Leadership BC: Where's the vision for our cities?

Post by Mike Klassen in ,


Illustration of the Spain pavilion at the Shanghai Expo – high marks for imagination

The following column ran in 24 Hours newspaper last Thursday...

Our cities are the engines of growth, the hub of our creativity and economic vitality, yet I don’t see a vision for our urban centres in all the political rhetoric spoken since Gordon Campbell stepped down.

As I see it, the next Premier of British Columbia must also be the Mayor of B.C.

Say what you will about the outgoing Premier’s leadership, but Campbell was someone who truly understood the importance of our cities. As a former Mayor of Vancouver and chair of the GVRD (now Metro Vancouver), he had a strong vision on how to make cities work for the whole Province.

Whether it is the BC Liberal candidates, or the growing list of names wanting to lead the BC NDP, none so far have captivated the imaginations of city dwellers. You might blame the system for this lack of discussion about cities – candidates must appeal to ridings all around the province, after all.

But out of the whole slate of BC Liberals and NDPers, only a couple of the candidates come from the city. The rest either reside in suburbs or in quasi-rural ridings. Moira Stilwell represents Vancouver-Langara, and Adrian Dix (who is expected to announce soon) is MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway.

In the case of both Vancouver candidates they have rapid transit lines running right through the heart of their ridings. They can see first-hand the impact transit has on building sustainable and vibrant neighbourhoods.

Christy Clark hails from the Tri-Cities but lives in Vancouver-Fairview near to downtown, and steps away from the Canada Line. It’s early days still in the campaign, but a strong commitment from one of these candidates to build rapid transit along West Broadway would help to set them apart from the pack.

Our cities are becoming increasingly (some say insanely) unaffordable. Those of us who bought in years ago might feel like we’ve won the lottery, but how about young families who need housing today? Are they resigned to living on the city’s outskirts, or can housing affordability be achieved with aggressive targets for new development?

Metro Vancouver suffers from a lack of accountability, and an uncoordinated vision for the region’s economic future. Councillors and mayors sitting on those boards are often far too parochial in their views to support important regional initiatives. Leadership from above – from Victoria – would help to change that.

Dianne Watts announced this week that she’s taking aim at red tape in the City of Surrey, but why isn’t someone looking at ways to harmonize building and business license regulations across all cities in B.C?

Most British Columbians are pretty confident of our future and what lies ahead for the 21st Century. We’re damn proud of the place we live, and the 2010 Olympics displayed reserves of patriotism we didn’t know we had.

So which candidate for the leadership of the Province is going to capture that spirit with a vision for our cities?

- post by Mike


Don't you dare!
Gordon Campbell was ONLY about real estate.
Leadership doesn't mean simply real estate.
It means how do we plan for the future of Vancouver.
It does not have to mean a City that won't look after the elderly, the handicapped and people with other problems.

I am not a fan of the NDP.
They have been as bad as the Liberals.

How about we have a City that can grow and still look after people who live here.
Is it possible???

"but Campbell was someone who truly understood the importance of our cities."

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Campbell's SFPR/Hwy 1 pet projects will do more to damage cities for the next 50 years than anything positive he did.

Yeah, whatever, boo. Campbell was Mayor of Vancouver 86-92. He was also chair of the GVRD and the driving force behind CityPlan. People who actually know the legacy of that time describe Campbell in a very positive light. The Vancouver we know today was shaped by those councils.


You agree then that the SFPR and Hwy 1 projects will be good for cities?

Good post. Let's keep pushing both parties on this. Maybe we can give all of the candidates copies of Jane Jacobs Cities and the Wealth of Nations! I even agree that Campbell was a reasonable mayor and had good policy instincts as premier. He did get too caught up in PPP rhetoric and we need to peel the cover on scandals, but he did many good things as well. I do think there are some deep-rooted problems in Vancouver around zoning that go back at least as far as Campbell and that we need to mix things up a bit. How do we get more industry and agriculture deep into the city? Why aren't all living spaces live/work spaces? What zoning levers will reduce long-term housing costs?

Mike....you should write a piece on the Tsawwassen conundrum. Residents say can't build on ag land, council scraps area plan because same people do not want densification near the town centre where it makes sense. No planning, no new housing form or anything resembling a townhome, no new families, a negative growth rate, declining enrollment in schools. A town in need of some vision but no one with the political will to do anything about it.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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