2016 has been a big year for your Vancouver Greens. We’ve had a strong presence in the community, campaigned to engage our community to help stop the Kinder Morgan expansion and stood up for residents and a livable city in Council, School Board and Park Board. More than a voice of opposition, our elected Vancouver Greens have been the top vote getter at Council, the swing-vote at Vancouver School Board and now Chair of the Vancouver Park Board.
The hardest working team in Vancouver politics could use your support. Unlike the other elected parties in Vancouver, we don’t accept donations from developers and work hard to ensure your donations are used to help make Vancouver a better place to live for everyone.
As 2016 draws to a close, please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help us with research to support our decision making, getting our message out through the media and outreach in the community, to have an even greater impact in 2017. A one time or monthly donation of any amount is greatly appreciated.
Campaigning to Stop Kinder Morgan
Over the past year, we’ve been actively campaigning to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker expansion project. Starting in June at the Car Free Day festivals on Denman, Main Street and Commercial Drive, we’ve distributed close to 100,000 post cards and flyers asking people to convey their concerns and opposition to this project and ask the Prime Minister and Cabinet to reject Kinder Morgan’s application. Despite so many peoples’ opposition, Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet conditionally approved the pipeline expansion. But it is not too late to stop the project! Just like Clayoquot Sound, we will continue to stand in solidarity with neighbouring communities and First Nations to oppose and stop this project. Thank you for all your help so far in distributing so many post cards and flyers throughout our city. We are counting on your continued help as the campaign heats up!
Many Fabulous Events throughout the Year
We participated in many wonderful events this year, including our 4th Annual Green Gala and the Chinese New Year Parade in February, Car Free Day at all three locations (Denman, Main Street and Commercial Drive) in June, the Khatsahlano Street Party, our 1st Annual Summer’s Eve Barbeque and the 38th Annual Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival in July and our 5th Annual Green Gala in November. At these festivals and other community events, we connected with hundreds of thousands of Vancouverites and handed out almost 100,000 post cards and flyers to stop Kinder Morgan.
On November 18, we had the pleasure of hosting over 100 people for our 5th Annual Green Gala with Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, our Green Party of Vancouver Elected Caucus and Emcee Pete Fry. We had great food, fabulous speeches and a unique assortment of live and silent auction items, ranging from vacation getaways to original indigenous art, to wine tastings with Adriane Carr, to graphic novels on complicated world issues, to music lessons and personal training sessions. Creekside Community Centre was once again a fantastic venue. Please be sure to join us next fall for our 6th Annual Green Gala (date TBA).
We’re so thankful for all your ongoing support! Our team of 4 elected civic Greens has been working hard to stand up for a better city, better schools and better parks.
Adriane continues to champion issues raised by residents, advocating for truly affordable housing, stopping renovictions and the demolition of homes, pushing for faster action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and protecting the public interest, especially in relation to developer deals. She has met with provincial cabinet ministers, city staff and community advocacy groups to find ways to protect affordable rental housing, to force adherence to the standards of maintenance bylaws for SROs (single resident occupancy buildings), and to ensure there is decent housing for our city’s most vulnerable residents.
Janet held the swing vote on the Vancouver School Board (VSB) since she was elected in 2014. A key vote was whether to approve the proposed 2016/17 balanced budget that would implement $22 million cuts in our schools. Janet moved a successful motion to save the Anti-Homophobia mentor position, but, along with a majority to trustees, did not approve the budget despite knowing that the balanced budget would have to be implemented by staff under the School Act. The cuts were just too deep and had too great an impact on our students. Then, in October, the provincial Minister of Education dismissed all nine democratically elected VSB trustees and appointed a single Official Trustee with all the powers of an elected board. Janet has continued to attend VSB meetings held by the Official Trustee and the City community advisory committees to which she had been appointed as Trustee Liaison.
Stuart and Michael have been actively participating in discussions with Community Centre Associations leading up to the proposed Joint Operating Agreement, advocating for more accessible and inclusive parks and recreation facilities and working to prevent commercialization of our public park spaces. With no party holding a majority at Park Board, Commissioners will now need to work collaboratively to bring changes forward. The ability Stuart and Mike have shown in working productively with Commissioners from other parties in the best interest of our parks will be very important in the coming term. 2017 will be a critical year at Park Board with cetaceans, community centres, the Park Board master plan, dog strategy, concession strategy and aquatic strategy coming back to the Board this year.
See below for more detailed highlights on the actions of Adriane Carr, Janet Fraser, Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe at Council, School Board and Park Board in Fall 2016.
Fall 2016 Caucus Report
City Council Update by Councillor Adriane Carr
In September, Council considered actions to increase homes for renters through reducing the number of empty homes in Vancouver. Since 1986, housing costs have risen by over 280%, while incomes have only risen by 7% and renters have been hit particularly hard, with our city having the lowest vacancy rate and highest rents in Canada. At the same time, a March 2016 study found that at least 10,800 Vancouver homes—mostly condos—are empty for 12 months a year. In July, the provincial government amended the Vancouver Charter to give the city the authority to enact a bylaw to collect an annual tax on empty homes. In November, Council passed a one percent tax on empty homes that are not principle residences or aren’t rented out for at least six months of the year. Revenue from the tax, which could be in the tens of millions, will be dedicated to helping fund affordable housing initiatives.
I asked if it would be possible for someone to have a principal residence in another country or province and still claim their Vancouver property as a principal residence to avoid the tax. Though staff noted this wouldn’t be allowed, this would be very difficult to enforce. It is critical the approach taken minimizes loopholes so properties that are currently “investments” either get rented or pay the tax. While the tax won’t be enough to fix our housing affordability crisis, I voted to support it, while only the NPA opposed.
In October, Council considered an approach to regulating short-term rentals. Short-term rentals are defined as those renting for less than 30 days. Online listings have increased approximately 45% annually over the past seven years, leading to an overall 1000% increase during that time. I suggested the City should also consider providing incentives for people with unregistered secondary suites to come forward, to prevent this form of housing from being diverted from the long-term rental market to the short-term rental market. I also moved an amendment to the City’s proposed approach, calling for a cap on the number of nights a unit could be rented short-term. Though there are logistical challenges with enforcement, a cap would better ensure more rental units are available for long-term renters. My amendment was not, however, supported by the other Councillors. Staff committed to considering the feasibility of a cap going forward. I voted to support the City’s efforts to regulate short-term rentals, while the NPA voted against it.
Also in October, Council received an update on the City’s efforts to participate in the National Energy Board (NEB) review of the Kinder Morgan expansion project and protect our local economy, beaches and clean environment. Staff described the flaws of the NEB process, including the inability for Intervenors like the City to orally cross-examine the proponent and Kinder Morgan’s failure to respond to 40% of the city’s requests for more information. The City launched a judicial review in June 2016 with other a number of other Intervenors, including several First Nations, the City of Burnaby and environment groups. I thanked our staff for their stellar research and participation in the NEB process and stressed there was still the opportunity to more deeply engage the public in calling on the Prime Minister and Cabinet to reject the project. As a City Councillor, in August I presented my concerns to the special federal Review Panel on Kinder Morgan, In November I held a series of town halls on issues of concern to residents, including Kinder Morgan, and distributed close to 70,000 flyers to the public informing them about the risks the project poses and how they can personally contact the Prime Minister and Vancouver Cabinet Ministers, asking them to say no to the project.
Also in October, Council voted to appoint Neighbourhood Councillor Liaisons. I voted against this proposal, because, since I (and all Councillors) am elected at large, I believe we have a duty to serve all citizens and neighbourhoods in the city. Because the motion passed, I will serve diligently and proudly represent and work with the four neighbourhoods to which I’ve been appointed: West Point Grey, the West End, the Downtown Eastside and Killarney. I will also continue to represent and serve all residents and neighbourhoods in our city.
Through the fall, I continued to question exempting new market rental developments from development fees, since I believe those exemptions should be reserved for truly affordable housing (with affordability tied to incomes not market rates). I also continued to raise the need to protect older, purpose-built rental.
I also presented a motion not to use development levies for transit, since those funds are so sorely needed for other amenities like affordable housing, parks, community centres, libraries and childcare. The Mayor modified my motion, changing its intent entirely, to support a new regional development levy for transit.
In November, Council received a report on the City’s efforts to deal with problem SROs (single resident occupancy buildings). I pressed for faster intervention when there is no heat or hot water. In San Francisco, if the owner doesn’t fix the heat or hot water in 7 days, the City fixes it and the courts affirm that the owner must return those funds to the City. Our enforcement period of 60 days is unconscionable. This was an issue I also raised in a meeting with Minister of Housing, Rich Coleman, in September.
I also raised concern about Chinatown Rezonings after visiting an open house and talking to people there. People are concerned conditional upzoning wouldn’t require a project come back to Council for a public hearing. This is similar to what happened with parts of Davie Street in the West End Community Plan, where many members of the public did not understand how redevelopment would be managed after the plan was approved.
Council also received an update from staff on the city’s preparations for sea level rise. I asked that, in future, all such reports include explanations of the cause of sea level rise, i.e., climate change, and the importance of efforts to reduce GHGs. I was very concerned to read the IPCC’s latest projections that sea levels could rise by 1 to 2 metres by 2100 if we don’t reduce emissions quickly. I noted concern the City is relying on the provincial government’s projections of a 90 cm sea level rise by 2100, which are now outdated, calling on the City to also review other research, including IPCC reports. I also asked about the risks of new development plans for the vulnerable area of False Creek, including the new St. Paul’s Hospital. Some other jurisdictions don’t allow critical infrastructure (e.g., hospitals, schools, firehalls and police stations) in high-risk areas. Staff noted that the St. Paul’s planning team is working to make the design as resilient as possible, but acknowledged that safety of our critical infrastructure is an important consideration moving forward.
In November, I was the only Councillor who voted against the expansion of liquor seats in the newly relocated Edgewater Casino downtown, concerned that there was no data presented on the impact this may have on people with additions, families, and nearby businesses. There will now be 5,000 liquor seats at the casino.
Also this fall, Council voted to update the Green Buildings Policy for Rezonings. I supported the new updates, including adopting limits on GHGs, thermal energy and total energy use. My questions focused on ensuring the new regulations enable further GHG reductions and increased use and production of renewable energy in the future. Staff noted that my concerns are being addressed. The NPA voted against these policy changes.
In December, Council reviewed, discussed and voted on the budget. I was very grateful for staff providing 18 pages of detailed answers to my specific questions regarding the budget. One reason I voted for the operating budget—for the first time in my five years on Council—is that it included a proposed 0.5% property tax increase to fund support for front line workers and first responders in dealing with the city’s fentanyl/opioid crisis. I investigated what this increase would mean for homeowners and found that a median condo owner, would pay approximately $4 more per year, a median house owner would pay approximately $11 more per year and a median commercial property owner would pay $19 more per year to help address this crisis that has already resulted in over 600 deaths this year and is putting huge strain on our city’s first responders. This funding will help provide training for frontline staff, adding a 24-7 medic unit to Firehall #2 in the Downtown Eastside, community policing centre in Strathcona, enhanced mental health support for firefighters and other frontline responders, additional staff support for overdose management at shelters and to enable less overtime and more time off for frontline staff. Firehall #2 has been under immense pressure to respond to this crisis, responding to approximately 1,600 calls per month—more than any firehall in Canada and maybe even North America!
I pushed to ensure the budget would accommodate the Park Board’s unanimous request for additional funds to complete five washroom upgrades, and was assured that their request would be accommodated in the first quarterly Capital Budget update in 2017.
I’ve always liked the way the city’s capital budget is presented. It has totally transparent and easy for anyone to understand, with line-by-line details on every specific capital budget item. But because I received such detailed answers to my questions, and because I pushed for support for our first responders in regards to the fentanyl crisis, I voted for the operating budge as well, at the same time calling for future operating budgets to include more detailed line-item tables so it is easy for everyone to understand the specifics of the budget.
In December, I moved a motion to investigate unwarranted waivers of development cost levies (DCLs) as uncovered by a Global TV reporter. In this case, a project approved by Council at 1396 Richards was deemed not to be eligible for a DCL waiver, because it is mixed market rental and condos. Yet the same development, now noted as 1398 Richards, had been granted a $1.5 million DCL waiver by the City. I asked which staff and under what authority could a Council decision on DCLs be overturned! This is an issue that speaks very significantly to public confidence in the city’s decision-making processes. The issue of changing addresses also raised a red flag for me, as it make it much more difficult to track and search for changes to the development process if was anything to hide. The original approved address needs to stay intact as a searchable item. Council unanimously supported my motion, which you can read here.
Vancouver School Board Update by Janet Fraser
When the school year began in September I knew it would be a difficult year as there would be further budget cuts, including possible school closures, but I did not anticipate that the Minister of Education would use his legislated power to dismiss all nine elected VSB trustees.
Back in November 2014 I was delighted to be elected a Green Party VSB trustee and am proud to have served our students by both managing our district well and addressing the underfunding of public education across BC. I worked to build good relationships with students, parents, employees, stakeholders and staff - anyone in Vancouver who wanted me to listen.
I always voted for what I believed would be best for our students and in June I was one of the majority of trustees who did not approve the balanced budget - because I believed the cuts were too deep and had too great an impact on our students.
The Minister dismissed our entire VSB board in October, removing the elected representatives and appointing an Official Trustee. I continue to hope that the long-term impact of not approving the budget will be better funding for Vancouver’s and all of BC’s students, especially in light of the May provincial election.
I appreciate all the support I’ve received in so many ways from Green Party members, as a candidate, as a trustee and now as a former trustee, as it’s invaluable to me, as I wanted to become a trustee because I care about our students’ education. I still care - and I know that care stretches across our city – and will find a new role and a new voice to continue working for Vancouver’s students.
Park Board Update by Commissioners Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe
In September, we received a presentation from Park Board and City staff on the proposal to locate public bike share stations in parks, which reviewed the implementation process, operator requirements and the 11 of the proposed first-phase station locations. Michael asked questions about the locations of the stations, including why the station near Sunset beach is at the bottom of the hill, not near the aquatic centre, to help facilitate access to and from the aquatic centre. On that question, staff replied they are exploring a future site under the Burrard Bridge, close to the aquatic centre.
Stuart noted that when this came before the Park Board 7 years ago, the suggestion was that this would be more of a partnership with the Park Board, which would include placing bike share stations at community centres. Staff replied they would like to continue to work toward the goal of more stations near community centres. Stuart also raised the issue of corporate sponsorship for the bike share program and how that would work with the prohibition on commercial advertising. Presenters noted that bike share infrastructure will look different inside parks than in other locations and they will work with staff to determine whether and how logos may be appropriate. Stuart also noted that, at the beginning, the understanding is that the bike share program would include information about parks not corporate sponsorships. Representatives for the program noted they would work with staff on including park information at stations in parks. Stuart also noted that the program would result in $32,000 in lost revenue from parking spaces per year and asked what mechanism could be put in place to compensate for that lost revenue. This matter is likely to be part of ongoing negotiations.
We supported the motion, conditional on the support of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and on the operator removing them at no cost to the Park Board for operational or programming situations that may arise such as special events or filming in accordance with the same terms as the agreement with the City. We are pleased to see this project go ahead and hope it will help more of our residents get active and enjoy our parks and community centres.
In October, Michael inquired about how the Park Board would be participating in Homelessness Action Week. While the Park Board did not have a specific campaign for Homelessness Action Week, staff noted the Park Board has a homeless outreach worker and staff dedicate a significant amount of time to working with the homeless who live or sleep in parks. Michael observed a rapidly increasing number of homeless people living or sleeping in parks, concerned we do what we can to people in the greatest state of need.
Michael also asked about actions being taken to prepare and maintain the site at Pigeon Park for the Survivors’ Pole, with all the pressures on one of only parks in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). The Survivors’ Pole is a 27-foot totem pole in honour of survivors of the DTES, colonialism, racism and other injustices. Michael also advocated for more green space for community members in the DTES as opportunities emerge.
Also in October, Park Board heard the annual report from the Trans* and Gender Variant Inclusion (TGVI) Steering Committee, including proposed changes to signage guidelines, and a Corporate Sponsorship Fund Request for two part-time recreation staff to assist in developing a training system, a trans* and gender variant community engagement system and a media approach. Michael successfully moved to amend the recommendation to look to create an ongoing position for someone with trans* history to continue the work of the committee.
In November, Park Board voted on the proposed design and agreement for Stanley Park Brewing to operate at the former Fish House site in Stanley Park. Mike abstained from the vote and discussion due to his restaurant investments. Stuart asked about the process for selecting the proponent. On June 9, 2015, the Park Board issued a request for proposals (RFP) for operating a restaurant at the Fish House site. On December 14, 2015, Park Board approved lease negotiations to the satisfaction of the General Manager. However, an agreement couldn’t be negotiated to the terms of the RFP and staff were directed to sole source a prospective tenant for the site. Stuart stated concern that the RFP wasn’t revised to make it easier to find a local operator for the site, noting that the proponent is owned by Labatt, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch, the largest multinational beer company in the world. Stuart also asked whether the concession stand menu would include affordable options. The presenter noted that was not currently in the plans, but options would be consistent with other restaurants in parks with concession stands and that the proponent would consider such options. The proposal was approved, with Stuart opposed.
Commissioner Kirby Young introduced notice of motion calling for a plebiscite on cetaceans in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium during the next municipal election. This motion will be discussed and voted on at a Park Board meeting in the new year.
In Inquiries, Michael asked for an update for commissioners about activities at the Aquarium. Staff replied this could be delivered in camera. Stuart noted the universal sadness over the recent deaths of Qila and Aurora, the 51st and 52nd cetacean deaths at the Aquarium since captivity began at the facility. He asked if Park Board has the authority to order a moratorium on bringing new cetaceans into the Aquarium until a public process has been completed. Staff will investigate but didn’t believe a moratorium is possible under the terms of the lease agreement.
At the final meeting of the year in December, Commissioners heard an update on the draft Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) with the Community Centre Associations (CCAs) and voted for Chair and Vice Chair of the Park Board and Committee. The JOA report was a basic overview, with debate and a vote to occur in the new year, currently planned for January 25. Michael stated concern over the proposed timeframe with Commissioners being asked to hear from the community and vote on the same day on such a big and complex matter. The board has the option to change this process. Stuart raised concerns about the wording of the dispute resolution section, particularly a clause that says that that disputes “may” be referred to Commissioners, as such language leaves considerable ambiguity about what may happen in those circumstances if a dispute does not go to Commissioners.
And, finally, the last step of the last meeting of the year was to elect the Chair and Vice Chair of the Park Board and Committee. Our Green Park Commissioner, Michael Wiebe was elected Chair of the Park Board, with representatives from other parties taking on the Vice Chair of Park Board and Chair and Vice Chair of Committee positions. Stay tuned for a very interesting year ahead, with the first ever Green Chair of the Vancouver Park Board!
With no party holding a majority at Park Board, the ability Stuart and Mike have shown in working productively with Commissioners from other parties in the best interest of our parks will be very important in the coming term. 2017 will be a critical year at Park Board with cetaceans, community centers, the Park Board master plan, dog strategy, concession strategy and aquatic strategy coming back to the Board this year.
Our Green Party of Vancouver elected caucus has been able to achieve a lot. Our only limitation in terms of doing more is being hugely under-resourced. We have been successful in raising funds for some caucus support, but remain under-staffed. We have talented support people in place, but just need the resources to expand their hours to increase our public outreach and make our caucus even more effective. Please help us make a greater difference for Vancouver in 2017.
Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!
Adriane Carr, Stuart Mackinnon, Michael Wiebe, Janet Fraser
and the Green Party of Vancouver team