The following letter was sent by GWAC to the Citizens' Assembly recommending a ten year moratorium on spot zoning in Grandview-Woodland.
The following is a letter sent on behalf of Grandview-Woodland Area Council to the Provincial Legislative Committee studying limiting contributions/expenses during local elections. Many felt after our recent City elections that too much money was contributed by corporations and unions, leading potentially to undue influence over planning and other decisions by Council, School Board and Parks Board. Submissions are welcomed by this committee and can be sent via the green link below. For more information about the committee, you can link to: http://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/leel/
Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits April 13, 2015
Room 224, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, B.C., V8V 1X4
Submitted electronically at: https://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/leel/submission.asp
Dear Committee Members
This letter is a submission on local elections expense limits on behalf of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council (GWAC), which is a residents’ association that strives to represent the interests of this Vancouver neighbourhood, to inform and activate its residents, and to advocate for the protection and enrichment of our community.
We write to urge you to recommend and pursue the implementation of expense limits for local governments in British Columbia, and especially for the City of Vancouver. It is our view that limits on allowable campaign expenses should be low enough to promote fair participation by all parties in local government elections, and should be strict enough to prevent circumventing expense limits. The use of third party organizations to promote an individual, a party, or a ‘slate’ in a local election is an example of a means of circumventing expense limits placed on local government candidates, slates or parties, and expense limits should be structured to prevent such tactics. Similarly limits on campaign donations should be strict enough to prevent schemes to, for example, channel donations through other persons or entities once an individual or organization has reached the maximum allowable donation.
In the 2014 Vancouver civic election, there were approximately 422, 000 registered voters in the City of Vancouver and the University Endowment Lands, combined. Of those 422,000 voters, approximately 182,000 actually cast ballots, for a voter turnout of about 43 percent. Reported spending by the 3 major parties was as follows:
Vision Vancouver $3,313,450
Non Partisan Association $2,021,090
Green Party of Vancouver $88,388
1. source: ElectionsBC – Parties financial disclosure statements; vision Vancouver figures do not include separate statement for School Board Election.
2. The Green Party of Vancouver does not permit donations from developers and fossil fuel companies, and caps eligible contributions at $5,000 per donor.]
Based on the above figures, the three parties spending per registered voter, and per vote cast, was as follows:
Party Spending per reg. voter Spending per vote cast
Vision Vancouver $7.85 $18.21
Non Partisan Association $4.79 $11.10
Green Party of Vancouver $0.21 $0.49
[Rounded to the nearest $0.01]
The Vancouver Sun, the Globe and Mail, and the Georgia Strait, all reported on very large donations by development companies and other business or business owners, and by unions. As the Vancouver Sun said in a sub-head to an on-line feature on the top ten municipal campaign contributors: “ Unions, corporations and real estate developers dominate the list of the top ten political donors to city halls across Metro Vancouver.”
The lack of expense limits of local government elections has a corrosive effect on democracy. If elections are not seen to be fair, the faith placed in the motives and actions of elected officials is quickly eroded and replaced by cynicism and skepticism. We have seen this in our own neighbourhood.
Vancouver is currently consulting with residents and businesses in Grandview-Woodland with the goal of developing a neighbourhood plan. A key focus of this plan is land use and zoning within the neighbourhood. At several of the meetings and workshops GWAC members have attended they have heard people express the view that the City will simply approve a plan that gives developers what they want. Whether true or not, this is an example of the corrosive effect that large campaign donations from those who may be perceived to benefit from future city council decisions, can create.
Toronto limits campaign expenses to roughly $0.85 per elector per candidate. It limits campaign contributions to $2,500 for mayoralty candidates and $750 for councilor or trustee candidates, and corporate and union donations are banned. If the Toronto limit was adopted for Vancouver it would be $358,700 per candidate or, if applied to a full slate of candidates in Vancouver (27), the total limit would be $9.6 million, if the approach suggested by the Committee’s December 15, 2014 report of “…no separate additional expense limit for elector organizations…” is adopted. Consequently, the Toronto example is far too high. However, the Toronto expense limit is coupled with a limit on contributions, which provides a functional limit on the ability of candidates to raise money for expenses from large contributors. For these reasons, the Toronto example, if taken for campaign expense limits only, is much too high and should be discarded.
Montreal limited 2013 spending for a municipal party running a full slate of candidates for its 103 council and borough positions to $1.65 million or $1.50 per voter. The limit for individual contributions was reduced in 2013 to $300 per individual contribution. If the Montreal limit was adopted for Vancouver, then based on the number of voters, the total allowable expenditure limit would be about $633,000. This provides a more reasonable example of a campaign expense limits, but only if coupled with stringent campaign contribution limits, including a ban on corporate and union donations. Without stringent limits on campaign contributions, the limits on campaign expenses is arguably still too high and should be in the range of $0.75 to $1.00 per voter.
On behalf of Grandview-Woodland Area Council Directors:
(The date of this post is approximate)
What follows are the results of the topics of interest to our members survey. Approximately 170 people responded--thank you! We will be planning meetings to respond to the choices you have indicated.
Community Plan: develop a strategy to respond effectively when the Citizens' Assembly makes its recommendations
61 votes in top 4
Affordable Housing in GW: what can be done to protect existing affordable housing and ensure new housing that is affordable
55 votes in top 4
Neighbourhood Activism: how we can effectively make change on behalf of GW
54 votes in top 4
Transportation in GW: the priorities identified by the GWAC Committee for discussion
45 votes in top 4
Emergency Preparedness in Grandview Woodland: with the recent port fire and oil spill, how well is GW protected in the event of any hazardous material accident?
39 votes in top 4
Urban Land Economics: what makes land valuable and why
28 votes in top 4
Community Amenity Transfers (CACs) and Development Cost Levies (DLCs): what are they and how do they work?
24 votes in top 4
Neighbourhood Earthquake Preparedness: how to prepare not only your household for an emergency situation, but working with your neighbours, know what resources you have and how to look after each other when the 'big one' comes
23 votes in top 4
Harm Reduction services in GW: should we partner to recruit an Alcohol & Drug Worker for GW streets and parks?
19 votes in top 4
Many residents took the time to add comments. They are as follows:
Safety and security
Can't think of any. But re: GWAC's response to citizens' assembly reccs - the CA is made up of GW members and is probably far more representative of general GW opinion than GWAC, given the CA's composition of renters and owners and GWAC's and also the number of people who have regularly participated in the CA and its public meetings compared to # of residents who make up GWAC and attend its meetings.
I think GWAC should cover Aboriginal Issues that need to be addressed in our community. Also make our community more aware of child poverty issues facing many young children in our community too.
resistance to further densification
What can we do for youth who do not have safe homes and are hanging out around Britannia Centre, at risk for drug and alcohol abuse, procuring, and violence?
Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and GWAc's involvement.
public art community gardens poverty in GW understanding mental health and community support
The City Plan for GW is quite important to the future of the area.
Traffic calming in neighbourhood south of 1st Ave and west of Nanaimo around Garden Park.
Facilitate civil rights and civil disobedience community education in consultation with BCCLA Know Your Protest Rights workshops. This ties in with Neighborhood Activism.
Healthcare services! Accessibility for people with disabilities.
Climate Leadership: What can one community do to lead the way beyond fossil fuels
How do we save old historic houses from demolition?
My primary concern right now is how increased density will look. I know its coming but it needs to be smart so we can have as many people as possible benefit from what GW has to offer.
Increasing access to parks and keeping schools pen
Public education and ensuring Grandview Woodlands maintains its schools, and that they are well funded.
Steps for creating housing co-ops, using existing GW resources.
Potential multi use development in the industrial zoned areas on the east side of Clark Drive
Perhaps a forum for talking with First Nations G-W residents about their concerns in our changing neighbourhood. (Also, it's sneak peek.)
Get the drunks and drug users out of the parks. Stop drug-dealing on the streets. Stop the City from co-opting any more public street parking for private car companies, like ZipCar or for car co-ops (if they get to park in our spaces, then we should get to park in theirs.) Check out the reserved spaces at Graveley & Salsbury which used to be for everybody.
Examples from other parts of the world where our type of community have negotiated to thrive without succumbing to unhindered development and mono-culture.