Author Archives: Coalition

Statement Regarding “A Better City” Slate

In order to avoid any confusion, the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods wishes to make clear that the organization known as A Better City is not affiliated or connected in any way with the Coalition.

We note that A Better City has taken a full-page advertisement in the Vancouver Courier tomorrow announcing their preferred slate for the November 15 election.  While welcoming all citizen input into the municipal election, we re-confirm that the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods and its member associations are non-partisan groups that do not endorse slates, parties or candidates.

Mayor Rejects Collaborative Approach

Mayor Gregor Robertson rejects collaborative process between the city and its neighbourhoods

In an interview with the Vancouver Courier on October 30, 2014, Mayor Gregor Robertson acknowledged that the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods’ principles that promote a collaborative process with the city and communities for community planning was “worthy”, however, he rejected it saying it “doesn’t align with the city’s existing policy”. The Coalition is disappointed to hear this position from the current Mayor on behalf of the ruling Vision party.

The Coalition asked all the parties running candidates in the 2014 civic election if they would support the Coalition’s principles. All parties, except for Vision, supported the principles, including the NPA, Greens, COPE, Cedar, Vancouver First, One City and independent candidate Bob Kasting. This was confirmed in public at the Coalition’s candidates meeting on October 15, 2014 in front of media and an audience of about 400.

“The Principles,” said Coalition Co-Chair Larry Benge, “promote a collaborative process consistent with the city’s CityPlan practice to implement growth that is sustainable, affordable, and livable. Yet Mayor Robertson dismisses this as simply a means to avoid change, when in fact it is a means to accommodate change.”

We are also concerned that the Mayor, in the same interview, said our members come too often to present their opinions to Council. “We conclude that Mayor Robertson does not want to hear alternative views,” said Co-Chair Fern Jeffries. “He wants citizens to refrain from presenting their views, and the opinions of their neighbourhood associations, to our elected officials. We represent a more democratic perspective.”

Further, Mayor Robertson is unaware who the neighbourhood associations are, even after his six years in office. He dismissed them as politically motivated when in fact they are long established non-partisan groups and associations, some with more than 50 years history, with the objective to represent their neighbourhoods on issues that concern them. This is a very important role in our democracy particularly because Vancouver does not have a ward system or any other systematic way of hearing from neighbourhoods.

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods is a group of 25 such associations and groups that came together in the summer of 2013. The Coalition is a vehicle for citizen engagement, for inclusion, and for a collaborative partnership in community engagement. We look forward to a more positive relationship with City Council.

More On Society Act Changes

As previously posted, the Coalition has written to the Province regarding our concerns about proposed changes to the BC Society Act.  The following story from News1130 discusses some of out concerns:

Local organizations fear they will be more vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits, if the province goes ahead with changes to the law governing non-profits. They believe the effort to make non-profits more accountable goes too far.  At issue is a proposed new clause in the Society Act that says any appropriate person can make an application to the courts on the grounds that the society is carrying on activities that are detrimental to the public interest.

Jak King with the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods believes organizations like his, which have opposed certain developments, could become the target of lawsuits launched by the affected developers. “It would become a real barrier for us to continue our protest against the development, because we are a neighbourhood organization with no resources and completely run by volunteers.”

King’s colleague on the coalition, Larry Benge, takes it one step further. “Maybe it threatens the future of that society, because it would go bankrupt trying to defend itself.”

The coalition says while transparency is important in a non-profit, over-regulation of small grassroots organizations can be very harmful. More than two dozen B.C. societies have expressed similar sentiments.  A letter penned by the West Coast Environmental Law says the legislation “invites harassment of societies by any deep-pocketed and litigious opponents.”


Coalition’s Meeting Calls For More Collaborative Planning

The Candidates copy 2The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods held a successful candidate town hall meeting on October 15, 2014 at St. James Community Square at West 10th Avenue in Kitsilano. A panel of 11 mayoral and council candidates from various parties answered questions submitted online and at our free public event. There was a packed house of about 390 people.

Meeting 1

Ten of the eleven candidates and their parties, endorsed the Coalition’s Principles and Goals document including: Kirk Lapointe (NPA), Melissa De Genova (NPA), Adrian Carr (Green), Cleta Brown (Green), Nicholas Chernen (Cedar Party), Glen Chernen (Cedar Party), R.J. Aquino (One City), Meena Wong (COPE), Lisa Barrett (COPE), and Mayoral candidate Bob Kasting (Independent). Only Vision Vancouver’s Counsellor Andrea Reimer rejected our proposal outright. Although 2 representatives per party were invited, Councillor Reimer was the sole Vision Vancouver attendee and Mayor Gregor Robertson did not join his mayoralty rivals at the town hall meeting.
Meeting 2
Many of the Coalition’s principles include collaborative planning processes that incorporate aspects of CityPlan and other similar approaches to planning. The Principles and Goals call for broader neighbourhood representation in the planning process, including full neighbourhood surveys, to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard, especially those who may not be able to attend Council or neighbourhood association meetings.  A full neighbourhood survey ensures that 100% of residents are canvassed.
The Coalition was pleased to hear several of the candidates mention a return to an updated CityPlan process and this was greeted with overwhelming and supportive applause by local residents.  The ten candidates who endorsed the Coalitions’s Principles and Goals, each discussed how it can improve Community Planning and also spoke of a much needed restoration of trust, respect and transparency at City Hall.
In stark contrast, Vision Vancouver and Vision Counsellor Andrea Reimer’s lack of support for community-based collaborative planning and unwillingness to endorse the Coalition’s Principles and Goals document were both met with highly negative responses from the Coalition and the town hall audience.
Yesterday, Vision Vancouver claimed on their website that NPA Kirk Lapointe’s comments at our town hall ” are resulting in raising fears from neighbourhood groups that the NPA will throw out long-standing neighbourhood plans, and ignore existing targets for affordable housing”
Not true!
Three Vancouver reporters who attended the event, including Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight who moderated the evening, Jeff Lee (Vancouver Sun) and Naiobh O’Connor (Courier) also confirmed Vision’s statement as “head shaking” and incorrect.
The Coalition will be following up with more details of the evening with the candidates’ responses, additional questions that could not be answered given time constraints of the event, as well as commentary of our own. We will upload photos from the evening and video content as well.
We thank Charlie Smith for moderating the evening, all parties and candidate participants, the staff of St. James Hall, and all the local residents who came out to our event. We also thank the videographers and all volunteer Coalition members who contributed to making our event a success
Photos by Elivira Lount & Lawrence Keane