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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.

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