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Building a tech/startup/knowledge friendly government in BC

There are those in the Startup/tech community who often say “stay out of my way and let me do my job mentality” to Government.

Take this article for example: JUSTIN TRUDEAU SHOULD DO NOTHING FOR STARTUPS

This feels like a lack the understanding of how Government at all its levels can impact on the ability of the business community to grow and be global champions.

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I spent four years in elected office at cabinet level (Cornwall County Council, UK) with one of my remits been Economic Development of Creative Industries and for the last seven years I have being a part of the Vancouver Tech/Startup scene. This has given me some experience, thoughts, problems, solutions for what any place that wants to consider Startups as a part of their economic strength.

I worry like many, that Vancouver will become a resort town.. technology is one pathway to diversify it.  Over the last decade I feel the BC Provincial Government has failed actual Startups (those who are not large Tech companies), at time that could have made a real difference, they made their economic focus elsewhere.

Here is a list of areas to explore before the Provincial Elections in British Columbia in 2017.

Most ideas/solutions/problems will have to be solved in partnership with Vancouver City, Federal Government, businesses, teachers, unions and many others.

1. Listen and understand what Startups offer – not just “leaders talking to leaders”

By engaging with the industry and community leaders to explore approaches and strategies both with the leaders and their employees.

It needs to be wider then the traditional old boys network, so not just friends/connections/trade associations. The traditional group of “talked to” are generally  mostly men, white and from well off backgrounds. Talk to women, which our sector is so sorely missing in the top positions. So talk to people like Maura Rodgers or Jenn Cooper people who have created actual communities. Look for who is excluded and work out why.

2. Understand the businesses at their different stages – Not just one type of entrepreneur

By exploring the different needs of different sized organizations whether they are small, medium or large. It tends to be the larger ones that can afford lobbying, lets not ignore the small.  The needs of Hootsuite are different to those of a five person startup, or the startup whose main target is a non Canadian market i.e Payroll Hero.

3. Involve Traditional and non Traditional Education institutions
By ensuring that all teaching and training organizations (including schools, colleges, Universities, bootcamps i.e. CodeCore and other private training organizations) that educate or train people are involved in the on-going journey to strengthen our knowledge based economy.

It seems that some of traditional educational institutes only talk to the really large companies i.e. E.A. or Sage or SAP. They often want experience with a C variant or Java. Whilst most startups want a framework/language that lets them to get up and running within a 3-6 month window and experimenting with a product to market fit.  They do not always have time to train a person in a new language.  Some Universities in the US have recognized this and have Startup Engineering programs i.e. Stanford.

I think Bootcamps and on-line learning platforms are an important part of our future learning culture as they adapt much faster then Universities and Colleges in which programming languages/frameworks/techniques to teach.

P.S. Who teaching people how to learn? Schools, Colleges or Universities?

4. BC Training grants DO NOT recognize online learning
This is the case for monthly subscription learning which can occasionally have the most up to date knowledge. In a place the size of BC it is not always economically to get a trainer out to the middle of no where. The mentality of BC Government is that they want you to give a job to a trainer and get them to train your people in personal. This can be very expensive. Reduce the barriers to learning not increase them. Are they environmental  benefits from delivering online?

5. Developing effective skills training in schools
By exploring which skills are needed in an effective knowledge based economy. That these skills become fully understood and clear strategies are developed to to ensure they are gained from School upto University e.g

  1. Leadership
  2. Learning
  3. Change management
  4. Conflict management
  5. Risk taking

To consider how these skills compare on the Global stage, Vancouver/BC is competing against every other city/area on the planet. What are Vancouverites poor at, how can we improve it?  I feel that I have seen a lot of conflict avoidance (rather then conflict resolution) in my time in Vancouver is this just my experience or is it a “Trait” of Vancouver? Lets understand our vulnerabilities and counter them rather than ignore them.

6. Growing Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is encouraged at every level of education, from school upwards e.g. Young Enterprise in the UK. It should become part of the school system to teach children conflict management, understanding risk, managing stress and managing change.  Maybe the program should consider Social enterprise and not just be limited to private enterprise.

7. Coding for all ages

I am not convinced that programming is for everyone, we humans are far much more diverse then that.  One UK programmers’  feelings are well expressed here – Learn To Code, It’s Harder Than You Think

But we should consider Programming a good way to teach problem solving, logical analysis and critical thinking and not just as a career. As it is in UK, US and Nova Scotia.

8. Career changing

Why do Governments only consider this when the shit has hit the fan? Its a reality of now and the future, there are no jobs for life. We should teach the reality in schools, rather then just try and box people for life in a career through poor decision tree mechanics.

How do we make this easier and less feared, almost part of our natural lives like it will be for any Gen Yers.

Consider how people can support themselves whilst re-training, consider how to make this possible for shift work. Consider online as well as physical education.

9. Research

Developing alliances between industry and research institutions to create innovation infrastructure is of courses necessary, and some exists, but is currently poor. Maybe make some of the “intellectual property” known about.. Hacking events? Open Transparent patent libraries, people whose job is to market their intellectual property.

10. Support the jobs that are actually needed i.e. Software Engineers not just Post Grads

Most government programs support PHds and Masters, but we actually need far more people with Bachelors in Software Engineering. Also what about the 40% of people that learn programming themselves? Could we better support them they are a large chunk of our software environment.

11. Support of growth Technology Leaders

Consider how to support the next generation of CTOs, from co-founding to a full CTO with a scaled up business. There are many programs that support the CEO/Founders but to be truly successful you need the product to scale. It seems like we have few homegrown success (if we do why not celebrate them rather then just the CEOs?), most companies want “magical” tech “genius” or “star” or “rockstar” or “ninja” from some other country.  We have no programs to support Tech Founder to CTO, why? To have a successful tech community we need many of these people.

12. Open Government – Community, Procurement and Solutions
The Government needs to lead by example and considers how startups/SMEs can help them in all aspects of their scope, make parts of their systems more efficient e.g. innovate through Government Hacking events, fairer procurement procedures for SMEs. That Startups are looked at like NGOs as a possible solution to a problem i.e. how to make government delivery of services faster, more efficient. IBM or other large corporates are not the only ones with solutions and frankly some startups could beat the large corporates in producing solutions i.e. The Obama health online system

13. Social Enterprise

That Startups who work with Government or NGOs, should consider sharing their success with Government and/or NGOs who were core partners. For example either paying back any, grants when they can afford it (i.e. making a lot of profit), or even better give a number of shares to represent the initial investment or revenue sharing.

14. Evolving beyond “Me too” products
To consider how we can come up with something new, rather than the solely Canadian version of this or that. I feel that productivity in the innovation economy comes from generating new ideas that generate new revenue. Yet where is the support to take Visionary or high risk projects in B.C.? I hear many people in Vancouver tech conferences call for this, but the Angels do not invest in these, IRAP does not invest in these.  NVBC never lets these through.  We need some way of support high risk ventures, yes maybe limited it per year, but something.

15. Why the basis for B2B and B2C in BC?
Explore what we in BC have failed to produce more successes with B2C companies here, as we seem limited to B2B. Why?

16. Avoiding the Social Problems seen in Silicon Valley/San Francisco and Seattle – “Cruel Gentrification”
For us to consider a kinder approach to gentrification, bringing the startup community together with the community they often displace, and develop solutions that could help both succeed.  There was an event to explore this but it was more hype then solution based.  The solutions offered were just give more money to charities. It like many meetings really avoided Gentrification. We can see this happening in Gastown and to some degree China town, how can we create a proactive “kind gentrification”?

17. Involvement in Policy
Canadians entrepreneurs can help our policy makers design strategic policies for intellectual property rights in trade agreements, judicial strategies when ideas ownership is on the line, technology standards strategies and many others.  And please talk to people outside the “Canadian maple syrup mafia“. I am not discounting their wisdom/experience but we need the next generation involved to and those who are currently excluded.

18. Upgrade SR&ED

First of all Thank You (yes I know its federal). It does make a difference. But make it easier to apply for the smaller startups. I think the documentation process is so complex that now consultants help lots of companies, or worse startups have to invest a lot of time in it. This program needs to be streamlined.

19. The ability to solve a problem

They maybe some that think that start Startups are just for making money but like NGOs they can solve any problem.  Software Engineers are problem solver machines. This is a resource under used by Governments at every level and by every party.  There could be Startup Weekend events or Hacking events that target specific areas of concern i.e. Government, Health, casework database, transit systems, etc  Maybe Government contracts should include a clause that every large spend on IT systems should work with Startups or support the community in some fashion. Or maybe you have a open competition over a week and compete startups against corporates?

20. Explore the support of turning a service company into product

So two companies that evolved products from a service company (Web Agencies) Vision Critical and Hootsuite.  Is this something we can repeat, is there a way to support this?

21. With Industry define targets of success could really look like

By using the above to develop achievable targets for expansion with specific strategies linked to specific industries.

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Housing – Why I am leaving Vancouver and going to the US

Vancouver - Falsecreek

My decision to leave was made with the following understandings: that if I stayed here I would be very unlikely to afford a place of my own, and that if I wanted to take my career to the next level I would need to work for a larger company than Vancouver houses. And with the exchange rate between Canada and US, it seems a perfect time to go to the US now.

This is my journey through reasoning why I am leaving Vancouver, BC. Of course I am not alone a Angus Reid Poll estimates that a staggering 150,000 struggling families are seriously thinking about moving away from Metro Vancouver to avoid the region’s housing costs and transportation issues.

Wages in Vancouver do not match the cost of housing

In Vancouver, BC the average wage is $76,805 per year — if you borrow three times your salary you can afford a place to live at $230,415. The average place to live in Vancouver on the other hand is $857,015. Globe & Mail reports that Vancouver is the worst place to live in Canada for difference between wages and Housing. Last year the Financial Post stated that Vancouver was the most expensive place in North America. The Demographia Housing Affordability Survey puts Vancouver, BC has the second most expensive place to buy a house behind Hong Kong.

In Vancouver, the Chinese have helped real estate prices double in the past 10 years.

Here’s how the Chinese send billions abroad to buy homes – Bloomberg Business Nov 2 1015

Controversial foreign ownership study is about money — not race: Vancouver planner
“Money is no longer connected to what you do and where you live”

In contrast, Vancouver median incomes remain among the lowest among Canadian cities, while home prices in the region are the highest in Canada. The way government structures are set up in Canada means that Canadian municipalities are relatively weak and rely on other levels of government to set policy. Business Vancouver Nov 6 2015

Shrinking housing sizes

What these figures do not show is the shrinking of the size of the place you can buy. So you could pay $500,000 for a 500 sq ft apartment. Most of the places built now have stupid small kitchens, which encourages people to eat out. What does all that salt do to your health? Let alone the psychologically impact of living in a box. I have no problem with density and I believe cities need to increase it, along with good transit.  That said, an apartment should to be liveable, it has to give moments of peace away from your work, and personally I want a good kitchen and somewhere I can share food with people.  The current builds are not good for people.

Down Payments on a Mortgage

I have spent most of my life working for the community, non-profits and Government. I have got by, but I do not have the savings for a house down payment, I have no family to inherit from or provide a financial security blanket. This has been my biggest barrier to buying a place.

You can get a mortgage with just 5% ($42,850.75 on the average place) of a down payment but you then need to pay mortgage insurance. Premiums can vary anywhere from 0.5% to 3.5%. A great way of taking more money from poorer people. If you have a deposit of 20% you need no mortgage insurance. So 20% of the average place $171,403 is what you need for a down payment.

The Have and Have nots

Toronto, Vancouver house prices still soaring, stats show
Benchmark detached home is $1.2M in Vancouver, while average detached runs $1.07M in Toronto

CBC Nov 5 2015

Of course one of the problems for access into the Housing market is everybody who owns a place does not want the housing market to dip, because they are making money off it. Collectively that is a lot of political power, money and votes. This from people who do not want it to get easier, if it hurts them.

In Canada it is also getting harder to borrow money even though the Interest rates are low. I have so many friends in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who have just given up the idea of owning a place in Vancouver. They are also torn by Vancouver being a beautiful place and they want to live here.

The Economic Divide – is it sexist?

It feel like we are about to reach a point where people will never be able to buy a place if they do not do it soon. Whilst this obviously hurts younger people, it also hurts people who work in lower incomes i.e. women and caring professions.

I have already lived (Cornwall, UK) in a place where teachers/nurses/non-profit/carers/government (still a much higher percentage of women), could not afford to live anywhere near where their jobs were based.  There the average house price was £500,000 and average salary was £16,500 pa in 2008.

Transit

Any good city needs Transit.  I have expressed my opinion on this in a previous blog post, when the City asked for more money (via Tax) to invest, Vancouver said no.

Beyond owning a place

The rest is my feeling and experience of the Vancouver job market after 8 years in multiple startups/technology companies.

Career Opportunities

In Vancouver there are fewer software jobs than about two years ago when there was a lot of more opportunities. The companies that are now looking for software engineers tend to be small and medium sized startups with fewer career opportunities for growth than larger corporations. That said, we have a few more global companies (e.g. Amazon) here than before, so it is possible the lack of jobs is due to the a depressed market now. With national figures showing Canada is currently in a recession, despite a recent job news showing an increase but these are mostly in the Public Administration, in Government.

I changed career after 20 years in campaigns/communications/marketing/public office/leadership/training as I felt the Vancouver market was very limited in these areas for someone in a senior position. I knew that to grow my career I would need to leave Vancouver and I was not ready to move, as I love this place.

This and my need to create again (my first degree was Computer Science, 1996) led me down a two year path of re-educating myself  (via BCIT evening courses and small web contracts) in software engineering with modern languages specifically for the web. With three years additional years of web development (in full time work) under my belt, I am in a similar position of wanting to grow my career.

Leadership Quality

In Vancouver, software leadership roles are generally promoted from within (few come with quality training for the internally promoted person to gain leadership skills) or some outside “star” usually from a US company, used to working at a much larger scale. In fact I can only think of one person who received their leadership training outside of the job — and they were my best leader. I have also worked with a lot of non-technical leaders which is a different kind of challenge.

In Vancouver in eight years I have had three leaders who have inspired me out of nine.  In the UK the ratio was higher, I think in part because of 360 degree Appraisals which are more common in UK, leading to a faster/tighter learning loop and higher leadership quality. It is possible my experiences have been unusual, and I simply been unlucky with my leadership in Canada. However, when I ask my friends how many of them had leaders who inspired them, most agree it is rare in Vancouver and that they had better experiences in Toronto/Waterloo/Ottawa. Other skills they shared they felt missing from ‘Leaders’ included giving feedback, risk management, change management, empathy and conflict management.

Training

In the Vancouver job market your learning is often self directed and more often self funded. Sometimes a company will have some money available but not much. One very Global company I worked for made it impossible to claim the so called 50% off Tuition costs. More European/US companies seriously invest in training and their leaders, the UK recognized this problem a couple years back and started investing in it, in every sector.

The irony is the Canadian Federal/BC Government has made available monies for training and whilst the program is not perfect — it does not recognize online training — not a lot of companies apply for it. There is also tax credits for official education institutions and even bootcamps now. Training and Conferences are something I have had to negotiate in my contract to get them in Canada. I would like to see this as more of an active partnership than what I have experienced here.

Pay

In the technology sector the pay is a lot lower compared to US cities.

Lets take http://www.payscale.com or http://www.glassdoor.com as a comparison. In Vancouver the average Senior Software Engineer would be paid CDN $ 89.214, in San Francisco it would be US $130,00, New York US $95,000. The big differences is not so much in base salary, but in the bonus which is often 10%-20% of your base salary and then shares gifted at again 10%-20% vesting over three years. These last two are not common in the Vancouver market. In fact few companies appear to share success in Vancouver. There are even a couple that claim to be startups, but are actually family business with no scheme to buy stocks or share the company’s profits.  Maybe they like the label startup, its good for marketing and recruitment.. and you can ask your people to work harder and longer.

An added bonus for working in the US is the current exchange rate whereby you would get an extra 20% to 30% when converting your US dollars into Canadian money. Taxes are also generally lower in the US.

BC & Company Benefits

A lot of small companies will do the minimal in terms of benefits and BC employment law (thanks to the BC Liberals) is so pathetic in compared to well everywhere, that some employers think they can get away with offering crappy benefits and they do.

And then there is 3 months wait for extended benefits, by some, not all Vancouver companies. Do they not care about the health of their new employees during the most stressful part of a job.  All of the companies I interviewed with in the US start extended on day 1. Still Canada has a better health care system then the US.

Cost of living

Ok lets not be blind here, you need more money to live in a bigger city. Using numbeo/expatisan it rates Vancouver 34% cheaper than San Francisco, or 23% cheaper than Chicago.  This seem greatly affected by exchanges rates, so I am sure they give me some indication but they are not entirely accurate.

Cost of living comparison between Vancouver, Canada and Chicago, Illinois, United States – Expatisan

  • Food 8% less
  • Housing 24% less
  • Clothes 12% less
  • Transportation 23% less
  • Personal Care 20% less
  • Entertainment 37% less
  • TOTAL 23% Vancouver is cheaper than Chicago

Numero comparison

  • Consumer Prices in Chicago, IL are 22.63% higher than in Vancouver
  • Consumer Prices Including Rent in Chicago, IL are 23.63% higher than in Vancouver
  • Rent Prices in Chicago, IL are 25.43% higher than in Vancouver
  • Restaurant Prices in Chicago, IL are 31.30% higher than in Vancouver
  • Groceries Prices in Chicago, IL are 23.89% higher than in Vancouver
  • Local Purchasing Power in Chicago, IL is 8.19% higher than in Vancouver

Healthcare

The United States is ranked No. 1 for most expensive healthcare per capita at $8,233. Conversely, Canada ranks No. 6 worldwide and is over $3,700 cheaper than the United States at $4,445 per capita, according to a 2012 OECD Health Data study using 2010 statistics. Americans pay over 17 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) towards healthcare while Canadians sit at about 11 per cent.

From what I can work out I will have to something like $100 to $180 a month to get a similar service to that in Canada, with the exception that serious stuff is paid for me after a ceiling but I am still paying a percentage. Where as in Canada serious stuff is part of our Health Care system.  If you have a domestic partner you will have to pay for health insurance for at the cost of $3,000 per year. If you are married, your companies health scheme would cover them at much less cost but roughly about an additional $1,600 to $2,000 per year depending on the scheme you chose.

Actual Work Culture

Every company I have worked for in Vancouver has “over sold” how good their culture is and made it sound like the best place on planet earth. They will rarely talk about the weaknesses and problems they are encountering, things they still need to fix. Maybe I am at fault here, I am from the UK and we are direct people, and not scared of conflict.

The companies I interviewed with in the US were a lot more honest about what they were good at and where they needed help. Their leaders were more vulnerable, something that engenders more trust in me.

Culture is formed from all the ways people communicate with each other, the more honesty the better.  And honesty should be matched with kindness.  How you start any human relationship for me says a lot, yes be proud but also be honest. You really get a sense of how good a culture is and how good the leadership is when you or the company fails in some fashion, what level of forgiveness is there? Also on the opposite side how does the company celebrate success? Values and Ethics matter.

Technical Challenge

Working for a company that is actually working at scale i.e. Billions of transactions versus Millions, is hard to find in Vancouver. A lot of the companies here are building a form of Marketing platform and/or B2B platform, often at a much smaller scale. Successful B2C is rarer in Vancouver.

In software you are out of date pretty much every three months, you have to love learning and I do.  I have built a number of “social media platforms” and job sites I want something more complex.

Relocation

I moved from the UK to Vancouver with a lot of stuff in 2008.  It is not cheap, there are many things to be careful of and the insurance can be a killer. Advice given to me specific to a US move is that the initial offers do not match the actual cost.  That technology is hard to move and expensive. And inventory everything.

Oh a really important thing to watch is they will give you an estimate based on what they think gas will charge. Then ding you for the actual amount when you arrive. And in some instances if you live where they can’t get the big moving truck and need to move items to a smaller one, they ding you with that too. Plus you need to be very careful with valuables. I think one friend ended up with an empty box instead of a playstation the last time she moved. And my move back to Chicago was $1000 more than quoted because of gas and miscellaneous charges.

Make them Saran Wrap all your furniture. All my furniture got nicked. Even though they paid for my insurance claim, I wasn’t about to replace my furniture so I just end up with ugly furniture.

Risks

If you go to the US there are a bunch of risks:

  1. There is no employment insurance for you in either countries
  2. Your TN Visa will expire and you will have 30 days to pack up and leave the country
  3. You pay double on Relocation, there and back again
  4. Trips home cost a lot more money
  5. If you have a Spouse or Partner they cannot earn money.. so what do they do? Do not under estimate this
  6. You have no credit score in the US and it will take months to a year to build one. Get a secured credit card ASAP.
  7. Consider how you will maintain your Canadian Credit score

The actual job that got me to move

A couple years ago I once met a guy at a software conference who was a mentor like me and was very passionate about his company. I liked him but he worked for a finance company that have a reputation of not being innovative (FinTech had not really kicked as a trendy thing).  A number of years later the same company started an apprenticeship scheme and posted it online on github so anybody could use it. Wow I thought they are a company to watch, it was smart, courageous and risky.  Another year that guy emailed me and asked if I could recommend any good software development managers. I did (not me).

I got contacted by a US recruiter (NeoHire North) looking to bring people from Canada.  We explored an opportunity together and I started to realize that maybe I could move to the US.  The TN Visa is simple enough you need a company that wants to sponsor you.  You can bring a spouse into the US with you or you could get a B2 Visa for Domestic partner that has to be renewed every year.

So I reached out to the guy and said, hey do you still need any Software Development Managers?  Yes we do.  Two Interviews were done over the phone and seven in person.

The thing that really struck me is I really liked the people, all of them and they were so different.  I asked them all the question “Why do you work here?” they all spoke with passion and vulnerability. In the end I had a number of opportunities both in Canada and the US, on the table. Whilst this company did not offer the best financial package, I wanted to work with these people, learn from them and help them be the best they can be. And the finial package is substantially better then anything I would be offered in Vancouver, and it means one day I will have a box that I can name as our own.

Emotional Journey

It fucking hurts to leave your friends, to leave the mountains, to leave the sea, and it is an exciting time in terms of Canadian Politics (I am hopeful that the Federal Liberals will do a good job and the BC NDP could revitalize BC).  The emotional journey of moving country/city is a hard one and should not be under estimated.

Is it over for me and Vancouver?

Maybe not, I hope given a number of years I will be smarter, wiser and better off. Then I could come back and share what I have learned and find somewhere to live.  That said, I fear if Government (Federal/Provincial and City) keeps ignoring the problem, not finding a way to collect data, to truly understand the problem and find a solution; then I will come back to find the situation much much worse. Then I will find a new home in Canada.

Brian Jackson (retiring City Planner) foresees no change in ever-upward pricing pressures on housing unless Ottawa shifts immigration policy or applies land purchase restrictions on foreigner buyers or the Bank of Canada hikes interest rates.

Retiring Vancouver city planner blasts ‘the haters’

Possible Housing Solutions?

In my time in Vancouver I have spent about $115,200 in rent over 8 years.  My biggest problem was having a downpayment. I will add more ideas to this as I learn more:

  • Make it easier to pull together the downpayment, maybe larger companies could help their employees
  • One idea I considered exploring was buying with a bunch of friends and living together
  • Have better building regulations in making Kitchens actually useful
  • Re-define what Government thinks is affordable

Checklist for moving to US from Canada

Apply for your Social Security Number – It can take 2-3 weeks for your SSN to be processed and this number really is needed for most things. Do it as soon as you have your visa, you can ask for it as part of the visa process, do this.

Open a Bank Account – Once you have a US mailing address and SSN, you should get to a bank and open an account so you have a place to deposit your US paycheques and an account to start paying bills from.

Get a US Credit Card – Apply for a prepaid credit card where you would leave a $1000 deposit for a $1000 limit on a credit card. Use this to slowly build credit over the next 3-6 months and then you can eventually ask for your deposit back. This is essential to build a Credit Score.

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.