I am struggling to distinguish between most of the parties vying for our vote on election day this Saturday. Those that have been around awhile (The NPA, Vision and The Greens), and the newbies (ABC, Forward Together, One City and Progress Vancouver), are cut (more or less) from the same cloth. Voters are already seeing coalitions form (Forward Together + Vision + One City) to offset vote splitting.
Over the next election cycle, all of the above will continue to rely on a for-profit market approach, via re-zonings, which they rationalize as addressing affordability. This means a continued escalation of land prices, with larger and taller projects requiring expensive site assembly, with “less than green” towers as the default form, with more cars parked underground in concrete bunkers, all in support of a strong desire to increase friendly developer revenue and municipal taxes to augment the capital budget.
Make no mistake, all of these parties and related coalitions will continue to drive up rents and purchase prices notwithstanding any downturn in the market. If this is what you want, this is what you will get with any combination of those noted above.
Further, those parties noted above do not understand how Vancouver’s creative approach to development regulation actually works, or should work, to best serve the needs of the people. This has been exacerbated by the exodus of hard-fought experience across all departments, the disconnect of best practices at the wishes of the market, and a culture of “yes” that fails to properly evaluate proposals for their impacts, both experientially, economically, and socially.
Vancouver’s evolving relationship with the market, previously known for inventing win-win (industry-community) best practices that respond to the needs of the day, has been cast aside and replaced with a regressive “approval machine” that has turned its back on current and future Vancouverites. And the “COVID Years” are no excuse for this.
As I think about casting my vote this Saturday, I am most interested in shifting towards a more responsive, productive, and compassionate governance that puts people first. A governance that:
- More deeply understands how to best utilize the regulatory levers and tools currently available towards truly greater housing affordability while strengthening our neighbourhoods;
- Better supports those with addictions and mental health challenges.
I am therefore excited at the prospect of a TEAM/COPE Mayor and Council. I believe that this unique coalition would best address these acute challenges.
I have observed Colleen Hardwick’s tenacity for better ideas (I entirely appreciate what has been behind her voting record), as well as Jean Swanson’s perseverance in support of the Downtown East Side constituency which demands COPE’s special insight. Both are dedicated, hard-working, thoughtful public servants who have proven they can work together.
First and foremost, they want results for people and remain selfless in their service. I know that Colleen deeply loves our city (most do not understand this about her) and appreciates we must all transcend polarized discourse and the lack of trust in City Hall. I commend her for inventing and implementing innovative tools for more democratic and transparent public discourse well before she considered running for City Council. She has demonstrated such courage of conviction by steadfastly voting for her civic values in the face of many policy setbacks including the Broadway Corridor and City Wide Plan.
And Jean is simply heroic, and courageous, with the greatest generosity of spirit I know. She must be re-elected. Jean and Colleen are in it for the right reasons – to serve people. I believe that they elegantly complement each other.
I am excited for Vancouver’s future with both of these extraordinary people, and their respective slates of candidates, being given an opportunity to work together these next four years. I strongly believe that their proactive association will restore Vancouver as a thoughtful, compassionate “leading light” while also demonstrating how cities must immediately evolve to solve our grand challenges including those noted above.
Thank you for considering these observations when you vote this Saturday.
Scot Hein is a retired architect, former senior urban designer at the City of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia. He is an adjunct professor of Urban Design at UBC, lecturer at Simon Fraser University and founding board member of the Urbanarium.