Local elections campaign Bills 20 and 21 a DISASTER for DEMOCRACY in Vancouver: Election cycle extended from 3 years to 4 years immediately, with no significant change to campaign financing

Today NSV issued a media release on Local Elections Campaign Finance Act (Bill 20) and the Local Elections Statutes Amendments Act 2014 (Bill 21), both tabled in the BC legislature yesterday, March 26, 2014 . The full text of the document is reproduced below and it is also available in PDF format for download.
Media Release

MEDIA RELEASE

NSV calls local elections campaign Bills 20 and 21 a DISASTER for DEMOCRACY in Vancouver: Election cycle extended from 3 years to 4 years immediately, with no significant change to campaign financing 

(Vancouver, March 27, 2014) Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) is not impressed by the BC government’s Local Elections Campaign Finance Act (Bill 20) and the Local Elections Statutes Amendments Act 2014 (Bill 21), both tabled in the BC legislature yesterday.

Bill 20 pays little more than lip service to campaign finance reform and delivers no significant changes prior to the 2014 civic election. For those concerned about the corruptive influence of corporate, developer, union, and foreign political donations, this legislation is a disaster for local democracy.

According to the Province, proposed legislation is aimed at “modernizing local government elections to maximize fairness, transparency and accountability”.  But, while Bill 20 does nothing but delay action on campaign finance reform, the Local Elections Statutes Amendments Act 2014 (Bill 21) proposes to extend the election cycle from 3 years to 4 years, effective immediately.  From NSV’s perspective this is a reckless recipe for trouble in November 2014 and is certain to mean record-high campaign spending and less accountability, not more.

Minister responsible, Coralee Oakes noted that “this is the most significant update to BC’s local elections process in 20 years” and NSV agrees.  In fact, it was nearly three decades ago, in 1987, that amendments to the Municipal Act mandated a province-wide, three-year election cycle as of 1990.  At the time, Civic elections were held every two years in Vancouver, and had been since 1965 (prior to which City Council was elected on an annual basis)

NSV is strongly opposed to an extended election cycle.  Despite the City’s support for it, there is no evidence that it has a mandate.  On the contrary, public feedback to the Province’s Local Government Election Task Force, in 2010, was overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal (see details at http://nsvancouver.ca/finance_reform_2014/) and there is no reason to presume that public opinion has changed.

NSV’s view is that an extended election cycle would only serve to compound the influence of unlimited campaign contributions and exacerbate the profound disrespect for public opinion that is currently displayed by Vancouver’s elected officials.

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is calling upon all citizens to demand a rewriting of proposed legislation.  Contact your local MLA (contact information at http://www.leg.bc.ca/mla/3-1-1.htm).  What we need is immediate and effective controls on campaign finance  (prior to the 2014 civic election).  What we don’t need is an extended election cycle that will only create a better investment for unlimited special interest money.

See NSV’s response to the BC Province’s White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform here…

http://nsvancouver.ca/nsv-submission-campaign-finance-reform/

 

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Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is a citywide grassroots network of neighbourhoods with roots going back to 2007. In the November 2011 civic election, NSV ran a mayoral candidate and four council candidates for Vancouver City Council, based on Neighbourhood-based Real Democracy, Sustainability, and Vancouver-based Solutions. A major pillar was campaign finance reform..

 Contact: Ned Jacobs, E-mail info@nsvancouver.ca, Web www.nsvancouver.ca

Government press release (PDF):

Direct links to the draft legislation:

Posted in Uncategorized |

NSV letter to Council opposing Temporary Sales Office as Conditional Use in RS and RT (Residential) Zoning Districts

Download PDF: NSV-Amendment to RS-RT Zones-March 14-2014

March 14, 2014

Mayor Robertson and Councillors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors,

Re: Public Hearing –  Amendments to Permit Temporary Sales Office as Conditional Use in RS and RT (Residential) Zoning Districts

 Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) is opposed to this proposed text amendment to the RS (Single Family) and RT (Duplex) zoning and development by-law.

This proposal has significant implications for neighbourhoods across the city, yet no effective notice has been provided or consultation conducted to establish the extent of public support.

Temporary Sales Offices  represent a substantial change in use of residential areas, which  is currently not allowed because of impacts  related to traffic, parking and signage associated with their commercial nature.

We request that the City consider other more appropriate options such as consideration through the Board of Variance.  Assuming that an applicant can reasonably justify that no other suitably zoned site could be used for  subject purpose, and where the community supports the conditions of  proposed temporary use, the Board of Variance could consider such a request.

We further request that, in no case, would approval by the Board of Variance (or otherwise) permit the demolition of a heritage or character building or construction of any new structure, having scale and/or form inconsistent with the existing by-law.

Sincerely,

Greg Booth
On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
Website: nsvancouver.ca ; Email: info@nsvancouver.ca

PS. Please leave contact information in posted letter online.

References:
http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20140310/documents/phea1draftbylawZD.pdf

http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20140218/documents/p2.pdf

Posted in Uncategorized |

NSV writes City Council on Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan, March 12, 2014

March 11, 2014
Mayor Robertson and Councillors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4
Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors,
Re: Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan – March 12, 2014

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) is opposed to this proposal for the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan.

The plan covers very diverse neighbourhoods with many varying community interests. However, this plan is not supported by the affected communities. The process appears to have been orchestrated by the City to put these communities in greater opposition to each other to better serve development interests. A neighbourhood-based process is needed to better address local concerns and needs.

Some examples of the many concerns are as follows:

  • Much of the community is made up of vulnerable low income people who will be further threatened, displaced and impacted by the increased development proposed.
  • Redevelopment will not help the vulnerable populations that need senior government supports which are not addressed.
  • These areas were previously heritage protected both by the province and the city. This is no longer the case. The proposed plan encourages redevelopment without adequate heritage protections that will further inflate land values and increase heritage density transfers that can now be landed in the neighbourhood instead of transferring to outside of the area to reduce development pressures.
  • The tower form of development contemplated for this area is not consistent with the heritage character and will make housing more expensive without adequately addressing real affordability.

This plan should not be approved as proposed and should be reconsidered under a better process that is community supported.

Sincerely,
Greg Booth
On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
Website: nsvancouver.ca ; Email: info@nsvancouver.ca
Agenda: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20140312/cfsc20140312ag.htm
Policy Report: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20140312/documents/cfsc5.PDF
Memo to Council: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20140312/documents/cfsc5memo.PDF

Download our letter in PDF: NSV-DTES Plan, 12-Mar-2014

Posted in Uncategorized |

NSV opposes Oakridge Centre rezoning in letter to Council

NSV has urged Vancouver City Council not to proceed with the Oakridge Centre rezoning as proposed. The full text of NSV’s letter to Council is reproduced below.

March 9, 2014

Mayor Robertson and Councillors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors,

Re: Public Hearing – Oakridge Centre and Related Rezonings – March 10, 2014

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) is opposed to this rezoning proposal for the Oakridge Centre and Related Rezonings.

Generally, the community has clearly stated that the development proposal is far in excess of what is appropriate for the site and many issues remain unresolved.

Some examples of unresolved issues are as follows:

  • Only 10% of the costs of infrastructure and amenities to support a new development are typically covered by development fees of DCLs or CACs. The related costs for this development will be largely subsidized by tax payers and impacts of this has not been fully disclosed to the public.
  • The impacts of this massive redevelopment do not appear to have been considered including on traffic and the increases to physical and social infrastructure that will be needed to support this redevelopment.
  • At peak hours, the Canada Line is already at capacity. The impacts on the Canada Line from this development have not been appropriately assessed as to if the system can be expanded to adequately accommodate the increased volume and how that would be paid for.
  • The green roof of the retail mall that is the podium base for the 14 towers should not be considered the public park space that is required under policy.
  • The massive development of 14 towers up to 44 storeys is entirely out of scale for this location and will have major impacts on shadowing of the surrounding community.

This project should not proceed as proposed.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Murphy

On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
Website: nsvancouver.ca ; Email: info@nsvancouver.ca
PS. Please leave contact information in posted letter online.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Campaign Finance Reform media release and written submission to the Provincial Government

NSV issued a media release on Campaign Finance Reform and also submitted a written submission to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development on January 31, 2014. The full text of both documents is reproduced below and the documents are also available in PDF format for download.
Media Release       Submission to BC Government

MEDIA RELEASE

NSV says local government election “reforms” conceal a Trojan Horse that will weaken democracy, and calls for deeper and quicker reforms, retention of 3-year election cycle

(Vancouver, January 31, 2014) Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver today submitted its comments to Coralee Oakes, B.C.’s Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, on the White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform. Today is the deadline for public comment.

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) is disappointed by and largely opposed to the so-called “reforms” put forward by the provincial government in its recently-published White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform.

According to the White Paper, proposed changes “are the most significant in nearly two decades”. But the proposed package of minor adjustments, stemming from work of the Local Government Elections Task Force established in 2009, includes nothing to restrain the corrupting influence of “big money” on municipal politics. Instead of practical and progressive measures to reign in the unlimited campaign contributions that are undermining the democratic foundations of accountable civic governance, the proposed “reforms” amount in many respects to a regressive attack on grassroots political organizing and free speech.

The main points of the submission are:

  1. Please retain the three year terms of civic office. Do not change to four years.
  2. Proposed “Reforms” do nothing to restrain corrupting influence of “big money” in municipal politics.
  3. Some “key changes” will actually hurt grassroots campaigning and free speech.
  4. Please do not allow Vancouver City Council to makes its own rules for election campaign finance. NSV believes that the current City administration is too compromised by systemic conflict of interest to be entrusted with this responsibility.
  5. Expense limits are not enough. Caps are also needed on campaign contributions – in the 2014 civic election.

NSV is concerned that the cosmetic changes to campaign finance rules include a “Trojan horse” in the form of a possible shift from the current three years to four-year terms of office, which would weaken accountability and democracy.

Notably, despite a clear balance of public feedback opposed to an extended election cycle, the Elections Task Force recommended that the term of office for local officials be extended from three to four years.  Although the September 2013 White Paper draft makes clear that “the provincial government has agreed not to change the term of office”, it is also clear that this position was predicated on a resolution passed by the UBCM in 2010 “to retain a three year term of office”.

However, the UBCM reversed that position at its 2013 Annual Conference and now the province appears to be considering the change to 4-year terms. The election cycle is the only remaining control the public has over elected representatives. It is currently too long rather than too short, and should probably revert to the former two-year cycle, which provided much greater accountability. As for claims that elections are expensive, NSV’s view is that there is no better way to spend tax dollars in a democracy.

A copy of the five-page submission is attached.

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is a citywide grassroots network of neighbourhoods with roots going back to 2007. In the November 2011 civic election, NSV ran a mayoral candidate and four council candidates for Vancouver City Council, based on Neighbourhood-based Real Democracy, Sustainability, and Vancouver-based Solutions. A major pillar was campaign finance reform..

Contact: Ned Jacobs E-mail info@nsvancouver.ca, Web www.nsvancouver.ca

 

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Submission to British Columbia Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development

On the White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform (Sept. & Nov. 2013)

From Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV)

January 31, 2014

By email localgovelectionreform@gov.bc.ca

 

*******

 

PROPOSED MUNICIPAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN FINANCE “REFORMS” A TROJAN HORSE THAT WILL WEAKEN DEMOCRACY

 

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) continues to be disappointed by and largely opposed to many of the so-called “reforms” put forward by the provincial government in its White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform.

 

The main points of our submission are:

  1. Please retain the three year terms of civic office. Do not change to four years
  2. Proposed “Reforms” do nothing to restrain corrupting influence of “big money” on municipal politics.
  3. Some “key changes” will actually hurt grassroots campaigning and free speech.
  4. Please do not allow Vancouver City Council to make its own rules for election campaign finance. NSV believes that the current City administration is too compromised by systemic conflict of interest to be entrusted with this responsibility.
  5. Expense limits are not enough. Caps are also needed on campaign contributions – in the 2014 civic election.

*******

Submission to British Columbia Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development (January 30, 2014)

On the White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform

Please retain the three year terms of civic office. Do not change to four years.

We are concerned that the cosmetic changes to campaign finance rules include a “Trojan horse” in the form of a possible shift from the current three years to four-year terms of office, which would weaken accountability and democracy.

Notably, despite a clear balance of public feedback opposed to an extended election cycle, the Elections Task Force recommended that the term of office for local officials be extended from three to four years.  Although the September 2013 White Paper draft makes clear that “the provincial government has agreed not to change the term of office”, it is also clear that this position was predicated on a resolution passed by the UBCM in 2010 “to retain a three year term of office”.

Significantly, however, the UBCM reversed that position at its 2013 Annual Conference, supporting a resolution tabled by the Lower Mainland Local Government Association despite recommendation by the UBCM Resolutions Committee to “not endorse”.  During the consultation on the initial draft on the White Paper it was presumed that the Province would remain committed to its position not to approve the 4-year term as set out in the White Paper.  We are therefore very concerned that the province is instead considering acting on the UBCM’s more recent resolution that requests “the provincial government to increase the interval between civic elections from three years to four years.”  This is a self-serving response by incumbent officials—not the voters they represent.

A 2010 survey by ThinkCity (in connection with the Elections Task Force) found that of 3,689 respondents, nearly 63% were in favour of retaining the three-year election cycle and 14% felt that it should be reduced to two years. Only 24% supported an extended four-year cycle.  In a submission to the Task Force, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation observed that a four-year cycle would mean “voters lose out as their local politicians become less accountable”, “less democracy at a time when citizens of British Columbia need more” and “that politicians who may have lost the support of their citizens will hold the reins of power for even longer”.  Indeed, rather than saving money, four-year terms could end up costing taxpayers even more because incumbent officials who have to face voters frequently to renew their mandates tend to be more circumspect in regard to fiscal oversight and budgeting decisions.

For all of the reasons that unlimited campaign contributions are undermining public confidence in local governance, an extended election cycle would only compound the problem.  It is becoming ever more obvious to voters in neighbourhoods across Vancouver that our elected representatives are out of touch with public opinion and unwilling to listen.  The election cycle is the only remaining control the public has over elected representatives.  it is currently too long rather than too short, and should probably revert to the former  two-year cycle, which provided much greater accountability.  As for claims that elections are expensive, NSV’s view is that there is no better way to spend tax dollars in a democracy.

Proposed “Reforms” do nothing to restrain corrupting influence of “big money” on municipal politics.

According to the White Paper, proposed changes “are the most significant in nearly two decades”.  While this may well be true, it is a sad statement, because the proposed package of minor adjustments, stemming from work of the Local Government Elections Task Force established in 2009, includes absolutely nothing to restrain the corrupting influence of “big money” on municipal politics.

Instead of practical and progressive measures to reign in the unlimited campaign contributions that are undermining the democratic foundations of accountable civic governance, the proposed “reforms” amount in many respects to a regressive attack on grassroots political organizing and free speech.

Some “key changes” will actually hurt grassroots campaigning and free speech.

For example, “key changes,” as identified by the Province, include a blanket ban on anonymous campaign contributions.  That is nothing but counterproductive in the absence of a reasonable cap on single donor contributions.  As it stands, it would only discourage legitimate donations of less than $50. Related recording and disclosure requirements would impose a considerable administrative burden on electoral organizations like NSV that count on grassroots financial support and do not solicit or accept contributions from vested interests, such as the development and gaming industries.

Similarly, new rules would require sponsors of any and all campaign advertising to register with BC Elections, file formal disclosure statements and include sponsorship information on any advertisement.  NSV fails to see that additional regulations on campaign advertising, including by third parties, would have any positive effect in the absence of a reasonable cap on campaign financing, and is concerned that lack of an exemption for low-cost, non-commercial advertising could stifle grassroots campaigning and limit free speech.

New regulations would also apply to political advertising related to referenda, plebiscites and other ballot initiatives (“assent voting”) conducted, either integral to or outside the regular election period.  Again, a lack of appropriate exemptions could unreasonably impede free speech and popular democracy.

Please do not allow Vancouver City Council to makes its own rules for election campaign finance.

In general, the so-called “reforms” could pose significant challenges to real democracy while failing to address the root cause of a growing disconnect between Vancouver’s elected officials and the public that elects them.  The Province has pledged to enact separate campaign finance legislation in advance of 2017 civic elections, and the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) has supported changes to the Vancouver Charter “to allow Vancouver to make rules for election campaign finance that place greater limits on campaign spending and contributions”.  However, NSV believes that the current City administration is too compromised by systemic conflict of interest to be entrusted with this responsibility.

Expense limits are not enough. Caps are also needed on campaign contributions – in the 2014 civic election.

In particular, the final report of the Elections Task Force concludes that “expense limits are expected to be more effective than contribution limits in promoting accessibility” because “they do not limit the democratic discourse and the variety of voices that can be heard in an election”.  Spending caps alone are ineffective precisely because they fail to level the playing field.

For this reason, it is NSV’s view that sensible caps on campaign contributions, together with spending limits, must be an integral part of progressive campaign finance reform, and we encourage Victoria to reconsider this key element of the Task Force recommendations.  In our view, there is nothing to prevent the Province from implementing an interim contribution limit(s) in advance of 2014 civic election period that would effectively cap the use of funds contributed by any given donor to the interim limit(s), with any net balance refundable to the donor.

Further review and stakeholder consultation in regard to appropriately revised contribution and expense limits could be undertaken as planned, leading to inclusion of associated provisions in separate campaign finance legislation adopted prior to the 2017 election period.  That is assuming civic elections will be held in 2017, and NSV believes that uncertainty around a Task Force recommendation to extend the election cycle represents another major problem.

And, finally, in view of uncertainty regarding the Province’s stated position on retaining the current three-year election cycle, NSV is respectfully requesting that this issue be clarified and that the comment period be appropriately extended specifically on this issue since there now is a possibility that the government intends to reconsider its initial position while most of the public are unaware of this change.

Ned Jacobs

On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
Web: www.nsvancouver.ca
E-mail: info@nsvancouver.ca

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TO THE PUBLIC: Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver encourages the public to review the White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform and to provide feedback at the following link: http://www.cscd.gov.bc.ca/LocalGovtElectionReform/ . And after the January 31, 2014 deadline, please talk to your Member of Legislative Assembly and tell them what you think.

ABOUT NSV: Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is a citywide grassroots network of neighbourhoods with roots going back to 2007. In the November 2011 civic election, NSV ran a mayoral candidate and four council candidates for Vancouver City Council, based on Neighbourhood-based Real Democracy, Sustainability, and Vancouver-based Solutions. A major pillar was campaign finance reform. We believe regulators of land use policy should not be funded by those they regulate. Today we continue actively monitoring the situation in Vancouver, sharing information, providing support for neighbourhoods and citizens, networking, engaging in analysis and writing, and more.

Past correspondence on Election Reform

NSV logo, from header

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NSV urges Council to refer West End zoning changes back for further work and meaningful involvement with the West End community

NSV has urged Council to refer the West End zoning changes back for further work and meaningful involvement with the West End community. The full text of NSV’s letter to Council is reproduced below. The letter is also available in a file for download (PDF: NSV-West End Public Hearing Jan.23-2014).

To: mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca; publichearing@vancouver.ca
Subject: West End Zoning Amendments Public Hearing January 23, 2014
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2014 09:55:47 -0800

 Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV)

 

January 23, 2014                                                                                                  
 
Mayor Robertson and Councillors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors,

 
Re: West End Zoning Amendments Public Hearing January 23, 2014
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is opposed to approval of the currently proposed zoning amendments of the West End.http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20140123/phea20140123ag.htm

The West End Neighbours (WEN) have listed many issues related to both process and product of this rezoning and clearly the community have not been given adequate information, analysis and opportunity for informed input for these zoning schedules to come forward at this time.
Some of the issues raised by WEN are listed in Appendix A attached.
These zoning schedules are complex legal documents. Each zone that is proposed for rezoning should have its own public hearing rather than trying to push them through together like this, which is taking a page out of the federal government’s playbook by passing one ‘omnibus’ zoning all at once.
Further it is unreasonable to expect a neighbourhood that is already very dense to take on this much when it will negatively impact their livability and put further pressure on the more affordable older rental housing stock. The population of the West End is 80% renters and this rezoning puts them at risk. The West End has about 30% of the city’s purpose-built rentals, the most of any neighbourhood.
Please refer this back for further work and meaningful involvement with the West End community.

Sincerely,

On behalf of the Steering Committee

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
APPENDIX  A

 Some examples of concerns raised by the West End Neighbours include the following.

 Examples of a few of the items that are lined up for approval by Council through this Public Hearing:

·         Lower Davie Street is proposed to have increases in permitted tower height up to 20 storeys, and an increase in floor space ratio from the current 2.5 up to 7.0 FSR.

·         Along Lower Robson, increases are proposed to permit towers of 20 to 30 storeys and density of 7.0 to 8.5 FSR.

·         Along Lower Davie and Lower Robson, the City is proposing a reduction in the minimum required distance between towers (from the current 400 down to 79 feet), and residents could see up to three towers per block similar to the new buildings at Bidwell/Davie and Comox/Broughton.

·         Laneway buildings will be permitted up to six storeys in height along certain lanes in the West End.

·         New residential uses will be prohibited in Davie Village and on Denman Street, meaning mixed-use buildings will not be possible.

·         If these zoning changes are approved, there will be impacts on water/mountain/sky views, shadowing, and the character of the neighbourhood for several blocks around. Major construction also involves considerable disruptions to the neighbourhood. WEN believes that affected neighbours have not been meaningfully consulted about these changes or directly notified about the Public Hearing.

·         Once these zoning changes are approved, major projects in these zones will be able to go ahead without another public hearing. Development permits can be issued by internal procedure at the City, without any obligation to listen to the public. 

West End Neighbours emphasizes their view that:
  • The West End Community Plan was not the product of a meaningful public engagement exercise.
  • Residents have not had a fair chance to digest the many and complex proposals – and the City has not done an adequate job of educating residents, or even of answering questions following the release of the Plan.
  • Insufficient rationale was provided for the West End needing to absorb 10,000 more residents.
  • The City failed to adequately explore or evaluate with our community the variety of options for housing these theoretical future residents.
  • The Plan is imposing what the vast majority of residents did NOT want. Most residents surveyed by the City indicated they did not want new buildings exceeding 11 storeys in height. But the Plan, and the proposed zoning changes, propose that almost all new dwelling units be provided in buildings exceeding 11 storeys. (Refer to page 55 of this consultation document – page 56 of the pdf. See also responses to Question 3b in this consultation summary which indicates “Scale and Building Character” were a key concern for residents).

Map of Existing Rental Buildings in the City of Vancouver Rental Map
 

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Response to Provincial Government on Municipal Campaign Finance Reform Motion

(Vancouver, January 20, 2014) Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver today submitted a letter concerning the Municipal Campaign Finance Reform Motion on Notice at Vancouver City Hall. This motion will be introduced on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. NSV calls for deeper and quicker reforms to civic election campaign finance rules and the retention of a 3-year election cycle. The full text of the letter is reproduced below.

At a consultation with elector organizations on January 14, 2014, attended by Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Minister Oakes stated that she very much wanted to respect the request of the Union of BC Municipalities to switch from the current three years to a four-year election cycle, effective immediately. She said she would be fighting to achieve this when legislation goes up for debate within just weeks from now. 

During the public consultation on the White Paper, there was a footnote on the recommendation regarding the election cycle.

Election Cycle

·         Extend the term of office for local elected officials to four terms (8)

(8) UBCM subsequently passed a resolution to retain a three year term of office. The provincial government has agreed not to change the term of office.

The public has been led to believe that the four year term was not on the table, however, the most recent statement confirms the opposite.

We note that the Vancouver Councillor on the UBCM board is in favour of the four year term. NSV is very opposed to the proposed extension to a four year election cycle as stated in our letter to Council below, and are calling on Council to take a firm stand against the proposed extension.

Download NSV SUBMISSION Response to Provincial Government on Municipal Campaign Finance Reform (PDF)

January 20, 2014

Mayor Robertson and Councillors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors,

Re:  City of VancouverMotion on Notice:Response to Provincial Government on Municipal Campaign Finance Reform”

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) has reviewed the subject Motion on Notice and is supportive of proposed measures related to campaign finance reform as set out in Appendix A, items 1-9 and 13 and with the following clarifications.

Our understanding is that the scope of the current proposed request for changes to the Vancouver Charter, as contemplated by the subject motion, relates only to foregoing items 1-9 and 13 of Appendix A.  To the extent that this understanding is correct, we encourage the City to submit the proposed request forthwith.

As regards remaining items 10-12 of Appendix A, NSV is also supportive of item 11, opposing any change of legislation that would provide corporations with voting rights in local elections.  Although we further support meaningful public consultation related to format and procedures of local elections, we do not support item 12 as currently worded and submit that any change to the current method of election must be decided by a well-informed public referendum.

Finally, as regards item 10, NSV is strongly opposed to any extension of the current three-year election cycle.

Notably, despite a clear balance of feedback opposed to an extended election cycle, the 2010 Local Government Elections Task Force recommended that the term of office for local officials be extended from three to four years.  Although the Province’s White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform, released in September, 2013, makes clear that “the provincial government has agreed not to change the term of office”, it is also clear that this position was predicated on a resolution passed by the UBCM in 2010 “to retain a three year term of office”.

Significantly, however, the UBCM subsequently reversed it’s position at its 2013 Annual Conference in September, supporting a resolution tabled by the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, despite recommendation by the UBCM Resolutions Committee to “not endorse”.   While NSV is presuming that the Province will remain committed to the position set out in the White Paper, we are concerned that the government could instead elect to act on the UBCM’s recent resolution, requesting “the provincial government to increase the interval between civic elections from three years to four years”.

Recognizing that the City of Vancouver was a party to the resolution tabled by the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, we wish to take this opportunity to oppose this resolution and to question the democratic basis upon which the resolution was advanced.  In particular, we are not aware that any significant public consultation has been undertaken by the City in relation to this issue since the provincial government’s Local Government Elections Task Force in 2010.

Consequently, and consistent with the majority of feedback received by the Elections Task Force, NSV is strongly opposed to an extended election cycle and believe that it would only exacerbate the profound disrespect for the balance of public opinion that is currently displayed by Vancouver’s elected officials.  The simple fact is that the majority of citizens are clearly not in favour of giving Vancouver’s mayor and city council a longer leash!

A 2010 survey by ThinkCity (in connection with the Elections Task Force) found that of 3,689 respondents, nearly 63% were in favour of retaining the three-year election cycle and 14% felt that it should be reduced to two years, compared with only 24% in support of an extended four-year cycle.  Moreover, in a written submission to the Task Force, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation observed that a four year cycle would mean 1) “voters lose out as their local politicians become less accountable”,  2) “less democracy at a time when citizens of British Columbia need more” and 3) “that politicians who may have lost the support of their citizens will hold the reins of power for even longer”.

For all of the reasons that unlimited campaign contributions are undermining public confidence in local governance, an extended election cycle would only compound the problem.  It is becoming ever more obvious to voters in neighbouhoods across Vancouver that our elected representatives are out of touch with public opinion and unwilling to listen.  The appearance is that the election cycle is the only remaining control the public has over our elected representatives and that it is currently too long rather than too short.  As for claims that elections are expensive, NSV’s view is that there is no better way to spend tax dollars in a democracy

Sincerely,

On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

BC Legislature

 

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NSV aiming to be catalyst for broad electoral cooperation in 2014

NSV logo, from header(Vancouver, November 27, 2013)  NSV’s current aim is to be a catalyst for broad electoral cooperation in 2014, to restore real democracy and public accountability at Vancouver city hall.   NSV is guided by a set of basic principles that we believe are essential to Vancouver ‘s future as a truly sustainable and progressive City of Neighbourhoods that reflects the diversity and values of its citizens.  With well-established roots as a city-wide neighbourhood network since 2007, NSV became an electoral organization in 2011 to give a political voice to these principles and to citizens across Vancouver demanding an alternative to Vision and NPA-dominated city councils with developer-funded conflicts of interest.

There is currently a rapidly growing consensus across Vancouver that City Hall is out of touch with the balance of public opinion, and NSV is determined to bring all those who share that view together in 2014.  The NSV Steering Committee is currently pursuing a mandate to explore the potential for cooperation with other electoral organizations around the following NSV Principles (details here NSV Updated Draft Sec 1 Basic Principles V14).

1. Make City Hall Open and Accountable
2. Advance Campaign Finance Reform
3. Value Vancouver as Community—not Commodity
4. Support Neighbourhood-based Planning
5. Respect Existing Local Area Plans and Community Visions
6. Empower Community Initiative
7. Promote a Diverse and Sustainable Economy
8. Advance Social Justice and End Homelessness
10. Protect and Expand Rental Housing
11. Support the Arts, Film, Culture and Tourism
12. Protect Heritage Buildings and Viewscapes
13. Improve Public Transit
14. Preserve Development Revenues for Amenities and Social Housing /
       Reject Development-Based Funding for Transit
15.  Support Active Transportation
16. Promote Environmental Sustainability

Our objective is to offer voters a full slate of exceptional candidates for Mayor, Council, Park Board and VSB that is free of developer-funded conflicts of interest, dedicated to real democracy and representative of the broad diversity and values of Vancouver’s citizens and neighbourhoods.

 

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NSV statement on preparations for 2014 civic election

NSV logo, from headerNSV will be running and/or endorsing candidates for Council, Mayor, Parks Board, and School Board. The composition of the NSV slates has not yet been determined. NSV is also looking into the potential for electoral cooperation with other organizations that support the NSV principles, similar to what we did for the last election.

Some of our comments on the upcoming election are as follows.

  • NSV’s objective is a City Council, Parks Board and School Board dominated by representatives that are socially, environmentally, and fiscally responsible, firmly committed to community involvement in decision making, and free of conflicts of interest.
  • The previous councils in Vancouver over past several election cycles have done enormous damage to democracy and civic engagement, and we believe that Council needs to be more representative and responsive to its citizens.
  • Regulators should never be funded by those they regulate. We strongly call for election finance reforms, and self discipline/voluntary restraint by NPA and Vision Vancouver, the developer/union-funded parties.

Some background on NSV and our platform is available on our website  nsvancouver.ca

More information as follows:

Note: Our policies from 2011 are in the process of being updated and the current draft is here for download:  NSV Updated Draft Sec 1 Basic Principles V14

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NSV says BC’s local government election reforms conceal a “Trojan Horse” that will weaken democracy

Download RELEASE MEDIA_NSV_election finance reform public comment_23-Oct-2013-WEB
Download SUBMISSION NSV_submission_election finance reform_23-Oct-2013-Final

MEDIA RELEASE

NSV says local government election “reforms” conceal a Trojan Horse that will weaken democracy, and calls for deeper and quicker reforms, retention of 3-year election cycle

(Vancouver, October 23, 2013) Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver today submitted its comments to Coralee Oakes, B.C.’s Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, on the White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform. Today is the deadline for public comment.

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) is disappointed by and largely opposed to the so-called “reforms” put forward by the provincial government in its recently-published White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform.

According to the White Paper, proposed changes “are the most significant in nearly two decades”.  But the proposed package of minor adjustments, stemming from work of the Local Government Elections Task Force established in 2009, includes absolutely nothing to restrain the corrupting influence of “big money” on municipal politics.  Instead of practical and progressive measures to reign in the unlimited campaign contributions that are undermining the democratic foundations of accountable civic governance, the proposed “reforms” amount in many respects to a regressive attack on grassroots political organizing and free speech.

The main points of the submission are:

  1. Proposed “Reforms” do nothing to restrain corrupting influence of “big money” in municipal politics.
  2. Some “key changes” will actually hurt grassroots campaigning and free speech.
  3. Please do not allow Vancouver City Council to makes its own rules for election campaign finance.
  4. Expense limits are not enough. Caps are also needed on campaign contributions – in the 2014 civic election.
  5. Please retain the three year terms of civic office. Do not change to four years.

NSV is concerned that the cosmetic changes to campaign finance rules — including a possible shift to four-year terms of office — conceal a Trojan Horse that will weaken democracy.

A copy of the six-page submission is attached below.

###

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is a citywide grassroots network of neighbourhoods with roots going back to 2007. In the November 2011 civic election, NSV ran a mayoral candidate and four council candidates for Vancouver City Council, based on Neighbourhood-based Real Democracy, Sustainability, and Vancouver-based Solutions. A major pillar was campaign finance reform.

Contact: E-mail info@nsvancouver.ca, Web www.nsvancouver.ca

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Submission to British Columbia Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development
On the White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform (Fall 2013)
From Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV)

October 23, 2013

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PROPOSED MUNICIPAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN FINANCE “REFORMS” A TROJAN HORSE THAT WILL WEAKEN DEMOCRACY

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) is disappointed by and largely opposed to the so-called “reforms” put forward by the provincial government in its recently-published White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform.

The main points of the submission are:

  1. Proposed “Reforms” do nothing to restrain corrupting influence of “big money” on municipal politics.
  2. Some “key changes” will actually hurt grassroots campaigning and free speech.
  3. Please do not allow Vancouver City Council to makes its own rules for election campaign finance.
  4. Expense limits are not enough. Caps are also needed on campaign contributions – in the 2014 civic election.
  5. Please retain the three year terms of civic office. Do not change to four years.

*******

MAIN DOCUMENT

Submission to British Columbia Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development (October 23, 2013)

On the White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform

Proposed “Reforms” do nothing to restrain corrupting influence of “big money” on municipal politics.

According to the White Paper, proposed changes “are the most significant in nearly two decades”.  While this may well be true, it is a sad statement, because the proposed package of minor adjustments, stemming from work of the Local Government Elections Task Force established in 2009, includes absolutely nothing to restrain the corrupting influence of “big money” on municipal politics.

Instead of practical and progressive measures to reign in the unlimited campaign contributions that are undermining the democratic foundations of accountable civic governance, the proposed “reforms” amount in many respects to a regressive attack on grassroots political organizing and free speech.

Some “key changes” will actually hurt grassroots campaigning and free speech.

For example, “key changes,” as identified by the Province, include a blanket ban on anonymous campaign contributions. That is nothing but counterproductive in the absence of a reasonable cap on single donor contributions.  As it stands, it would only discourage legitimate donations of less than $50. Related recording and disclosure requirements would impose a considerable administrative burden on electoral organizations like NSV that count on grassroots financial support and do not solicit  or accept contributions from vested interests, such as the development and gaming industries.

Similarly, new rules would require sponsors of any and all campaign advertising to register with BC Elections, file formal disclosure statements and include sponsorship information on any advertisement.  NSV fails to see that additional regulations on campaign advertising, including by third parties, would have any positive effect in the absence of a reasonable cap on campaign financing, and is concerned that lack of an exemption for low-cost, non-commercial advertising could stifle grassroots campaigning and limit free speech.

New regulations would also apply to political advertising related to referenda, plebiscites and other ballot initiatives (“assent voting”) conducted, either integral to or outside the regular election period. Again, a lack of appropriate exemptions could unreasonably impede free speech and popular democracy.

Please do not allow Vancouver City Council to makes its own rules for election campaign finance.

In general, the so-called “reforms” could pose significant challenges to real democracy while failing to address the root cause of  a growing disconnect between Vancouver’s elected officials and the public that elects them.  The Province has pledged to enact separate campaign finance legislation in advance of 2017 civic elections, and the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) has supported changes to the Vancouver Charter “to allow Vancouver to make rules for election campaign finance that place greater limits on campaign spending and contributions”. However, NSV believes that the current City administration is too compromised by systemic conflict of interest to be entrusted with this responsibility.

Expense limits are not enough. Caps are also needed on campaign contributions – in the 2014 civic election.

In particular, the final report of the Elections Task Force concludes that “expense limits are expected to be more effective than contribution limits in promoting accessibility” because “they do not limit the democratic discourse and the variety of voices that can be heard in an election”.   In our view, however, spending caps alone are  ineffective precisely because they fail to level the playing field.

For this reason, it is NSV’s view that sensible caps on campaign contributions, together with spending limits, must be an integral part of progressive campaign finance reform and we encourage Victoria to reconsider this key element of the Task Force recommendations.  In our view, there is nothing to prevent the Province from implementing an interim contribution limit(s) in advance of 2014 civic election period that would effectively cap the use of funds contributed by any given donor to the interim limit(s), with any net balance refundable to the donor.

Further review and stakeholder consultation in regard to appropriately revised contribution and expense limits could be undertaken as planned, leading to inclusion of associated provisions in separate campaign finance legislation adopted prior to the 2017 election period.  That is assuming civic elections will be held in 2017, and NSV believes that uncertainty around a Task Force recommendation to extend the election cycle represents another major problem.

Please retain the three year terms of civic office. Do not change to four years.

We are concerned that the cosmetic changes to campaign finance rules conceal what could be like a Trojan horse that could weaken democracy – a possible shift to four-year terms of office.

Notably, despite a clear balance of feedback opposed to an extended election cycle, the Elections Task Force recommended that the term of office for local officials be extended from three to four years.  Although the White Paper makes clear that “the provincial government has agreed not to change the term of office”, it is also clear that this position was predicated on a resolution passed by the UBCM in 2010 “to retain a three year term of office”.

Significantly, however, the UBCM reversed that position at its 2013 Annual Conference in September, supporting a resolution tabled by the Lower Mainland Local Government Association despite recommendation by the UBCM Resolutions Committee to “not endorse”.   While NSV is presuming that the Province will remain committed to the position set out in the White Paper, we are concerned that it could instead act on the UBCM’s recent resolution that requests “the provincial government to increase the interval between civic elections from three years to four years”.

Consistent with the majority of feedback received by the Elections Task Force,

NSV is strongly opposed to an extended election cycle and believe that it would only exacerbate the profound disrespect for public opinion that is currently displayed by Vancouver’s elected officials.  The simple fact is that the majority of citizens are not in favour of giving Vancouver’s mayor and city council a longer leash!

A 2010 survey by ThinkCity (in connection with the Elections Task Force) found that of 3,689 respondents, nearly 63% were in favour of retaining the three-year election cycle and 14% felt that it should be reduced to two years. Only 24% supported an extended four-year cycle.  In a written submission to the Task Force, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation observed that a four-year cycle would mean “voters lose out as their local politicians become less accountable”, “less democracy at a time when citizens of British Columbia need more” and “that politicians who may have lost the support of their citizens will hold the reins of power for even longer”. Indeed, rather than saving money, four-year terms could end up costing taxpayers even more because incumbent officials who have to face voters frequently to renew their mandates tend to be more circumspect in regard to fiscal oversight and budgeting decisions.

For all of the reasons that unlimited campaign contributions are undermining public confidence in local governance, an extended election cycle would only compound the problem.  It is becoming ever more obvious to voters in neighbourhoods across Vancouver that our elected representatives are out of touch with public opinion and unwilling to listen.  The appearance is that the election cycle is the only remaining control the public has over elected representatives and that it is currently too long rather than too short.  As for claims that elections are expensive, NSV’s view is that there is no better way to spend tax dollars in a democracy.

And, finally, in view of uncertainty regarding the Province’s stated position on retaining the current three-year election cycle, NSV is respectfully requesting that this issue be clarified and that the comment period be appropriately extended in the event that the government intends to reconsider its position.

Ned Jacobs
On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

Web: www.nsvancouver.ca

E-mail: info@nsvancouver.ca

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TO THE PUBLIC: Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver encourages the public to review the White Paper on Local Government Elections Reform and to provide feedback at the following link: http://www.cscd.gov.bc.ca/LocalGovtElectionReform/ . And after the October 23 deadline, please talk to your Member of Legislative Assembly and tell them what you think.

ABOUT NSV: Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is a citywide grassroots network of neighbourhoods with roots going back to 2007. In the November 2011 civic election, NSV ran a mayoral candidate and four council candidates for Vancouver City Council, based on Neighbourhood-based Real Democracy, Sustainability, and Vancouver-based Solutions. A major pillar was campaign finance reform. We believe regulators of land use policy should not be funded by those they regulate. Today we continue actively monitoring the situation in Vancouver, sharing information, providing support for neighbourhoods and citizens, networking, engaging in analysis and writing, and more.

Past correspondence on Election Reform

 

 

 

 

 

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