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October 31, 2014

Decision 2014: Vision Vancouver in a Breach of Its Fiduciary Duty?

Schlenker v. Torgrimson, BC Court of Appeals, 2013 - Councillor Conflict of Interest

Wednesday evening, former Vancouver City Councillor and respected civic affairs barrister Jonathan Baker wrote to VanRamblings to apprise us of Schlenker v. Torgrimson, a BC Court of Appeals case heard in 2013, which ruled that Salt Spring Island Councillors were in a conflict of interest arising from a direct or indirect pecuniary interest, in respect of having voted to award two service contracts to societies of which they were directors (see Reason for Judgment in the Schlenker v. Torgrimson link above).

In the written reasons for Judgment in the BC Court of Appeals, the Honourable Mr. Justice Donald — concurred in by The Honourable Madam Justice Newbury, and The Honourable Mr. Justice Hinkson — wrote ...

[1] Elected officials must avoid conflicts of interest. The question on appeal is whether the respondents were in a conflict when they voted to award two service contracts to societies of which they were directors. In the words of s. 101(1) of the Community Charter, S.B.C. 2003, c. 26, did they have "a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the matter[s]"?

[5] The penalty for conflict is disqualification until the next election.

[6] I would allow the appeal and declare that the respondents violated the Community Charter.

CityHallWatch has published a backgrounder on the case, with a link to a Fulton and Company LLP three-page summary of Schlenker v. Torgrimson.

Lawyer Jonathan Baker and Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr, advice on a matter of lawJonathan Baker advising Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr on a matter of the law

Arising from an at-length conversation VanRamblings had with the learned Mr. Baker, a determination was made that it may very well be that Schlenker v. Torgrimson could be the determining case law that, upon adjudication and a ruling on the matter before a Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, could result in an order of the Court that would prevent Vision Vancouver City Councillors who are elected in the next term from seeking a further term of elected office, in 2018.

Mr. Baker offers this précis of Schlenker v. Torgrimson ...

The Court of Appeal said direct or indirect pecuniary interest doesn't just refer to money, that a politician has a fiduciary duty to the Council on which they sit as a member, without built-in bias.

The bias that arises from a member of Council serving two masters is, in Schlenker v. Torgrimson, one, perfectly benign in relation to the environmental group of which he is a member, and his duty to his taxpayers, which loyalties are divided and in conflict.

The Justices held that it was important the Court come down with a decision. Paragraph 34 of the Judgment reads, "to prevent elected officials from having divided loyalties" in deciding how to spend the public's money, one's own financial advantage can be such a powerful motive, that putting the public interest second leads to a conflict. The Court must then rule that the Council member could not run for a succeeding term of office.

The benefit — or direct or indirect pecuniary interest — potentially derived by Mr. Meggs, and Vision Vancouver City Councillors, would be the monies received in compensation for duties performed as an elected official.

A direct conflict link, and a decided conflict of interest by Vision Vancouver, might be made — involving the receipt of monies from CUPE 1004 in exchange for favours or benefit, the commitment made to CUPE 1004 by Geoff Meggs on behalf of Vision Vancouver that there would "no contracting out", this commitment to members of CUPE 1004 made in advance of the bargaining of the upcoming December 2015 collective agreement, and payment in the form of monies paid by taxpayers to elected officials, in this case the Vision Vancouver members of Vancouver City Council.

The Criminal Code of Canada, Section 123, reads ...

Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years who directly or indirectly gives, offers or agrees to give or offer to a municipal official or to anyone for the benefit of a municipal official — or, being a municipal official, directly or indirectly demands, accepts or offers or agrees to accept from any person for themselves or another person — a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind as consideration for the official."

Mr. Baker suggested to VanRamblings that in the case of CUPE 1004's commitment to the payment of monies to Vision Vancouver — the details of which are explicated in an October 16, 2014 Bob Mackin article in the Vancouver Courier — the circumstance is worse, as in ...

"We're going to give you money. There are strings attached. And they respond, 'Yeah, we know.' So, it looks like you have a contract, which is a horrible breach of their fiduciary duty to those citizens who elected them to office, and the populace of the city, in general."

Section 38 of Schlenker v. Torgrimson was, in part, based on the Ontario Divisional Court ruling in Re Moll and Fisher, which reads ...

This enactment, like all conflict-of-interest rules, is based on the moral principle, long embodied in our jurisprudence, that no man can serve two masters. It recognizes the fact that the judgment of even the most well-meaning men and women may be impaired when their personal financial interests are affected. Public office is a trust conferred by public authority for public purpose. And the Act ... enjoins holders of public offices ... from any participation in matters in which their economic self-interest may be in conflict with their public duty. The public's confidence in its elected representatives demands no less.

Given all of the above, VanRamblings has now come to believe that Kirk LaPointe was right when he wrote in his opinion piece in The Province ...

Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs, speaking for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, recently told a meeting of CUPE Local 1004 that the mayor was committing to not contract out any other city jobs. In turn, Vision was given financial and political support. No wonder Vancouverites don't trust city hall under Vision. Corruption corrodes confidence and this commitment smacks of political backroom deals of yesteryear.

It puts Vision's interests ahead of the city's and taxpayers.

Being clearly beholden to the city's workers right now is an irresponsible service to the city. The union is approaching contract discussions, and any early definition of the city's bargaining position is a breach of fiduciary duty.

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Once again, as happens on occasion, VanRamblings finds itself in the position of having to offer a mea culpa to an aggrieved party, in this case Non-Partisan Association candidate for Mayor, Mr. Kirk LaPointe.

Mea Culpa

We apologize, unreservedly, to you Mr. LaPointe. You were right, you are right. In fact, VanRamblings has now come to believe that the actions of Councillor Meggs represent, as you write, "an irresponsible service to the city", and that the verbal contract agreed to by Councillor Meggs, on behalf of the Vision Vancouver municipal political party of which he is a member, may and perhaps does, in fact, represent a breach of his fiduciary duty to the electorate, such matter yet to be officially determined in a court of law.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 3:38 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 30, 2014

Decision 2014: Politics and Class Warfare in Vancouver, Part 2

Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson Denies Allegations of Corruption

Allow VanRamblings to remind readers of a fact: there are 11 provincial ridings in the City of Vancouver. Do you know how many of those ridings were won by Liberal party candidates in the 2013 provincial election? Four. That's right, four out of eleven. 37% of the Vancouver electorate voted for the "right wing" party, 63% voted for the left-wing party. As VanRamblings is sure you're aware, all Canadian urban centres tend to vote left-of-centre.

Kirk LaPointe and the Non-Partisan Association's main job in 2014 is to convince 10,000 more voters than voted for the NPA in 2011 to vote for them in 2014. Where's that vote going to come from? The 63% of Vancouver voters who voted for the NDP in 2013's provincial election.

2013 British Columbia Provincial Election Vancouver Voter Map2013 Vancouver provincial election vote distribution across the 11 ridings in the city

At the start of Kirk LaPointe's New Progressive Association campaign to become Vancouver's next mayor, the always affable and thoughtful Mr. LaPointe presented himself to the voting electorate of Vancouver as the fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidate with a heart, who also possessed a very fine mind and a well-developed sense of ethics.

Over the course of the past couple of years, current Non-Partisan Association Council candidate Rob McDowell performed something akin to a feat of magic: he re-branded the Non-Partisan Association as the New Progressive Association (or, as Kirk LaPointe would prefer, the Naturally Progressive Association — which is pretty much what we've as heard as the campaign narrative from the day Kirk LaPointe announced his candidacy for Mayor, in mid-July through until mid-September), as the party of the Purple Revolution, a new and renewed party of progressives well able to put city government back into the hands of the people, where it rightfully belongs.

Of late, though, LaPointe appears to have stepped into the muck of seeming anti-union, even if in fact and in reality that is not — as he assures VanRamblings is the case (and we believe him) — his intention. Kirk LaPointe has told VanRamblings that he is committed to negotiating a fair contract with city workers, when next the city sits down with CUPE at the bargaining table, that there are no plans to contract out city worker jobs, and that a Kirk LaPointe-led civic administration remains committed to the re-engendering of a fair, just and respectful relationship with city workers.

As we're all aware, Campaign 2014 is a campaign of optics. Kirk LaPointe as the leader of a renewed Naturally Progressive Association of humble servants of the public interest works as a strong and abiding narrative — and accurately reflects his intention of working towards a much-improved working relationship with Vancouver city workers — a narrative and a commitment to workers that has much appeal to the citizens of Vancouver.

2011 Mayoralty Race Vancouver Voting MapThe green areas on the map is where the NPA will need to make significant in-roads in 2014

In the final 16 days of the Vancouver municipal campaign, voters will have to hear a great deal more of that humble servant refrain from the Non-Partisan Association if the renewed party of the Purple Revolution is going to proceed to victory late in the evening of Saturday, November 15th.

What Did Vision's CUPE Deal Mean for Workers Across the Province?

Canadian Union of Public Employees, CUPE BC

In December 2012, Vision Vancouver settled a 3-year contract with CUPE for 6.87%, and a much-increased and lauded pension and benefits package.

Now, as it happens, and as was the intention of CUPE (and, one would think, lifelong union activist and two-term Vision Vancouver City Councillor, Geoff Meggs), the 3-year contract with CUPE for 6.87% became the template for every other Metro Vancouver municipality, as CUPE whip-sawed Councils across the region into adopting Vancouver's union contract template. What's more, the Vision Vancouver contract with CUPE became the template for settlement in every other municipality across the province.

The Vision Vancouver / CUPE contract also caused / forced the provincial government to move off their much-despised '0-0-0' mandate with the public sector, and even went so far as to achieve an impact on wages across the private sector, with many private sector workers seeing the first rise in their take home pay in years.

So, the $1.5 million spent by CUPE on getting Vision Vancouver re-elected in 2011 certainly paid off handsomely for CUPE, and for all working people across the province. Of course, CUPE coffers were filled with the increased pay 2.75% - 3.25% portion of union members' paycheque deduction.

CUPE's narrative to its members across British Columbia: Vision Vancouver as a friend to CUPE, and to all working people across the province. No doubt that is why CUPE purchased two $250-a-person tables at Thursday night's Vision fundraiser at the Westin Bayshore, and soon-to-retire BC Federation of Labour head honcho, Jim Sinclair, could be seen prancing around the hall where the dinner / fundraiser was being held.

Vision Vancouver Campaign Gala Fundraiser, October 29, 2014, List of AttendeesPhoto courtesy of Vancouver Courier, and freelance, journalist Bob Mackin

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Vote Kirk LaPointe and the entire NPA team, in Vancouver 2014's municipal election

In the Non-Partisan Association candidate stump speeches, as was the case with current NPA City Councillor George Affleck at the RAMP Council all-candidates debate last week, NPA candidates have repeatedly referenced the low morale of City of Vancouver employees, talked about the cutbacks in staffing levels, about the mistreatment & politicization of city staff, about the lack of transparency at City Hall, and the utter lack of respect for the independence of the public service in the employ of the City of Vancouver.

And, of late, Non-Partisan Association candidates have even commenced to point out to CUPE workers employed by the city, and to the voting electorate of Vancouver, that — in fact — Vision Vancouver's / Geoff Meggs' much-ballyhooed commitment to not contract out the jobs of city workers is nothing other than another Vision Vancouver lie. The fact is that with a Vision Vancouver administration in charge at City Hall, the waste removal and recycling contract for businesses was awarded to various haulers in the private sector in Vision Vancouver's most recent term of office.

So much for Vision's commitment to not contract out CUPE jobs!

Given the reported upon fact that city workers are dissatisfied with Vision Vancouver as their employer, and given the fact that Vision Vancouver is, contrary to their commitment to city workers, contracting out jobs formerly performed by city staff, it would seem to make sense that the Non-Partisan Association would want to do all in their power to reassure the city's public service that with the election of a majority NPA administration at City Hall, a return to actual and palpable respect for city workers would become a central feature of city governance for the much-beleaguered members of CUPE 15 inside workers, and CUPE 1004 outside workers.

And that the Non-Partisan Association, while not cutting any side deals with the Union — which many in the community believe to be "influence peddling and corruption pure and simple, and one hopes that once the legalities are sorted out that someone will be properly charged and face a judge" — will settle a fair and responsible contract with City workers.

All of the above constitutes a great, and important narrative in Campaign 2014 that will take the voting electorate of Vancouver through the next week, when the advance polls open, til election day, November 15th.

And, finally, awhile back, in an informal, off-the-cuff conversation, CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Paul Faoro told VanRamblings that CUPE BC will spend $2 million in 2014 to secure a victory for Vision Vancouver at the polls.

Geoff Olson editorial cartoon in the Vancouver CourierEditorial cartoon by Geoff Olson, in the Oct. 28, 2014 edition of the Vancouver Courier

The Non-Partisan Association, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), the Vancouver Cedar Party, and the Green Party of Vancouver have their work cut out for them in the next 16 days — theirs are under-funded campaigns (including that of the NPA, contrary to what you may have heard), at least compared to the $6-million developer-funded campaign of Vision Vancouver, with fewer dollars and fewer resources to get their clarion message of change into the hearts and minds of Vancouver's voting public.

Vancouver voters will soon see, at least, who the contributors to the NPA campaign are, given that on Thursday afternoon the Non-Partisan Association promised to reveal NPA donors before election day, an announcement that was soon followed up on by the Vision Vancouver campaign team. As a mid-afternoon headline in a story by editor Charlie Smith in The Straight reads, "campaign disclosures mean nothing without dollar figures attached." Those figures will be published early in 2015.

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The link to Part I of Politics and Class Warfare may be found here.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 5:56 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 27, 2014

Decision 2014: Politics and Class Warfare in Vancouver, Part 1

Under the Non-Partisan Association administration of Mayor Sam Sullivan, a long and divisive civic strike of Vancouver's inside, outside, and library workers began on July 26, 2007, dubbed "Sam's Strike" by the union.

The strike lasted 88 days.

2007 Vancouver civic strike

The unions, mustered by CUPE, blamed Sullivan's intransigence at the bargaining table for prolonging the strike, the union citing that the city's failing to table a written counteroffer as evidence of the city's bad faith.

Eventually, a mediator was called in, who recommended 17.5% [21% compounded] in a five-year contract, which was the amount accepted by all the other municipalities in Metro Vancouver. When two of the civic unions rejected the recommendation, public support collapsed; within a week a new vote by the three civic unions, with 1% more added to the contract than was the case across Metro Vancouver, and a deal was accepted.

In fact, the strike was purposefully prolonged by then CUPE 15 President Paul Faoro to create animus for the NPA, such ill-feeling that might lead to a victory for the nascent Vision Vancouver civic party. During the course of the strike, Mike Magee, Geoff Meggs and Paul Faoro struck a deal — with the election of a Vision Vancouver civic government, Vision would guarantee to CUPE that the city would pull out of the regional labour relations bureau.

Daniel Fontaine, writing in CityCaucus, wrote about "the deal", in an October 29, 2009 article titled, "Geoff Meggs hands CUPE a major victory."

In mid-2011, longtime CUPE 15 President Paul Faoro once again sat down with now Chief of Staff to the Mayor, Mike Magee, and first-term Vision Vancouver City Councillor, Geoff Meggs.

The deal that was struck this time was this: the City of Vancouver would guarantee to CUPE the City would settle an upcoming 3-year contract at 9%, as they had with the VPD and the firefighters. In fact, CUPE settled for 6.87%, with strict "no contracting out" provisions, an increase in benefits & pension plan provisions, the contract now coming in at 9%, as promised.

Once the deal was done, CUPE committed to spending $1.5 million to get Vision Vancouver re-elected; that's $1.5 million not as a direct, accountable donation, but $1.5 million that would be off-the-books. As elucidated in Bob Mackin's article in the Vancouver Courier, donations to Vision Vancouver from CUPE topped $245,250 — and that figure doesn't include the $63,000 donation from the HEU, a CUPE sister union.

Vision Vancouver turned over to CUPE their 16,000-name membership list. CUPE has a master list of 45,000 Union members who live in the City of Vancouver. CUPE hired 1,600 workers to get the vote out for Vision Vancouver, running a fear campaign against the NPA, "the party that brought you 'Sam's Strike', will contract out jobs at City Hall, put city workers on the bricks, and as the Liberals' farm team will set the tone to allow the Liberals to keep to their '0-0-0' mandate."

CUPE works to get Vision Vancouver re-elected

We all know how the last election went: in 2011, almost every one on the 45,000-strong Union member list came out to cast a ballot for Vision, as was the case with the 16,000-strong Vision Vancouver membership list.

Kirk LaPointe and the Non-Partisan Association's job in 2014 is to steal away 5,000 to 8,000 Union votes from Vision, by assuring these union members that the NPA will negotiate a fair contract with city workers, that an NPA administration does not intend to contract out jobs, and that although an NPA administration will not negotiate side deals with CUPE and other unions, an NPA administration would settle with its workers for no less than the standard union contract agreed to across Metro Vancouver.

With all due respect to Non-Partisan Association campaign manager, Doug Leung, and the affable and very bright Kirk LaPointe, the NPA's number one job between now and election day, if the NPA wants to secure victory on November 15th, is to garner a fair percentage of the Union vote.

In terms of securing a portion of the union vote, Kirk LaPointe had a bad week last week. In a Province newspaper opinion piece response to Bob Mackin's article, titled "Vision Vancouver's cash-for-jobs deal with city union is corrupt", LaPointe wrote ...

Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs, speaking for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, recently told a meeting of CUPE Local 1004 that the mayor was committing to not contract out any other city jobs. In turn, Vision was given financial and political support. No wonder Vancouverites don't trust city hall under Vision. Corruption corrodes confidence and this commitment smacks of political backroom deals of yesteryear.

It puts Vision's interests ahead of the city's and taxpayers.

Being clearly beholden to the city's workers right now is an irresponsible service to the city. The union is approaching contract discussions, and any early definition of the city's bargaining position is a breach of fiduciary duty.

It gives away the store.

Mr. LaPointe, guess how much Union members care about "giving away the store"? About as much as Mike Magee, and the Vision folks, want to see an overwhelming NPA majority victory come late evening November 15th.

Union-4-workers

Union workers, like all workers, already feel hard done by, that they're not getting their piece of the pie, that the corporate 1% (which is how your opposition Vision Vancouver opponents have defined you) are ever-intent on grinding the interests of workers into the ground.

Kirk LaPointe and the Non-Partisan Association never, ever want to play into that narrative. Rather, if the NPA want to win this election, they must present Kirk LaPointe in much the way Naheed Nenshi, Calgary's mayor, was presented when he won back-to-back terms in the mayor's office.

The Non-Partisan Association, if they're interested in victory at all, would want ensure that their mayoralty candidate is defined as, "Kirk LaPointe, a Mayor For All The People, Union Members, Our Multi-Cultural Population, Teachers, Health Care Workers, The Poor and the Downtrodden, Children Who Go To School Hungry Every Morning, A True Man of the People, The Once and True Leader of the West Coast Progressive Purple Revolution."

In a Globe and Mail article published today, titled "Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson grilled on union at debate", freelance Vancouver civic affairs writer Frances Bula writes, " ... the Vision Vancouver mayor didn't have an answer when he was prodded at the four-candidate debate Sunday about what his party might have promised to a major city union in exchange for $102,000 in campaign donations."

There was a back-and-forth between Gregor Robertson and the NPA mayoralty candidate, Kirk LaPointe, who lambasted the mayor for tying "the hands of the city in the next round of bargaining" with the outside workers, whose contract is due to expire in December of 2015." Yada, yada, yada.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson grilled on union at debate

Bula goes on to write that Robertson, "during the debate and in a scrum afterward, would not acknowledge that the party has a long-standing commitment to maintaining the contracting out of city services at current levels, even though Mr. Meggs has said it does." No kidding. It's not as if Mike Magee, Geoff Meggs and Paul Faoro have ever shared the information with the Hollyhock cult king of Vancouver (oh sorry, "Mayor") — why would they, "Mayor" Robertson is only a sorta handsome sock puppet?

Vision Vancouver relies on four distinct voting blocs as its base of support: union members, a rabidly engaged cycling community, voters of Chinese descent, and members of the LGBTQ community, each of which voting group Vision Vancouver pursues with not a small degree of abandon.

Anarcho-syndicalist flag

The massive vote of union workers who reside in Vancouver, mustered by former CUPE 15 (City Hall inside workers) President, and current CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer, Paul Faoro, represents the largest constituency of voter support for Vision Vancouver — given such, there is virtually no end to which Vision will go, no reasonable promise that Vision is not prepared to make, to secure their largest and most crucial-to-their-re-election vote.

Although not for Mr. Juice Boy / Sock Puppet / Hollyhock cult boy (aka "The Mayor"), Vision Vancouver's raison d'être — well, at least Geoff Meggs' raison d'être — revolves around a rejection of the contemporary economic notion of the race to the bottom, where business and government — think the provincial Liberals or the federal Conservatives — set about to grind workers' economic interests into the ground. In B.C., and in most other North American jurisdictions, we've been down so long it looks like up.

Vision Vancouver rejects neo-liberal economic notion of the race to the bottom

In rejecting the neo-liberal notion of the race to the bottom, Vision Vancouver has set about to create the economic conditions where they will ensure their support for, first, the economic interests of their own city workers, and globally, the economic interests of workers' across the province. Here's how Vision Vancouver expresses their contemporary version of the Wobblies' 'workers of the world unite' narrative ...

"We've got your backs, we know you have families to care for, bills to pay, that as the cost of living continues to rise, you deserve a fair wage increase when next you bargain for a new contract, we know how important your job is to you, how important your job is to your family, and we here today commit to you that under a Vision Vancouver civic administration city worker jobs will not be contracted out."

Vision Vancouver, then, has announced a central tenet of their re-election platform, even if this particular aspect of the platform is surreptitious in its application, and held from the view of the voting electorate of the city.

Class Warfare in Vancouver, Workers' Interests a Concern of Vision Vancouver

There are a great many aspects of Vision Vancouver's time in power that may be criticized with fulsomeness. A Vision Vancouver civic administration protecting the economic interests of city workers is not one of them.

Geoff Meggs has spent a good deal of his life sitting in Marxist reading rooms, along with his contemporaries.

Kirk LaPointe and his Non-Partisan Association colleagues, naïfs that they are, wouldn't know a Marxist reading group if it smacked them upside the head. And, really, when you get down it, the acceptance of such notion is, well, kind of sweet (in a naive and somewhat becoming, and innocent way).

Vancouver advance vote polls open on November 4th. Election Day, November 15th

Still and all, for better or for worse (and much to the chagrin of VanRamblings), the Non-Partisan Association seems to have found a winning election issue — corruption at Vancouver City Hall, the promise to city workers that the public service in the employ of the city will be treated fairly at the bargaining table when the next contract is negotiated.

Somehow, in our contemporary economic climate, and in accord with the accepted economic notion of the race to the bottom, City of Vancouver workers getting a fair shake for themselves and for their families is a terrible thing, an egregious breach of political ethics — as one might imagine, an issue in this election that has found resonance with the electorate — and the one, sustaining election issue that may lead to the ignominious defeat of Vision Vancouver at the polls, come the evening of November 15th.

We live in strange, and perilous, social and economic times, indeed.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:23 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 25, 2014

Decision 2014: New ideas, candidates, are good for democracy

The Province: New ideas, candidates, are good for democracy

The following is an October 23rd editorial in The Province newspaper.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision strategists clearly think that pointing out their main opponent's lack of elected experience is a winning strategy. Robertson and other Vision politicians have repeated the point of late, including during Wednesday's mayoral debate at Langara College when Robertson finally deigned to face off against Kirk LaPointe of the NPA. But it demonstrates, as is too often the case with Vision, real arrogance that voters should really think about.

LaPointe may not have been elected to office before but as a senior journalist, CBC ombudsman and adjunct professor at UBC he's been involved in politics and thinking about political issues for a lot longer than Robertson.

What's the mayor saying? That it is ridiculous for LaPointe or other newbies to run for office? That only elected politicians have enough brains or ideas to be elected? If that's true, what expertise did Robertson bring to the mayor's job when he was first elected after short careers as a juice maker and opposition MLA?

LaPointe is raising issues that many Vancouverites are concerned about — the appalling traffic, secrecy at city hall, the lack of real public consultation in city planning and Vision's focus on issues outside the city's mandate. He may not have detailed solutions yet to all those issues, but Robertson either has none, doesn't care or is the source of the problems.

Democracy thrives on new ideas and new people; Robertson sounds like he believes he has some divine right to rule. The mayor should stop attacking LaPointe's résumé and start debating the issues.

The Province newspaper's editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at gclark@theprovince.com. Letters to the editor, specifically on the editorial above, can be sent to provletters@theprovince.com.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:42 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 21, 2014

A Brief History of Vancouver's Affordable Housing Movement

Housing Co-ops: The Solution to Vancouver's Affordable Housing Crisis

Canadians hold this axiom true: we are our brother's (and sister's) keeper.

In Canada, we live in a compassionate society, where the common good is the responsibility of all. Our socialized medical system is world class, as is our education system. Government fulfills its responsibility to provide a functioning judiciary that ensures public safety, an active and well-
functioning transportation system meets the needs of all sectors of our society, and we strive to care for those among us who are most in need.

In Abraham Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs, we satisfy our needs in a well-defined order. At the pinnacle of Maslow's pyramid? Shelter. With our need for food, shelter, good health, safety and community met, the conditions are present where we might lead a fulfilling, purposeful life.

In post-WWII Canadian society, as was expressed in our earlier post on development, the need for shelter was met, predominantly, through the construction of single-detached family homes. In the 1960s, Canadian society sought to ensure the provision of shelter for those most in need, as federal and provincial governments moved to build non-market housing.

When urban social housing projects like Raycam in Vancouver, and Regent Park in Toronto proved a ghetto-ized failure, at the behest of the federal government, a commission was struck to develop a 'made in Canada' solution to meet the need to house not just the indigent population, but members of the creative class, low-wage workers and single-parent families.

Co-operative Housing equals Affordable Housing for All

Through amendments to the National Housing Act, in the early 1970s the federal government launched the first programme to develop housing co-operatives, creating more than 60,000 non-market homes in co-ops across our land. Housing co-operatives ("co-ops") provide a place for people to live. In 2014, there are currently more than 2,000 housing co-ops across Canada, housing more than 111,000 community homeowners.

Housing co-operatives come in all sorts of forms and sizes, ranging from collections of townhouses and small, condominium-style buildings with 4 — 20 units, to large apartment-style buildings with hundreds of units. What sets co-ops apart from private rental housing is that they are democratic, community-owned housing developments, where residents take on the full responsibility for making decisions on how the co-op functions, for its finances, its ongoing maintenance, and for its members' responsibilities.

Two housing co-ops located on the south shore of Vancouver's False CreekPhase 2 housing co-ops: co-operative housing built along the south shore of False Creek

Current T.E.A.M. member / architect, and 1972-74 T.E.A.M. Park Board Commissioner, Bill McCreery, has written to VanRamblings stating that the construction of housing co-operatives "was a joint effort on the part of the City (T.EA.M.), federal Liberal minister of the day, Ron Basford (and his Deputy, Peter Oberlander), and Shirley Schmidt, acting for Dave Barrett's early 1970's provincial NPD government. This era of intergovernmental co-operation is unprecedented, and it highlights what can be accomplished when it happens. Something we should be striving for today." Bill goes on to point out that all Phase1 co-ops were 2 or 3 storey townhouses, while Phase2 co-ops, as above, were mostly mid-rise, 4 to 6 storey structures.

Among the first housing co-operatives built in Vancouver were the co-ops along the south shore of False Creek, between Granville Island and the Cambie Street bridge. With the support of the province, and under municipal by-law, one-third of all large-scale housing development would be housing co-operatives — which is to say, one out of every three buildings along False Creek's south shore is a housing co-op, as was the case when the construction began in the 1970s, and as it remains to this day.

Government does not own the housing co-operative; rather the co-operative is owned collectively by its members. Almost the sole role of the federal government is to provide surety to the financial institutions that lend the monies to the members of the co-operative for the purchase of land and construction of the housing. No housing co-operative in Canada has ever declared bankruptcy — the federal government has never had to assume the financial obligations of housing co-op members, at any time.

No one in a housing co-operative pays more than one-third of their income for their housing, the co-operative model mandating that one-third of the members of the co-op will receive full subsidy out of the operating funds of the co-op, while another third are granted a partial subsidy, the remaining one-third of members required to pay the low-end of market housing rate.

Co-op members pay no more than 30% of their income for housing.

Co-op Housing: The Non-Market Solution to Vancouver's Affordable Housing Crisis

Note should be made that a significant portion of housing units in a co-operative housing complex are set aside for 3-bedroom, affordable family housing — meeting the most pressing need of young families who have been unable to find suitable homes to raise their children in a safe and secure community environment, in Vancouver's woefully underserved housing market for our city's burgeoning population of young families.

Housing Co-operatives = Housing for Young Families

Generally, the one-third of members on deep subsidy consist of single parents, pensioners and members of the disability community. The middle third are generally comprised of low-wage income earners, and members of the creative class (writers, artists). The final third, that part of the co-operative membership who pay the low-end-of-market rate are comprised of a broad cross-section of our community, business persons, teachers, and other higher income earners, each one of whom is a person of conscience dedicated to the interests of the community — for being a member of a housing co-op entails work, and a great deal of personal and social responsibility on the part all of the co-operatives' members.

In the 1970s, in Vancouver and across British Columbia, with the election of Dave Barrett's NDP provincial government, and the election of the TEAM civic government of Art Phillips, we moved away from the social barbarism of the years of provincial premier WAC Bennett and Vancouver's misguided mayor, Tom Campbell, into a new, enlightened era of social responsibility.

Co-operative Housing Built By Bosa Development as a Community Amenity ContributionCo-operative Housing Built By Bosa Development as a Community Amenity Contribution

In the 1980s, with a faltering provincial economy, the social obligation that mandated that one-third of all large-scale housing development consist of housing co-operatives was reduced to one-quarter, or 25%. For instance, when a developer such as BOSA set about to construct the mass of highrises along Main and Quebec avenues between the Georgia Viaduct and Terminal avenue, and as BOSA built 2000 condominium units, the company was required to construct 500 social and housing co-operative units.

A Collective Vision for Non-Market, Affordable Co-op Housing in Vancouver

In the 1990s, that obligation was reduced to 20%, in the early 2000s to 15%, and under both the NPA administration of Sam Sullivan and during both terms of the Gregor Robertson-led Vision Vancouver civic administration, the obligation of developers to construct social housing units and housing co-operatives was eliminated entirely. Thus, we are left with the affordable housing crisis we face today, and the number one issue on the minds of the electorate in 2014's Vancouver municipal election.

Back to the Future: Electing a New Vancouver Civic Administration
Watch the human-scale, informative video on housing co-ops, above. You'll be glad you did.

Fortunately, with the prospect of a socially responsible and progressive Non-Partisan Association municipal administration at Vancouver City Hall, supported by members of the Green Party of Vancouver and COPE, the Coalition of Progressive Electors, the potential to once again engage in the construction of housing co-operatives exists not far off on our horizon.

In the 1970s, the TEAM administration of Art Phillips created the Property Endowment Fund (PEF), consisting of the real estate assets of all city-owned property, designated by Mayor Phillips and the Council of the day as a rainy-day fund, a portion of the PEF that might someday be dedicated to the construction of housing for those in need. You've probably noticed that it's not just raining out there, there's a deluge.

At present, there's $3½ billion dollars in the Property Endowment Fund — the time has long since past that Vancouver's civic administration dedicate a portion of the PEF to the construction of housing co-operatives. Why co-operatives, and not COPE's housing authority? A couple of reasons.

COPE's housing authority would require a new and costly level of civic administration at City Hall, when there's already attendant bureaucracies in place that administer housing co-operatives, which are a joint responsibility of the provincial government through its housing agency, B.C. Housing and through its arms-length provincial Agency for Co-operatives, as well as B.C.'s much-heralded and respected Co-operative Housing Federation.

Secondly, housing co-operatives provide a salutary, non-market form of home ownership, where collectively the members of the co-operative assume the day-to-day responsibility for the operation of the co-operative, as we do our own homes. Members of a co-operative are not tenants, we are homeowners, which is to say we are maîtres de notre propre maison.

Jimmy Pattison Development: No Affordable Housing Component

When the Vision Vancouver civic administration approved Jimmy Pattison's massive development at Drake and Burrard, $42.6 million in community amenity contributions was extracted from the developer, Reliance Holdings. Do you know how much of that $42.6 million was set aside for the construction of social housing, or housing co-operatives? Nada, zero, zilch — Vision Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang and Mayor Gregor Robertson expounding that "there's no shortage of social housing in the West End."

The no-cost to the taxpayer, no cost to a Vancouver municipal administration solution to the affordable housing crisis in our city?

Extract parcels of land from the Property Endowment Fund, lease the land to members of the proposed housing co-operatives (with oversight provided by the provincial government, and the Co-op Housing Federation), and require that no less than 25% of developer Community Amenity Contributions be set aside for the construction of housing co-operatives.

The income derived from the member housing charges is paid to the city, a portion of which is set aside for annual co-op maintenance, for the co-operatives' replacement reserve fund, for any administrative costs that might be incurred by the co-op, and for property tax paid to the city.

Get Out and Vote November 15th for A New Vancouver Civic Administration

A new Vancouver civic administration must tackle the issue of affordable housing in the city of Vancouver, upon assuming office. Vision Vancouver has proven themselves to be not up to the task. A renewed and progressive Non-Partisan Association municipal administration, working with members of the Green Party of Vancouver, COPE, and the Cedar Party will provide responsive and responsible government at the municipal level.

When you fill out your ballot — at the advance polls, or on November 15th — vote for a new Vancouver civic administration: vote Green Party of Vancouver, vote Vancouver Cedar Party, and vote for the candidates running under the Non-Partisan Association banner. For only the NPA, COPE, the Cedar Party candidates, and the Green Party's Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Cleta Brown have dedicated themselves to a community-led solution to Vancouver's present appalling and dire affordable housing crisis.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:23 PM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 20, 2014

Decision 2014: Vote a Vancouver Distaff Slate at the Civic Polls

In 2014, Elect All-Women Slates To Civic Office in Vancouver

The angry, power-hungry, dissolute male of the human species has made a hash of things, when it comes to the political realm and the common weal.

In Vancouver in 2014, we have two male mayoral candidates in Gregor Robertson and Kirk LaPointe who have set about to beat each other about the head, it is men who are in control of political campaign management in the current election cycle, developers who are all male and union leaders who are also all male who control the bulk of the party campaign financing, as these latter males set about to ensure that you vote the "right way".

In Vancouver's dysfunctional, debauched political system, there's not a lot of principle, and perhaps even a dearth of ethics, in the choices with which we are being confronted when we head to the polls on November 15th.

VanRamblings is here to suggest to you that there is a better way, a more principled path forward in Vancouver's political realm, where government of good conscience would be all but guaranteed, where consensus and respect and fairness in the political process and for the participants involved in the decision-making process would carry the day, where the disquieting political maelstrom with which we have become all too familiar would finally, once and for all, draw to a salutary and certain-to-be-celebrated close.

VanRamblings' advice? When you go to the polls on Saturday, November 15th, vote only for the principled, bright, able, capable, insightful, ethical, and outstanding women of conscience who have placed their names on the ballot for Vancouver City Council, for Park Board and for School Board.

Note should be made that one of the side benefits of voting all-women slates on Vancouver's three civic bodies is that no one party would have a majority — in consequence, in order for governance to take place a working consensus would have to be developed, reason would come to prevail, and the likelihood would be that the decisions that would be taken at Council, Park Board and School Board would, almost inevitably, be very much to the benefit of the broadest cross-section of the Vancouver electorate, and families of every description living in every neighbourhood across our city.

Meena Wong, COPE's Mayoral candidate in the 2014 Vancouver civic election

In 2014, Meena Wong has emerged as the only mayoral candidate who will make a difference, as she has advocated for the construction of 4,000 affordable housing units in Vancouver over the course of the next 10 years, raising the monies to pay for COPE'S campaign promise through the imposition of a tax on absentee homeowners, and a renewed focus on the construction of affordable housing, through developer community amenity contributions; advocating, as well, for changes to the Vancouver Charter that would allow both the implementation of a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and putting an end to renovictions in the city of Vancouver.

In 2014, the Top Women Candidates for Vancouver City Council

For Vancouver City Council, there is no better choice than our hardest working City Councillor, Vision Vancouver's Andrea Reimer. Vote for her colleague Niki Sharma, as well — for there is no more principled candidate for office in 2014 than the incredibly thoughtful and articulate Ms. Sharma.

In the Non-Partisan Association's Suzanne Scott, voters have discovered a community activist who holds a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from UBC who has emerged as the hardest working candidate for City Council in the current election cycle. In her colleague, the entirely wondrous, hard-working democrat Melissa De Genova, as those who follow Park Board have long been aware, in Melissa voters have a citizen advocate who is without equal.

When it comes to the Green Party of Vancouver, since her election to Council in 2011 there has been no more powerful advocate for the public interest than Adriane Carr. In 2014, vote for her Green Party colleague, Cleta Brown, as well — a retired lawyer and tireless social justice advocate who has impressed with her cogent writing on the political process, and at each of the all-candidates meeting she has attended.

When it comes to marking you ballot in November, cast a vote for Coalition of Progressive Electors' candidate Gayle Gavin, who in her law practice has advocated for tenants' rights, won precedent-setting judgments enshrining the rights of disabled persons to dignity, and fought for local food security in the successful campaign to save the UBC farm. Social justice advocate and artist Jennifer O'Keefe — young and principled, a wonderful writer with a clarion vision, and whose energy we very much need on Council — is a must-elect at the polls on November 15th, a voice of hope to ensure a future where fairness becomes a central principle of municipal governance.

In the Vancouver Cedar Party's Charlene Gunn, voters have heard an unparalleled voice of intelligence and compassion, and have found a slow growth advocate committed to empowering those of us who live across Vancouver's diverse, engaged neighbourhoods. Service to community has set Vancouver First's Elena Murgoci apart from her Vancouver First colleagues, a multi-lingual MBA in International Business Management who would well serve the interests of Vancouver citizens.

And let us not forget, either, the Non-Partisan Association's caucus chair and arts advocate, two-term City Councillor, Elizabeth Ball. Or, Heather Deal, Vision Vancouver's three-term Councillor, who is Council's majority party arts advocate, and who was key in the realization of Vancouver's successful food cart programme.

COPE's Lisa Barrett, a former Mayor of Bowen Island, impressed at last week's St. James Hall all-candidates meeting, and her COPE colleague Audrey Siegl has been front-and-centre in the fight against homelessness. Vancouver First's Mercedes Wong, whose 30-year career in corporate finance and two decades as a residential and commercial realtor, is worthy of your consideration, as an informed advocate on development issues.

The question that is posed most often to VanRamblings in this current Vancouver civic election cycle is, "Who should I vote for, which candidates are worthy of my placing a checkmark beside their name when I cast my votes for Council?" In 2014, the answer is clear: vote for the principled women of conscience running for office in the Vancouver municipal election.

In 2014, Vote An All-Women Slate for Park Board

At Vancouver Park Board, the choices are easy: the very able consensus builder, Catherine Evans, and her Vision Vancouver colleagues, Coree Tull and Sammi Jo Rumbaua; the Non-Partisan Association's Erin Shum and Sarah Kirby-Yung; former Park Board Chair, COPE's Anita Romaniuk, and one of her colleagues Cease Wyss, or Urooba Jamal. Or, save a vote for independent candidate and Park Board watchdog, Jamie Lee Hamilton.

In 2014, Vote An All-Women Slate for School Board

At School Board, re-electing Patti Bacchus to a third term in office is the easiest decision you'll have to make in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election. The same is true for the incredibly bright and hardworking Cherie Payne. Newcomer Joy Alexander is also worthy of your consideration as Vision Vancouver's newest candidate for School Board. The NPA's Penny Noble and Sandy Sharma are first-rate candidates for School Board, as is COPE's Diana Day — one of the new must-elects for School Board.

Ms. Day's COPE School Board candidate colleagues Ilana Shecter, Heidi Nagtegaal and Kombii Nanjalah are more than worthy of your consideration, as well. The Green Party of Vancouver's Janet Fraser is one of the most talked about education activists seeking office this year — and the word on Ms. Fraser is good, very good, indeed. You'll also find Vancouver First's Susan Bhatha's name is on the ballot, for School Board.

A fuzzy iPhone photo of Jane Bouey and Gwen GiesbrechtFuzzy iPhone photo of Public Education Project candidates Jane Bouey and Gwen Giesbrecht

Apart from must-elects Patti Bacchus, Cherie Payne, Joy Alexander, Diana Day and Janet Fraser, by far the most-qualified, hardest working and most committed education activists in the current election cycle are the Public Education Project's Jane Bouey and Gwen Giesbrecht — who catapulted into the must-elect category the minute they both announced their candidacies for Vancouver School Board. Save two votes for Jane & Gwen.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:12 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

October 19, 2014

Decision 2014: Vancouver Election Debates Calendar

The Vancouver Election Debate calendar below is dynamic / ever-changing. Click on a debate event for more information on that particular debate.

The Vancouver Election Debate calendar above is entirely the creation of Randy Helten and Stephen Bohus, the publishers of CityHallWatch, and is supplied to VanRamblings as a courtesy to the voters of Vancouver.


Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:22 AM | Permalink | Decision 2014

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