Our City, Our Choices – City Hall is Unanimous; Why Won’t the Province Agree?
Collectively, current and former mayors and councilors Gregor Robertson, Sam Sullivan, Larry Campbell, Peter Ladner, Andrea Reimer and Ellen Woodsworth, amongst others, have asked the province four times over the past nine years to adopt the recommendation of former Supreme Court Justice Tom Berger that Vancouver be given “greater flexibility in designing [an electoral] system that best meets the needs and expectations of its citizens.”
Each of these times, Vancouver City Council has unanimously agreed that the city needs the power to set voting rules and/or campaign financing regulations to deal with our unique challenges as the largest metropolitan centre in the province, and each time the city’s request has been ignored or declined.
In the Our City, Our Choices survey, Fair Voting BC asked Vancouver MLA candidates “Will you, if elected, support Vancouver’s petition to amend the city charter to grant it the power to improve its electoral processes?”
We received responses from the Liberals, NDP and Greens:
NDP: The NDP said they will recognize local governments as an independent, responsible and accountable order of government, and empower them to enact municipal electoral finance reform. They also promised to implement the Local Government Election Task Force Recommendations for the 2014 municipal elections (these are mainly related to campaign expenditure limits) and “will consider any request made by the City of Vancouver with regards to improving the electoral process.”
Liberals: The Liberal Party promised to implement the majority of the recommendations from its 2010 Local Government Elections Task Force, and anticipate that the resulting Act will cover issues such as campaign contributions and expense limits. They also commit themselves “to have this new Act in place prior to the 2014 local government elections” and will “continue to work with UBCM, Elections BC and other stakeholders to ensure that the changes are implemented.”
Greens: The Green Party will fully support Vancouver’s petition and stated that “Voting rates are moving in the wrong direction and electoral financing for municipal elections currently has a bit of a wild west feel. Municipal electoral financing laws are too broad and invite voter skepticism when regional and even international groups or persons are donate to local candidates.”
Conservatives: The Conservative Party submitted no response to our survey.
“Justice Berger said that “increasing empowerment of municipalities appears to be the emerging trend in other English-speaking common law jurisdictions”,” said Fair Voting BC president Antony Hodgson. “All local governments in New Zealand have freedom to choose a more equitable way to vote than our current at-large block voting system. This is not a partisan issue – each time Vancouver has asked the province, the council vote has been unanimous. As Senator and former mayor Larry Campbell said recently, “Canada’s cities face increasing challenges and need more freedom to shape their election practices to better engage citizens and inspire trust. It’s well past time for Vancouver to be granted this power”. We agree, and call for the next government to at last honour Vancouver’s decade-old request.”
Full details on the “Our City, Our Choices” survey are posted at fairvotingbc.com/our-city-our-choices.