Opinion: Puzzling out ballot box decisions

With only a few days before Saturday’s civic election, I’m still trying to figure out who to vote for.

Each of the major civic parties has inherent weaknesses. Vision is terrified of spontaneity and run by control freaks. The NPA lacks coherency and has approached the campaign with all the zeal of a charity golf tournament. COPE is reeling from its ideological purges. The Greens have never held any responsibility — in political terms they’re still living in their parents’ basement.

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The recent turn to ugly election advertising has not helped. Attack ads make me less inclined to vote for the attacker than I would for the target.

So who to vote for?

My easiest choices will be for school board. The incumbent trustees on school board can claim a successful term despite difficult financial circumstances, which culminated in a teachers strike that was no one’s fault at the local level. Board chair Patti Bacchus continued to show leadership with her accessible, candid style — in contrast to her choreographed Vision peers on council. The other trustees, from Vision’s Mike Lombardi and Allan Wong to the NPA’s Fraser Ballantyne, thoughtfully earned their keep.

The exception is the political diptych of Ken Denike and Sophia Woo. Their push for greater involvement of non-English speaking parents in our schools is to be encouraged, as are their platform proposals for enhanced Asian studies. But in patronizing opposition to the district’s revised gender policy they became a conduit for fear and ignorance and, at best, unwitting accomplices in the toxic atmosphere that clouded the discussion.

Voters have other options among the contenders, including experienced candidates like Janet Fraser of the Greens, and committed veterans like PEP’s Jane Bouey.

The Vision-dominated park board patented toxicity with its ridiculously hamfisted approach to the governance of community centres. The arrogance with which the board and its senior staff sought rationalized governance and universal community centre access, both laudable goals in a city of inequity, was a disaster. They also mishandled the Vancouver Aquarium whale question, leaving neither the aquarium nor its critics satisfied. Its ban on cetacean sex was better than satire.

It’s telling that decent souls like Vision’s Sarah Blyth and Aaron Jasper opted not to run again (although Blyth is seeking a federal NDP nomination.) Fortunately, voters have a fine crop of veterans and noobs as replacements, including Stuart Mackinnon of the Greens, John Coupar of the NPA and Anita Romaniuk of COPE. There are also the dedicated BrentGranby of Vision and Cease Wyss of COPE, who will provide a sharp, if risky, activist voice. Most voters will find at least one candidate they like, even COPE’s Urooba Jamal who seeks to bring her “anti-oppressive lens” to the board. That’ll be helpful in deciding hours for off-leash dog parks.

Choices for city council get murkier, if only because the biggest issue in the city, housing affordability, is the one problem city hall has not solved. Homes are too expensive in Vancouver, and developers, who’ve made bank on this city’s density project, offer few solutions except high towers and prices.

Affordability might be the problem that has no solution — perhaps housing is subject to market conditions and senior government policies cities can’t control. Council might as well promise less rain in November.

But I have hope. So who will stop the rain?

Smart councillors like Vision’s Andrea Reimer, Geoff Meggs and Kerry Jang deserve another term, on the condition that they reform their party. The NPA’s George Affleck (full disclosure: I’ve known Affleck for two decades) is also smart if impulsive. The Green’s Adriane Carr is a no brainer. Her assumed role as a shoulder to cry on for neighbourhoods upset with council is an easy one, but she’s brought decency to council deliberations. And her party’s ideas for housing affordability are worth looking at.

Among other contenders, most worthy, consider RJ Aquino from OneCity Vancouver. He’s smart, young and he started his own party for goodness sake. The same perhaps applies to Glen Chernen of the Cedar Party. He’s picky and determined.

For mayor, I’m at a loss.

Vision Vancouver Gregor Robertson is not so much a leader as a spokesperson for a power-obsessed political machine. The NPA’s Kirk LaPointe, having never run for office, hasn’t met a question he’s declined to answer directly. His promise for an open, transparent city hall is excellent. After that, it’s a steep drop in specifics.

COPE’s Meena Wong made things interesting by promising levies on vacant homes and cheap transit passes. She also can’t stop herself from turning every answer to a question into a speech. I’d hate to ask her for directions to the men’s room.

So there you go. The final choice is up to you.

Good luck.

blink@vancourier.com

twitter.com/trueblinkit

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