Vancouver Election 2011: Do Your Part and Vote!

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On Saturday November 19, 2011, Vancouverites will have a say in who will govern this beautiful city of ours for the next 3 years. As a citizen you should get off the couch and get to a local polling station to cast your vote. One would assume that in city full of whiners and complainers that voter turnout would be high. That hasn’t been the case, however, we at Vancity Buzz urge you to cast a vote. Whether you vote for the NPA, Vision or an independent, it doesn’t matter. Just go and vote! All the details on candidates and where to cast your vote can be found at Vancouver.ca/Votes.

Our city is at a crucial part in it’s growth cycle. The decisions made in the near term will further solidify or diminish Vancouver’s role on a global scale. Yes, global scale, not local, not national, but global. Vancouver isn’t just competing with surrounding communities, it’s competing with cities such as London, San Francisco, Boston, Hong Kong for business, wealth, tourism, employees etc…

When you go to vote here are some of the issues (by no means all inclusive and I’m sure I missed a few) to consider when casting your vote :

1. Business: 

The city is on the cusp of an office construction boom, over 4 million square feet of office space is projected to come online in the next few years. We need a government that makes business an equal priority to social welfare, the arts etc… A city needs to be dynamic and part of that includes having a healthy business district. Both the NPA and Vision will continue the NPA enacted policy of shifting the property tax burden by 1% each year from business to residents. That’s a good start. City Hall needs to be more aggressive in reaching out to big business and not just focus on the beauty and “livability” of Vancouver as a selling point to attract offices to relocate here.

2. Densification and affordability. 

Can we build our way out of unaffordability? That is a question many have pondered. I’d argue that to some extent we can, however, you may want to take into consideration that some of the most expensive cities in the world are also the most dense. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t densify, in fact we must if we are to accommodate the  10,000 + people moving into the city every year. These people need homes, it’s really that simply. Thus, density is a word Vancouverites have to learn to embrace because it’s coming to a neighbourhood near you, whether you like it or not.

Furthermore, the increase in neighbourhood densities will require additional amenities. This includes schools, daycare, parks and a badly needed second ice rink in the downtown core, just to list a few.

3. Transportation:

Laying the political foundation to get a rapid transit line down Broadway (or 10th avenue) to alleviate the congestion surrounding B.C.’s second largest employment region is a must. Of course this won’t happen in the next 3 years, however, city hall must maintain a good working relationship with the provincially elected party.

The NPA has also promised to build the long awaited Street Car line that will link Granville Island to Downtown Vancouver at a cost of $200 million or $333 for every man, women and child in the city. I’m uncertain about the necessity of having a street car, however, it would be a welcome addition to the urban landscape.

Bike lanes. Like them or not, they are here to stay. I’ve never been opposed to bike lanes, I am opposed to the way they were fast tracked.

4. Festivals and The Arts:

A city needs business, density and good transportation to function, however, the soul of any city lies in the hands of the arts. We’ve seen some progress with festival initiatives such as VIVA Vancouver, and Vancouver 125 celebrations at Stanley Park. Those should become annual celebrations and made bigger. There is no reason for this city, especially during the summer months, to come alive just as we did during the Olympics. Vancouverites are craving more arts and festivals. Too bad most of City Hall is run by people out of touch with today’s youth.

Another issue the the city faces is studio space for artists. We simply can’t lose these spaces, but we also can’t manipulate neighbourhoods into becoming artist havens either. The elected party needs to investigate this further. The lack of affordable places in the city have dampened the spirit of the many artists that call Vancouver home. At the same time artists can’t cry gentrification every time a new building is being built. Many developers are now including artists space/studios in their developments, yet artists still despise them.

5. Social Housing

In recent years the city has addressed the needs for more affordable housing . The city and the provinces designated 14 sites (many that are now complete) to address the affordability crisis. However, this is a problem on a national level. Our municipal government needs to realize that Ottawa has to do more in this never ending battle. Furthermore, housing is just one component. There needs to be a system in place where one is taken off the streets and then ultimately becomes a contributing member of society. The poverty industry in the DTES is not set up for that, they are just like many other charities that funnel most of the monies into their own pockets or as they like to call it “admin costs”.

All the issues above are interconnected and as always resources are finite. It’s up to us as citizens of this wonderful city to make sure all of them get addressed in an efficient manner.

Then there is the issues of rental units, Occupy Vancouver, the riot, lack of parks, greenest city initiatives, crime and our crappy liquor laws. We’ll tackle those in future rants.

Image: Roland

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