Summer catch-up: Last two columns for 24Hrs Vancouver.

Yes, I know…. but there is only so much summer and not enough time to get it all done. And considering I generally dedicate about 10 months of the year to politics, summer is a welcome reprieve.

So, as this weeks column comes out later today, here are the links to the last two!

Last week:

A headline caught my eye, but not because of the heated language used by a civic politician — it was the resurrection the mega-homes issue in Richmond.

By no means is this a new issue, nor is it limited to one city. As has happened in other communities, when the issue is left ignored or unresolved, emotions and resentment fester. The resulting rift doesn’t build communities, it builds walls.

At the heart of the matter are complaints from many residents that the massive homes are not in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood, and they are built so close and so large to property lines the sun is often blocked in neighbouring yards.

Richmond is a city surrounded by dikes and because basements aren’t possible, mega-homes are built up in addition to out — often to three-storeys high.

In an attempt to resolve growing discontent and complaints from the homeowners who feel increasingly hemmed in, council was to vote on an amendment to the residential zoning bylaws in June.

Citing the need for more public consultation, the majority of councillors opted to postpone the vote and separate public forums were scheduled — one for the general public, and one intended for builders and developers.

In light of my recent column on how residents across Metro Vancouver feel developers have too much influence on city governments, that developers were given their own forum is interesting in itself.

After considering public input, all but two council members voted in favour of a new set of bylaws on Monday, intended to reduce the size of mega-homes but ultimately giving builders the concessions they wanted.

It was then that Coun. Carol Day called the process and bylaw “half-assed,” partly because council ignored the advice and recommendations of their own city planners on how best to amend the bylaws…. READ the rest at the above link.


And the week prior:

In last week’s column, I called again for a ban on corporate and union donations after readers across the region shared that they felt big campaign contributions have too much influence at city hall.

Following that column, I was advised that Carr already had a motion on notice that would significantly reform financing and spending in Vancouver elections.

In response to the inadequate changes recommended by the provincial report on spending limits for municipal campaigns, Carr’s motion called not only for limits on spending, but a ban on corporate, union and out-of province or country contributions as well.

In addition, her motion asked that elector organizations be required to release annual income and expense disclosure forms, including donor lists in the years between elections. This could shed some light on the aptly named “dark money” that comes into civic parties in between reporting periods.

These are all great changes and in a TV interview prior to the council vote, Carr expressed hope that the motion would pass.

Council has expressed that they are in favour of such reform, but they clearly don’t agree enough to make it happen.

Instead of voting in favour of her motion as is, Coun. Andrea Reimer presented a motion to refer the issue back to committee, which was supported by council with only three votes opposed.

This move has city watchdogs alarmed…. READ the rest at the above link.


Last weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver City Hall: Take big money out of civic campaigns

Forgive me for the lack of recent posts other than my columns; summer is here and there are many other things to do in the warm summer evening than sit and blog on a hot sweaty desk chair….I’ll post soon and there are several things I want to write about.

For now, this was Thursday’s column in 24Hrs Vancouver, which you may find relevant even in your hometown.

Since taking on the City Hall column and paying greater attention to municipal affairs across the region, there is one concern readers have shared with me that is common to every city in Metro Vancouver.

From Vancouver and Surrey to North Vancouver and White Rock, there is a growing concern that developers are wielding too much influence in city halls.

In Vancouver, real estate developers and marketers have been under scrutiny for their role and contribution to the city’s affordable housing issue.

In Surrey, both developers and the city have frequently been under fire for not only the city’s illegal suite problem, but for rapidly building high-density housing without thought to the impact on local infrastructure like schools, health care and parking.

Even the tiny city of White Rock isn’t exempt — a contentious proposal currently in the works to build two highrises requires an amendment to the Official Community Plan in order to build it. Now under scrutiny by the locals are the past campaign contributions the development group has made to the mayor and several councillors.

But if you were to ask your local city council if campaign contributions have any influence on proposals before council, I guarantee you will get a resounding — and likely offended — “No!” as an answer.

To voters, it’s a perception of conflict of interest and it’s easy to see why it’s an ongoing concern for residents.

Developers who’ve given hefty donations to municipal campaigns and then bring matters before council for approval raise serious questions to the validity of the entire process. That’s why so many advocates in favour of electoral reform were disappointed to see the final committee report on Local Elections Expense Limits recently presented to provincial MLAs in the legislature.

While the report makes recommendations limiting the amount candidates and slates can spend in local elections, it does nothing to address the bigger issue of limiting the dollar amount of contributions in the first place, or banning corporate and union donations.

With civic election turnouts appallingly low and cynicism towards both politicians and political process at an all-time high, these changes are critical.

The integrity of both civic elections, and city hall process and planning, must be protected to restore faith with voters. And the best way to do that is to take big corporations, big unions and their big money out of it.

Last weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Transparency hit new low during plebiscite

Twenty-three is the number of elected representatives in Metro Vancouver who are members of the Mayors’ Council on Transportation — 21 members are mayors, one represents Electoral area ‘A’, and another is the chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation. Collectively, they are supposed to represent the views and interests of the citizens of the region — you.

The $5.8 million is what the Mayors’ Council spent to promote the Yes vote in the transit plebiscite.

As for 44.7, that is the average percentage of people who took the time to vote. And while the turnout was higher in most cities in this vote than the last civic election, it’s still indicative of how few voters even care.

It’s outrageous — all of it. But that’s not all. Some of the cities in Metro Vancouver spent even more public funds, out of their own city budgets.

It’s been reported that Vancouver spent an additional $292,705 while Surrey coughed up an extra $240,500. New Westminster tossed in another $20,00, but Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said nothing extra was spent — the city simply jotted down a reminder of the ballot in the property tax notice that was already being sent out.

None of these figures even include things like time city staff spent on Yes vote activities.

The Yes side, including the Mayors’ Council, declined to be transparent about their spending during the plebiscite and didn’t release where and how these millions were spent until last week.

And when you consider that the Mayors’ Council is part of the TransLink governance model, it raises even more questions as to their accountability as well.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner both aggressively campaigned, despite Hepner’s own obstacle at having earlier promised LRT running by 2018 even with a no vote.

West Vancouver,Burnaby and Maple Ridge mayors were the only two to oppose the plan — citing lack of TransLink spending oversight — while Jackson chose to ask Delta residents for their feedback rather than taking any position. A wise move.

It’s a sad day when elected officials can ask for, receive and then waste millions of public dollars trying to convince us that TransLink can be trusted to spend even more money wisely.

When this much accountability is lacking, we’ve all lost — regardless of the outcome of this vote.

“Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.” ~ Oliver Goldsmith aka “The day politicians closed a bridge to do yoga.”

It was hot yesterday in the suburbs.

So hot that when I first heard the Burrard street bridge was being completely closed for 7 hours on the first day of summer to do yoga.…I went and poured a glass of ice water to make sure I wasn’t suffering the first signs of heat  stroke.

The timing of the announcement was interesting for poli-geeks still actively discussing the revelations brought to us by Rob Shaw of the Vancouver Sun, that the government not only misled the public in the health firings debacle, but misled the RCMP as well:

“RCMP officers were blindsided by the B.C. government’s claim that they were investigating eight fired Health Ministry researchers, and never conducted a criminal investigation because the ministry never provided any evidence of wrongdoing, internal records show.

Mounties weren’t warned that Margaret MacDiarmid, who was then the health minister, would announce she had sent the case to the RCMP at the Sept. 6, 2012 press conference where she announced the employee firings, newly released emails show.

Despite claims from MacDiarmid’s ministry that its had “provided the RCMP with interim results of an internal investigation,” RCMP emails show the ministry simply gave “high level explanations of the allegations,” and that “the province’s investigation had not reached any conclusions that could support a criminal investigation.”

RCMP investigators tried five times over almost two years to get more information, but received none of the reports the Health Ministry had promised into what it had publicly billed as one of the biggest privacy breaches in B.C. history.

The Mounties closed the file on July 16, 2014, and informed the province. But it wasn’t until seven months later that the government publicly admitted it no longer expected police to pursue the matter.

The records, obtained by The Vancouver Sun through the federal Access to Information Act, show that the B.C. government repeatedly pointed to an RCMP investigation over several years, while at the same time doing virtually nothing to inform police about the case and failing to provide any evidence of a crime.

“Despite inferences in the media that the RCMP has undertaken an investigation or received information from the Province, this has not been the case,” wrote Const. Dean Miller from the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime section, in a late 2014 report. “No tangible evidence or reports related to the allegations have been handed over. As such, no investigation has been initiated.”

NDP critic Adrian Dix said the documents “show a government that not just misled the public but misled the police. And it’s a very serious thing.”

The government “smeared” the reputation of the researchers by repeatedly lying about a police probe it knew did not exist, said Dix.

One of the researchers, co-op student Roderick MacIsaac, committed suicide after he was fired and it was suggested he was under police investigation.”

It’s disgusting and horrific. And while the government has apologized to the families and is in the process of dealing with the resulting litigation, saying sorry just doesn’t cut it. The sorry’s don’t mean anything in this case-they ring hollow as one man’s family will never get their loved one back.

But it’s business as usual. The Clark administration has had a pattern of incidents of wrongdoing that seems to always end up with apologies that in one case, seemed insincere and forced.

Ethnic-gate, the health firings deception and obfuscation, and lets not forget the recent allegations of intentionally deleted emails relating to the highway of tears missing and murdered women...and the removal of penalties for those in government who mishandle information like that.  All examples of how far government will go to get the job done, or ” win at any cost”.

But I digress.

On the heels of the latest revelations that cross a line of human decency, in my opinion, the premier goes onto happily announce the closure of the Burrard Bridge for  not one, not two, but seven full hours in both directions, on a Sunday morning to honour and celebrate the International Day of Yoga.

Happily supporting this idea? The city of Vancouver and the city of Surrey. And let’s not forget Lululemon, who will no doubt reap the immense advertising opportunity to no end to sell more yoga pants to women Chip Wilson thinks shouldn’t be wearing them.

Imagine the flyover image of people getting their zen on in the middle of the Burrard Street bridge, sun in the distance, beautiful Vancouver…all eagerly aided by our premier and two local mayors.

It’s not enough that Vancouver has so many incredible places large enough to host an immense yoga event, like Spanish Banks, Kits beach, Stanley Park… all locations where you can often find people actually practicing yoga.

But no, somehow the Burrard street bridge made perfect sense… hmmm…when was the last time I saw someone doing yoga on the bridge? Oh, never? Mmm… I can visualize it now… breathe in deeply…just ignore the asphalt and oily smell… breathe out… don’t slip off your mat, that residue won’t come out of your yoga pants! Yep. Sounds like a zen-like location to me!

While the point has been made cities often enact road closures for major events like marathons and the Vancouver Sun Run, those events are long-standing events that bring not only British Columbians into the city,but people from around the world as they compete. Those runners bring their spending dollars with them into the city as they arrive early and often stay to enjoy the scenery.

One yoga event announced only two weeks before the actual event? Not even comparable.

Bob Mackin sent out a couple of tweets last night that shed some light on the relationship between Lululemon, their founder Chip Wilson and some recent lobbying registrations. Click on an image to see full size.

It’s just so ridiculous I can’t even laugh, but what makes it more so is that there is another day long event already planned that is officially being presented by the International Day of Yoga, Vancouver Committee, and endorsed by the Consulate General of India! 

“Raniga said that she had originally booked her all-day session at Robson Square, but was subsequently told she could only have it for two hours, so she had to book the Plaza of Nations.

Asked if she believed the hours were cut back because of the province’s yoga session on Burrard Bridge, Raniga said she didn’t know.

“I was approached by the consul-general of India months ago asking if we could put an event together for yoga day. So we’ve been working very closely with the consulate on this,” she said.

She noted that, unlike the Burrard Bridge session, the Plaza of Nations event is booked for the whole day. “They’re doing it on a bridge. We picked a venue that allows people to come out and be in yoga and not just do the practice of yoga, but really embrace the whole aspect of yoga. Also, we’ll have some discussion on lifestyle.”

Closing down an entire bridge in the city of Vancouver for seven hours…. all for a one hour yoga session… under the premise of deepening economic and cultural ties with another country all while an official event endorsed by the consulate and the Vancouver committee for the IDY takes place not that far away.

Well done. Two mayors and the premier upstaging an official IDY event elsewhere – gives a bit of perspective on this, doesn’t it? Did Robertson or Hepner send greetings to the Consulate endorsed event? Hmm? ( I hear crickets chirping but my garden window is open so…) 

 If it were me, I’d be passing over the corporate driven event on the Burrard bridge and heading over to the Consulate of India endorsed event being presented at the Plaza of Nations. It looks like the organizer has been working very hard on that,for some time, and is truly honouring the practice and lifestyle of yoga.

 Lululemon must be howling with glee at this one. Good grief.

Only in Vancouver….

Enjoy your day – I’m off to get my zen on in my garden. At no cost to taxpayers, anywhere.


** Update: June 21st is also National Aboriginal Day…. what has the premier planned for that?

This weeks columns for 24Hrs Vancouver: Time to look at mail-in elections

As voting closed in the transit plebiscite, the numbers surprised many.

In every Metro Vancouver municipality, the turnout surpassed the number of registered voters who cast a ballot in the 2014 municipal elections.

According to numbers from Elections BC — as of May 27 — nearly 45% of registered voters mailed their ballots in.

Some mayors called the turnout a success, and while the turnouts for the plebiscite were much better than the last election, overall the percentage is still low.

While Coquitlam saw an appalling 26% turnout in the 2014 election, nearly 46% of registered voters mailed in ballots for the plebiscite — a sizable increase. And while only 28% of registered North Vancouver city residents voted last year, nearly 47% returned their ballots on this issue. This story was repeated all over the Lower Mainland, with the exception of Surrey.

Surrey had the lowest plebiscite response at approximately 39.5% — a small increase over the 35% that voted in 2014. Vancouver also registered a marginal increase over the election turnout of 44%, coming in at 45.6%.

Looking at the numbers, it’s still a sad commentary on the state of engagement between cities and voters when a rate of 45% is considered a success.

Mayors often say they’re on the ground, connected to the community, yet one wonders how solid that connection is when so few people can be bothered to vote.

But was the contentious tax issue on the ballot behind the increase, or the method of voting itself?

While the mail-in vote was not without objections by some, many people I’ve spoken with found it more convenient than standing in a long line….

Read the rest of this weeks column and vote at

This weeks new column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Mayors can’t afford to ignore housing

Recently, I  shared with you the news of my move from the Duel and why I made that decision-I’m thrilled at the overwhelming support from all of you in this new venture.

Today, I’m happy to bring you my first column as the new civic affairs columnist for 24Hrs Vancouver! Every week, the column will be up online by Wednesday evening and in the paper Thursday morning. I’ll continue to post the links here as well for those who don’t get the paper or follow on social media. And as I promised, I will continue blogging provincial and federal stories here, along with my usual thoughts and photos.

A heaping dose of irony filled me as I contemplated my first civic affairs column because well-known real estate marketer Bob Rennie was on the radio telling young Vancouverites to forget ever owning a single-family home in the city.

True enough, but then Rennie — who’s earned the moniker Condo King for a good reason — went on to say the only solution to affordable home ownership in Vancouver was high-density projects. Lots of them. And fast enough to drive down prices.

Did I mention he markets condos?

It’s not just Vancouver feeling the crunch — last week I read a story of an elderly couple in Burnaby whose apartment building is slated for demolition to make way for more condos. It’s a story being repeated all over Metro Vancouver as investors look to snap up current stock, or demolish and rebuild with little regard to what kind of housing is actually needed…

Read the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at:



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


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.”

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:


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.

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:


No kidding. Why isn’t the yes side talking about this?A comprehensive road pricing strategy is a part of their plan. You vote Yes now, and the mayors still plan on introducing user pay roads ( tolls for distance traveled) 5 years or so down the line.

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.

This is why the mayors plan details that if a YES vote prevails, they will introduce road pricing down the road. It takes time to implement that… and there will be considerable backlash.

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. This isn’t an anti-congestion tax.

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.

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

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.

And a recent news stories on Seattle mayor Ed Murrays proposal

Winter weather on the coast makes for stunning moments in nature

Although I was born and raised in the northern interior, most of my adult life has been spent here on the coast where the mountains meet the sea. Surprisingly though,I’ve never adjusted to the inherent dampness of our coastal winter weather! It’s so different from the dry cold the rest of B.C. experiences and as many will agree, chills you to the bone.

That’s why I really love these cold snaps! The air is dryer, the sky is clear and the scenery from dawn to dusk is simply breathtaking. Even the light is different at this time of year: the angle of the sun hanging low in the sky casts a warm tone during the day, changing to a soft yet brilliant indigo-fuchsia-pink at dusk that most artists would find hard to replicate.

Toss in a skiff of snow and it’s nature’s eraser at it’s best.Dowdy brown,muddy fields become architectural rows of symmetry, puddles transform into crystalline sheets of fun,and for a while at least, everything is fresh, clean and new.

And when that happens- as much as I miss my hometown- there is no better place to be than right here, right now. Photos all taken in Ladner and Surrey.

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**** While this cold,clear weather is beautiful to enjoy, the sad reality is that it can be deadly for the homeless in our communities all over the province.

Most shelters and outreach organizations will take and greatly appreciate donations of blankets,new and gently used winter clothing, boots, etc for distribution to those facing the hardest challenges on the street.

If you are aware of homeless in your neighbourhood, reach out and direct them to emergency shelter locations. Here is a list you can work from:

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Mega-city unsuitable for region.

This week’s topic: Should the Lower Mainland become a mega-city like Toronto with one election for the entire region?

Brent is right on the money when he states: “What an election!” For politicos, there’s no bigger rush than election night – watching the polls come in to see what direction voters will take their cities. This year’s civic elections did not disappoint. They were riveting.

The big winner in this year’s civic elections is democracy, as many cities saw significantly higher voter turnouts. Regardless of the outcomes, increasing voter turnout is a positive sign that many voters are perhaps beginning to understand the power of their vote at the municipal level.

While it’s accurate to state that many issues facing our civic leaders are regional in nature, it’s simplistic to think that amalgamation is the cure for what ails us. Transportation issues in Vancouver such as transit are in no way comparable to cities like Surrey or Langley – it’s apples and oranges. You really don’t need a car in Vancouver, whereas in Surrey it’s a costly necessity for most. The same goes for the environment or development – while both are top of the list in both Vancouver and Surrey, it’s for different reasons.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

Supporters of amalgamation always resort to using cost-savings and more efficient service delivery as the biggest reasons for doing so. One city hall instead of five or six, fewer mayors, less waste, centralized administration, blah, blah, blah.

Sounds great until you actually take the time to see how it’s worked out for the other regions or cities that have done so in Canada. It hasn’t always been a success and, at times, it has been considered a failure…


READ the rest of this weeks column in response to Brent’s argument, comment and vote, HERE: