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BulaBlog guide on how to figure out who matches your values, how to vote strategically

November 14th, 2014 · 32 Comments

I’m hearing from more than one person that this election is very confusing for them, especially those who are young and/or who are not regular political junkies. They aren’t sure what the parties really stand for, whether some candidates are better than others, and whether they should vote strategically — or even how to do that.

This is my attempt to help out with a short guide that’s not written in the often coded language of most news articles. It is necessarily incomplete and inevitably informed by some of my personal preferences.

People who read this blog regularly know already that I’m a centrist moderate, with a weakness for good-hearted conservatives and pragmatic lefties. I do retain a special place for the odd fiery rabble-rouser, right or left, if I think they’re making telling points. I place value on people who have put in some time learning about their communities and city politics and shown a commitment to causes. And I prefer those who can make their case without too much hyperbole or outright lying — though that’s a tough condition in this fractious round. Finally, it matters to me what a political party or candidate actually accomplishes or proposes that can be realistically accomplished. (Sometimes I’m too cautious and I acknowledge that.)

With all that, I’m not going to recommend very many individual candidates, as others have. It’s not that kind of election.

This time, it’s a choice among parties, not candidates. All of the candidates from all of the parties are sticking to their party line. Vision votes like a bloc, and the NPA candidates are almost indistinguishable, just lining up behind their mayoral candidate without even being introduced. You’d have to go to a lot of all-candidates’ meetings to get a real sense of any differences. I haven’t had time to do that, as a one-humanperson band. And, even then, I think I’d end up differentiating more on the basis of style and rhetorical ability than anything else.

I also don’t believe in recommending political choices as though they are right for all voters. Everyone comes with different values and questions.  And this blog post is not for those who are diehard Vision only, NPA only, or COPE only voters. You guys know what you’re doing. It’s for those in the middle, who are thinking about picking a mix, who are thinking about switching from the way they voted last time, who are wondering to stay with old choices.

Finally, I won’t make judgments on mayoral candidates. You’ve read enough to decide for yourselves whether you think Gregor Robertson of Vision Vancouver is a phony ideologue or awkward but principled man with good goals; whether the NPA’s Kirk LaPointe is an ambitious blowhard or intelligent breath of fresh air; and whether COPE’s Meena Wong is a wacky radical or a passionate advocate for the working class. (I’ve heard each of those opinions in the course of this campaign.)
With that long preamble, here you go:

NPA:  This is the party likely to be supported by federal Conservatives, federal Liberals more on the conservative end of the party spectrum, and swing voters who feel that Vision Vancouver has badly let them down.

Your ballot-box question: Who is promising me something significantly different than what we have now and will be able to act on it?

If you’re sick of Vision and will take anyone who promises they’ll govern with a different, more open and accessible attitude, no matter how unspecific the rest of the program is, and you want a party that has a chance of taking control of council, this is the main party for you.

Also for you if you think Vision has been too pushy about bike lanes, that their policies of giving developers incentives to build rental is not really helping anyone, and that you think they said they would solve homelessness just to make you vote for them.
Strategic voting: If you want to give those eight NPA candidates the biggest boost, hold back from voting Green. The Green candidates could end up beating out NPA candidates at the bottom of the list, since the Greens will get votes from more than just NPA supporters.  As well, you could inadvertently end up voting in Vision candidates, if you dilute your NPA vote by leaving off one NPA candidate in favour of the Greens.COPE candidates won’t win, but, again, could dilute your NPA vote if you leave anyone from the NPA list off for them. (If there is anyone who votes both NPA and COPE?)Cedar Party (Glen and Nicholas Chernen) is probably okay to throw your two spare votes to. They’re nowhere close to winning, but you could signal that you like their X Files take — everything is a deep mystery with swirling numbers and incomprehensible but possibly incriminating quotes — on city politics.

Candidate recomendations:
– Ian Robertson, a steady, thoughtful guy who is not afraid to take on his own party when necessary (he was one of the few to openly criticize Sam Sullivan’s policies). He was on the park board before and he knows the issues.- Rob McDowell, who ran George Affleck’s campaign three years ago and has been the CBC’s regular commentator on city issues, from the NPA perspective. He’s put some time into understanding the city and he’s got a calmness that bodes well for rational discussion.
Vision Vancouver: This party is supported by a lot of New Democrats and federal Liberals who are on the leftier side of the spectrum. It got the centrist swing voters the last two times. Who knows what will happen this time? If you know the history of civic politics, it will mean something to you that the party is also supported by many former COPE members who left after about the third or fourth schism in COPE.
Your ballot-box question: Is what the party has done on the issues I care about enough to make me stick with Vision in spite of everything else wrong, annoying, and offensive they’ve done?
Vision is your party if you support the aggressive efforts the group has made on homelessness, rental housing, social housing and city cycling, and you’re willing to put a clothespin on your nose when it comes to what control freaks they are and how they dismiss everyone — from the true ranters all the way through to genuinely concerned average citizens — as nutbar opponents. If you’re a big enviro, you’ll like their tanker and pipeline opposition.
It’s also your party if you think that Mayor Gregor Robertson will possibly mend his ways and do better, as he promised this week.
Strategic voting: If it’s really Vision you want back in control, don’t give any votes to Greens at all, since those Greens will beat out Vision
candidates because they’re pulling from all parts of the political spectrum. Cedar is probably not your cup of tea. You could vote for OneCity’s RJ Aquino and one COPE or two COPE candidates, as neither is likely to win but you will be expressing your support for what they’ve been doing. (See below for political GPS co-ordinates on these two parties.)
Candidate recommendations:
– Geoff Meggs. One of the hardest-working councillors and the most communicative. He has been the subject of particular attacks by COPE and the NPA and it looks like is in danger of losing. That’s a shame. Vision has been severely criticized for being so closed shop. It would be a poor message to send to unelect the member of their team who hasn’t been like that, who’s been 100 per cent available and who provides additional city information on his blog.
– Andrea Reimer. If the party is re-elected, it will be in part because of her massive efforts to wade into the fray and talk to angry people in Grandview-Woodlands, indigenous protesters at Oppenheimer Park, and critics everywhere. She’s smart, she stays cool in the heat of battle, and she gets things done.
Green Party: This is a party that tends to attract people also voting Vision, COPE or OneCity, as well as some who are traditional NPA supporters.
Your ballot-box question: Who can I vote for who will add another voice to council besides the major parties, who’s green, who isn’t so far left or right that they’re scary, and has a reasonable chance of being elected, possibly even holding the balance of power
According to polling and fragmentary other evidence, the Green Party is the leading candidate among those who want to support a party that isn’t one of the big two and will bring a different voice in.
The party has taken up the same crusade as all the other Vision opponents, criticizing the council for not listening to residents, approving developments that are too dense, and not doing enough to protect the city’s existing older buildings. But the Green Party, unlike the NPA, has proposed at least some policies and, unlike COPE, they are somewhat within the range of doable. In particular, they propose a Whistler Housing Authority type model, where developers building projects over a certain size have to provide one out of every 10 units to the city at cost. Those would be then rented or sold to people at lower incomes — details to come on who exactly gets them. It would be harder to do that in Vancouver than in Whistler, where there’s a clearly identified and finite group of service workers who need housing if they’re going to keep the resort running. But the idea of making developers provide units at cost is an attractive one.
People mistakenly think the Green Party is aligned with Vision, because both parties talk green. In another world, they might be. For the last three years, they’ve been opponents. Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr has consistently taken positions against Vision and promises to continue doing so. Mostly, it’s been against development approvals. Occasionally, it’s to push an even harder green line than Vision, i.e. when Carr criticized the Point Grey bike lane for not being put on Cornwall, something that businesses were opposed to.
Strategic voting: If you want to boost Greens to the maximum possible and give them the greatest chance of winning, do not vote Vision or NPA as you’ll simply add votes to candidates competing with the three Greens for seats. You can add COPE, OneCity or Cedar, since there’s very little likelihood those candidates will win.
Candidate recommendations
Cleta Brown: Carr is a shoo-in, whatever, so I’m going with Cleta. Seems like the most thoughtful of the group of three. (Yes, my biases for non-confrontational and willing to engage in dialogue showing again.)
Pete Fry has put in some time as the president of the Strathcona Residents Association and I’ve found him accessible and informative. Friends of mine like him and are voting for him. But some local residents have told me they’re concerned about the atmosphere he’s allowed at those SRA meetings. AMENDED I’ve heard multiple reports of people who say they don’t want to go to the SRA meetings any more because of the belligerent and anti-everything tone and where city staff have been heckled and yelled at. City staff also expressed concern about their treatment at these meetings. Some local residents have suggested that it’s just that Pete is a new chair and not good at controlling at meeting; others feel like it’s more than that. There’s a lot more that I’ve heard, most of which I have not included here. But I felt this was an important point to at least mention, since we’re talking about someone who is asking to be a public representative.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Pete has called me to refute this and say that, yes, the atmosphere was very raucous when he took over as SRA chair and that he has tried to bring in a more civil tone, in part by creating a council, rather than just having one person in charge. He says he has led an association that has advocated for social housing and inclusivity.
COPE: This is the party that for decades was the home of the local NDP, but somehow more left than that. It has had a hard time ever since one group of councillors broke away in 2004 to form a more left-centre party, now called Vision. It co-operated with Vision in the 2008 and 2011 elections, but after not winning any council seats in 2011, ended its alliance. Since then, it has gone through a series of schisms so confusing that only Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight understands what’s going on any more. Many more moderate COPE people (or, as remaining COPE people would call them, collaborators) left to work with OneCity.

Ballot-box question: Who do I vote for if I think the world is controlled by capitalists maximizing profit and crushing the working class?

The people remaining at COPE have created a platform through a membership-driven process that has been earnest, idealistic, and significantly different from any other party’s in the race. It’s resulted in policies that sound great, but which are sometimes hard to imagine ever being realized. One is a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which would be imposed on multinational and chain-store operations only. (Unclear what would happen with locally owned franchises, i.e. the many small-business-owner Subways.)

Another is the transit plan for a $30-a-month transit pass. COPE’s idea is that every adult resident of Vancouver would sign up for a $30-a-month pass. The resulting revenue would generate $160 million a year, as much as it now taken in by the smaller percentage of actual transit users who pay full freight. The problem is how this would work in reality. I’m trying to imagine some immigrant family on the east side voluntarily offering to pay $120 a month (or $1,440 a year) for two parents and two adult children, when not all of them use transit and when taking advantage of their new passes would mean lining up for the now amazingly crowded buses. (The revenue wouldn’t pay for any added bus service, but would just cover existing service.) The housing plan suggests the city should build 800 units a year, half of them rented at welfare rates, something that I napkin-calculated at around $120-million a year, not counting the free land the city would need to provide. Even the popular vacancy tax COPE got some attention for seems fraught, when Wong tries to explain how it will work. (Inspectors, a register, etc.)

Strategic voting: If you truly believe in the current COPE world view, do NOT vote for Vision or the Greens or One City as you will simply be adding votes to competing candidates who already seemed poised to overtake COPE voters. Needless to say, not for the NPA either, another “developer-backed” party.

Recommended candidates:

– Keith Higgins. People in whom I have some trust are supporting him. He also tries hard to engage on the issues and consider other points of view.

OneCity: This party, with only one candidate, former COPE candidate RJ Aquino, is primarily formed of people who left COPE because it seemed too unhinged. Many people planning to support Vision are also planning to vote OneCity and vice versa.

 Ballot question: Who can I vote for who seems more left than Vision but isn’t way off on the far side of the universe like COPE?
OneCity’s team has a solid set of policies listed on its website. They are more adventurous than Vision’s, but don’t seem wildly undoable. The party has proposed a speculation tax, for people who buy and then sell houses for a significant profit within a short period of time. They’ve also proposed a $10-a-day childcare plan, but starting with a pilot project. Their housing proposal suggests that developers should have to provide 20 per cent of units to the city at cost, double what the Greens’ proposal suggests.
Strategic voting: If you voted all Vision and OneCity, you could do so without damaging either one and with the benefit of expressing your desire to have a slightly different voice. If you want to vote small-party, mixed-slate, are sort of left, but won’t vote Vision, you could go with OneCity, Greens, and COPE. If you really love OneCity the most, don’t vote Greens or COPE, as you’ll just be adding a vote to candidates likely to draw more votes from elsewhere.
Cedar Party: This is mainly the party of the two Chernen brothers, Glen and Nicholas, who have largely devoted their political careers to trying to do Watergate-style exposes of leases and development projects approved by Vision.
Ballot question: Do I want to elect someone to council who will bring prosecutorial zeal to investigating every dollar of every deal? Perhaps a prod to the NPA to stay on the straight and narrow?
The Cedar Party’s platform sounds vaguely NPAish — lower property taxes, stop wasting money on task forces, respect the taxpayers, leave the community centres alone, etc. — but with the addition of an Anti-Corruption Task Force.
Strategic voting: These guys have zero chance of getting in, but you might want to express support for their aggressive digging by throwing them a vote after you’ve voted the straight NPA slate or a mix of the smaller parties.
Vancouver First: This party was created by former NPA candidate Jesse Johl, who was removed as a candidate by that party in the 2011 election for not completely specified reasons. He later went off on his own, got himself elected as president of the Hillcrest-Riley Park community centre association, led a charge against the Vision park board from there, irritated local residents so much they organized a meeting to take the association back from them, prompting him to sue those who became the new board members. Candidates include Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, school trustees who were expelled from the NPA because of concerns over their opposition to the board’s anti-homophobia policies.
Ballot question: I can’t imagine what the ballot question is for this group. Words fail.

Categories: 2014 Vancouver Civic Election · Uncategorized