Opinion: Don’t settle for ice cream in politics

As I reflect on the 2014 Vancouver election campaign, I am reminded of a short story I received during the final days of the 2008 municipal election:

The most eye-opening civics lesson I ever had was while teaching third grade this year. The U.S. presidential election was heating up and some of the children showed an interest.

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I decided we would have an election for a class president. We would choose our nominees. They would make a campaign speech and the class would vote.

To simplify the process, candidates were nominated by other class members. We discussed what kinds of characteristics these students should have. We got many nominations and from those, Jamie and Olivia were picked to run for the top spot.

The class had done a great job in their selections. Both candidates were good kids.

I thought Jamie might have an advantage because he got lots of parental support.

I had never seen Olivia’s mother.

The day arrived when they were to make their speeches Jamie went first. He had specific ideas about how to make our class a better place. He ended by promising to do his very best. Everyone applauded. He sat down and Olivia came to the podium.

Her speech was concise. She said, “If you will vote for me, I will give you ice cream.”

She sat down.

The class went wild. “Yes! Yes! We want ice cream.”  

She surely would say more. She did not have to. A discussion followed.

How did she plan to pay for the ice cream? She wasn’t sure. Would her parents buy it or would the class pay for it. She didn’t know.

The class really didn’t care. All they were thinking about was ice cream.

Jamie was forgotten. Olivia won by a land slide.

All candidates running for office offer ice cream. Fifty per cent of the people react like nine-year-olds. They want ice cream. The other fifty per cent know they’re going to have to feed the cow and clean up the mess.

During this past campaign, while no one promised ice cream, all parties made a lot of other promises.

We were promised a subway along West Broadway even though the Mayors’ Council says Vancouver will have to pay for under grounding, if required for aesthetic reasons.

We were promised the most open city hall in Canada.

We were promised free swimming lessons and more swimming pools.

We were promised a $30/month transit-pass and a tax on vacant foreign-owned properties.

We were promised a reduction in harbour oil tanker traffic and no more pipelines.

We were promised counter-flow traffic lanes and more free parking times.

We were promised 4,000 plus units of rental housing and 1,000 plus childcare spaces.

While many voters may be influenced by these promises, others will wisely question which are realistic given the city’s limited powers and funding constraints.

Wise voters will also question which candidates are most likely to deliver on their promises.

In last week’s column, I urged Courier readers to learn about the candidates running for council, park and school board. I suggested we choose the best candidates, regardless of party affiliation, and the letter with which their name begins.

With this in mind, and given a desire for both experience and new ideas, I will be giving serious consideration to the following candidates.

Vision’s Geoff Meggs is a very intelligent, experienced politician with much to offer; as does Heather Deal.

NPA’s George Affleck and Ian Robertson are two experienced politicians who could again bring a practical perspective to council debates.

The Green Party’s Adriane Carr has proven herself to be a dedicated politician. I would expect the same from thoughtful newcomer Cleta Brown, who cares very much about social justice.

At park board, the Green Party’s Stuart Mackinnon along with NPA’s John Coupar, and newcomer Stephane Mouttet could all bring greater balance to deliberations.

For school board, the Green’s Janet Fraser has a most impressive resume. Fraser Ballantyne, Penny Noble and Chris Richardson could also be good additions.

For mayor, I believe Kirk LaPointe is the best person to manage what could be a very diverse council and hopefully fulfill his promise to create a more open and transparent city hall.

michaelarthurgeller@gmail.com
twitter.com/michaelgeller

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