November 9, 2015

Why don't provincial politicians care about Metro?

It’s clear the Liberal government doesn’t really care much about Metro Vancouver, the City in particular.  Even as their policies and strategies (always another referendum requirement) work against our long-term sustainability (but always more highway infrastructure), our Liberal MLAs have nothing substantive to say about the two most critical issues that affect us: transportation and housing.
But then, neither do the NDP.  Vaughn Palmer in The Sun quotes from their resolution book at last Friday’s convention:

NDP resWe need a party platform that is coherent, builds confidence, and is aimed at a broad voter base with a clear message,” declared the item put forward by the B.C. Federation of Labour and one of the Burnaby ridings.
Therefore be it resolved that: “The BC NDP will design a platform that has a clear vision for change, that resonates with British Columbians and will focus on ballot box issues like job creation, building a sustainable economy, delivering quality public services, ensuring fair labour laws, a commitment to work with both rural and urban municipalities on key issues like infrastructure, education, skills development and training, health care, and housing.” All this to be drafted and “market tested” before the election call, then coupled with a “concise communications strategy” grounded in “straightforward ideas that resonate with the voting public.”

Horgan 1Not even a mention of transit.  Their leader, John Horgan, in his attack on the Premier on Saturday, failed to frame the issue.  If anyone has anything to report on the vision the NDP has for this region, what alternative they would offer, what wasteful infrastructure they would oppose, please share.
Has the NDP taken an explicit stand against further referenda, proclaiming that, if elected, there will be no more of that?  Not that I’m aware of.  What about Andrew Weaver, Green, or Vicki Huntington, Independent?  The former stayed neutral on the ref; the latter effectively supports the Massey Bridge while critical of the process.
So with no one taking on the Liberals for their transportation strategy for Metro (‘Motordom by Default’), the issue stays muddled or unaddressed.  The commentators discuss strategy, not substance.  And any serious policy discussion about housing, if it involves affecting rising values or suggestions of racism, is avoided at all costs.
The vacuum is deafening.

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  1. Is the answer in the distribution of voters per seat between urban and rural / suburban ridings? Is it possible that a much smaller non-urban voter base can deliver a much larger number of seats? Does this swing the issues of Provincial concern to the issues that are top-of-mind for only non-urban voters?

  2. Yes Ken. This is all because on average rural voters get two votes to the urban one vote. It is not one person one vote in our province or country. So even though the urban vote is more than half in terms of numbers it is far less than half in terms of seats.

  3. And liberal voters (in the true meaning) are generally urban or at least cosmopolitan, while conservative ones are generally suburban and exurban or rural.

  4. Federally, the Liberals won the urban vote (they even got seats in Calgary!). Provincially, the NDP would be well advised to get on the same track.
    And I agree about the vote distribution. It’s ridiculous.

  5. Indeed an adult debate on funding for public transit & housing needs to happen with province, TransLink and MetroVan at the table.
    But it cannot include only ” we need more money from the province” as the only agenda item.
    It needs the following four or so items too
    a) how much is the City of Vancouver – or other affected cities like Surrey, Burnaby or N-Van willing to contribute ?
    b) how much is UBC willing to contribute to a Broadway line to UBC ?
    c) how is MetroVan adjusting cost of services delivery costs, specifically adjusting civil servants salaries and benefits to market, i.e. down 20-33% through outsourcing, contract adjustments, early retiring, staff reductions or phasing out of excessive benefits ?
    d) are we willing to reform our taxation system, like Texas, away from incomes to higher PST and far far higher property taxes to adjust to the new reality of non-income tax paying seniors, affluent immigrants, second and fourth home owners and non-residents owning very expensive real estate yet paying almost nothing in income taxes but using expensive healthcare, transit, policing or education services ?
    As such, unless all parties are willing to look at this holistically, no major break through, financed by borrowing or higher provincial taxes is to be expected.
    As a BC resident and BC tax payer I am disgusted to see multi-million $ homes vacant and under-taxed, civil servants retiring at 55 with generous indexed pensions, entry level city managers making $100,000+ salaries with low risk of layoffs and generous benefits, stressed out teachers teaching classes with 80%+ ESL students that arrive in Bentleys by non-income paying mothers, free parking along Marine Drive or in residential neighborhoods and homeless clogging downtown streets.
    These issues are all related, as neither the cities nor the province have an adult debate about necessary tax reform. We need to tax housing more, far more, consumption more and incomes less, or none at all.

    1. And now, Thomas, some down to Earth reality …… again.
      If you want UBC and Vancouver to contribute to the cost of providing improved public transit — which, by the way, has an average operating cost recovery of 50% — then surely you’d agree that the roads Vancouver provides and maintains at great cost (including land consumption) should also have some kind of cost recovery, say a toll gate at every intersection, or an automated electronic toll device in every vehicle that tallies the true cost of their otherwise priviledged and subsized existence.
      And once again, you’ve been challenged before to don your colours and run for office. You will then put your ideas to a public referendum. Vote Yes! to reduce wages!

  6. It’s hard to fathom why even the Green Party doesn’t take a more urban and energy-related perspective. People living in denser communities, especially those that are walkable or at least offer viable alternatives to cars, produce a fraction of the per capita life cycle emissions of sprawling suburbs, exurbs and rural subdivisions. You would think both the Greens and NDP would be heavily pro-transit for its positive contribution to mitigating urban pollution, stimulating the economy and job creation, even if they don’t understand cities.
    George Heyman once told a colleague of mine that the NDP ignored the climate impact of embedded emissions in its support for the Surrey coal export terminal because they wanted to protect the jobs there … all 21 of them. Meanwhile ports like Seattle have rejected coal due to its high ranking as one of the top polluting commodities responsible for a large portion of the climate change predicament, and its poor contribution to the local economy.
    Ever since the Adrian Dix de-election the NDP have been cowering in the face of inconvenient environmental issues in fear that their industrial base will turn on them electorally. Well, Dix baited and switched from oil industry-related jobs (Kinder Morgan) to going green without any discussion on how many more permanent clean alternative energy industry jobs there can be based on the evidence from jurisdictions that actually promote clean energy (e.g. Germany). The NDP have to come to terms with environment and urbanism sooner or later.