Soapbox: What’s in store if Vision is re-elected?

“All in favour? Opposed? Carried unanimously.”

It’s October 2018, and so adjourns the final city council meeting of Vision Vancouver’s third consecutive term of government. The time also will mark the 10th year of Vision Vancouver’s political dynasty, and — very likely — Gregor Robertson’s final days as mayor.

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Of course, the actual results of the Nov. 15, 2014 election have yet to be tallied up. But polls suggest that Robertson and the Vision slate will cruise into an easy victory at council, and at the school and park boards.

The smoldering dissatisfaction felt in many Vancouver communities is probably too dispersed to overcome a powerful and well-funded political machine like Vision’s.

Then there is the fact that only one-third of eligible voters will even bother to cast a ballot this year, such is the declining interest in local government elections. Most British Columbians may not realize that their municipal vote is worth 33 per cent more, now that three-year terms are being abandoned for four. It behooves us to be a little more careful with our choices, but the vast majority of voters in Vancouver will vote the slates that most suit their own political leanings.

So what will 10 years of Robertson’s Vision government have brought to our city? To understand what lies ahead for Vancouver between now and 2018, one needs to look back at the mayor’s unfulfilled political promises. You can be sure that Robertson will be determined to leave a political legacy as most long-serving politicians do.

Here are five areas to watch:

  • On ending street homelessness. Some of the brightest minds who have studied homelessness warned Robertson not to promise he could “end” anything, let alone something as complex as our city’s homelessness problem. But all indications are that even more city resources will go into warehousing people to drive numbers of street homeless down. Once the last of the 14 social housing projects promised in a 2007 provincial-city partnership are complete, Vision will have little choice but to dig deeper into city coffers to uphold Robertson’s promise.
  • On the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. A city staff study suggested the viaducts could serve out their usefulness for another four decades if properly maintained, but Robertson has too much political capital already invested in tearing them down. It will be billed as a big win for the community, but there is a risk it will make the losses of the Olympic Village construction feel like a walk in the park. It’s a bold plan for sure, but as the Burrard and Granville Bridges continue to crumble, a lot of Vancouverites might question the sense of it.
  • On public engagement. Robertson leads an activist government that often gets impatient with the process of getting buy-in. If their minds are set on something, they will stubbornly drive ahead while paying lip service to the public’s viewpoints. Increasingly the city seems to be using the courts to help them plow ahead, such as in the recent case of the CP Rail right-of-way along Arbutus. Watch the city’s legal bills mount.
  • On the “Greenest City” pledge. 2020 might be the end date, but Vision’s targets toward greening the city are all laid out today and they will have a considerable financial cost. For example, green building codes for new single-family homes are already increasing home prices. The city has big ambitions for district energy systems, a bike-sharing program, and a green enterprise business district on the False Creek Flats — all of which that come with a big price tag. Robertson’s push for green jobs means that you’ll hear more about e-waste specialists and weatherization experts in the local lexicon.
  • On blocking tankers. John Horgan may have the title, but the real Leader of the Opposition to Christy Clark’s energy-driven mandate is at 12th and Cambie. Expect Robertson and his activist circle of donors and supporters to continue the pressure on fracking and pipelines right through Clark’s 2017 bid for re-election, when the premier will have to prove her plan to grow the economy is working.

You might notice there is no mention of rapid transit to UBC — one of the mayor’s “top” priorities. That, sadly, I predict will be no further along in 2018 than it is today.

Mike Klassen is a public affairs and government relations professional. He ran for city council in 2011 with the NPA.

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