Grassroots groups eyeing city hall

Grassroots groups eyeing city hall
Matt Kieltyka, November 16, 2011
Metro Vancouver

The Non-Partisan Association and the Vision Vancouver/COPE coalition aren’t the only options for Vancouverites.

Community-based organizations and independents are always present on civic ballots, and the 2011 municipal election in Vancouver features several underdog candidates threatening to bring high-rolling city hall back down to earth.

The biggest of these groups is Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV), a grassroots advocacy organization that has recently transformed into a political party over its displeasure with the lack of community engagement, rampant development and an allegiance to big-money donors under both NPA and Vision leadership.

It hasn’t been easy for the lesser-known candidates to capture the public and media’s gaze, but NSV mayoral candidate Randy Helten says it’s critical that residents pay attention to this election in particular.

“When you look at (Vision and NPA) campaign financing and policies on critical issues such as affordability and land-use, they’re almost identical,” said Helten.

The next mayor and council’s input on the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy will set Vancouver down a defined path for the next 30 years, Helten says.

NSV council candidate Terry Martin, the former chair of the Vancouver Board of Variance, says developers have too much influence at city hall.

“I think the real driving force is people who are desperate for change,” he said. “We’re seeing neighbourhoods destroyed and spot rezoning completely change places that shouldn’t. And we’re seeing the public ignored.”

Pollster Barb Justason said last week that a few of the smaller and independent candidates have a legitimate shot at snagging a council seat, especially popular Green party candidate Adriane Carr.

Sandy Garossino, a former Crown prosecutor who led the successful “Vancouver Not Vegas” coalition against casino expansion at BC Place, also has a real chance to make waves as an independent candidate.

“We could end up with a real array of parties. Name recognition is a huge factor,” Justason said.

“It may be difficult for Vision to produce a majority in council.”

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