Council Meeting? What Council Meeting?

You may have noticed I didn’t update on last week’s council meeting, nor on the week before. That is because we did not have a council meeting last week, and the previous week’s meeting was limited to a short “Closed” session to deal with some necessary business, and a Committee of the Whole meeting that was more of a workshop.

You can watch that workshop on the live feed, if you are interested in the two topics we dug deeper into. I will cover them a bit here, and share a bit of where my (early, and therefore very open to adjustment as information arrives) thoughts are on these programs.

Family Friendly Housing Policy

I seem to be at the certain age where a great many people around me are surrounded by children, increasingly their own. And the numbers keep growing (Congratulations Mike & Melissa! Rick & Lana!). Recently, there has been quite a bit of conversation having to do with housing affordability – not only of the low-income or supportive housing, but of affordable housing for middle-income families.

Many of my generation (and the next) who have chosen the urban lifestyle of a place like New Westminster as opposed to increasingly soul-crushing suburbia and commutes, are not necessarily expecting a big house with a big yard, but are ok with townhouses and condos. However, most lament the lack of 3+ bedroom places available for their growing families. Very few feel they can afford a detached single family home (even if they want one and the attached costs, maintenance issues, and hassles). Outside of the detached house model, 3+ bedroom options that do become available in the new building stock end up being tower penthouses or the token pedestal townhouses attached to a tower, both of which are unaffordable to buy (challenging the single family detached in price), and come with disproportionate Strata fee loads.

Some go so far as to suggest that this one issue is going to limit the City of New Westminster’s ability to attract and keep a stable population of young professionals with families – the very population we need to provide us a solid tax base, a vibrant school population, and that community feel we love so much.

Problem is, for a long time, no-one really knew what to do about it. Vancouver has already taken steps to encourage the development of family-friendly housing (although notably two-bedroom is only as far as they would go), and some other Cities (North Van, Burnaby) are looking at policies. New West has been working on this for a while, and has already reached more than 800 citizens through the initial outreach/consultation process, and collected a considerable amount of data on the national, regional, and local markets. The City even contracted a financial feasibility study of building more family-friendly units. It seems the City has taken a pretty comprehensive approach (something I can take no credit for, as this was all done prior to my joining Council).

The issue is (in my opinion) more complicated than just forcing new towers to have a higher percentage of 2-3 bedroom units, and I am thinking that may be the completely wrong approach. The cost of concrete high-rise construction would put those units on price competition with single family detached homes in New West, even if they were not the “penthouse” buildings. If we look at the neighbourhoods in New Westminster that have higher density family-sized units, we look at the low-rise areas of the Quayside, the Fraserview area, and Queensborough.

I suspect the solutions to family friendly housing are found in low-rise infill density, and will rely on more than just restrictions on bedroom counts, but on providing more prescriptive design guidelines to assure ground-based homes have adequate space for a family, including storage space adequate for a growing family (where to store the bikes, the hockey gear, the Lego!), adequate kitchen/pantry space (I have a former co-worker who always lamented the massive volume of “boy-chow” he had to supply his active growing kids), and that there are enough safe opens spaces and other community amenities so that growing kids have room to run.

There is quite a bit of data in the report (worth reading if you are interested) and this will be an ongoing conversation, I would love to hear your ideas about what the challenges are.

Canada Games Pool / Centennial Community Centre

There have been rumblings for several years about the Canada Games Pool. State-of-the-art in 1973 when the Canada Summer Games were hosted in New Westminster and showing its age, the pool is increasingly expensive to operate and some significant capital costs are upcoming as major components of the physical plant are reaching the end of their service life. If we keep the pool as it is, we will need to spend several million dollars in the next few years keeping it working. If we replace it or do a major refurbish, then those millions can be rolled into the larger project instead of being invested in a fading asset.

The time to decide what to do is now, as whatever decision is made, there is going to need to be construction happening in this council term. So the public consultation is beginning, and staff came to council to start putting a framework around that consultation, and assure their consultation vision aligns with ours.

Disclosure: I am not a swimmer. I like to swim in warm oceans and lakes, not pools. I see swimming as something one does to cool down in tropical heat, to observe colourful sea life through a mask from a respectful distance, or to prevent oneself from drowning, but I don’t do it for exercise. I don’t even use gyms. I like to exercise outdoors, and see no point in picking weights up and putting them back down again when I could instead be out on my bike or climbing a mountain. So I personally have no skin in the Canada Games Pool game.

I do, however, hear from a lot of people about the pool. The ever-suffering MsNWimby uses the CGP several times a week, as she does like picking weights up and putting them down and such activity. My car pool partner grew up swimming laps with the Hyack Swim Club, and now lives a block away and trundles her kids off to Poirier where the water is warmer. I have heard many people talk about how great Edmonds pool is for their kids (despite the terrible change rooms and sometimes terrifying dumping bucket), but how CGP is still the place to go if you want to do serious laps.

I also know the current pool is not only the largest source of corporate Greenhouse Gasses of any City operation, it is also expensive to operate. For every person who walks into CGP, the taxpayer subsidizes that entry to the tune of more than $1 each. To me, there is no problem with that, we subsidize library users, people at Century House, the Youth Centre, the Anvil, and for that matter everyone who drives and park on our streets or walks on our sidewalks – society is a socialist enterprise. However, I want to know if people feel they are getting good value from the CGOP, and how we can make that value better.

To get there, I want to hear from people in New West about what they want from a Canada Games Pool. This is not the official public engagement, but I want to hear peoples’ opinions on a few questions:

What kind of pool do you want? Do we want a “competition pool” (50+ m, cooler water, proper dive tank with high platforms), a family swimming centre (25m, warmer, more play-time amenities), or both (recognizing the increased cost that comes with having it all).

Besides the pool, what other uses? As the Centennial Community Centre is also reaching the end of its life, the question of how we manage the combined amenities is also a good one. As this is the only community centre in the Glenbrook North / Massey Heights/ Upper Sapperton area – what kind of services should we include? Remember, again, that every new service costs money to build, money to program, and money to operate, and there is no chance that an accessible community centre will ever operate at 100% cost-recovery. What are the priorities for the facility?

Where would you put the pool? Right now, the only discussion is where on the current footprint of the block between McBride, Cumberland, on East 6th Ave. I have been wondering –f we were to build a new pool starting from fresh, would we put it there? Or would we put it nearer more population density, where the future population growth is expected instead of in what is essentially a single-family-detached neighbourhood. Should it be closer to a SkyTrain station? I have to admit, I don’t have a location in mind, and it could be hard to find another 100m x 50m footprint in the City to build a centre like we have (or 100m x 80m to build something like Edmonds), but I think it is important for us to have this discussion before we build an asset that will set in stone for 50+ years. This opens up the floodgates towards innovative approaches:

What other delivery approach could we use? I could see a model where the pool was moved and replaced with a smaller community centre (think a new Centennial type facility, a gym or two with meeting rooms, maybe a pocket library), and excess land on that lot sold off to finance part of the cost of the replacement pool and centre. I could also imagine locating the pool in a denser neighbourhood and selling off density, or even co-developing a larger lot with a residential component to share some costs.

I have to emphasize: I am spitballing here. It is very likely that the pool will be built adjacent to the existing site, and the institutional and neighbourhood momentum that exists overpowers any other option (or, more likely, any other option is deemed too risky or too cumbersome in the relatively tight timeline of the project). But I am open to hearing creative ideas.

So there you go, a couple of weeks without regular Council activity, but lots for council to chew on, even outside of the ongoing “Vote for a livable Transportation future” campaign work. Oh, and I took a 2 hour walking tour with people who want to “Save our Parkade”, attended a celebration of the 58th anniversary of Ghanaian Independence, attended a couple of Residents’ Association meetings, chaired meetings with the Environmental Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for Transit, Bicycles, and Transit, had a meeting with the Downtown BIA around their exciting new strategic plan, and attended the 100th Anniversary Concert for the New Westminster Symphony. Back to regular council life next week.

Ask Pat: Fourth St pedestrian overpass.

Ed Sadowski asks—

When will the Fourth St pedestrian overpass to Pier Park really open?

Originally, it was supposed to be open “late in 2014.” Then we heard it was postponed to January 2015, due to delays caused by “unseasonably cold weather.”

January came and went, and then we were told the opening was postponed until “mid-March.” This time there were no reasons given for the delay (leaving one to think that perhaps the unseasonbly [warm] weather caused the workers to play hooky).

Here we are, mid-March, with no hint of its imminent opening or of further delay.

It would be nice to have at least more transparency if not more accountability regarding meeting dates.

You want the good news or the bad news? I have it on very good authority that the overpass will be open to able-bodied types (that is, the staircase) by the end of March. We are not quite at the “or I’ll eat my hat” stage, but it is looking good. The elevator will not be opened until May.

There were indeed delays caused by weather unseasonable to pour concrete, then there were some deficiencies identified in the concrete finish that needed to be corrected, but it looks like the contractor has addressed those and the schedule is happy again. The main structure is almost good to go.

The elevator is still waiting for some replacement parts. The equipment arrived and some parts turned out to be the not compatible with the application for complicated reasons beyond my geologist pay grade. Who knew a cage and a winch were so complicated? Regardless, the problem has been identified, the replacement parts ordered, and I have been assured the elevator will run in May.

Disclosures – my own this time

It has been a while since campaign financial disclosures from the 2014 municipal elections were released. I apologize it took so long for me to write this up, but I haven’t had a lot of time to crunch the data. After giving the CTF the gears for their ham-fisted disclosure, the least I can do is point an equally critical eye at my own disclosure forms, and those of the other candidates in the election. Do they support the common narrative of the campaign that we all held last fall?

I should note right off the top that the numbers below are off the unaudited forms as submitted to Elections BC. They have not yet been reviewed by Elections BC, and may contain honest (or otherwise) errors that may impact my analysis. I have not gone through every form (except my own) in any detail, and take the declarations people made at face value. Note, the first error I noticed was on my own form (!), where an extra digit was slipped into line 10 of form 4222, such that it doesn’t match box A of form 4234. The entry on Form 4234 is correct, and the error on 4222 is an obvious transcription error. My Financial Agent contacted Elections BC to let them know as soon as we noticed this. So in the interests of pots and kettles, I’m not going to point out the math errors I note on the forms of others.

Because I am so involved in this, I am going to first concentrate on the details of my own form in this blog post, and will discuss the entire council campaign a little further down. Mayors and School Trustees can take care of themselves!

The first headline is that I spent more than anyone else running for council this time around. If you had told me that a year ago, I would have been surprised, but that surprise would have steadily decreased as the election rolled on. (Of course, I had I known, I might have spent $200 less, and got in under Councillor McEvoy’s total, but hindsight is 20:20). The reason things changed during the campaign was the emergent generosity of people from across the City (and a few from outside of it) who personally contributed to my campaign. This generosity was humbling. I talked in this earlier post about what I think went well and didn’t go so well in my campaign, and fundraising was clearly a success.

When I went into this project, I knew I would need to spend a lot of money to “break the bubble” and get my name out into the community to people who didn’t know me. I had a base level of name recognition, but that needed to be boosted by an order of magnitude if I was going to be successful. Between my core team and I, we set out a preliminary budget of $15,000. Being a member of CUPE, I figured I could count on $3,000 from them, and if I received endorsement from the NWDLC, that estimate would rise to $5000. So I set a non-labour fundraising goal of $10,000 (not including in-kind donations). By the end of the campaign, those goals were met, and exceeded.

I received almost $3000 in donations from companies (representing 12% of my total). About $1,200 of that was “in kind” donations, such as discounted web services from a friend who runs a server, and donations from local businesses that were used as door prizes for my fundraiser. An interesting issue with the door prizes are that they do (by the rules) constitute an in-kind donation, and were declared as such, but according to the instructions we received from Elections BC, they are not counted as a fundraiser expense when they are given away. That donation-without-an-offsetting-expense accounts for a large part of the gap between the money I raised and the money I spent.

The amount of money I received from various labour organizations amounted to $6,300, (26% of the total) of which $5,800 was cash and the rest was in-kind donations (essentially, use of some of their services).

That means the rest of the money (62%) was from private donors- about $3,000 in the form of Fundraiser tickets, and the remaining $10,000 in declared personal donations (plus the $2,000 I put in personally, some of which was refunded at the end to close the bank account). I received no anonymous donations (which are illegal over the amount of $50). Here is a pie:


As I said earlier, I had the highest declared expenditure of any Council candidate, beating last election’s champ by $200 (but spending much less than he did last election). Here is a chart that shows how much every candidate raised, broken up by the category of fundraising, and listed left to right in order of number of votes received. You might want to click to get the details.


Of the 6 elected people, 5 were amongst the highest spenders/fundraisers in the election. Both Kainth and Brett spent more in losing causes than first-finisher Puchmayr did (demonstrating the power of incumbency and name recognition?). A fairer division might be to split up into “big spenders” (myself, McEvoy, Harper and Kainth), “semi-big spenders” (Williams, Trentadue), and “serious spenders”     (Puchmayr, Cartwright, Donnelly, Brett, and Palmer). People who spent less than $5,000 getting their names out there did not fare that well. Money doesn’t buy elections, but it sure buys attention, and you need attention to separate you name from the other 20 on the ballot. On this chart, people are in the order of spending, not the order of votes (red columns are those who got elected):


“Labour Money” was clearly a factor in fundraising, representing about 22% of all the money raised in this election (recognizing, again, that much of that is not actual money but “in kind” donations), divided between the 6 NWDLC-endorsed candidates and CUPE member Scott McIntosh. This chart changes the one above by shading out the “labour” contributions, to see the subtle changes in how the campaign would be funded with out it:


Back to the multi-colour chart, Corporate/business donations (in green) did not quite meet the level of labour, totalling 17% of all money raised (again some of this will be “in-kind”) with Harper and Kainth as stand-out recipients. I was the third-highest candidate when it came to corporate donations.

Where I clearly led the pack was in individual donations from private citizens (in blue), with Kainth just behind me. I attribute this to my early start (I was the first candidate out of the gate) and a really stellar effort by my fundraising team to put together a fundraising event that got people excited about the campaign at the right time. I understand Kainth also has a great launch party, and with her deep connections in the business and social community on New West, I’m not surprised she also did this very well. Note that I separated personal donations (the money candidates contributed to their own campaign) from other individual donations, by shade of blue.

Also interesting is that more that 61% of the money raised this campaign, and approximately 50% of that raised by the winning 6 candidates, was private individual donations. I for one would not oppose limits on labour and business donations in local elections, but only if private donations also come with strict upper limits. Unless taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for all election financing (and I don’t suggest they should), if we remove the right of organizations to contribute (through cash or in-kind help), it is inevitable that campaigns will be funded by the wealthier demographic with disposable income, which will no doubt shift how policy is developed on the ground. Tax credits as they exist in senior government elections (and tax credits for volunteer work for lower-income people) would help flatten that disparity.

Finally, I’m not afraid to say that more than $20,000 is a slightly absurd amount of money to spend running for City Council in New Westminster. I would welcome discussions on placing limits to spending, but will not lead that conversation for a good reason. As this election proved, incumbency is a huge advantage, and advertising is more important to challengers than it is to incumbents. For me, who used a lot of money to establish name recognition, to now limit that right for those who would challenge my incumbency in the next election may be politically smart, but not terribly ethical. If a person is able to raise a lot of money from individual donors across the City, if they can raise that groundswell of support for the democratic process, then I suppose we should not discourage that.

Every indication is that things are going to change in the next election. ElectionsBC made some changes going into this election, and the provincial government has hinted at campaign financing limits next election. Expect there to be public engagement during the development of the new rules, so you should keep an eye on the ElectionsBC website if you really care about this issue.

On disclosure

I was about to publish my long-delayed blog post on the campaign financial disclosures from the November election, but then saw another declaration was released, and found it so humorously ham-fisted, that I have to write about that first. (I’m massaging some graphs for the other one… will be ready soon)

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation have always been reluctant to talk about where their money comes from, but as the front organization for Federal Conservative datamining the NO side in the ongoing Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite, they attempted to get some press this week by releasing a declaration of their campaign contributions.

Except, of course, they did no such thing.

Their declaration document, which you can read in its entirety here, is amazingly bereft of details, and suffers from some basic math problems (reinforcing the notion that math is not a CTF strong point).

The document states that the NO campaign has a budget of $27,259.30. That came from anonymous donations amounting to $7,003.30, declared donations from 10 individuals that total $5,186, and $14,750 from the CTF coffers. Those numbers leave an unexplained $320 gap, but that is not the real problem with this “declaration”.

Of the $27,259.30, exactly $5,186 is actually disclosed – less than 20% of the total money they are spending is from a declared source. The largest contribution, the $14K from the CTF itself, will never be declared, nor is it clear if this declaration actually covers the true cost of this campaign – not the least including what portion of Jordan Bateman’s $75,000 annual sticking-up-for-the-little-guy salary is included, or how much Hamish Marshall is getting paid, because he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who works for free.

"Declared" donations to the NoTranslinkTax campaign by category.
“Declared” donations to the NoTranslinkTax campaign by category.

More concerning, the 160 (or 153, as the CTF doesn’t even get the number of donators correct) people donating to the campaign, they list 10 people, or 6%. How is that “Releasing a Donor’s List?” And , of course, that 160 (153?) people does not include the mysterious people who pump up the CTF tires every day.

The CTF, with this half-hearted and untruthful declaration is in no position to criticize the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, which is comprised of (at last count) more than 130 member organizations, all listed on the website. It is clear that the Mayor’s Council is spending money on this campaign, and each City that contributes is going to need to account for how that money is being spent (for example, New Westminster set a budget of $20,000, and is within that budget). It is also clear that TransLink took some of the money they regularly spend on advertising every year (a little under 1% of their budget) in order to get the word out about the Plan. That is public money and will be declared publicly, as is the law for these types of organizations.

However most of the partners in the coalition, from the David Suzuki Foundation to the Vancouver Board of Trade and Unifor all have their own accounting requirements, and will need to declare to their members how their money is being spent. The CTF will need to do this as well, but no-one expects that to be a public declaration, and besides a few board members and spokespeople, no-one is really sure who their members actually are. So I’m not criticizing the CTF for not being open about their spending, I’m criticizing them for pretending to be open and daring anyone else to pretend to be as open as them. Yet another silly distraction.

In the spirit of providing some positive after all that criticism above, and talking about data that isn’t a distraction. Here is a much better source of info on the numbers that matter in this plebiscite. It is an ongoing project that is using some data visualization and data crunching to tall the more nuanced story about how we fund transportation in the region. They are just starting up, but the early results look good. And their pie charts are way cooler than mine:


Ask Pat: How do I know I’m registered to vote?

Vote “Yes” Dumby asks—

How do I know I’m registered to vote for the Transit Referendum? What is the most convenient way to vote for the Transit referendum? Will they mail me a ballot?

To register to vote, you can go to the Elections BC website and register on-line. You need a Driver’s License or a Social Insurance Number. If you are already registered, it will simply replace your old registration, so don’t worry about registering too many times (you can only vote once). You can also call them at 1-800-661-8683 using that app on your phone called “phone”. If you register in March, you should automatically get a ballot. If you don’t see a ballot in two weeks or so, you should probably contact them at the phone number and specifically request one. It isn’t only the most convenient way to vote, it’s the only way.

Reaching out for a YES vote .

On Monday, I spent a bleary-eyed morning at a SkyTrain Station with several other volunteers, engaging folks on the referendum, and stumping for the YES side. Lots of people had serious questions, and needed clarity on a few of the myths that are out there. Most appreciated having information, and providing links to where they can get better information. Some people agreed to disagree, and that is cool.

The funniest conversation of the day I had was with a middle-aged guy coming off of the 555 express bus, and it went something like this (I paraphrase):

ME: “Would you like more information on the Referendum?”

HE: “Are you on the YES side? Because I have to tell you something.”

ME: “Yes, I am supporting the Yes side.”

HE: “Do you know why businesses are opposing this?”

ME: “What businesses?”

HE: “All businesses, we are all opposed. Do you know why?”

ME: “But most business appear to be in favour. Business- supporting organizations like the Surrey Board of Trade and the Vancouver Board of Trade have publicly supported the YES side here,”

HE: “Do you know WHY businesses are opposed? You need to listen.”

ME: “I am listening sir, but I need to understand your premise. The BC Chamber of Commerce, the Chambers of New Westminster, Delta, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, North Vancouver, Richmond, the Tri-Cities, they are all on the Yes side, so they are clearly not opposed at all”.

HE: “I can tell you why all the businesses are opposed.”

ME: “But I don’t think they are opposed. There are BIAs across the region supporting this, as is the tourism industry, the hotel industry, construction and building trades, consulting engineers, real estate boards and building management associations, the Port Authority, the Gateway Council…all of these organizations, representing the vast majority of private sector employers in the Lower Mainland, are in favour… who are all these opposed businesses?”

HE: “They are opposed because TransLink is wasteful! Have you heard about the Poodle on the Pole?”

Me: “um… yeah, except the public art budget for TransLink is less than .1% of their annual budget. “

HE: “They should cut that! Then they don’t need this tax!”

ME: “Thank, you sir. Have a nice day.”

For the rest of you, here is a quick link to the 100+ organizations, business and otherwise, who are on the YES side of this campaign.

Ask Pat – That crappy stretch of Stewardson

Jeff asks—

Hey Pat,
What’s the deal with the bike path between 14th and 5th on Stewardson Way? Most of the bike route under the skytrain is great, but that block can be pretty scary when passing by huge trucks that feel close enough to touch. I suspect it has something to do with land owned by the rail compnaies, but just thought I’d ask. As a cyclist, I’m sure you are well aware of that route, but I’d be happy to send pics.
Perhaps this is better as an “official question”, but I was just dying to use the “Ask Pat” button.

Yep, the technical term for that stretch of Greenway is “sub-optimal”, and you nailed the major issue: jurisdictions. Under the Skytrain, squeezed between the road and the rails, it is a stretch that has always kind of been problematic. There was some talk a couple of years ago about fixing it, but my understanding is that the approach suggested by the City (a temporary crushed-gravel type surface treatment aside the sidewalk) was not accepted by the railway. Simply put, the City doesn’t own the right-of-way it would need to fix the situation, so I wouldn’t expect a quick solution. But it is on our radar.

The Future of the Region – Yes or No.

A few interesting developments on the Referendum front, and it has been a while since I wrote about it. Unless you have been living under a rock, or work in a phone bank for the BC Liberal party*, you are aware there is a referendum going on to decide how we will invest in transportation in the region.

We are less than two weeks from when ballots go in the mail, so it is a good idea for you to look into how you will vote, so you don’t lose your franchise. Elections BC recently released the full details of how the Plebiscite** is going to work. A few details:

If you were born before May 30, 1997, have been a resident of BC since November 29, 2014, are a Canadian resident and live in Metro Vancouver, you can register to vote online at the Elections BC website or call their 1-800 number (you need a Driver’s Licence or a Social Insurance Number). You will get a ballot in the mail. If you don’t get a ballot in the mail in March, you should contact Elections BC and request one. You have until March 29 to return your ballot. The Mayor’s Council set up this helpful graphic to show you the timelines of the vote.


Like my council Colleagues across the region, I have been busy with this campaign. As unique as the voting mechanism is, this is just an election campaign, and identifying your vote and getting it out requires a lot of organization. I have been talking to community groups, helping with phone volunteers to identify support bases, and helping develop the get-out-the-vote plan, etc. etc.

I’ve said before that democracy is not what happens on election day, but how we, as citizens, get involved between elections to get the most out of our elected representatives. If you think this referendum needs to be won, if you think we need to put the brakes on the cuts to transit service and enter a new era of transit expansion in our region, then I ask you – what are you doing about it? Get in touch with me, with the City of New Westminster, or the Mayor’s Council to see how you can help.

When I have time to be involved in the “air war”, I have concentrated on two things (an links below are to others doing exactly that):

1: Outline in as much detail as the audience needs about the myriad of benefits, tangible and otherwise, that this plan delivers to New Westminster and the region; and

2: Hit back aggressively at specific mistruths being propagated by a few very prominent members of the NO side.

One thing that always gives me a chuckle is the plethora of advice for how the YES side should be campaigning, mostly delivered by people loosely connected to the no side (for example, the wife of the guy who is coordinating the NO campaign for the CTF) and wrapped in sanctimony. We have been told, at times, to stop using scare mongering and stick to the facts; that we can’t rely on facts but should instead go for emotion; that we need to describe the plan in detail so people understand; that we need to simplify the message; that we need to appeal to “Joe Sixpack”, or “Students”, or that we should stop relying on “special interest groups”.

I thank them for the advice, but to me, the most effective message I have heard was delivered by Gordon Price at the PechaKucha New West event two weeks ago. It was an inspiring 6 minutes on the past, present and future of the region. After it ended, I thought “we need to get this on YouTube”. Turns out people (as usual) were way ahead of me, and a (slightly shortened, better produced) version has just been made available by the good folks at Modacity. If you do nothing else before you vote, take 4 minutes to watch this video***, if you want to understand what this referendum is really about:

Vote Yes. For nothing less than the future of the region as we know it.

*I received a phone call from a BC Liberal**** fundraiser on Wednesday evening. I allowed him to go through his script about balanced budgets and good times ahead before I asked him what the party was doing to encourage support for the Referendum that the Leader had called, and was (tacitly) supporting. The poor guy had not even heard that there was a referendum going on. He claimed to be in Burnaby (and I have no reason to doubt him, as he seemed to understand what TransLink was and claimed to watch Global News, so he wasn’t in Topeka or Bangalore). I made what I think was a compelling case for the reasons to support the Yes side, and he asked if the result of the referendum would be a deciding factor in the next election for me. I said no, but the leadership shown during the referendum definitely was. He thanked me for my time, and actually forgot to ask for money.

**Yes, this is a Plebiscite, not a Referendum. The differences are rather arcane. In most jurisdictions, the words are synonymous. In BC, they both mean “a vote on matter of public concern”. Where a Referendum is governed by the Referendum Act and “is usually binding on the government”, a Plebiscite is governed by the Elections Act and “may be binding on the government”. Remarkably, this vote is not being regulated by either, but by something called the “South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Funding Referenda Act”. Regardless, the Provincial Government changed the language from referendum to a plebiscite when the ballot was released, you can make up your own reasons why. Safe to say, whatever it is called, the results of this vote will be politically binding on the government, if not legally binding.

***Note the book at 1:03 in the video. None other than Charles Montgomery’s The Happy City. Nice touch.

**** Since I wrote that footnote*****, I have noticed that some of the strongest messages coming out on the YES side are coming from BC Liberal MLAs, so I am glad to give kudos to the members of the party who are seeing the importance of this vote, and are putting their political capital into it. We need more of this in the next month.

***** This footnote thing is getting out of hand.  

ASK PAT – Brunette Greenway

Matt Church asks—

Do you know if there is a completion date set for the Brunette-Fraser Regional Greenway? I am interested in the two sections that remain between Pier Park and Braid Skytrain Station. And will this section be accessible for bikes? And can we share this cost with Metro Vancouver? I look forward to the day I can bike this route with my kids…and end up at Steel and Oak.

That’s the plan! The Riverfront Vision for the City includes a continuous walking/cycling route that connects the Central Valley Greenway at Braid Station via Sapperton Landing and the Pier Park, over the Q2Q Bridge to the established waterfront Greenways around Queensborough.

I can’t give you a completion date, as there are several pieces of property the City doesn’t own that will need to get included (through purchase, establishing rights-of-way, or expropriation) to make a continuous trail happen. The bigger vision is there, but capital costs compete with other priorities (and a YES vote in the upcoming referendum will give TransLink $13Million per year for bicycle infrastructure matching funds – it would be great if New West could tap into those!). Ideally, the entire system is done in the next 10 years, so by the time your kids are old enough to enjoy Steel & Oak, the route will be there!