Tim Louis: 7 indicators which progressive voters can assess Vancouver Council

Post by Tim Louis in ,


Tim Louis

Here are my Top 7 indicators by which progressive voters can assess this Vancouver City Council at the end of its term.

1. Social Housing

Indicator: 1200 units of social housing initiated and completed

The recent cold weather has only exacerbated what was already a crisis. As many of us, myself included, complained about the inconvenience of being stuck inside by the snow, for thousands of Vancouverites being inconvenienced by being stuck inside would have been a blessing. These are the people who live on the street because our society stopped building social housing. Instead of lending hundreds of millions of dollars to a private developer to complete the Olympic Village, City Council should use the Property Endowment Fund to build social housing.

2. Property Taxes

Indicator: no further shifting of property taxes from businesses to homeowners

Under the NPA, $10 million in property taxes [2007] have been shifted off business property owners on to Vancouver homeowners. The banks and other owners of large downtown office towers don’t deserve to have part of their tax bill picked up by family homeowners. Small business owners may indeed need a reduction in their tax rate. Large businesses are definitely not in need of such a subsidy. Until the province agrees to amend the Vancouver Charter - giving City Council the authority to create two classes of business property owners - the City must bring a halt to further tax shifting.

3. Ethical Purchasing

Indicator: vigorous inspection of apparel manufacturers within Vancouver to identify and address local sweatshop issues

Four years ago, I was privileged to co-chair Vancouver’s Ethical Purchasing Policy Task Force. The recommendations of this citizen-based working group committed the City of Vancouver’s purchasing department to purchase apparel and coffee only from sources which adhere to international labor standards - no sweatshops, no child labor etc. This action earned our city international recognition. It’s time to look locally.

4. Compressed Work Week

Indicator: reinstate the compressed work week at City Hall

In the 1970's a new municipal party swept to power! Team, The Electors Action Movement, accomplished many things - some good; some not so good. One of the good things was the adoption of a compressed work week for all City Hall employees. Employees continued to work the same number of hours per week but spread over fewer days. Benefits? For citizens, easier access to City Hall which was now open for longer hours. For the environment? Reduced greenhouse gas emissions as employees commuted to work fewer days. For workers’ families? More days off to spend together - all of this at no cost to the tax payer. When the NPA came back to power, they arbitrarily and without negotiation got rid of the compressed week. In the 2002 campaign, COPE promised to bring back the compressed work week. This promise is still outstanding and is more important than ever given global warming.

5. Gambling

Indicator: no further gambling expansion

Gambling is a predatory industry engaged in a legalized form of pickpocketing. Forty percent of gambling money comes from 12 - 15 % of the population that is either gambling addicted or at risk of becoming so. In addition to the devastation it does to vulnerable gamblers, it presents an opportunity for money laundering from those who acquire large sums of money illegitimately. The NPA and COPE up through 2002 stood fast against any expansion of gambling capacity in the city of Vancouver. In fact, Mayor Philip Owen, in the late 1990's, went to Court on behalf of the City of Vancouver to stop the province from imposing gambling casinos on the City of Vancouver and won! Since that victory, new Councils of the day have opened the doors to gambling expansion approving Vancouver’s first two casinos with hundreds of slot machines - despite enormous neighborhood opposition.

6. Sam’s Ecodensity

Indicator: stop the plans to mass rezone 17 neighborhoods

As the late Councilor Harry Rankin once said ‘If it wasn’t for development, we’d all be living in caves.’ The question, then, is not whether we need development, but what type of development and for whom - for the developers or for the citizens and the neighborhoods. Green space, community centres, and good public transit are just a few of the keys to a healthy community. A progressive Council would only approve mass rezoning on condition that there is clear neighborhood approval and that access to community services and green space is increased to meet the increase in density.

7. City Policing

Indicator: freeze the police budget

While it is counterintuitive and controversial to say, I’ll say it anyway: police play a very limited role in preventing crime. The most effective way to prevent crime is to deal with the root causes. In Vancouver, drug addiction is one of the major root causes. Until we have a provincial government that offers addicts treatment on demand, no increase in the number of police officers will prevent addicts from finding ways to fund their addiction. Rather than increasing the City’s fastest growing budget, the police budget, let’s put the money into true crime prevention such as more community centre based youth workers, more library services, arts and culture programs, literacy efforts, and immigrant settlement and support programs.


Hey Tim, the current mayor did remove 300 people off the streets to shelters before christmas....this action was within just a couple weeks of taking office....sounds like a good start..lets not forget many homeless do not want to attend shelters..due to their belongings being left outside,...this was also addressed with holding areas for their carts and belongings...thinking outside the box for positive actions that definetely saved lives over the cold spell....

all good ideas...reducing the green house gases with the schedule changes is huge...not only does it reduce green house gases but the oil changes and other auto fluids maintenance will also be reduced and save thousands of litres of these products too...filters and more....the vancouver fire could change their workers shifts and save hundreds of commuter trips throughout the work week alone...if all depts did it the results would be huge,,,,

Cognitive Dissonance anyone?

I have no doubt that Mr Louis is well intentioned, and I thank him for his years of service. However, it seemed odd to preach protection of the public from themselves (in regards to the evils of gambling), but require that these same people should be consulted about their wishes regarding the development of their communities. Are the public able to make meaningful decisions, or are they simpletons we must save from themselves?

Also, I think Mr. Louis may be misrepresenting Ecodensity (Sam's Ecodensity). Didn't all of council including COPE councillor David Cadman support this initiative?

Homelessness is a tragedy and needs to be addressed. That being said, as unpopular as this may seem, I do not support the municipal correction of Homelessness (just like I don't think Vancouver tax payers should try and correct unacceptable surgical waitlists at VGH or St. Paul's). Homelessness is a real problem, but should be addressed at a national level, much like Health Care. Homeless people have the freedom to travel throughout Canada (or even across the border) and it makes as much sense to address it at a municipal level as it would to do so at a neighbourhood level (the people of the DTES should pay for this problem, as that is where the homeless are). By using the Property Endowment Fund for this goal you are telling Vancouverites that they are more responsible for this problem than their neighbors in Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey, Edmonton or Halifax. They get new community centers, we get more homeless people. If we build housing and they don't, more people will continue to move here. Again, if we offered health care and other locations did not, wouldn't you move here if you needed it? Homeless people lack a residence, not intelligence.

Finally, I understand there is reasonable evidence that workers involved in compressed work weeks do NOT produce the same amount of real work as those involved in standard work weeks. Is this a consideration for Mr. Louis' suggestion or is he merely parroting the desires of CUPE?

Just some thoughts

while the homeless and mentally ill were suffering thru SnowGate 2008/09, freezing cold, sleeping on cardboard, our flamboyant new mayor was sitting on the beach in mexico, sipping mai tais, sleeping in fresh linens every night, and eating nice foods.

Shame on him.

The response to his own negligence last year? To threaten homeowners with huge fines if they don't clear their driveways...as if that was the problem??? Is he our worst Mayor ever? Geez,I guess it depends on the historical context.Will he one day be our Premier? Heaven help us!

Mayor Robertson's negligence,that is...

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