Category Archives: Politics

Why I will not vote Stephen Harper, and then debated Liberal and NDP

This is my first time voting at the Federal level in Canada.

After being so heavily involved in Politics in the UK I needed time to recover.  Most voters do not consider the cost to the citizens that make our democracy work. There is a high cost for politicians, their staff and all the people that get them elected. Let alone those that run our countries as civil servants.

When I first looked at voting (in the UK) and polices I voted Green (European Elections), the UK party that interested me was the Social Democrat Party in part because they were more favourable towards Europe (they merged into the Liberal Democrats).  My political journey came out of student politics where I was an advocate for free education. It was interesting reviewing my policy journey and looking where I ended up now. I would say that I am Liberal in my outlook and believe in a balance of the needs of the community and the individual.

Houses of Parliament, Ottawa

Trying to ignore politics

Canada makes it easy to not be involved, you are not allowed to vote until you are a Canadian citizen about 5-7 years, even though you pay taxes all the time.

In my opinion democracies and voting is a bit backwards. People are always talking about demanding more and better performance from elected officials, but when you get right down to it, shouldn’t a democracy demand more and better performance from the citizens who vote? If they do their job well (e.g. like research, understand policies, question candidates, volunteer), then the quality of those they elect will naturally follow..

Ok that failed

My first involvement I guess was working for Angus Reid, then helping out on the Startup Visa.  My first vote was for Vancouver City Council, then next was the Vancouver Transit plebiscite.  This led me to sit on the Vancouver Active Transportation Council.

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

Plato

So what about the Conservatives?

The Canadian federal elections gave me the incentive to learn what is going in Canada’s politics.  To choose a political party to get behind. I started by reading a couple books on Canadian politics and visiting a number of Canadian museums. Without a doubt the torch was A Party of One by Michael Harris. It both horrified me and made me furious. It walks you through some of the Conservatives major decisions and how they handled them.

The things about the Conservatives that bother me:

  1. The removal of debate in parliament and not providing details when correctly asked
  2. The removal of powers from independent Auditors/Boards who work to ensure no party politics
  3. The Nuclear Safety Failure – the CNSC under Linda Keen – they ignored her warnings of dangers
  4. The removal of protection of our environment. Harpers Navigation Protection Act removed the protection of 31,000+ lakes. Leaving just 97 Lakes protected and most of them are in Conservative Ridings. Under the act construction of dams, bridges and other protected structures would be permitted without prior environmental approval. The national energy board is now responsible for navigable waters.. wait what..
  5. Their relationship with the First Nations and “delayed” involvement in pipeline projects
  6. The lack of care of our Veterans and overloading of caseworkers that support them
  7. C23 – The unfair elections act – The changing of election laws that benefit the rich voters and suppress poorer voters
  8. The cuts to the CBC
  9. The muzzling of scientists and other civil servants by Stephen Harper and his office
  10. The abusing of omnibus bills – the act of combining budgets and laws – leading to lack of scrutiny
  11. C51 –  its reduction of freedom of speech and groups gathering
  12. The approach to International Relations is arrogant and hostile.
  13. The way they use fear as an election tactic and the copying of US Republican campaign tactics
  14. The converting of Canada to be the extra 10 US States.
  15. Wide spread corruption for which they were elected to clear up
  16. The lack of “courageous truth” on the costings of the F35 and firing the Parliamentary Budget Officer when he told the truth
  17. The inability to admit when they got it wrong and then learn and become better
  18. The lack of funding transparency and management

The lack of information on spending and on results achieved for money spent is a common theme throughout Ferguson’s report, which includes 11 chapters in total.

Canada can’t account for $3.1B in anti-terror funding, AG finds

And for all the claims about being better for the Economy, the Conservatives managed to get rid of the surplus that the previous Government had, selling off National assets to governments with questionable humans rights. They then claim a surplus in the elections (2015), of course what they had not told people is they underspent on Veterans ($1.1 Billion) and Migrants ($350 Million). I imagine in part this was created by the closing Veterans Affairs offices, leaving some Veterans several hour journeys to get to see their caseworkers.

Sad thing is bill C23 pushed through by the Stephen Harpers Conservatives reduced Elections Canada to enforce or investigate any voter suppression/ Robocalls scam, I wonder why..

They use fear as their way to get people to follow them. When I ask another Canadian to define what makes them Canadian they often say “We are not American”. Yet Stephen Harper is Americanising Canada and has enacted more US Republicans policies here in Canada then they could in the US.

This removed the Conservatives as a viable option leaving me with National Democratic Party (NDP) or the Liberals. I guess you could called me a Strategic Voter or anything but Conservative for this election.

So what about the NDP and Liberals?

I tried out a couple sites to look at issue/policy comparisons such as isidewith which was a helpful start, but maybe a little off.  The was also a good piece in the National Post (yes I know its Conservative in its views, but also has some well written articles). The best for last though I Can Party.

Federally I was more inclined to vote for Liberals before I started my journey to understand the NDP and Liberals. This was in in part because I voted/supported and worked for Liberal Democrats in the UK.

Now I had some biases going into this — I did not like that the BC NDP had run a campaign against HST in BC (it was better than the current system). I felt they misrepresented the tax system. I get that people were angry the way it was implemented by the BC Liberals (which is fair) but process overtook a good improvement. I have also not been impressed with the BC Liberals and their ability to listen and learn.

This was partly countered by the NDP in Alberta who did many things, but very importantly they reduced the ways companies AND unions could contribute to election campaigns. This inspired me.

I do know political parties work very differently at federal and provincial level, I also had some biases at the federal level.

How do the political parties create their policies?

Most political parties have conferences where all the members submit policy ideas and the members vote on them.  Each party comes with its people; So we think that the Conservatives are controlled by businesses, Liberals by rich people and NDP by Unions. Of course the truth is far much more complex.

So, I was also worried about the grip of the Unions on the NDP — are the Unions progressive enough?  I was a member of a teachers union when I taught at BCIT.  They never contacted me and it seemed like they considered me lower class when I spoke to them because I was part-time even though I was a paid member. That said, Unions are something I believe are necessary and could be a potential progressive force in our democracy. Also, upon exploring the NDP policy making structure, I discovered it is one member one vote, which is good as opposed to Unions having block votes.  

A lot of pundits (i.e. pollsters and media) I spoke to said that the Liberals were a lot more controlled from the centre, similar to the Conservatives that candidates had to check in with their central HQ before doing polling or some messaging.  They also mentioned, that year after year it was the same people you spoke to, where as the NDP you saw a respectable turnover. Whilst there is always a measure of top down it feels like it is greatest in the Conservatives, whose many candidates rarely attend all party candidates meeting so voters can see them debate.  The next seems like the Liberals and then the NDP.

Trudeau spent a year traveling the country, meeting with Canadians, and talking with them about the values they thought were essential to the country.He then recruited people, created several policy groups, and gave them instructions to come up with polices that reflected Liberal values; and, then, to find the ones that were right for Canada, rather than the ones that would win an election. Trudeau took his party through an elaborate, three-year strategic planning exercise for Canada, driven by an overarching commitment to “get it right.”

At this point I had removed some of my misconceptions of both parties structures, policy making and started filling in actual facts.

Comparing policy documents

There are policies I like in both and some I felt were weak and need more input from respective stakeholders. For example I would like to improve some of the NDP thinking on Corporations and Startups. I felt the NDP had thought more about how to evolve economy to one that works with our Environment rather ripping it to shreds.

Initially I was frustrated by not being able to find NDP policies and costings, yet could find the Liberals and they were good. Eventually I found policy books for both. I read both and compared.

In terms of costings for all parties they are weak, not surprising really consider how much work it takes, in government you have an entire civil service to help you.

Where am I coming from when comparing these?

I feel I have been lucky in life: I have had jobs when needed.  I am happy to pay taxes in order to help others, whether it be those with disabilities, single parents or our elders. We survive together. Education is paramount for our future as well as our environment. No Environment, no planet, no human race. We also need to define ourselves as competitive to other nations, and science should be a core part of that, other nations should know we are not just their gas tank or wood supply.

Looking at the policy spread I did not disagree with any of the NDP or Liberals policies in terms of what needs to be done, but when it came to the ‘how’ I had some suggestions.

What sets NDP and Liberals apart for me?

I do emotionally favour the Liberal policy of spending on infrastructure when the interest rate is low.  I feel that Canada has to spend a lot of money on infrastructure for us to move to a more environmentally conscience country and to be ready for the lack of Gas and Oil in our futures.  That said, it could leave debt for future generations.  I was a little frustrated that the NDP was committing to a fiscally conservative budget for a few years – this is similar to what Labour (in the UK) did when they got elected in 1997. That said with flux with oil prices at the moment perhaps we should consider a more fiscal approach. The NDP have a fiscal approach.

One in five Canadians are raised by a single mother

Clear areas of difference existed around:

  • A new election system – NDP Proposition Representation – Liberal vague commitment to something
  • Civil Liberties/C51 – Harper and Trudeau both got into bed very quickly with each other on C51. When a law that questions basic freedoms and refuses to clarify its scope, people will come to expect the worst. The fact is they do not trust Canadians and Harper appears to be trying to turn us into another United States.
  • Universal Childcare – For childcare, the Conservative and Liberals are just offering one system: the tax benefit. The NDP will support an additional one, by ensuring Childcare spots at just $15 days, keeping it affordable for all families and helping women have the choice about going to work.
  • Prescriptions – NDP offer a solid plan where as the Liberals is a step forward but not enough
  • Keystone XL Pipeline – Harper and Trudeau both had a pipe dream on the Keystone XL Pipeline yet both Hilary Clinton/Obama don’t want it. Is this the pipeline to nowhere? We need a Government that can work with others, like the Americans or the First Nations or even our environment.
  • War and defence – Liberals would keep using our forces in an offensive role the NDP would not.  We are a very small contributor in terms of ‘Allied’ forces.  Would our money be better spent on solely ‘Humanitarian’ roles.  In part the Conservatives have made us a target, and dropped our Peacekeeping vision to one of offensive and a target, thus needing more security..

Parliament

The real differences start to appear in the parliamentary record.  Muclair was strong in the defence of a value set and did not waver. Trudeau seemed to bounce around:
  1. He let the Conservative budget in 2009, 2010 budgets pass unopposed
  2. And he voted with Stephen Harper on 70 confidence votes

Some will say that the Liberals wanted time to rebuild, for the new leader to establish himself and to save us from another immediate election after election.

 The NDP have stood strong where the Liberals were weak on:
  • The Keystone XL Pipeline process
  • C51 – Justin Trudeau voted with Stephen Harper on Bill C-51. He said  – he didn’t want Stephen Harper to make “political hay” out of it.
  • Approach to International Relations and the use of our armed forces

I reflect on the party in the UK (Liberal Democrats – Under Charles Kennedy) I used to be a member of and they would not have supported any of this Conservative acts that attack Civil Liberties or the Environment. The Liberals have a lot of history of campaigning on the left and governing on the right. I am having a hard time getting over the Liberals supporting C51.

Federal Debates

Watching the first debate I felt Trudeau was robotic and off his game, Mulcair was good and Harper defended himself well, but was not entirely honest.

The second debate all party leaders did well, Mulcair was sharp, calm yet fast, Trudeau was very aggressive (I got a little tired of his interruptions) and Harper was solid – but clearly twisted some points from fantasy into fact i.e. That carbon emissions have gone down during is time – this is more to do with the reduction in the economy not his policies.

Leaders

After reading the leaders books Strength of Conviction (Muvlair) and Common Ground (Trudeau) I liked both and wonder what they would be like as partners.

Trudeau feels like an emotive “connecter,” a nearly USA-style, touchy-feely politician. Without a doubt there is potential here, the campaign will allow us to see who he is. I found his book a bit cheesy at times, but informative and worth the read. I share a lot of his views.

Mulcair appears sharp, fast-talking, analytic, policy-focused politician. When he brings up his upbringing and personal history he does a bit of sociology about the meaning of coming from a big Catholic family in Laval, Quebec. Watching some of parliamentary speeches he was impressive. Two things single him out:

  1. He quit his job as Environmental Minister for QC Liberals when they told him to build in a National Park
  2. He joined the NDP when they were the fourth party and no where to be seen in QC

This to me, shows courage, and principles.

One other thing that makes a real difference for me is the willingness to work with other parties i.e. Green, Liberal and NDP.  Possibly in a coalition.  Trudeau has said he will work with the NDP but not Mulcair, that seems a little petty to me.  Mulcair has said he will work with the Liberals.

Comparing Parties

The Liberals appears largely non-ideological, they tend to take a centralised, symmetrical and anti-Quebec nationalist approach to federalism, and most of the time they are to the Left of the Conservatives – but occasionally jump to the right with the Conservatives. That said they have some good policies out there, some are lacking details but the intentions appear good.  They are very different from Liberal Democrats in the UK. Maybe they will what we hope for. Their policies target the middle class.

The NDP appears moderate, but still left-leaning, social democratic party that is ideologically committed to social justice, progressive social policies and egalitarianism in general (but they’re less socialist than they used to be).

The NDP remains committed to social democracy (a well regulated, mixed market economy with a strong welfare system), and they are uncompromising on social policies (abortion, gay rights, trans rights, etc.). Also, they’re more open to Quebec nationalism and the idea of asymmetrical federalism than the Liberals.  Their policies target less fortunate people.

So they are different how?

The NDP has “modernized” (i.e. moving from a socialist party to a social democrat party) and has passion, it still recognizes that governing will inevitably means choosing between competing and contradictory interests.You can please some of the people, some of the time; but you can’t please everyone, all of the time.
Trudeau, appears to be all things to all people. He is a friend to rich and poor, alike. He is for the environment and First Nations while supportive of the Keystone XL pipeline. Trudeau’s vision does not require making any difficult choices, yet.  It seems the Liberal Party has been about the pursuit of power, not ideals, and with Trudeau at its head the Party, it may avoid any stances that might upset the elite and established. I am interested to see how this changes through the campaign.

For both we often just have the past to make a judgement, and it can often be hard to really understand their potential. Either have the potential.

I think we need a Government who can upset the cart to transform us into a country ready for the future.

Listening to friends

Most of my Canadian friends had no idea, undecideds, something between Liberal and NDP, and a small number of Conservatives.  Many wanting real change to the Canadian future, i.e. anti Conservative

Where can I help the most?

Swing Ridings are where all the tough battles are fought between parties and there is a likely chance of change or maybe the riding is new. Two groups make it easier to see where strategic voting will help:

I explored all the Vancouver ridings to see which had Conservatives leading or second, with another party close behind or leading. Vancouver Granville and Vancouver South seemed likely swing ridings (i.e. change seems in the realm of possibility). Vancouver South has a very strong Liberal candidate so no need to help there.

Lead Now showed that Vancouver Granville is close as NDP is in the lead with Conservative second. This seems like a fight 🙂

Vancouver Granville: State Of Play – August 15-18 LeadNow poll

  • NDP 36%
  • Conservative 30%
  • Liberal 24%
  • Green 10%

I have worked on a lot of campaigns, it is very possible to move a campaign by 10% locally but anything above usually needs some mistakes, exceptions or global shifts. For example if the national leader clearly outpaces the others in terms of perception, this will help local campaigns but not define it.  In my own election we shifted the vote by 14%. I was really helped by a very successful national campaign and clearly very different types of candidates, combined with some successful issue campaigns in the area of electors. It makes sense to help the NDP candidate to ensure the Conservative does not get in.

On the point of polls, I have seen hundreds (working for a polling company and  as a campaign manager) in most have not predicted the actual result.  National Polls are even worse they often ask 3-5 per riding, so do not help on the local level. They are helpful for identifying issues and how they play. And seat predictors are very dangerous. I worry about their impact on people creating a self fulfilling prophecy, by following a leader rather choosing what is “right” in their perspective by policy and candidate comparison. I suspect that the national polls may be more important their candidates, policies, etc to voters

Let me clear Strategic voting could be useful, but should not be the whole equation, just one part. You vote for one candidate in your local riding, that candidate has to be good and they have to be a party that you can accept with policies that work for the place you want.

Meeting the local candidates

So with the goal of helping to shift the vote, I met both the Liberal (Jody Wilson-Raybould) and the NDP (Mira Oreck) candidates for the Vancouver Granville riding today.  The campaign office NDP was faster to respond and it started with a long phone call with Mira Oreck and then a face to face meeting with her and her campaign team.  The Liberal campaign was a little slower to respond and I was invited along to a “coffee meeting” at their office.

They are both good candidates. Very different candidates and teams.  I asked a lot of questions and tried to see where I would be the better fit.  I felt that Mira dealt better with my tougher more aggressive questions. Jody redirected some of my questions and relied very much on the national platform for her answers.  Mira was more willing to share her personal feelings where Jody was a bit more standoffish. When I ask Jody what she thought of Mira, she said she had never met her. Which is curious because they had already being to at least one all candidates meeting. Mira was kind about Jody. I think that was a decider..

After I debated strongly: should I help the Liberals take Conservatives voters ensuring more of a fight between the Liberal and the NDP or should I help one to try to win outright.

Now I have to decide which one to help get elected. I will help one for the rest of the campaign so 3-4 weeks of volunteering.

What do I want from a Government

I would like Government to provide stability for our businesses (thus taxation allows us to provide services), guide us to keeping our environment healthy, help us as citizens find our potential, allow us to be different, find the right choice between our freedom and security. And I want it to protect the vulnerable and help them climb the ladder to a better place.  Maybe I do not need as much help as others, but I want to know that the Government has their back.  In terms of international relations I want us to be open to others and different cultures, and not enforce our culture on them.

Making a Decision

In the end we are judged by our actions, not our intentions.  I felt the NDP in Parliament have done a better job than the Liberals in the last term (I feel that you should reward the behaviours you want to see).  The Liberals seem to swing to right when uncertain.  NDP seem to know who they are. Mira is a strong candidate in Vancouver Granville with clear principles.

After a time of having unprincipled leadership in Stephen Harper I feel we need a leader with core values, tested principles and a will to take us back to a compassionate, forward looking Canada. Trudeau’s support of C51 really worries me, and I am not ready to get passed. Yes we need security but at what price to our democracy or to our freedom of speech? Would we need this extra security if our international relations was done with more respect, tact and finesse?

I feel that Tom Mulcair at this time shows guts, experience, compassion, respect and ability to listen.

Thus I decided to support the Mira Oreck NDP candidate in Vancouver Granville, in this election. I feel she is one of the strongest candidates in Vancouver area and I feel she will be a strong advocate for both her riding and Vancouver. I will reflect after the election.

CIJA All Candidates Debate

[Update] Watching the all candidates meeting (about 500 people turned up), I felt Mira did an amazing job with both the introduction and questions, the next best was without a doubt the Green candidate (Michael) he had a lot of courage and then Erin the Conservative (I did not like what he said but he presented himself well). Jody did well on a couple questions.  Watching this debate it was confirmed for me that Mira would do right by this Riding, and achieve results in Ottawa for us.

What should you do?

I would would prefer you travel your own journey, learn about what is important to you,  take time to understand the people and policies and choose the right candidate for you.  Often people vote lazily i.e. they choose just the party, please don’t do this get to know your local candidates choose the representative for your riding and your beliefs. Every party is the sum of its parts and its individual members of parliament will impact on the “sum” or overall picture.

Action Plan for you

If you have not received a voters card:

  1. Get your postcode
  2. Know what riding you are in, go to this website (Elections Canada)
  3. Check to see if you are registered to vote here  the deadline is Tuesday, October 13 at 6:00 p.m. (local time) you can do this online or at a local office

Find out who your local candidates are?

  1. Go to the Elections Canada website, on the right enter your postcode. New Page on the right click on “Who are the candidates in my electoral district?”
  2. Do a web search on each candidate looking for the next All Candidates meeting.  Go and see them talk.

Understand what each of the parties will do?

  1. First write a list of things you think are important now.
  2. Then add items that are important to people you care about
  3. This site does a comparison of policies – I Can Party
  4. Then checkout each parties website, refer to your list, it may grow thats ok.

If you could read one book?

A Party of One by Michael Harris

Other Stuff

P.S. What about Greens?

I strongly believe if we don’t get a grip on the impact of us and our economy on the environment soon, we will move the planet to a point that it cannot heal from.  I think environmental impact should be a part of every policy.  I also felt Elizabeth May did very well in the first debate.  But I want to get involved in actually evolving policy, in a party that has the ability to form a Government or a strong opposition. I imagine the Green Party will teach me many things and I will listen and learn.

Becoming an Elected Politician

Ten years ago (May 2005) I was elected as a public politician for the county council seat of Newquay North in Cornwall, UK. Whilst being the campaign manager for 17 county candidates and 1 Parliamentary candidate. Together we won 17 seats..

Here is my journey in politics not my whole life and not certainly not all the politics..

Elected Councillors

Messy Upbringing

I reflect often that I coped with a messy upbringing by reading a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy books. They gave me a place to retreat to, but at the same time I was learning what society and what humans could become. They showed me how certain principles could be taken to the extreme and what kind of society we would end up with.

Why was it messy? Well my mother disappeared when I was 6 months old and I ended up in foster care for a number of years, changed schools a bunch of times I think 6 before the age of 14 and yep my father and step mother were both good fighters.

Fantasy books test the different ways people can grow up in a good versus evil environments. I got to explore many societies, many cultures, some human, some alien, and many pathways through life. The best and the worst of what society could become. I recall Spock once saying that with infinite diversity comes infinite possibility, maybe here is where my Liberal and Social leanings come from.. I have always known I want to leave the world in a better state than I arrived in it.

A quote

I once asked a teacher, why they wanted to be a teacher

“There are no innocent bystanders.”

William S. Burroughs

This quote has stuck with me for most of life, because it put words to something I already strongly believed in. This quote has driven me to go down the path I followed, it has made me feel guilty for inaction and has given me part of the reason to be better.

A little bit of confidence (1982)

In my last year at school I got involved in Young Enterprise (school pupils setup a business with help from local business people and try and make a profit), started as the Sales Manager and eventually became the Managing Director. This got me talking/selling in front of other people (on the street and in shops). I also had my first experience with public speaking to an unknown audience when we won one of the regional awards. I remember to this day how much I shook as I spoke.

 “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

Learning about Print and Design (1982 -)

One of the services we offered as a Young Enterprise company was Letterhead printing, as I had access to Desktop Publishing System (Quark Express and Apple Macintosh) through my Dad’s company. In fact, through this I taught Pagemaker and Quark Xpress to printing professionals and they taught me the print profession. I started to learn how to communicate effectively and impact fully through print.

Calm under fire? Strategy, Tactics and problem solving (1982 -)

Thinking through strategy, tactics and problem solving grew out of my Wargaming (Advanced Squad Leader, Warhammer 40K, Space Marines Epic). Dungeons & Dragons (tabletop role playing games) also contributed to my confidence and creativity as a teenager as well as the ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes. There were many times when I stood as the leader in chaotic circumstances and I developed a rep as “calm under fire” with my friends. Whether it was true or not, it formed a part of who I am now.

My first vote

In 1989 European elections and I voted Green. My view at the time was: no planet, no human race.. The result to me was shocking. Greens got 2,292,705 votes, nationally 14.9% (UK), and got not one MEP (Member of European Parliament). To me, the election system seemed screwed up, so this started my journey in exploring how elections worked.

Standing up for others (1992-)

During my first year at UoH (University of Hertfordshire) I found I enjoyed sharing my understanding of software/computers/networks. I have often found it “easy” to explain very complex things in terms anyone can understand through analogies.  I quickly became one of  the “mentors” and helped many students, and thus became one of the informal course representatives. This course (Software Engineering HND) was really well taught, I enjoyed it and performed very well and got offered the opportunity to move up to the degree course.

I think it was near Christmas when the student halls (Pembroke Halls) I was in were trashed. The University responded by sending a notice of eviction to all students and taking everyone’s deposit. This is a hall with 220 students and the walls were made of “paper”, one of the those temporarily buildings that stays around for a long time. The facts were unclear but cause was likely a mixture of students and locals from Hatfield who sneaked in. I worked with students to get their parents to challenge the University through the court and force them to prove their case. Of course they could not, and a compromise was established. Both the Halls Association and the Students’ Union did nothing.

So in the next election cycle I stood for both. For The Halls Assocation I stood for election as Vice-President and for the Students’ Union (UHSU) I stood as Communications Officer, and was duly elected for both. These elections taught me how uncomfortable it is to “sell” yourself. But these were my first elections as a candidate.

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world”

Mahatma Gandhi

Public Speaking

During my second year at University I expanded into unknown territory and became a member of the Drama Society. Standing up in front of people was shit scary. Overtime I learned to pace myself, I learned how to project my voice, I learned timing, I learned to practice and memorise my lines. I learned to take complexity and simplify it. I learned to perform and act a character that was not Eric. Whilst Roleplaying games (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons) started this journey Drama took this to the next level.

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

Michalangelo

Student Politics – University of Hertfordshire Students’ Union (UHSU)

My year as Communications officer made me concentrate on student engagement/involvement/motivation, getting students to general meetings, demonstrations and also learning how to do publicity well e.g. putting up posters. During this time I used to go to food places to stand on a chair and tell all the students what was going on. I got used to speaking in front of a couple hundred people who did not care about what you care about, and I learned the best places to put posters.

The Conservative Government was in the process of removing students grants (money for food and accommodation) for University and considering charging for each year of attendance.  I am not sure if I would have gone to University if it was not free.  Free Education became a part of my political beliefs at this time.

I got the attention of the NUS Regional Officer (Nick Berg) who asked me to help out with training the colleges on Regional Training Weekends. NUS taught me how to train and share my knowledge. I trained a lot of FE Officers in East Anglia, UK. I throughly enjoyed teaching and learned from my students.

My third year (at University) I stood for election as the Union Affairs Officer, who managed the elections and the formal rules process of the Union i.e. The constitution, standing orders and policies. I do not remember the reason now, but I had such a strong disagreement about one policy that I resigned. I learned how ineffective resigning is, as now I could not influence anything.

In my final University year I stood for Academic Affairs. It was to be a busy year, as the University decided to change the way it delivered all of it is courses. I worked with Education & Welfare sabbatical (full time post) to communicate with students. In part, the way I handled myself through this change and helped the University to compromise, led to my election as President of the Students Union (UHSU).

President of the Students’ Union

Student Union second term

Suddenly I was the leader of 350 staff, several bars/clubs/shops and the representative of 21,000 students. Its kind of like being a mayor.  Watching, advising and criticizing is a lot easier than being the person at the top. My first year was a lot of cleaning up a business nightmare, we were running at an increasing loss, we employed 350 staff most of them without any employment terms, and most of our permanent staff were commercial facing with very little support for our students services. So we had a complete restructure. This got the University onboard for specific increases for our grant (for the Students’ Union) from them, setting us up for a healthier future. This was not a process without cost. We had to close some services and lets some people go.

And it led me into a tough election, which I won my second term but it was close. I would not have won this election without my colleague Sam Fawcett and my remaining friends.  My second term focus was using my now established relationships to gain more resources for the students’ union, and advocate for students through the University and nationally.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

Albert G Hubbard

National Union of Students (NUS)

Through my training I had built a strong standing with my region i.e. East Anglia. When I stood for NUS Regional Council, I had a lot of support. Which eventually led me to standing for the NUS national executive (NEC), after my term as president at UHSU had finished. NUS was a battlefield of the left of the Labour party and the right of the Labour party, as most of the people in power were members of the Labour party.

This was one of the strangest years of my working life. I was doing a full-time job but earned part-time money and I could only work on projects I was authorized to. Expenses were signed by whichever political group was onside at the time. I felt that I had got elected with a lot of good people, but the culture of NUS was sick, and we inherited it and we were not always our best. NUS politics was vicious and at times petty compared to real world politics.

All of that said I feel I got some good work done with Mature Students, Peer to Peer Training (STADIA), Environment, Training and helping student unions grow. None of it was done alone there were many people who helped me.

As my term on the NEC drew to a close, I decided to stand for the NUS President.  My standing for election as National President for NUS was really about making a point. I did not expect to get elected, but I wanted to make some points to wake NUS up from the US and THEM sick culture and the acceptance of Labour Leadership, which I was not against if it was more inclusive. I ran the campaign as an independent, took no deals, no money from parties, just from friends and other like minded people. I came really close to winning, I think just 42 votes out of a 2000 electorate. I learned an incredible amount from my time in NUS about campaigning, public policy, voting, block vote tactics, winning and losing. I was happy with the campaign and knew it was now time to move on. And that in politics, you may die many times – it’s the grace you do it with that will define your future and your friends.

There are many people I am thankful for in my time in NUS, who helped me survive and be a stronger advocate including Sam Fawcett, Andy Martin, Tommy Hughes, Kat Price, Colin Ross and many others.

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”

Winston Churchill

Diversity

My time in student politics taught me about diversity.  Whether that be sex, gender, race, sexuality or age.  These are part of my core because of the exposure to the real life stories, the debate and the polices.  I am thankful for all the people in UHSU/NUS who educated me and helped me grow.  And I would say now I am a passionate campaigner for equality of opportunity – passionate and sometimes clumsy, as I still have more to learn.

“Return hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Choosing political parties

Before University I would have fitted into a Green or Labour voter. I was left of centre, I believed in social justice, but I did not fully know what that meant. I felt society should be fair, more of a meritocracy. And of course green.

In 1997 I met all the Parliamentary Candidates for Welwyn Hatfield.  Without a doubt the best candidate was Rodney Schwartz, he was very authentic and round beat the other candidate Melanie Johnson, in the student debate. This was my first encounter with a Liberal Democrat and we often talked during the General Election. He lost gracefully to Melanie Johnson.

I found the the NOLS i.e. Labours Students very controlling, and I understood the timing was leading to a place where New Labour would form, and they needed to modernize to take on the Conservatives. Which I wanted them to achieve.  It was their methods that bothered me.

NUS often felt like a battleground between the right and the left of the Labour party with students being left in the middle. I would say that I started out as a Labour supporter but my time in the NUS made me think about this decision. Overtime I got to know a few Liberal Democrats and even went to a LYDS conference, which I have to say put me further off party politics. Some of my closet friends were in the Green, Labour and Liberal Democrats but I felt more comfortable with the SDP (Now merged into Lib Dems).

The one thing I knew was I was not a Conservative. I felt Conservatives was for rich people who cared less for the vulnerable in our society, whose priority was business above all other things. Who were happy with the divide in wealth and classes.

Paddy Ashdown was the Lib Dem leader at the time. I liked the policies that the Lib Dems put forward. The Lib Dems were the only political party at this time stating that higher education should be free. I felt their stance on the environment and education were something I could get behind.

Liberal Democrats Youth & Students (LDYS)

My experience of this was very varied. I had a number of friends who were great supporters during my time at NUS. I stood for election after my time at NUS. I wanted to share some of my seven years of experience. It was my worse experience of an election process, it included character assassination and lies about me. They made Labour Students look nice. I never went back.

Working with a Member of Parliament

Lembit Opik (at this time MP) and I met during my time in NUS. With his policy brief of Northern Ireland (I lived there in the early 90s) and Children/Youth, we had a lot to talk about. Whilst we did not agree on everything, I think we helped each other understand very different perspectives. I learned about Rural policy from him and his then colleague Richard Williams, MP another Welsh MP. We worked with each other for a number of years until 2002.

Real World Campaigns

When Lembit Opik MP, invited me to come and help out in the first Welsh Assembly Elections (1999), I jumped at it. I could use my campaigning skills and learn a wider policy brief i.e. more than education. The Head of the Campaign, Chris Lines, was awesome and I learned an incredible amount from him, particularly about working with Journalists. We supported 40 candidates, whilst supporting a national and federal strategy. As I really started to understand the whole political partys’ policies I felt I had found a home. I still agreed with policies from some other parties, but their implementation was often different i.e. more authoritative rather than involvement of stakeholders.

General Election Manager for Wales & Organizer for the Leaders Office (March 2001)

Whilst at NSPCC I was offered the opportunity to Head up the Welsh Parliamentary Election campaign. I asked for a leave of absence and I was denied, even though others in the organization were being given time off to support their political parties. I handed in my notice and for the next four months lived and worked in Cardiff, Wales.

Who needs one job? Yeah so I also worked as part of the Federal Leaders office (Charles Kennedy MP) organizer of the final week of his tour around the the UK. Reporting into Niall Johnston, another amazing mentor for me.

During my time I was also a paper candidate for Pontypridd, Wales. It was a Labour stronghold, the candidate was a Government Minister and I did well enough to get my deposit returned. People should have a choice..

Becoming an Approved Parliamentary Candidate

This process really helped me flesh out what I really cared about, what were the policies I wanted to work on. What my underlining principles were. How I defined myself compared to other parties.  What language I would use to describe these beliefs.  For example, is the individual more important than society, or vice versus or a balance of both?  Whist in the past I had agreed with policies, this helped me really think about what were the principles behind them and connect it all together.

I got myself through the “accreditation” process and became a valid Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate.

“You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Selection in Totnes, Devon (2002)

Mentor1

When the seat of Tones came up for selection, I decided to take off 2 months.

As a child I always had fond memories of South Devon. I learned to swim in the swimming pool in Totnes, I went to primary school in Stokenham and attended my first comprehensive (High) school in Kingsbridge. It was a really interesting mix of people with its Art college, Hippies, farmers, tourist service providers, beaches, and a strong mix of rich and poor.

I rented a place for 8 weeks and started my campaign, going door to door to all the local (Lib Dem) members, learning what their perspectives were and what the future needed to look like. I got to know a lot of locals, not just voters in this primary/selection process. The vote came and I did well but not good enough. It feels very personal to lose a campaign where you meet all the electorate, but the choice is really about whether people perceive you as a potential winner, and a friend, and sometimes that takes years.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away”

Pablo Picasso

Charities

In between my political adventures, I occasionally had to earn money, so I did this by working for charities and non-profits. I learnt an incredible amount in specific areas of policy.

  • National Union of Students’ – Further and Higher Education
  • British Youth Council – Youth, Childrens’ Rights
  • NSPCC – Paid Parental Leave, Childcare, Domestic violence, Smacking, Parenting and Child Development
  • NCDL/Dog Charity – Animal Welfare
  • Action for Blind People – Disability, Economics
  • Consumer Rights – Economics, European political system, Housing, right to return, Advertising.

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

Plato

Hartlepool By-Election (Sep 2004)

After finally getting rid of my student debts, I got my TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and I went on a around the world trip lasting 11 months. In which I learned Spanish, met my Argentine family for the first time, and became a Dive-master.  I remember diving off a beautiful reef and finding myself thinking about what would a perfect Education policy look like.  I was bored and it was time to get back and do some “good”.

I headed to Hartlepool, UK for a couple months to help the Liberal Democrats in a by-election. Like most people in a by-election I did a little bit of everything. It was the first by-election where ‘The Guardian” plugged for Lib Dems over Labour.

During the campaign I met the then campaign manager for North Cornwall. He was considering leaving as he had been offered a civil servant position, and he talked about new candidate Dan Rogerson who I met many years ago and liked. This combined with the fact I was born in Cornwall: I wanted to rediscover my birth home.

Campaign Manager for North Cornwall Constituency

Dan Rogerson PPC

After an interview with Dan Rogerson & Paul Tyler MP, I headed to North Cornwall to live and work for the Liberal Democrats.

My first task was a by-election for Newquay Town Council.

Then I started preparing the campaign for 17 County Council seats ( for the then Cornwall County Council, which later got merged in with all the Cornwall District Councils to form Cornwall Council) and one parliamentary seat by getting to know each of the candidates and their divisions (election area). My role included producing our newspaper, leaflets, posters, volunteer management, election planning, election database management, message management, speeches, poster creation and placement, canvassing door to door and on the phone.

Becoming a Candidate for Newquay North (Cornwall County Council, UK)

Bus Campaign

We had a candidate for Newquay North, but he had to step down. I asked if I could stand in the seat, initially as a paper candidate (the intention is to give voters a choice but necessarily run a full campaign). Clearly I had other responsibilities i.e. 1 MP candidate (PPC) and 16 other county council candidates and to be clear I did not expect to win. The North Cornwall Liberal Democrat Leadership had a bit of a heated debate on it, but in the end they decided I could stand, and asked that I run a campaign in the area.

Some of my best friends came from all over the country to come and help me get elected. Ashley,
Malinee, Cheryl and others did some phone canvasing for me. Sandy (Samuel Carter) made a real difference, he tireless delivered leaflets for me, and canvassed for me. Without him it would not have happened. George Edwards also told many people that I was the man for the job, even whilst fighting for his own seat. And then there was Dan Rogerson, Steve Rogerson and Pat Rogerson, they were all invaluable in the campaign. We also collectively saved a bus route during the campaign!

During this time I didn’t rest much and worked on 18 campaigns. When I had spare moments I would work on Newquay North. I met a lot of people, I was careful not to promise anything, except that I would work hard. Where I agreed with voter I was clear and when I did not I was also clear. I described my values and principles. When I did not understand all of the issues I was honest and learned from them. I learned a lot.

We did good work together as evidenced by the results.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”

Wayne Getzky

Being a local candidate (2004 – 2005)

It starts pretty tame and then gets seriously intense. First the letter of introduction, who are you and why are you standing and some defining issues.  Going door to door gives you a real mixture of what people are angry at, sometimes they may even tell you what they would like to change and possible solutions.  Sometimes they will use some choice words the moment they open the door and see you.  There are some who will play along and pretend to be interested, to delay you as they are of another party.  Some just want to talk and have human company. I met a lot of people and took copious notes, and found a few pieces of casework to investigate.

Print journalists really vary, some are just interested in who you are and what you believe in, others have a story and they want you to fit into that box. Sometimes they will paint you as something good and sometimes as something weak, either way it is part of the political life, something to get used to. You sacrifice your privacy, and the privacy of all the people close to you. Something else to get used to. People want to feel they understand you, both the good and the bad. It forces you to reflect on who you are as an individual, and in comparison to the other candidates. Learning to take the hits, reflect and move on is important in politics, just like the rest of life. I think quality journalists that check their sources, do not have an overpowering agenda, and seek the truth, are a fundamental part of our democracy, without them it will fail. Of course most papers have to make money, and thus need readers and thus need exciting titles. Then there’s radio, which can be much more combative, as each candidate wants to voice how different they are.

Few candidates get elected without volunteers, whether they be family/friends or party activists. The campaign will have many peaks, troughs and even moments of despair.  Keeping your team in the loop and motivated is essential.  I found sharing stories both good and bad was great for bonding, and also to prepare how to respond to questions.

And let’s not forget the other candidates.  My view is, you never know who you will end up working with in the future, so be respectful.  Anyone who has the courage to be put through an election campaign and lose part of their privacy in the process has a sense of civic responsibility.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Candidates with opposing views is a good thing, it allows “us” to test ideas out, to even make them stronger. Personal attacks will come, and some will also be offensive. Just because others play in mud, you do not have to.

Being elected

cllrericbrookejpg

I asked some friends to observe my count. We knew it would be close. I now had other responsibilities with counts in two locations (North Cornwall District Council and Restormel Borough Councils) and 17 candidates.

  1. 1279 – 37.6% – Eric Brooke – Liberal Democrat
  2. 1231 – 36.2% – Patrick Lambshead – Conservative
  3. 889 – 26.2% – Harry Heywood – Independant

The current politician Harry Heywood could not even shake my hand. Losing is hard, but I had practiced that I lot. Again it all depends on the campaign and how personal it gets. Pat was always respectful and always clear he was not my friend, either way I liked him.

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen from Anthem

My next posting will talk of my experience as an elected politician

I will vote yes for the Mayors Transit plan

I will vote yes for the Mayors Transit plan for Vancouver, BC

As an elected councillor in my past I have seen how badly underfunded public transport hurts people both in the medium and long term. How it does immense damage to the vulnerable in our society. And how do we want to treat our environment? How clean do we want our air? Our populations are always growing, how many cars do we really need?

Newquay North, Cornwall County Council, UK, 2005

The road ahead

Should we have a better Transit System?

I would like Vancouver to become a better place for everyone. That people can get around easier without cars (e.g. children/elders, the vulnerable), that they can choose jobs/schools further afield, that they can explore more of Vancouver and discover “new” shops/businesses to become customers of. I would like to see a city that manages its carbon footprint better as it grows. A big step to ensure our future is smog free is to invest in our public transport infrastructure.

I have seen the impact of under investment in public transport. Rising house prices, congestion, more anger from traffic jams or the buses being full, the reduction in family time due to longer commutes, smog and the impact on businesses. People’s health (both physical and mental), finances and job satisfaction all take a middle and long term hit. It can be easy to fall into the trap of anger.

I remember when I lived in London, before they got congestion under control, my snot was often black.  After it went back to green and clear.

Why did the Mayors decide to fund it this way

You pay your taxes, you pay for your monthly bus pass. And then the bus you rely on is late, or is full, and you miss an important meeting or you’re late to a friend’s birthday. The anger and the disappointment have lead us to resentment, and it is clouding or judgment in this matter. We have to find it within ourselves to move past the anger and to forgive. Only once we’ve forgiven can we begin to see the solutions, and begin to part of the solution. Don’t simply look at this campaign as voting to part with your money. The mayors council looked at a bunch of different ways to fund it and all but one mayor agreed 22 out of 23, as this every happened before?  The summary and the detail – Look at Appendix F

We live in a community to help each other not just ourselves

Whilst I appreciate that my tax dollars are going into this project, I will not wholly benefit myself as I live downtown and walk 30/40 mins to work. Even though I do not care to ride a bike (as I prefer to walk), I appreciate the need for them – they give us the option to be car free. Community is not just about my personal needs, it is also about how kind thoughtful I am, my willingness to share and collaborate with all. And most importantly, don’t simply think of improving your situation. Remember the elderly person down the street who needs Handydart, and how a line to UBC would improve the state for students. It is the glue of our society and our community.

Should we have had a vote?

I agree that this should have being decided by politicians. But with the HST popular vote, we now have a well funded anti-tax, anti-government campaign that will plague every decision and ask for a refer on everything now. Many of the decisions “blamed” on Translink were actually decided by politicians at the Provincial level.  While I will vote yes, I will also be looking for new politicians in the next provincial elections that will make the right decisions for our future and some will not be popular.

http://policyoptions.irpp.org/2015/03/19/metro-vancouvers-transit-referendum-is-a-political-disgrace/

Has Translink being Audited?

Yes.

Three years ago the province responded by auditing TransLink to find efficiencies.  That 2012 audit identified $41m in potential savings. Which is great. Over the previous two years, TransLink themselves had already found $98m in internal savings. That’s $139m in total savings over 3-4 years.That doesn’t sound like rampant mismanagement to me. That sounds like an organization actively trying to save public tax dollars. And succeeding. Despite all that, none of those savings was enough to fund future growth.

http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/ocg/ias/pdf_docs/Review_of_TransLink_2012.pdf

Who is actually delivering the Compass Card?

For example for the Compass Card TransLink contracts out installation, maintenance, and daily operation of the system to San Diego based Cubic Transportation Systems. This company was chosen by Provincial politicians, not Translink and why not they implemented the Oyster card in London, UK. The delay and extra cost is focus on the type of system i.e. double tap, one tap is ready to go, the double tap is not. The most detail I could find was the technology on buses is not able to cope with the demand that may occur.

“From my knowledge the system runs on Windows CE and there are no issues with that as far as I’m concerned, as long as it’s the newest and most updated system,” he said. “But what is more likely the culprit is the local telecommunications system that the [mobile card readers] are operated on. Our wireless network can be unreliable and even spotty particularly with data.”

TransLink might abandon Compass Card’s ‘tap-out’ on buses due to glitch

This is definitely a problem. Vancouver is not alone in seeing this type of project overrun, most seem overrun by years.

“The fare gates were imposed on TransLink by then Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon and [then Premier] Gordon Campbell and they did that through an unelected, unaccountable board that they also imposed on TransLink,” said NDP TransLink critic George Heyman. “So that’s where I lay the blame for the fare gates and the Compass Cards.”

http://globalnews.ca/news/1886363/idle-skytrain-fare-gates-held-up-as-example-of-translink-ineptitude-by-critics/

In the end it seems that Cubic Transportation Systems over promised what they could deliver. And then they hired a lobbyist.

How does Translink compare to other transit authorities?

Peer Review by shows T as one of the most efficient authorities.

Transit referendum: Is TransLink really wasting taxpayers’ money?

How well funded is Translink?

Translink has being deeply underfunded for a while now.

Metro Vancouver’s proposed transit improvements will cost an estimated $7.5 billion over 10 years. It’s money TransLink doesn’t have; the corporation is already $5 billion in debt and barely meets its annual operating costs with existing fares and various tax-funded mechanisms.

This reminds me that as a citizen of Vancouver and of BC, to pay attention to politics both at the city and provincial level. To not trust the “facts” delivered by angry bloggers, who have no accountability, and instead to listen and to research, to discover if their comments are true or false. It is important for us to look at how Translink is held accountable, how it grows and learns both from its customers, its employees and the “Governments”. How it learns from other cities successes and failures. All of that said you cannot expect an underfunded organization to always perform well.

Innovation means getting somethings wrong

I believe that Translink is not perfect, as no human organization is. Destroying an organization ignores the fact that we as humans can learn from our mistakes, and organization are no different. Many of us have relied on the forgiveness from “our bosses” when we got wrong, to not be fired and instead to learn from our mistakes and grow. As citizens we are the boss of our public transport infrastructure. And the best “bosses” allow us for experimentation and innovation — which always comes with the risk to get it wrong. The worse bosses stay angry and persecute us for past transgressions that have now being corrected. Innovation is key to our survival and future and if we kill it with anger and mistrust, we will fail as a human race. Either way the Translink CEO was fired, how much more revenge needs to be taken?

Becoming part of the solution

I have applied to be on the Citizen Council for Transport because I want to do my part. Whether I succeed or fail I am becoming better informed! I have hope for Vancouver to become a better city as it grows. Going forward, I will pay better attention to those that serve us. I am one of those crazy people who still says thank you to the bus driver when I get off, because I appreciate the human that serves us — whether it be the bus driver, the union that protects their rights or Translink who manages our infrastructure.  All three have had to do this in an environment that is underfunded and not ready for the future, because citizens have not been doing their part.

It’s time to change this and think/reflect/imagine the city we want.. become solution providers rather than just armchair critics.

UPDATE:

Holy shit smile emoticon They said yes!
“Thank you for your application for appointment to the Active Transportation Policy Council.
At its In Camera meeting on March 3, 2015. Vancouver City Council appointed you to the Active Transportation Policy Council, for a term to commence immediately and end February 28, 2017. ”
Looking forward to it smile emoticon

Articles that I found useful:

My first vote in Canada

For my first vote in Canada (I became a Canadian Citizen this summer) I spent much time researching the political parties, their records and their personalities. Including watching a city council meeting and attending one of the debates.

Still it was really hard to see the difference between the Vision party and the NPA. I found both the websites unhelpful in understanding the parties and how they differed.

The current Mayor Mr Robertson (Vision) and Kirk LaPointe (NPA) seemed to agree with each other on most topics.

It took a little digging into the councils minutes to get some feeling for the local politics. The campaign started to help, but it was the local newspapers that really did the work to show the differences. The debates also helped, in showing the temperaments of the mayoral candidates.

In this election, Vancouver City 2014 (BC, Canada) I voted for Vision across the board. I was disappointed that we are still using an ancient voting system (first past the post) rather than a modern transferable voting system. Splitting your votes across parties generally leads to weak indecisive government, unless they have experience working in a coalition. Thus I did not do it. It appeared to be a campaign that seemed to be a two horse race between Vision and NPA.

Vision had enough of the left of center perspectives without dismissing the liberal concerns. Robertson has also worked hard to get know part of the Startup Community, which I am a member, though I have never met him. He is also outspoken on protecting those less fortunate in life.

I really appreciated the profiles that the Vancouver Sun did on the two mayoral candidates – Robertson and LaPointe.

I did not appreciate the attack ads that the Vision campaign ran on Kirk LaPointe, they were tacky. They attacked the person not the party (in his case NPA). This made me pause to think about if I wanted to vote for any Vision candidates.  There are smarter ways to run a campaign and stay respectable.

After running 110 election campaigns (Liberal Democrats and NUS) I never resorted to personal attacks. OK maybe I did when I was immature. Yes, I know negative campaign works. And sometimes the media likes to add a certain “flair” to their words to get the attention of potential readers.

So, do we not have to become smarter, wiser and better. How we do things is important. Maybe I am being too idealistic, some campaigns may need it, I am not sure this one did. In fairness I am without all the facts, the polling data, etc. Is it better to lose and stick with principles?

Having been elected to public office (County Councillor for Newquay North, UK, 2005) and had the honour of a cabinet position (Community & Culture) my opposition taught me many things. The need for scrutiny, really listening, debating points of policy, forgiving others, strategy, how to be the better person when you lost and yes how to run better campaigns.

County Councillors 2005 - 2008

Cornwall County Councillors 2005 – 2008 – UK

I am a better man for both my party and the non party members of Cornwall County Council (2005 – 2008). Some would call the non party members opposition but after six months I did not view it like this. I saw them as opportunities to be better, and thus I worked at getting all involved in the decision making, made scrutiny of my work easier, taking the time to actually understand their needs and always having an open door policy to all. Also appreciating that you often have two relationships with other politicians, the public and private. As a Liberal I feel I have the responsibility to be open minded, listen and understand first before making my decision. Even when it is difficult to hear, freedom of speech.

Here I will say it, strong opposition makes a government stronger. As long as the agenda is to do the best for the residents not the political party. Which frankly is sometimes as long as half your term of office, if you are lucky. Critical reviews can be helpful and harmful depending on the agenda.

Having a Mayor like Mr Robertson who has strongly held beliefs on the environment may find it harder to get funds they need for infrastructure projects, quickly. But they are more likely to create a city that I want to live in and interact with my communities. Those who invest in the Parks, Communities and Culture, create an environment to de-stress, meet random people and form more community and ideas. This translates into less single people, greater entrepreneurship and more collaborative community. We all hide too much in our places of living or in our circles of friends and family. Do we want an inclusive culture and community or do we want differences to divide us? Thus I also voted to give the council ability to get and spend fund on all three areas.

Having a bureaucrat, which is how I saw Kirk LaPointe, may have been more successful at getting more funds and more businesses into Vancouver. But is that the kind of the city I want to live in? And whilst I liked Kirk LaPoint (yes I have met him many years ago and liked him) I did not wholly trust NPA, it felt they cared more for business than the community. Vision clearly needs to do a better job of being open minded as it felt they dropped a candidate because she worked in sexual health. Of course no party is perfect, but at least there is some process to vet the candidate before.

A balance with the community and environment matters to me. A balance between business and environment. After all we need jobs but not at the cost of the only planet we live on. And I am happy to pay tax, to protect the vulnerable, provide a safety net for all of us when shit happens and give education opportunities to allow us all to climb the ladder. And if we kill the planet we are dead, both physically and spiritually.

Who else should stand up for Vancouver and it’s beliefs if not the Mayor? Thus I went with passionate advocate not the bureaucrat.

P.S. Now I have to work out which way to go between Liberals and NPD for Provincials and Federal.

Things I need to understand better:

There are a couple areas I need to become more knowledgable in and make better decisions on who I vote for. I know how these issues are tackled in the UK but I am still learning how they are in Canada.

Density

Some very smart people state that for future our cities they will have to become more dense. These smart people often live in very big houses outside of these dense zones. Apartments that are built today are small.  Their kitchens encourage eating out and not cooking at home, with local foods. They do not encourage eating at a table and the sharing of food.  I wonder if this is why coffee shops are so full of people, because their apartments are so small.

Apartment blocks are often built so that you can completely ignore all humans around you. I do not have a problem of sharing space with other humans, but we all need space the current trends are worrying.  This is partly related to our green spaces in Vancouver, we need to keep a balance, we all do not have cars and log cabins in the country.

House Prices

I feel developers/estate agents are making so much money, and in the process are creating the largest social divide in our society.  Affordable housing is often a box with with a smaller box extension. More and more people are being excluded from the opportunity to buy in Vancouver.

Freedom of Information

This is a must especially with all the above worries. I heard criticisms towards The Vision team, I will have to explore this further.

Public Transport

We need more public transport and less cars. Whilst I prefer to walk rather than I bike, I feel the journey for more bike lanes is a good thing.

Homelessness

I feel there are many threads here, essentially how are we helping vulnerable people in a sustainable way and how are we helping people become independent again (if possible). I realise this issue is not simply about a place to live, but sometimes can be about how we treat mental health in our society.