October 18, 2021

‘Equity’ is the new NIMBY

Why did Mayor Stewart vote against pricing residential parking city wide?  Equity of course – specifically the lack of it.

From the CBC:

Kennedy … who cast the deciding vote Wednesday night … pointed out the proposed program would disproportionately impact middle- and low-income families …

“It would have asked those renting basement suites or working in vehicle-dependent jobs to pay more while asking homeowners with private parking to pay nothing. And these inequitable outcomes would become entrenched,” said Stewart in a statement.

Equity has become not only an issue and a mandate but a political weapon.  If an opponent, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum, can convincingly label something as inequitable, it’s in trouble. No matter how well-intentioned, no matter equitable it might be compared to the alternatives, no matter how effectively mitigated to deal with the inequities, any policy or program can be rejected, deferred or sent back endlessly for more consultation, especially with those who weren’t paying attention in the first place but now feel aggrieved.

The equity argument is an especially effective strategy for those who are skeptical, fearful or opposed to change.  It’s NIMBY in the guise of social justice.

I first saw how to weaponize wokeness with the Stanley Park bike lane.  Disabled advocates and seniors, aligned with NPA Park Commissioners, united to decry the loss of ‘easy parking’.  In fact, it was really about the loss of recognition and respect for those who saw the use of the automobile and priority parking as synonymous with equity and status.  To take that asphalt and priorize it for cyclists was, tipsy-turvy, to revert to the inequity that the disabled in particular had fought so hard against.

No wonder equity considerations became the lever to justify killing the city-wide parking program, regardless of the mitigation efforts proposed or suggested.  It only took one effective illustration of a possible inequitable outcome for Mayor Kennedy to justify his vote: “… a landscaper living in a basement suite who buys a used 2023 pickup truck for work would pay over $1,000 a year while their landlord would pay nothing — even if the homeowner drives a Ferrari.”

It’s essentially the same argument that makes road pricing so difficult to implement: the highway may be congested but at least it’s a truly democratic space.  Everyone who owns a car regardless of income, class or identity is stuck in the same congestion, breathing the same polluted air.

If Kennedy made the right call and isn’t penalized for his hypocrisy, equity will be seen again as a weapon that can be brandished by any side of an argument or ideology to prevent change from happening.  A delay is sufficient.  Sending it back to staff for further review is satisfactory.  Voting it down is best.  In any case, it avoids being labeled as a NIMBYist.


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  1. Not only is the measure inequitable it is pointless. The idea that working people in Vancouver can somehow affect climate change through higher taxes is just plain ridiculous. It is parroting energy company PR.

    If the Vancouver civic government wanted to speak to environmental concerns they would seek to restrict the sale of products manufactured with coal sourced energy or other egregious cheap energy sources. Or indeed any other realistic idea.

    There should never be end user energy taxes imposed on citizens here who must consume energy to care for their families.

    1. Well, I can partly agree with the first sentence. The proposal presented to council was not equitable. The notion that some would be subsidized by a $5.00 p.a permit by others paying $45 or more is pure social engineering that is somewhat best dealt with by provincial and federal taxes. However, using market based economics to affect demand is not pointless. It works. Actually, it seems what you have said is actually parroting big oil PR. Oh, and by the way, if you were able to get coal and other cheap oil products restricted, by using non market driven ideology, you will see an increase in energy prices as is happening in the world at this very moment. Those who must use their car to get to work will be penalized as, apart from the aluminum, copper and chip related precious metals, that are all mined, most vehicles are made from steel and oil based plastic requiring enormous fossil fuel consumption.
      I think we are on the same page to the end goal but our strategies to get there differ.

    2. I disagree that it is pointless. Just because the city cannot “solve” global climate change all by itself does not make its efforts pointless. Pricing is the simplest way to reduce CO2 emissions, and the city has control over the price of its curbside space. It’s imperfect, yes. That’s the worst that can be said about it. But if the city were serious about doing what it can do, it would have passed this measure. It didn’t. They’re not. We’re screwed. There is no debate.

      1. Literally almost nothing of this plan would have any meaningful impact on emissions. It was greenwashing writ large and that is the problem. Those of us who care deeply about addressing climate change can be dedicated to that while not accepting nonsense plans like this one which does not impact most of the cars on the road in Vancouver, so it’s nonsensical.

        1. You’re mistaken on two fronts: 1 – That it would have no impact on emissions. Incorrect. 2 – That is not solely about reducing emissions. It’s also about recovering even a sliver of the real costs of pollution. Keep waiting for that one, perfect solution that will solve everything. Go on.

  2. Ok, let’s talk about equity.

    Leaving aside the optics of some details in the mayor’s equity anecdote (“Ferrari,”) “used pickup truck”– and his muddled mashup of the on-street parking fee ($45/year) issue with the new-ICE-vehicle surcharge ($1,000 for that tenant’s barely-used latest model ICE pickup), let’s consider the equity here:

    The tenant gets heavily-subsidized city property for parking her $40k-plus pickup at a cost of $45/year.

    The landlord, if we assume she’s parking off-street, has to park on property she’s purchased.

    For a 200 sq. ft. parking space @ $1,000/ sq. ft. real estate prices, she paid $200,000 for the privilege of having that private parking space– even if she drives a used pickup truck.

    Landlord pays $200,000 one-time; tenant pays $45 a year.

    Show me the equity!

    1. You are confirming exactly what this is about, a curb tax. It certainly was never about any kind of meaningful impact on emissions. In fact, virtually none of the measures had much of anything to do with emissions. If council wanted to argue that residents should pay to park on the street to raise more revenue, then go ahead and do that, but the greenwashing is not only distasteful, but it serves to distract from what is obviously a very serious problem that requires real action, not faux measures some councillors could use to play to their base.

  3. As a rhetorical device to whitewash inaction, it’s an untouchable. Who’s going to be in favour of INequity? It’s doubly unfortunate because Equity isn’t just cynically employed to mean “distasteful”, but also used by earnest people as another way to say a solution is “imperfect”. We keep waiting for the world’s most perfect solution to magically appear from the ether, we’re gonna be a bunch of waiting s.o.b.’s. It’s got to stop.

  4. The advocates for the disabled on the issue of the Stanley Park bike lane decried the poor access for them to the far corners of the park such as 3rd Beach assuming that meant car access when in fact a large segment of the disabled are poor without cars. Better access for them would be a shuttle or bus route.

  5. I think the mayor’s quote about the homeowner with the Ferrari does a good job of highlighting why maybe the City isn’t the best level of government to be levying a fee on vehicles that pollute. It literally can’t get charge them, and does make it an inequitable policy. Further, we already have a provincial carbon tax which basically taxes pollution from vehicles. That’s the level on which car pollution should be taxed.

    I had no problem with charging for street parking. It’s a city-specific problem that they should deal with. I see nothing inequitable about charging for use of public land for car storage.

  6. It’s interesting how the notion of equity could become a pejorative here, to be used to undermine real concerns about a fee which would be paid by working people and avoided by anyone who has the benefit of private off street parking, no matter the degree of emissions their vehicle would spew. I guess Mr. Price feels this was no reason to deny a fee which had very little, in fact pretty nothing to do with addressing emissions.

    As far as Stanley Park, I think Mr. Price underestimates the number of people who genuinely need to get to the park by car, due to mobility, age, or just the need to haul a family from further afield than the West End. Restricting access to key destinations in the name of social distancing and, as stated by Green park board commissioners, a desire to address climate change by way of restricting vehicle access.

    This year, the route was much better thought out, but now that the seawall was back open, most chose the route which should never have been closed before, so not really sure what the point of the $800,000 exercise was.

  7. Why is the city still mandating underground parking for the towers along the new Broadway Subway line if its a climate emergency. The proposed tower at the Broadway-Granville station will have six levels of underground parking.

    1. Good question. Two reasons: 1) the city is not very serious about this supposed climate emergency. They talk, but they’re still too scared to use the stick along with the carrot; and 2) parking requirements for new developments are still the purview of Permitting, not Sustainability. In larger bureaucracies, left hands often don’t talk to right hands.

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