Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘NPA

Kirk LaPointe and the Pie Crust Promise

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A “pie crust promise” is one that’s easily made and easily broken. Politicians seem especially prone to this failing. They make a promise then realize afterwards that what they have promised is not that easy to deliver – and even if they do will have far reaching consequences that they had not considered. Kirk LaPointe is an inexperienced politician: he has lots of experience of course, just not of working in the public sector as an elected official. The following exchange on Twitter yesterday seems to reflect this reality.


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He tweeted a commitment that the “NPA will bring free WiFi city-wide”. Let us take him at his word and assume away some of the practical difficulties. What would free WiFi everywhere, all the time mean? For a start everyone who has a modem and a contract with a telco will cancel it. If I have free WiFi from the city why would I pay for it? I am not at all sure that Shaw and Telus would be pleased by this development. Providing free wifi would also mean that a lot of services that can now be accessed over the internet would be preferred to other delivery methods. If I have free wifi do I need a home telephone? Skype or a VOIP service would probably do. There were, once upon a time, shops that would rent out DVDs. Very few remain as delivery methods  of video content have changed. City-wide WiFi would have a similar impact, I think.

There are already extensive telecommunication networks across the city – and most of their customers are unhappy. Canadians are convinced that they pay far too much for cable tv and cell phone services – especially if they use a lot of data. Considerable amounts of capital have been invested in cell phone towers and cables of all kinds. Much of the fibre optic cable that was installed in the gadarene rush a few years back remains dark. The original companies went bust, and their networks were scooped up at bargain prices. Which is one reason why we no longer complain about long distance charges. It has always been the last link in the network – from trunk line to individual customer that has been the weakest link. Very few of us enjoy fibre optic into our homes or businesses. But free city wide wifi should sort out that problem – but probably not to the satisfaction of the current carriers.

Just as Mayors who try to tell railway companies what to do find themselves in unexpected difficulties, so, I think, will Mayors who decide to upset the apple cart for the telecommunications companies. Vancouver is a very important market for them and they have already shown companies like Mobilicity and Wind that they do not take kindly to those who try to take even a small share of their market.

I expressed skepticism of his proposal. I did not have the same number of characters at my disposal on Twitter as I do here so I used a pithy, North American expression. It became popular after a clever conman sold the Brooklyn Bridge. Not once, but twice! You have to admire that sort of chutzpah in a salesman. But we are now wary of such schemes, are we not? I think we should be equally wary of candidates for civic office prepared to make what my Mum used to term “a rash promise in a weak moment.”   Or maybe Mr Lapointe will now try to reel back some of his apparent commitment for the same reason that I must now explain I do not actually have a bridge to sell. Which I had assumed would be obvious.

Of course we have been sold bridges recently. Bridges that we did not actually need. Bridges that we now cannot afford. Not that that is stopping another politician from trying to sell us a third one. We have far too readily accepted nostrums from politicians that could not possibly deliver what they promised. Widening roads and building new ones has never solved traffic congestion, nor can they for more than a brief period. Just as cutting taxes for the wealthy did not make us all better off: wealth did not trickle down nor did the rising tide raise all boats. Yet we still elect these rascals.

I am not in the bridge selling business. I am in the skepticism business. I have no axe to grind other than a desire to sow seeds of doubt: for doubt has always served me better than faith. Free WiFi city wide? I doubt it. I really do.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 6, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Sullivan-Ladner feud damages NPA’s image

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Miro Cernetig analyses the fallout from last night’s selection of Peter Ladner as the mayoral candidate on the NPA. “Vancouver’s natural governing party” has been suffering from arrogance for far too long, and a lot of people had been hoping that Carole Taylor would run as an Independent “she thinks party politics at city hall are silly and a waste of time”.

Membership in the NPA is now around 4,000 while Vision, the new centre left party that broke with COPE, has 13,000. Ladner says that the voters want change, but he has been so careful to be a good NPA soldier, that he really now needs to distinguish himself from the administration that he has spent the last few years supporting. A difficult, but not impossible task.

The important thing strategically is for the broad left to ensure that their own doctrinal differences do not get in the way of presenting a united front in the face of what seems to be disarray and resentment – and a big gap between the sitting NPA councillors (as well as the party bigwigs) and their supporters. And maybe the issues that have got the neighbourhood groups annoyed – EcoDensity and the Burrard Bridge being the two that I have spent most time on – will now fade away and be replaced by some sensible and responsive city planning. I also suspect that there are a lot of small businesses who felt betrayed by the treatment of the Cambie Street merchants and thought that Sam and his well connected masters should have done a lot more to put pressure on Gordon (former Mayor himself) and Dobell (the Campbell’s consiglierie and former City Manager) to compensate them for the Canada Line mess. For while the NPA might like to think itself “non-partisan” it is, of course, the old fashioned conservative right wing junta that thinks it runs BC and Vancouver, and is entitled to do so indefinitely. But by ignoring some of its core constituency it has risked the support of the voters.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 9, 2008 at 12:53 pm

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Breaking news – Sam’s gone

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Peter Ladner has won the NPA nomination for Mayoral candidate.

Much more as this gets absorbed by the media – but I am pleased that Ladner won, even though I would not vote for the NPA even if I could.

The Province has him saying “I will go off into the sunset”  but on Global News this evening he was more upbeat saying he was looking forward to “having a life” again.

In Sunday’s vote by NPA members, Ladner outpolled Sullivan 1,066-986.

which is pretty close and not exactly what was expected – even by Ladner himself.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 8, 2008 at 6:34 pm

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Sullivan finally agrees to a debate

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Frances Bula, Vancouver Sun

This is what passes for news this morning. In fact its one of those announcements that’s not an announcement, as there is no date and no location. So no debate yet.

It is as fractious as the Democratic nomination. The incumbent had to, reluctantly, agree that the nomination should be open. But he really does not want to have a process that might actually have some substance. And his supporters have even managed to get Peter Ladner to make a loyalty oath to the political party that is not a political party. In terms of decision making there really is not much to choose between them. Peter Ladner lost all credibility for me when he reversed himself on the Burrard Bridge bike lanes. He had been up to that time an advocate for cycling. But of course what Sam wants to do is spend ridiculous amounts of money to protect (in his mind anyway) car capacity. The conversion of GP lanes to bikes being an important shibboleth for the DVBIA and the car driving community that would actually have no impact on car use, as it is the intersections on either side that control traffic flow. Indeed, such is the symbolic value that Sullivan would not even allow a trial conversion, for fear it might actually work.

Ladner’s case for running is the Sullivan is not electable, given his record. Which might well be true, but Ladner’s is not much different. Which is why the debate is so important to him, as it is the first opportunity for him to distinguish between his policies and those of the current Mayor. And of course that is exactly what Sullivan and his supporters fear most which is why the only date suggested for the debate so far is the morning of June 8, the day when NPA members vote on the candidate.

I think this whole process has damaged the NPA more than it has damaged Sullivan – who’s hopes of re-election were slim and are now that much worse. Because there is nothing of substance here, and it seems to be only about personalities. Forget the people who hold NPA membership cards , and think in terms of the wider electorate. My bet would be that the  people of Vancouver are tired of the NPA and its assumption that it will rule Vancouver for as long as it likes. I suspect – hope – that there is a desire for change at 12th and Cambie, and that this charade will only hurt the NPA’s turnout, whatever the outcome.

And the Burrard Bridge is not the only issue – or even the most important one. But my suspicion would be that fear and loathing are going to be – and EcoDensity may be Sam’s achilles heel.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 26, 2008 at 7:19 am

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