Delve into the issues and educate yourself on who is running in the October election and what they stand for. Talk to your neighbours. Encourage them to get engaged too. Because what happens at City Hall affects them, whether they realize it or not. Change starts with you and me.
By Fred Dawkins
The greatest opportunity for change in the City of North Vancouver in 2018 will come in October with the municipal election. But real change will only happen if residents get informed, get involved, and get themselves to the voting booth. In the last municipal election, in 2014, just 28 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot for the CNV mayor and Council. Admittedly, that was slightly higher than the turnout in West Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver.
But it came after a fairly heated election campaign that laid out a clear choice between supporters of intensified development and population density, and those who advocated slowing down the process to allow services and infrastructure to keep pace with growth. Aided by generous campaign donations from the development community, the pro-development bloc won.
The result was a massive condo building boom, towers sprouting up everywhere, and traffic gridlock. You might say, this is what the voters asked for. Except, most did not ask for it — they just weren’t engaged enough to make their opinion known at the ballot box. I hope that changes this year. I hope the candidates who stand for election this time will have more success at getting voters’ attention and encouraging them to educate themselves on the issues and take part in the democratic process. And I hope that, thanks to recent changes in campaign-funding rules, the money of vested interests will no longer play a pivotal role in deciding the election.
Whichever candidates the voters ultimately choose, I hope to see a change in the way the City is governed. I hope the new mayor and council will take a different path from the one we’ve seen the current CNV government follow in the past four years. I hope to see a Council made up of truly independent representatives who bring an open mind to every issue that comes before them. No more bloc voting along predetermined party lines.
I hope to see greater transparency in the workings of the City. Too many decisions are made behind closed doors. Too many public hearings seem to be little more than a rubber stamp, the deal already having been done.
I hope to see governance that puts the interests of current residents first — both homeowners and renters — ahead of the interests of developers and realtors. Our little community is already overbuilt. We don’t need more questionable density bonuses that provide windfall profits to
the developer while returning little to residents other than more traffic. Quality of life matters; it’s why most of us chose to live here.
I hope to see greater transparency in the workings of the City. Too many decisions are made behind closed doors. Too many public hearings seem to be little more than a rubber stamp, the deal already having been done. This creates a lack of trust and general cynicism about the process. Why get engaged in providing public input when your voice is never heeded? I hope to see a city government that encourages public engagement rather than throttling it through excessive restrictions on citizen input at council meetings. If people are engaged enough to come out to a council meeting to address their elected representatives, they should be welcome to do so, whatever the topic. I hope to see some realistic proposals on what to do about the city’s aging stock of affordable rental apartments, now vulnerable to the building boom and subsequent “renovictions”. I hope to see a CNV Council that pushes hard for real solutions to our gridlocked traffic — solutions that don’t depend on everyone riding their bike to work.
Is any of this likely to happen in 2018? Probably not. Our challenges require long-term solutions and will take time to resolve. But we will never make a start unless more citizens begin to get engaged in civic politics and start putting pressure on our North Shore politicians to address these issues.
If you’re reading this — an actual newspaper — you’re probably already more engaged in what’s going on in your community than most folks.
My request to you is that you delve into the issues and educate yourself on who is running in the October election and what they stand for. Talk to your neighbours. Encourage them to get engaged too. Because what happens at City Hall affects them, whether they realize it or not. Change starts with you and me. I hope it begins in 2018.