When it rains, it pours — Election Fatigue 2011?

We’re not the first to make note of the “perfect storm” conditions for election fatigue that have emerged in 2011.

We’re barely half way through May and we’ve already had two provincial party leadership races, a federal election, and a provincial by-election in Vancouver-Point Grey.

In the Fall we’ve got a civic election (Voice’s sphere of interest) and most likely a provincial election on top of it.

Sandwiched in between, of course, is the HST referendum in June — which means hardcore political junkies will be getting more than their fill of excitement this year.

But what impact will this tsunami of election activity have on the average voter? That’s the question many are asking.

Will voter fatigue set in and cause an unprecedented lack of interest in this year’s civic election?

Keep in mind that voter apathy (in general) is already at an all-time high, and civic elections typically post the lowest voter turnout rate.

As an example: During the last civic election, most of those elected in New Westminster were elected with less than 10 percent of the eligible vote (a sad commentary in and of itself).

And if voter fatigue sets in it could conceivably lead to candidates being elected with as little as 4 or 5 percent of the eligible vote.

Voice will certainly be doing its part to shake things up and engage voters over the coming months.

And, just as we did in the last election, Voice will be working to support community-based candidates capable of putting the interests of the community above all other interests.

The District Labour Council will, in all probability, also gear up to support their special interest slate-that-claims-not-to-be-a-slate slate of candidates, just as they’ve done practically from the beginning of time.

In fact, if the past is a guide to the present, the District Labour Council is probably screening their “labour friendly” candidates for endorsement right about now.

Insight into the District Labour Council’s screening process can be gleaned from a July 15, 2008 article posted on CUPE BC’s website.

Under the headline, “Political action committee gears up for fall elections” (with the sub-headline, “Holding candidates accountable”), the article states: “Each candidate in the local elections is asked to complete a profile of his or her position on P3s, contracting out, pay equity, and other important issues.”

Digressing for just a moment, it’s important to note that Voice has absolutely no issue with CUPE, or any other union, defining and articulating the concerns and interests of its members.

CUPE staff contribute directly to the success of our community. They deserve to have a voice, to have their concerns listened to, and to have their interests accounted for in the consensus building and decision making processes.

In fact, many will no doubt recall that it was Voice that stood up for the school district’s CUPE staff who had been exposed to asbestos when the district attempted to sweep the incident under the carpet a couple of years ago.

Perhaps the District Labour Council should ask their New Westminster school trustees about this sorry episode when they re-screen them as candidates for endorsement this year.

But getting back to the main thread of this posting: From the July 15, 2008 article noted above, it’s quite clear what happens to District Labour Council candidates who do not live up to the DLC’s special interest expectations.

As the July 15, 2008 article states: “Four elections ago, [Marcel] Marsolais stood up at a district council meeting and shot down endorsements of four incumbent school trustees who, during the previous term, had done nothing to stop services and jobs from being contracted out.”

In our view, not only is the District Labour Council’s approach to selecting and endorsing candidates too narrowly focused on a single special interest agenda, it also seems coercive and punitive in nature. Some might even say there is an element of bullying involved.

There is certainly a lot of money involved: District Labour Council endorsement typically leads to thousands of dollars in campaign funding as well as other campaign support such as a phone bank. All of these benefits are quite clearly lost to the District Labour Council’s candidates if they don’t toe the special interest line as noted above.

Voice takes a very different approach to its candidates: Whereas the District Labour Council seeks to promote a single special interest to the exclusion of all other interests and considerations, Voice seeks to achieve balance and consensus (and without coercion or bullying).

Voice looks for, and endorses, candidates who can be counted on to approach all issues with an open mind and place the community’s collective interest above any and all special interests and agendas. Put another way: Voice values sincerity over ideology.

But getting back to where we started; the question of election fatigue remains. Will it be a factor in this year’s civic elections? Will the District Labour Council candidates once again ride into office on a wave of voter apathy as they’ve done for so long now?

Let us know what you think.


Voice congratulates all Federal candidates

Our congratulations to Peter Julian, Fin Donnelly and all of the other candidates who stood for election to Parliament for New Westminster.

Standing for election and putting oneself through the rigours of an election campaign is not for the faint of heart. And everyone who does stand deserves to be publicly recognized and commended.

We also want to acknowledge the dedicated volunteers who helped these candidates through the election process. Without the efforts of these volunteers, campaigns would not be possible.

Again, we commend all of the candidates and their supporters for the commitment they’ve shown to the democratic process and to the service of our community.

Voice congratulates Watt on Brophy trophy

Congratulations to New Westminster school trustee Lori Watt on winning COPE 378’s first annual Ardell Brophy Award.

The Award was initiated this year to recognize members of the COPE 378 union who have “shown exemplary service to their union and their community.”

The award honours Ardell Brophy, a long time COPE 378 union rep, member, activist, and advocate who is also an accomplished stand-up comedian and founder of Laff Riot Girls.

Fittingly, Watt herself is involved in the performing arts as an actress, director and producer.

The photo above shows Watt and Brophy alongside COPE 378 Vice President David Black at the award ceremony.

Black, as many know, is also a long time New Westminster resident and son of New Westminster MLA, and current opposition leader, Dawn Black.

Voice congratulates Ms. Brophy on the creation of this award and Ms. Watt as the first-time recipient.

Passing waste reduction savings on to New Westminster taxpayers

We were duly impressed by recent waste reduction news out of Port Coquitlam that John Ashdown drew our attention to.

It seems that a year after introducing “two leading-edge waste-reduction programs,” Port Coquitlam residents are now sending 26% less garbage to the landfill and they’ve saved $165,000 in the process.

Port Coquitlam’s new pickup schedule has also saved “9,600 litres of diesel fuel” and prevented “about 98 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases” from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Even better, Port Coquitlam residents are now looking forward to another zero increase in garbage rates for 2011.

Okay, pinch me. Where can the envious masses here in the Royal City sign up for that waste reduction program instead of the one where we get dinged with yet another increase in our solid waste fees this year?

Yes, it’s true that New Westminster’s waste output has been reduced by 48% (from 367 tonnes to just 188 tonnes) owing to the city’s new garbage scheme — as reported in the December 22, 2010 Newsleader. That part’s not so bad and we are impressed with the reduction of waste.

But what do the overtaxed citizens of New West get for all the hours they’re spending sorting their garbage? Surely we should be seeing some sort of savings or benefits being passed on to New Westminster taxpayers similar to the ones seen in nearby Port Coquitlam?

Alas, no… What we’re apparently getting is an $11 increase in our solid waste fees this year.

Moreover, according to a December 8, 2010 article in the Record, the chair of the city’s environmental committee (Councillor Cote) says the city’s new ‘clean green’ waste pick up service (intended to keep yard waste from landfills), and the addition of a new vehicle to the city’s fleet, have increased emissions by 57 tons.

(NOTE: see above where it states that Port Coquitlam’s new pickup schedule saved “9,600 litres of diesel fuel” and prevented “about 98 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases” from being emitted into the atmosphere.)

So: No apparent decrease in fuel consumption or greenhouse gas emissions, and no apparent decrease in labour costs in New Westminster! What gives?

Again, we are impressed with the reduction of waste in New Westminster, but we would also like to see some savings passed on to the city’s taxpayers.

About half of Port Coquitlam’s reported $165,000 in savings in 2010 reportedly came from reduced labour, equipment and fuel costs, while $82,000 came from averted landfill disposal fees.

Considering Port Coquitlam’s inspiring results, and the savings they’ve passed on to taxpayers, we’re obviously doing something wrong here in New Westminster.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore explains his city’s impressive results as follows: “We were able to achieve these successes because our residents got on board with the programs…. We’re working together to save money and at the same time provide a positive environmental impact.”

Well, New Westminster residents certainly appear to be on board with waste reduction.

(NOTE: See above where it states “New Westminster’s waste output has been reduced by 48% (from 367 tonnes to just 188 tonnes) because of the new garbage scheme….”)

So now, in addition to a reduction in waste, what New Westminster taxpayers want to see are some money savings and the positive environmental impact.

Port Coquitlam, and their Mayor Greg Moore, seem to have to figured out how to make waste reduction work and pass savings on to taxpayers. Why can’t New Westminster?

Translink Goes Back to the Drawing Board – With the Community

We all remember last November and December when Translink consulted with the City and soon recognized residents’ concerns with the design options that were presented and potential impacts on the local neighbourhood.
Well, they heard the very vocal opposition from the community and are now coming back to find out from us what our concerns are, what our transportation issues are, and what we can suggest as possible solutions.
Apparently over the next 3 months, starting next Saturday, they want to engage in this process with New Westminster residents. The meetings will be in three phases. All meetings will be at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, 318 Keary Street, New Westminster.

Phase 1: Community Concerns and Ideas Workshops

Share your transportation concerns: Saturday, March 12, 2011 – 9:30 a.m. to noon

Share your ideas on the solutions: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 – 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Phase 2: Initial and Refined Concepts

Discuss initial concepts based on Phase 1: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 – 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Discuss the refined concepts: Saturday, April 30, 2011 – 9:30 a.m. to noon

Phase 3: Recommended Solution Strategy

Identify the recommended solution and community mitigation strategy

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

A citizen asks: “where’s the briefs?”

A local resident has informed the Express editorial team that there’s nowhere in New Westminster’s Uptown area to buy men’s underwear.

This may seem like a small issue to many readers of the Express, but it may be indicative of deeper issues in the local retail community.

Women’s underwear is apparently readily available in the Uptown. And dollar stores seem to abound. But “where’s the briefs?”

We’ll admit that men’s underwear and its availability is not something we’ve really thought much about before.

But you would think, in a city the size of New Westminster, that a well-functioning commercial area would be able to meet consumer demand for a basic item like men’s underwear.

So we really do need to ask: Is there is an uncracked niche market for men’s underwear just itching to wedge itself into the Uptown?

We don’t know the answer to that question. But if anyone knows if or where you can buy men’s underwear in the Uptown, please let us know.

If the absence of men’s underwear can be ascertained beyond the shadow of a doubt then it may just be a canary in a coal mine indicative of a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.

Concerned Citizen Acquires Legal Opinion on Conflict of Issue Situation

Well, it appears that the conflict of issue situation within SD40 just won’t quit. Recently, Patrick O’Connor, who ran as a Voice trustee candidate in the 2008 election, received a legal opinion on whether Trustee Watt is in a conflict of interest situation in relation to the interests of her employer (and major campaign funder) CUPE BC.

Mr. O’Connor has started New Westminster’s latest blog to, it would seem, share this issue and all the information received with the public.

One can see Mr. O’Connor’s covering email to John Woudzia at:

http://focusnewwest.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/covering-email1.pdf

The written legal opinion can be found at: http://focusnewwest.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/opinion-letter.pdf

Additionally, a “tweet” is available on Twitter that people can use to point their friends to the documents online… Go to @focusnewwest on the Twitter website.

Here’s a link to the blog’s home page: http://focusnewwest.wordpress.com/

This issue was also covered recently by the City Caucus blog as well as the education reporter of the Vancouver Sun and our own local media.

CityCaucus.com: http://www.citycaucus.com/2011/02/legal-opinion-on-conflict-of-interest-causing-heartache

Janet Steffenhagen’s blog on the Sun’s website: http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/reportcard/archive/2011/02/04/conflict-of-interest-allegations-in-new-westminster.aspx

NewsLeader: http://www.bclocalnews.com/greater_vancouver/newwestminsternewsleader/news/115138769.html

Record: http://www.royalcityrecord.com/Trustee+says+legal+opinion+political+attack/4228323/story.html

Peace, order and good government

As everyone knows, Canada was founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… No, wait… That’s the United States.

Canada was actually founded on quite different principles: Peace, order and good government.

On a civic level, these broad principles of peace, order and good government are ones that many people can get behind and support. And in many ways, these are the very same principles that Voice New Westminster was founded on.

If nothing else, Voice New Westminster has proven that people from different political perspectives on a federal and provincial level can find much common ground on a civic level.

Civic issues are very immediate and direct and they cut across political lines: Should a road be widened here or there or not at all? Where should new schools go? Should the city spend money on this project or that one? What level of taxation do the city’s residents and businesses feel is appropriate and bearable? How should the school board allocate its resources?

These are questions best answered through informed community consensus and that’s what Voice has sought to achieve.

After all, good decision-making never results when decisions are made by a select few in the absence of open, honest consultation and thorough discussion with the public.

There’s an endless supply of examples we could provide to illustrate this point, but the recent controversy surrounding the United Boulevard Extension, and whether the city agreed or didn’t agree with the City of Coquitlam to move forward with the project, is a prime example.

And contrary to what one commentator has suggested, seeking transparency and accountability in public affairs is not some sort of sinister gimmick being employed in a cynical way to disguise negative shots. Pointing out the foibles and the errors of decision-makers and their decisions is essential to the process of achieving peace, order and good government in a community.

If the emperors-that-be aren’t wearing any clothes, the citizens must say so. Mindlessly applauding the emperors-that-be and agreeing that their non-existent new clothes are truly wondrous serves no purpose other than pure sycophancy. What our city needs is clearheaded thinking, honest, open-eyed discussion and an end to the apathy that holds us back.

Ultimately, no public good comes when the public’s business is conducted in the shadows and special interest agendas are allowed to replace the interests of the community. Peace, order and good government can only be achieved when light is allowed to shine in.

And that is what Voice was formed to bring about; because nothing good grows in the absence of light, transparency, accountability, and a strong voice for the community and its citizens.