get some people upset. But that’s how I work.

I can’t even in good conscience, advocate a yes vote with so many unknowns, so many questions and with so many changes the provincial government has made to this ballot. Everything in my gut tells me this is all wrong,in particular with the amount of fear-mongering occurring on social media from those working for or endorsing the yes side. It’s beginning to reach unprecedented desperation levels and there is a long time to go still.

I encourage every Metro Vancouver reader this tax increase would impact, to do your own research, ask questions of your elected officials and feel free to share the responses here with my readers.

Because in the words of the Dalai Lama:  “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”  Taxpayers in Metro Vancouver deserve better than what’s being served up by those with vested interests.

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , , | 76 Comments

This weeks column for 24hrs Vancouver: ‘The ‘Yes’ vote not worth saving

Perhaps I’ve been a bit persuasive but this week it appears that Brent’s support for the Yes side is waning…. this is my response to his argument that only Jordan Bateman can save the Yes vote at all.

This week’s topic: Can the ‘Yes’ vote be saved in the transit plebiscite?

Well, knock me down and call me Christy Clark because when I read my Duel partner’s column this week it confirmed to me that the growing feeling of contempt over this transit funding vote is ready to boil over.

When long-time champions of this government find it hard to continue to support what Brent refers to as an expensive opinion poll, it should sound alarm bells for everyone in Metro Vancouver. However, the argument that Jordan Bateman – poster boy for the No campaign – can save the Yes vote is clearly a half-hearted, last-ditch attempt to deflect culpability from the premier to the only convenient target.

Suggesting that Bateman and his campaign should redefine what voting yes would mean to include governance and oversight of TransLink is shortsighted at best in addressing how egregious this entire “congestion tax” vote really is.

It was April 2013 when the BC Liberals promised voters that any new funding for TransLink would be put to a regional referendum. It was a promise that has been criticized by former transportation ministers and transit advocates alike and rightfully so. Leadership is as much about making hard decisions when it comes to government policy as it is about listening to voters and even seasoned politicians will tell you it’s a fine line to walk.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

However, from the beginning the premier’s promise has been less about good governance than it has been about setting up the mayors of the region as targets she can point her finger to and say: ”Don’t look at me, this was their idea!”…

 

READ the rest of this weeks Duel, comment and vote at: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/02/15/the-duel-yes-not-worth-saving

Posted in Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” ~ John Le Carre

Wise words for many policy makers who often seem to demonstrate a lack of empathy and understanding of how the real world works for the average person, perhaps because they spend more time behind their desk than out and about connecting with real people

There will be no Duel column next Monday, so I’ll be taking a rest until after the Family day holiday and will be back with a couple of stories,one involving Kiewit- again- next week.

However, today let me share with you this story from Sam Cooper, which serves as a good pre-curser for my story next week.

http://www.theprovince.com/touch/story.html?id=10791228

Vancouver Island RCMP have reopened a high-profile workplace death case that occurred six years ago, investigating under a rarely prosecuted criminal law.

In February 2009, 24-year-old Sam Fitzpatrick was crushed to death by a large boulder while completing a work assignment on a Toba Inlet mountainside. Arlen Fitzpatrick, who worked on site, saw his older brother die.

Unsatisfied with the results of a WorkSafe B.C. probe, their father Brian Fitzpatrick has for years argued that the employer, Omaha-based construction giant Kiewit, is criminally responsible.

He said Thursday that after months of contact with the RCMP, the force recently informed him a fresh investigation is under way.

Great news, and timely considering the recent finding in Washington State for ‘willful and serious safety violations” that put the lives of workers into danger.

http://lailayuile.com/2014/12/19/kiewit-general-comitted-willful-and-serious-safety-violations-in-washington-state-accident-fined-150000/

See you soon,and enjoy your long weekend here in BC ( this long weekend might be the only real legacy of Premier Clark that’s turned out well!)

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, crime, Independent power projects, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , | 34 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: The Duel: ‘Mincome’ a fresh idea

This weeks duel is one that was very interesting to research and I found myself spending far more time reading different publications on a guaranteed annual income because it was so intriguing. As with many items, political will can make this succeed,just as a lack of it will prevent it from happening. What do you think?

This week’s topic: Should Canadians be guaranteed a minimum annual income provided by the government?

It’s often said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. When it comes to how our government is addressing poverty, that old cliché stands true. Despite social assistance programs, tax credits and poverty reduction targets in most provinces, significant progress hasn’t been made in eliminating poverty in Canada.

With a federal election this year, people from across the political spectrum are starting new conversations about an old idea that is again gaining popularity: “mincome.” This is the term for a minimum guaranteed annual income that would replace all the different payments and credits that currently exist to aid lower-income Canadians and their families.

It’s a concept that has been tossed around for decades and the federal government even conducted an experiment in the 1970s to see what impact a guaranteed minimum income would have in the community of Dauphin, Manitoba. If a household’s income dropped below a certain level, they were given a supplement to top it off. The experiment was discontinued after four years due to a lack of political will and a recession, and the findings were locked up in a warehouse. A report was never issued by the government, but a researcher who has since gained access to some of the records found evidence it was a success.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

During the period of the experiment, there was dramatically less hospitalization, the drop-out rate of teens in high school fell, and there were remarkably fewer arrests and convictions. There were also fewer mental health consultations and, despite critics concerns that people would milk the system, recipients didn’t stop working or reduce their hours of work.

The Fraser Institute recently issued a research paper on the concept of a guaranteed annual income that estimated the costs of administering all of the current government support systems at $185 billion in 2013 alone. That number doesn’t even begin to include the social costs related to poverty that burden our cities. Even they agree the idea has merit and could save the country money…

READ the rest of this weeks duel, comment and vote at: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/02/01/the-duel-mincome-a-fresh-idea

 

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Federal politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

This weeks column for 24hrs Vancouver: Transit tax’No’ vote sensible

This week’s topic: Is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s argument to vote no in the transit referendum persuasive?

My duel partner begins with a great idiom this week, sage advice that warns against passing over something workable, in the quest for something perfect.

However, when it comes to the proposed transit tax, the No Translink Tax team has done well to date showing why Metro Vancouver residents should avoid “throwing good money after bad” – the mayors’ proposal is far from perfect. I don’t completely agree with the solution the no campaign has outlined, but I do think they’ve done an excellent job of addressing the elephant in the room the yes side wants you to ignore.

TransLink is the organization that will be making the decisions and expenditures with the funds received from the proposed transit tax. The only foolhardy move is to pretend that its record of accountability and transparency shouldn’t be under examination when it comes to the administration of taxpayers’ money.

Much like political campaigns leading up to an election, the No TransLink Tax team has been releasing examples of TransLink waste and questionable spending bit by bit for impact. Helping their argument is that there is no shortage of examples, but even more alarming is the questionable management decisions that lead to that waste.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere:

In many cases, the money spent can’t be recovered – economists refer to this as a sunk cost. It’s money that’s gone for good. Poodle on a pole? Paying rent on empty buildings you sold at a loss? Those costs are not recoverable. A savvy businessperson knows the amount of sunk costs should never dictate decisions on future investment, but sadly, government and Crown corporations often get caught up in what is referred to as a sunk cost fallacy…

READ the rest of this weeks Duel, comment and vote now at: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/01/25/the-duel-transit-tax-no-vote-sensible

translinkduel

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

When good things happen to awesome people.

The best part of writing this blog has always been the incredible people it’s brought into my life. From diplomats to farmers, loggers to ceo’s and everything in between, the diversity of my audience has lead to long lasting friendships and camaraderie that surpasses the distances between us.

One such long time reader and friend is David Cox, who has written a book that is attracting the attention of many in BC, including the media. Those of us who’ve known him for some time will recognize his blog from the sidebar to the right:  http://offthegridhomes.org/

 

“It’s a fantasy for many on the West Coast: give up your office job for a life on a quiet island communing with nature.

David Cox lived that fantasy, and he wrote the book on it. Our Life Off the Grid: An Urban Couple Goes Feral will soon be available on paperback — it’s currently available as an e-book.

Cox used to live what he calls “the cul-de-sac existence.” He lived in the suburbs with two kids and a variety of jobs, trying everything from running a medical clinic, to professional motorcycle racing to a stint as a banker.

“I was bored,” said Cox. “I thought the routine of driving in traffic and living to work was unsatisfying.”

David Cox’s book will soon be available on paperback

David and his wife Sally set off for Read Island, B.C., a remote island that has no roads, no stores and no power.”

Read the rest of this great story and listen to his interview here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/our-life-off-the-grid-couple-moves-from-suburbs-to-remote-island-1.2920131?cmp=rss

And take a few moments to watch this video,which is in essence, a trailer for the book:

If you like what you see and hear, and would like to purchase his book, you can do so at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Our-Life-Off-Grid-Couple/dp/0994014503

Congratulations David and Sally- you are living the dream of many. May you continue to reap the rewards of taking that leap!

Posted in Laila Yuile | Tagged , | 16 Comments

The ‘real’ thing about the Port Mann Bridge.

“The thing about the Port Mann Bridge is people start using it–and they love it, because it saves so much of their time that they would otherwise be driving and they can spend with their family for example or get out and coach soccer. So they have some really good strategies I think to try and improve those numbers, but after speaking with them I’m confident they’re gonna find a way to manage through this.”

The Transportation Investment Corporation which operates the bridge for government has had to borrow money to fill the gap in revenue left by the shortfall.

The number of vehicles crossing the Port Mann declined every single month last year except for December, which saw a 3% increase. ~ http://www.cknw.com/2015/01/22/premier-says-drivers-will-embrace-tolled-port-mann/?sc_ref=facebook

 

Here’s the real thing about the Port Mann Bridge, Premier Clark.

It’s true that people love saving time on their commute so they can spend more time with their family, or get out with their friends….or get to their second,and sometimes third job.

You see Premier Clark, because the Vancouver area is too expensive for many average families and young couples starting out, Surrey,Langley and the Fraser Valley have provided somewhat affordable housing for all of us. We also have a very large population of  lower-income earners and pensioners, both groups of people who are often barely making ends meet.

Those who used the old crossing were excited to hear an end to the gridlock down Highway 1 was in sight, but in the years since the bridge began construction, a lot more has changed in this province than just premiers.

Life’s become more expensive for just about everyone from college kids to seniors. 

The federal government is taking more money off paycheques in the form of higher EI and CPP deductions. ICBC is going up, BC hydro rates are going up, MSP premiums have gone up again.

Tuition rates have risen,hitting college students and parents in the pocket-book hard.

BC ferries has gone up over the years, for those who can still afford a vacation. Even with the fuel surcharge gone for now, it’s a budget breaking trip for many.

Food prices have skyrocketed, something we have discussed at length here on this blog. When people are worried about the soon to expire discount disappearing you know things are worse than it seems at first glance.

In Surrey, property taxes were just hiked and that didn’t just impact property owners, but renters as well as landlords happily passed part of that burden on to tenants.

Even the ability to go camping-historically a low-cost alternative vacation for families that was affordable with a tent tossed in the back and some gear – is increasingly out of reach as your government announced today a fee increase for usage.

It all adds up Premier Clark. And when it does, there isn’t much left over- certainly not enough in many cases to cover a months worth of tolls if you use the bridge twice a day, five days a week to get to and from work or school. It actually does make a very big difference to many people’s budgets.

So here’s the thing about the Port Mann bridge Premier Clark, that gets to the heart of the matter.

It could have turned out like a Field of Dreams, where if you build it, they will come.

But after being nickeled and dimed at every opportunity, drivers are sending a very clear message to your government about the Port Mann Bridge. The question is, are you listening?

outrage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*please note it states ‘going to’ – not ‘gonna’.

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Federal politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Legalize tent cities.

As my regular readers know, I have a real issue with the way homelessness is dealt with in many cities. Instead of doing what needs to be done to alleviate the issues related to homelessness, it seems we are getting closer to criminalizing homelessness related activities and issues like many American cities are doing. In some US states,even feeding the homeless is illegal.

Is this what it has to come to? Have we no compassion at all anymore? Even if the provincial and federal governments kicked in all the money and land needed to build more affordable housing right this second, it still would leave us with a certain portion of the homeless population outside camping. Is it better to continually invest all the time, bylaw and police resources to do continual sweeps and cleanups? Or is it time we acknowledge our communities failures along with a heaping dose of reality and look at alternative, interim approaches? This is as much about the economics of these homeless camps as it is about compassion.

One thing I know for sure, what is currently happening clearly isn’t working when you see the number of tents, camps and tarps in parks and lots in Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods. This week, Brent and I are taking the lead in looking at this issue. Please, feel free to disagree or perhaps you agree, but let’s get the conversation started.

This week’s topic: Should local governments enact bylaws that would allow and regulate legal tent cities for the homeless?

If there is one thing that remains true about the state of homelessness in Metro Vancouver, it’s that no one has been able to solve the issue. For years we’ve seen a never-ending stream of conferences, studies and task forces on the root causes of homelessness, with an equally generous number of promises to find solutions. So where are they?

There is even more finger-pointing between various levels of government as political leaders on the hot seat try to pass the buck when the media spotlight shines on issues of unresolved homelessness in their community. A good example of this is the Oppenheimer Park tent city last year that brought Vancouver national attention. The city of Abbotsford’s antagonistic approach to dealing with people on the street – which included chicken manure – raised even more compelling questions not only on how to deal with homelessness, but how we view it.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

Both situations speak to the need for immediate action on interim and long-term solutions. If community leaders want to avoid similar issues this summer, they need to start now. Most shelters currently only offer an overnight bed, sending residents back to the street during the day. Many don’t offer space for belongings or a cart, and a large number of homeless choose instead to camp in lots, parks or wooded areas instead. This is not going to change – it’s been happening for decades.

The result is never good for a community. Public urination/defecation, and garbage impact the health and welfare of both campers and neighbouring residents or businesses. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is now addressing the growing need in his city by proposing new legislation to authorize and regulate three more tent cities. Yes, there are others – six within the city, and King County has several. He makes it clear it isn’t a long-term strategy, but a much safer interim option than what is happening in parks, alleys and vacant lots…

Read the rest of this weeks column, vote and comment at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/01/18/the-duel-legalize-tent-cities

This is a link to Seattles current tent city website, which is run by social service agencies and religious organizations on a rotating location basis. http://www.sharewheel.org/Home/tent-cities

And a recent news stories on Seattle mayor Ed Murrays proposal http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025464425_homelessencampmentsxml.html

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Overreacting to heinous acts is what the terrorists want.

This week’s topic:

Does the massacre in Paris justify further expansion of spy powers in Canada?

In the days since the terrorist attack in Paris, I’m concerned about how this is all unfolding as I look at the response from the public and those like myself who are paid to share our opinions. One expects a visceral reaction to such a barbaric attack, in particular because those killed were simply doing what they loved.

The thought of being murdered is perhaps the worst fear for many who share provocative commentary or satire that offends others, and support for those walking at the edge of our right to freedom of speech and expression is part of what spawned the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie. There is a world of debate in this issue alone, perhaps for future Duels.

To some extent, one comes to expect the rhetoric that inevitably and sadly follows in reaction to such a heinous act, and is often used to promote everything from limiting immigration to enacting new anti-terrorism legislation. Fear is a powerful thing and it isn’t only terrorists who use it to manipulate and dominate. Look around the world and it’s easy to see that fear has been something world leaders have often used to affirm involvement in wars, limit freedoms, and pass questionable laws or policies.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

In response to the attack in Paris, Canadian political leaders rightly denounced the actions and Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to expedite and bring in new anti-terror legislation. Yet even as his promises remained fresh and stark in the implication that what legislation we currently have isn’t enough to keep us safe, two brothers from Ottawa were arrested Friday on terrorism-related charges…

Read the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/01/11/duel-dont-overreact-to-terrorists

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Things that make you go “Hmmmmm…”; Or who is gauging support for former premier Gordon Campbell in Vancouver telephone polling?

It’s interesting what pops up out of the blue sometimes.

For example,Thursday morning I posted a story about Harper visiting Annacis  Island to facebook. That post prompted the memory of a friend living in Vancouver, who left a comment that she had just received a call from a company conducting polling. (It’s been a hectic week so I’m just catching up now)

The poll was political in nature,initially asking what she thought of the Stephen Harper government, which isn’t surprising considering some are speculating an early federal election is in the offing.

However,what was more interesting is that she was also asked to respond to a list of names- this is paraphrased from her memory:

I will name 5 people, and you are to tell me if you find them trustworthy” 
Campbell takes oath

Most of the names she did not recognize, but one definitely stood out : former BC premier,Gordon Campbell.

She said that she did not find him trustworthy,and it left a bad taste in her mouth.

The call came from 604-681-0381, which belongs to NRG Research Group http://nrgresearchgroup.com/, which of course, has done work with the federal government, and the Prime Ministers office:

NRG

Which of course led to much speculation,and horror by some online that we may indeed see his return to the political scene back home here in Canada, instead of racking up the bills in London… as Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Is a senate appointment in the offing? Perhaps a run for MP?

If you’ve received a similar call, I’d be very curious to see what other names are being tossed out there, so drop me a line via the contact page! And a good tip is to keep a pad of paper and a pen by your phone to jot down the questions you are being asked.

Posted in BC Liberals, BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , | 37 Comments