Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Vision Vancouver spurns Cadman and hogs regional directorships

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Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight is angry that David Cadman was not, as he had suggested earlier this week, selected as one of the City of Vancouver’s representatives on the Metro Board. Charlie thinks it is because of the “lucrative per diem allowances”.

Vision overlooked COPE’s Cadman, who worked for the regional government for 19 years and who has probably done more than almost any other Vancouver municipal politician to promote effective regional land-use, transportation, and drinking-water policies.

Well, I don’t know about that. This may well actually work against him. Most Metro representatives think their first allegiance is to the people who elected them, and who they will have to face at the next election. The extent to which there is consensus at Metro is based on the understanding that ‘I will stay out of your back yard if you stay out of mine’. The fact that Cadman has a regional perspective would actually be seen by many as a disqualification as someone who might not look after the City’s interests first.

There is also what in the British civil service what we called “going native”. This referred to  Ministers who were so enthusiastic about their responsibilities they actually do more than just “command their brief” (read what we had written for them) but actually started to learn and understand something about the subject. This was a particular problem in the Department of Transport whenever we got a railway enthusiast as a Transport Minister. David Cadman’s professional background at the old GVRD means that he knows a great deal more about the regional governing body than many who work there now – and also those who are newly elected to municipal office.

But of course it is really an issue of party politics. This is about COPE – which is a lot further to the left than Vision. Just because there was an electoral agreement not to run against each other at the recent election does not mean an end to all hostilities. And, in general, the heat of debate between people of similar but different opinions is usually much greater than that with people on the other end of the political spectrum. If only because there is always the potential for getting a potential ally to forgo the difference, whereas somone who is diametrically opposed never will.

One odd fact comes to mind. I once, in the early days of my assication with the Livable Region Coalition, decided to attend a COPE meeting. It was held in a cafe on Kingsway at Main. The east side of town, naturally. And it was open – not members only – and about transport. And I did not hear one thing in the speeches or the questions about regional transportation. Perhaps even more surprisingly given that it will dump lots of traffic into Vancouver’s east side, nothing about the Gateway either. Of course, once I put my hand up and pointed that out, David Cadman ably filled the gap.

Parochialism is alive and well. Local politics is a blood sport. And the more local, the bloodier.

What we need is a really effective regional body

Metro Vancouver has a huge impact on residents’ quality of life through its decisions regarding planning, air quality, drinking-water quality, and many other areas.

Sadly it has not had nearly enough impact – especially as regards planning. In fact for a long time it had no actual planning powers at all. Not that that stopped it from producing plans. But it also meant that when those plans were ignored – by province and municipalities alike – there was nothing they could do. And in some areas – like sewage disposal – it has done very badly indeed – and is not doing nearly enough to correct that.

Metro Vancouver’s board could one day reverse the moratorium on logging in the watersheds. Metro Vancouver can also have an impact on the removal of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve if it blocks providing regional sewage connections or takes other steps.

“Could” and “can” – but won’t. And actually the watersheds do see some logging – and threats to withhold sewer connections have been met with court challenges – if I recall correctly.

On reality I don’t think much has been lost – except maybe David is a bit out of pocket. But I hope he does not feel aggrieved. And I also expect him to be an effective opposition to the Vision Council. Because it is a big job for just one NPA councillor – and the approach needs to come as much from the left as the right. A council which has only one party on it is a very different ceature than one that needs to defend its decisions in public on council night.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 10, 2008 at 12:52 pm

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