10 ways to return coherence to Vancouver’s municipal government: Commentary by Kirk LaPointe (BIV)

We’d like to recommend this commentary by Kirk LaPointe, who is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV (Business in Vancouver) and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media. We provide excerpts here and recommend readers have a good look at the full text at the link provided. He makes the point that the Vancouver municipal government is currently dysfunctional, that the reason is its political system and framework, and broad changes are needed. But who or what could initiate these changes, when and how? Perhaps it all starts with a broad and civilized public discussion on each of these points, leading to strong public demands for change, and then a combination of changes imposed from the Province down, and adopted from inside City Hall out. Ideas need champions to promote them. The next civic election is in October 2022.  


10 ways to return coherence to Vancouver’s municipal government
By Kirk LaPointe | March 12, 2021


Unquestionably the most relevant level of government in our daily lives is the municipal one, yet it stands as the least coherent of all. Its powers are limited, but its behaviour in recent years has been to overreach on some issues and ill-tend its lane, often due to this structure that produces overlap and leave gaps at the same time. No wonder it garners pathetic turnout at election time.

The list of problems is long and solutions are not easy, but here are 10:

1) The party system in municipal politics is more of a curse than a blessing, and it needs to be retired... We need one-person parties, even if slates will emerge of like-minded candidates without the heft of a party apparatus.

2) After nearly 90 years of an at-large electoral system, we have to recognize it fails to reflect the diversity and identity of our neighbourhoods. We have to move back to a ward system to provide conditions for a range of representation. … How many wards is an open question, but 15 to 18 is probably close. 

3) … It should be more difficult to run for office. Non-refundable deposits should be higher and nomination forms should require more signatures – not to repel people without means, but to attest to initial community groundswell for candidacy.

4) You should need to live where you run. At the moment anyone in British Columbia can run for office in Vancouver.

5) Council should by statute leave city hall to conduct their meetings at least once a month in community centres or elsewhere so neighbourhoods can witness and accessibly participate in the conduct of the people’s business.

6) … We should pay councillors more, primarily to reflect the reality of their full-time jobs and to ensure stronger candidates are drawn to public life. And we should require them to quit or take unpaid leaves from their jobs to hold office…

7) There is a good reason why there is only one elected park board in Canada. It isn’t a good idea any longer

8) We are gradually taking big money out of municipal politics for campaigns, but we need to make these limited donations tax deductible for citizens as they are at other levels of government. They need to be transparently disclosed in real time. If we keep the party system, we also need between-campaign financial reforms to avoid war chests and binge-spending outside of the writ period.

9) We ought to have term limits…. 

10) The city needs not only the auditor general it is about to get, but an ombud to field public complaints about maladministration and a chief transparency officer to ensure there is timely, clearer furnished information to the public.

Full text: https://biv.com/article/2021/03/10-ways-return-coherence-vancouvers-municipal-government

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