Who governs Vancouver next must be totally transparent
Now that Councillor Suzanne Anton is kicking the openness debate at Vancouver City Hall up a notch by requesting a review by Provincial government authorities, it might be time to stand back and look into the crystal ball after the 2011 election. If the NPA form government at Vancouver City Hall, what should their stand be on openness and transparency?
It's all fine and good to criticize Vision's labyrinthine tactics to scuttle accountability, delete emails and stifle the City's own policies around privacy. But if you're not going to hold yourself to a higher standard, there's no point in criticizing the current government. That's why I suggest that the NPA set its own standard for accountability while in office, and sell it to the voters next year.
To begin with Vision Vancouver makes the NPA's job of creating a new openness platform with teeth easy. You simply just have to do the opposite of everything Vision does, and you are infinitely more accountable. Here are five ways the NPA must be more accountable:
- Re-institute the independent, non-partisan role of the Freedom of Information Manager with the City Clerk. That role must be filled by a person with impeccable credentials, and someone who firmly believes in the integrity of that office and someone who will defend access to information. That person was Mr. Paul Hancock, who is one of the first people the NPA should call if they win a majority in November 2011.
- Declare that on the matter of campaign funding that the NPA will outdo even the terms of the new Local Election Act, which will be tabled at a spring setting of the BC Legislature. This should include a promise of continuous disclosure, providing details of all campaign contributions before the proposed 90-day deadline, and abiding by the rules of the Vancouver Charter when it comes to paying down campaign debt. Vision Vancouver have flouted the rules set out in the Charter and interpreted disclosure to mean on their own schedule, not the required 30 days. Furthermore, unlike BC's present policy there should not be any foreign funding of our election campaigns allowed.
- Set out a clear policy against the use of ANY indirect funding from companies or individuals who receive the majority of their income through charitable funds. Vision Vancouver have received record-breaking donations from Mike Magee, Joel Solomon, Bob Penner and Carol Newell, all of whom are paid by charitable foundations.
- Strictly enforce a policy of not taking any gifts or perks from third parties. Tickets to Canucks games, visits to the box seats of a developer, concert tickets or any kind of gifts like the ones commonly received over the years by Vancouver elected officials and staff must be off limits.
- Avoid the "FD Element Syndrome" and ban the hiring of companies who are also doing political work for elected officials. Last August we learned that Vision insiders FD Element were also employing a pro-Vision blogger while FD were getting lucrative contracts through the Mayor's office. This practice must end.
These five policy suggestions are admittedly back of the napkin ideas, but I would expect that the NPA would take up the challenge to become an organization that lives up to the promise of openness and transparency by putting their commitment in writing and standing by it. Vision Vancouver talked a good talk on openness when trying to get elected in 2008, but have failed miserably at keeping that promised.
In fact, they've made the City much, much less open.
There are many other suggestions that should also be explored. Unfettered by the shackles of his role at the City, perhaps someone should ask Paul Hancock his ideas on how the City of Vancouver can be a truly transparent institution?
One thing is clear, no one except for Vision Vancouver wants things to remain as they have become.
- post by Mike