2021 Year End Round Up


As 2021 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the year that was. And the year to come.

A year ago, I was working to advance three key areas of my focus during this Council Term.  First was the Auditor General, establishing independent oversight over Staff. Second was seeking the data underlying the Housing Vancouver Strategy and challenging its ‘aspirational’ targets.  Third was focusing on our representative democracy, which continues to be sidestepped by the City's organization and attitude toward our residents as impediments.

Here is an update on these items and more.

1. Auditor General

When we began 2021, the Auditor General recruitment process commenced. I chaired the Auditor General Recruitment Committee, and ultimately we hired Mike Macdonell as our inaugural AG.  He started in September, and thankfully was funded by the budget (although not in the staff's base budget).  Although another Councillor is chairing the Auditor General Committee of Council, I am confident that the foundational work and the leadership provided will lead to the desired outcome - that of independent oversight over staff, and value-for-money assessment of City policies and programs.

2. Housing Vancouver Strategy

Despite my multi-year effort, I have been unsuccessful in obtaining the housing data that purportedly underlies the City’s housing “targets.”  Despite a motion unanimously approved by Council in 2020, the data listed in the approved motion has not been provided.  In fact, the latest Director of Planning apologized on the grounds that the City does not have the actual data.  Thus, the City’s housing targets continue to be based on “aspiration” rather than actual evidence, begging the question - aspirational for whom?  Meanwhile, I persist and will continue to abstain.

The shortcomings of the Housing Vancouver Strategy, the Vancouver Plan, the Broadway Plan, the future of False Creek South, Jericho Lands, the Streamlining Rental plan, show that City Hall is the biggest culprit in making Vancouver unaffordable.

3. Community Representation

Our job as elected Councillors is to represent our residents.  But do we?  

In 2020, I was successful in getting a motion passed that required speakers to state whether they are Vancouver residents, or not.  Historically, this had been the City’s practice. 

Why is this important?  Because in Public Hearings, the City Clerk shows the quantity of responses IN SUPPORT or IN OPPOSITION, which is done to influence the decisions of Council. The logic is that Council should be informed by constituent feedback as part of its debate and decision process.

In 2021, it became even more apparent that the deck was being stacked. Developers recruit speakers routinely reciting the same speaking points.  Email generators spam Councillors' inboxes. The bottom line is that residents are viewed as NIMBYs and obstacles to the organization’s and developers’ objectives. 

Beyond these three motions, and continuous commentary on public hearing subjects, I also focused on a few more key areas ultimately based on the core objective of achieving balance.

4. False Creek South

I used to joke that as a kid I had to compete with False Creek for my Dad’s attention (as he was called the Father of False Creek). Needless to say, I have a very strong connection and have been profoundly concerned about the direction the City has been taking over the last decade.  The legacy of False Creek South as the poster child for the Livable City must be protected.

The City’s Real Estate department and senior staff had plans for the future of False Creek South that discounted that legacy and the role of existing residents. Knowing what was going on behind closed doors, over the summer I worked with former city planning staff and FCS leadership to craft a motion to guide the process going forward.  Sadly, that motion was ruled out of order by the Mayor. I spoke with Stephen Quinn at the CBC on the subject which you can listen to here

Ironically, a similar motion subsequently passed with other Councillors taking credit. In the end, the best interests of False Creek South residents was the priority and will continue to be so now that I am one of the two Councillor Representatives to RePlan. 

5. Budget 2022 

As we entered this year’s budget cycle, Council was in the same place as in 2018; tied to a 5% tax increase, and jockeying for position to get their pet projects funded.  Instead Council overruled its own prior commitment and decided on a 6.35% property tax increase!

Once again, the City failed to focus on the core areas of civic governance but rather focused on funding “Council Priorities” largely downloaded from senior levels of government or associated with City “branding”. 

Among the areas of core civic governance that was downplayed, was that of the Police budget. The failure to properly fund the VPD has contributed to the pervasive fear experienced by many Vancouverites.  Both residents and businesses are struggling with increased violent crime. 

The Friday before the Tuesday when Council voted on the budget, we received a Report back on City funds allocated to downloaded services that have traditionally been delivered by Senior governments.  The report contains a chart showing $353.1 million impact between the Operating and Capital budgets. Instead of developing strategies to push back on the Federal and Provincial governments, the City continues to maintain the status quo and increases the burden on residents, directly as taxpayers, or indirectly as renters.

Note:  The Mayor advanced an additional 1% property tax Climate Levy in the budget and cynically, it was added after Council narrowly voted down the Climate Emergency Parking Program. 

6. 50 Neighbourhoods

In January 2020, I announced my 50 Neighbourhoods project,which focused on planning for future density at a hyper local level. At first, the meetings were in person, but after the pandemic hit, we shifted to online. Colleague Brian Palmquist attended some of the sessions and wrote Vancouver's 50 NeighbourhoodsA Halfway Report—What Really Matters? Meetings were held in neighbourhoods like Norquay.  In January 2022, I will continue to meet with individual neighbourhoods, with an eye to producing a final report before the summer hiatus.  

Meanwhile, Council will continue over the next 9 months in the lead-up to the October 15, 2022 election.

Apart from the Council day-to-day, there were a couple of other key political milestones in 2021.  

7. NPA Departure

As you will undoubtedly know, I resigned from the NPA in April of 2021, after the Board of Directors anointed John Coupar as its Mayoral Candidate, without a Nomination Contest. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, after a series of embarrassing missteps by the NPA Board. This was the final nail in the coffin of the NPA.

8. Rebooting TEAM: for a Livable Vancouver

Vancouver Coun. Colleen Hardwick joins new municipal party

After reflecting on the future, recognizing that the only way to reset the City was with a majority of 6 votes on Council, I considered various options. In the end, I decided  that the legacy of The Electors’ Action Movement TEAM was a strong foundation from which to approach the future.  A new electoral organization was born – namely, TEAM for a Livable Vancouver!

Following in the footsteps of the original TEAM, the new organization prioritized POLICY and held a Policy Conference at the end of October, followed by an Annual General Meeting at the end of November. There, the membership ratified the Policy Directions and elected the first Board of Directors.

What’s next?

Next steps include our TEAM Candidate Selection Process/Contest in the first quarter of 2022. TEAM will also be organizing at a neighbourhood level and encouraging everyone to get involved.