The Chinese media prepared me for the Canadian election

Published: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (En français aussi)
October 15, 2019
1277 words

The Chinese media prepared me for the Canadian election

Donald Trump’s trade war with China was in full swing when we left for China. Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou had been arrested at a Canadian airport, and two Canadians had been detained in China. By the time we left it was July and the Canadian government was warning us to “Exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

The trip was wonderful, and we came away with a much greater understanding of China and the Chinese people, and with an appreciation for how little we knew about the history, culture and government of the country.

The most striking thing about living in what is undeniably a police state was the iron grip that government has on the news media. Since the average person in China isn’t likely to use a VPN to access foreign media, most people see and read only what the Communist party wants them to see and read.

… When we returned home, I was truly looking forward to returning to my regular media diet of Twitter, Facebook and our local newspapers. Instead, I was shocked to realize that the Canadian news landscape was far too much like the Chinese one we had just left behind. The only difference was that the control was by corporate interests instead of the government.

Full article here.

 

Show Me The Way To Go Home

Published: PriceTags.ca
October 6, 2019
300 words

Un-named Skytrain StationWhat is this — a café? A library? A corner store?

Unless you regularly travel by transit to Langara College or the Alliance  Française, you’re forgiven for not recognising this as the 49th and Langara Skytrain station. This photo was taken from the west side of Cambie Street looking east on 49th Avenue.

And unless you’re standing in front and looking directly at the entrance, there’s no way to identify this as an essential part of urban infrastructure.

Read more here.

Where’s local news in the Facebook age?

Published: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (En français aussi)
August 6, 2019
1233 words

EThe Liberal government’s newspaper bailout will undoubtedly help big media players like Postmedia or The Toronto Star, but it will likely have little to offer the hundreds of smaller local newspapers in Canada. As many of these community newspapers shrink in size or get closed down entirely, a lot of Canadians are finding that the only remaining place to find out what’s happening in their hometown is Facebook.

Read more

Notes from a Podcast: The North Shore’s Grand Bargain

Published: PriceTags.ca
July 9, 2019
658 words

(many thanks to the Price Tags crew for allowing space for this essay.)

During the Q&A that followed the Price Tags taping at the North Vancouver District Public Library moderator Gordon Price asked Holly Back, a member of the City of North Vancouver council, how she felt about the “bargain” that had been struck between the City and the District.

The bargain is straightforward: the City will build lots of new housing, more than a thousand new rental units, and low income and supportive housing, while the District will do nothing, in order to preserve a suburban community of single family detached homes.

As the City grows, the District will remain unwelcoming—to both outsiders and population growth.

The current District council is smug in its determination to block all new development, and openly hostile to developers, but I suspect they’re fooling themselves if they think this is a triumph. By refusing to approve any development, and asking staff for help in shaming council members who accepted developer contributions, the District is trying to preserve the type of community that was popular a half-century ago; one with suburban houses, big shopping malls, and a complete dependence on cars for transportation.

Meanwhile, the City is densifying, diversifying, and creating a twenty-first century municipality that acknowledges these changing demographics, as well as the looming threat of climate change.

While the District is chasing away projects that would offer services and housing to seniors, the disabled, and the low income workers that drive the retail sector, the City is welcoming them with open arms.

Already you can see and feel the difference. The lower half of Lonsdale Street—especially near the Shipyards and Seabus terminal—is alive with new development. A new Whole Foods store has opened, and a flurry of new businesses, restaurants, and services have appeared that are supported by the rising population. Equally noteworthy is the sense that it’s a young population moving in, with different priorities and different spending patterns. Compared to Lynn Valley where we live, it’s a community—alive and vibrant. There are even people on the streets after nine o-clock on a weeknight.

The feeling that the City is younger is in fact supported by the 2016 census; the City’s population is growing at a rate several times faster than the District, and much of that growth is in people in their prime earning years. That working age population represents a bigger percentage of the City’s residents, than the District, and it skews younger too. While the District’s population currently has more children and teens, by adulthood they’ll join the “missing middle” — younger working adults who can no longer afford to live in the District. Meanwhile, the District is left with a surplus of people at or approaching retirement age.

What hasn’t been discussed by the new District council is what all of this holds for the future. As the City adds housing, and population, and density, it will also grow its tax base and its economic activity.

Building housing will allow the City to grab the lion’s share of Federal and Provincial funding that has become available. More people will mean more spending, more jobs, and more vitality and resilience. A population that is younger and more diverse will create a city that can see new opportunities, and find new solutions to the problems faced by any municipality in the Lower Mainland. And of course, more density will encourage TransLink to improve transit services.

And the District? As the population ages into retirement ,the incomes that support local businesses will decline. As council insists that they only want two million dollar single family homes, they’ll see young people and young families choosing to live in the City. Those people will be looking south, towards the galleries, and shopping, and excitement of Lower Lonsdale and Vancouver, and eventually won’t even think about the District as a place to live or visit.

While the City thrives, the District will just fade away, becoming less relevant with every year.

Building Bridges: A new political party in the DNV

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
October 1, 2018
420 words

Building BridgesThere are two reasons why Building Bridges chose this year to launch a new political party in the District of North Vancouver. The first and most obvious is that in a town where incumbency almost always equals re-election the retirements of Richard Watson, Doug Mackay-Dunn, and Roger Bassam opened up the field.

When Council members run time after time it can be hard for newcomers to overcome the advantages of name recognition, healthy campaign funds, and a basement full of campaign signs.

The second reason for the launch of this new party is disaffection with the status quo. As Building Bridges mayoral candidate Ash Amlani says, “We’re tired of seeing the same old same old and we know that the challenges we face won’t be solved by voting for more of the same.”

The slate includes two experienced local politicians, incumbent DNV councillor Mathew Bond and long-time Tsleil-Waututh council member Carleen Thomas. Bond is a Transportation Engineer, avid biker, and devoted family man. Thomas is an educator and has served for sixteen years on the Tsleil-Waututh band council. Both Bond and Thomas want to see a lot more affordable and rental housing in the District.

Joining them is political newcomer Sameer Parekh, a marketing manager at BCAA. Along with the overall Building Bridges platform he supports the Maplewood Innovation District and the housing that it would deliver. Running for School Board is Devon Bruce, who describes himself as a “dedicated professional in special education with over a decade of varied experience in the field.”

Much of the Building Bridges platform echos the incumbents running again this year, with housing and transportation topping the list. “We need to make sure that people who work in North Vancouver can afford to live here.” Amlani says. She describes a generation of young people who are “frustrated with the inability to stay in the region.” Helping those people means more density, and more purpose-built rental stock. The group also sees improved transit service and bike infrastructure as essential to serving the local population and reducing traffic congestion.

The North Shore sometimes has a reputation for being insular, or resistant to change, and there is a part of the population who are vocal in their opposition to population growth. Building Bridges wants voters to look beyond their own neighbourhoods. “There’s a global demand for change,” says Amlani, “information moves quickly, global capital moves quickly, work styles have evolved. People are looking for government that is able to respond to those changes, that can be resilient.”

https://www.buildingbridgesnv.ca/

Continue reading “Building Bridges: A new political party in the DNV”

CACs: Track the money that funds the heart and soul of the District

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
July 12, 2018
850 words

Sewer Pipe
Photo by: eutrophication&hypoxia

“My favourite thing about living in Lynn Valley are the excellent storm sewers!”

I’ve never said that, and neither have you. The reasons for living here are always the mountains and trees, or maybe the library and the music outside in the plaza. For some of us it’s the Panto at St Martin’s Hall, biking the trails on Mount Fromme, or just enjoying the dogs playing in Princess Park.

If the roads and sewers and water pipes are the bones and sinew of North Vancouver, all of these other things are the heart and soul of our community. They are the things that get people out of their houses and cars and bring them together to enjoy the place where we live. They’re also the things that are too easily sidelined as “frills” or “luxuries.” Continue reading “CACs: Track the money that funds the heart and soul of the District”

Transportation: the lost DNV Committee

Published: The Global Canadian  (pdf)
June 9, 2018
750 words

DNVThe single biggest issue for many District of North Vancouver residents is traffic. Any discussion about local politics quickly turns to complaints about the two overcrowded bridges, the inevitable impact of increased population density, and the near legendary “gridlock” on Lynn Valley Road.

As we speak the District and Province are spending millions of dollars to build new traffic interchanges at the the bottom of the Cut, Translink is planning to add a new B-Line bus from Phibbs Exchange to Dundarave, and traffic patterns, bike lanes, and sidewalks are being changed around each of the new “Town Centres.” But if transportation is such a critical subject, why has the District disbanded their Transportation Consultation Committee? The one committee that allowed ordinary residents to work directly with District transportation planners? Continue reading “Transportation: the lost DNV Committee”

Will the new parks bylaw prove to be a ‘gigantic hammer’?

Published: The Global Canadian
April 1, 2018
714 words

Barry Rocks OnThe District of North Vancouver is preparing to adopt a new Parks Regulation Bylaw, the first update since 1961. The new Bylaw is nearly four times the size of the old one, growing from four pages to fifteen, and promises “public safety through regulation.” During last week’s Council Workshop District staff explained that the new Bylaw is needed to give them “teeth” to enforce and regulate the use of District parks, but promised that rules would only be enforced some of the time, for some activities, by some people. Teenage partiers are a particular target for the new Bylaw’s enforcement.

Much of the new Bylaw is devoted to either prohibiting or regulating almost anything that you might want to do in a public park. It governs where and when people can play “organized sports,” cook a burger, rent a kayak, or cycle, and prohibits residents from erecting a “memorial or other object” commemorating a family pet. The Bylaw includes a list of more than dozen commercial activities that will require permits and fees. As well as film shoots and dogwalking, the Bylaw now designates bus tours, exercise classes, “providing instruction,” and even walking tours as regulated activities. Continue reading “Will the new parks bylaw prove to be a ‘gigantic hammer’?”

Moving people away from oil isn’t just a question of cost. Consumer behaviour is complex, often contradictory

Published: North American Energy News (link)
June 2, 2017
828 words

Dear Reader, here is my question for you: how much extra are you willing to pay to speed up the Energy Transition? How much risk are you willing to assume?

This is not at all a simple question.  Would we be likely to retrofit our current townhouse to be super energy efficient, much less pull out the gas furnace and hot water and go all-electric?

Probably not, because we have other places to spend tens of thousands of dollars, and the payback period would, for us, be far too long.  There are also the questions about how much hassle it would be to get approval from our strata for this scope of work, and whether a forty year old wood structure is worth that kind of investment.  If we’re looking to sell, a new kitchen and bathroom is better choice. Continue reading “Moving people away from oil isn’t just a question of cost. Consumer behaviour is complex, often contradictory”

Sidewalk poles make for an obstacle course

Published: North Shore News (link)
December 16, 2016
800 words

Pole in SidewalkLate last month, in a meeting at the District of North Vancouver, a cyclist, a pedestrian and a disabled person found common ground. Instead of discussing the broad visions of the district’s official community plan, or initiatives like Vision Zero or Barrier Free BC, talk turned to one of those mundane problems faced by anyone travelling without a car: telephone poles in the middle of sidewalks.

It sounds like a small thing to complain about if you compare it to the daily jams on the Upper Levels highway, but for anyone trying to travel the district on foot, by bike, or in a wheelchair, these poles can be as big a barrier as a stalled semi on the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing. Continue reading “Sidewalk poles make for an obstacle course”