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.

Yes, Virginia, slates do exist

A letter in today’s Record from New Westminster resident MaryAnn Mortensen (who, by the way, is not a Voice member) nicely counters the notion that a strong voice for accountability and transparency in civic affairs, and offering critical analysis of the issues facing our community, is not the same thing as being “negative” as some who are clearly very uncomfortable with the mere existence of Voice have simplistically tried to portray.

As Mortensen states in her letter, before moving to B.C. 13 years ago she lived in a much larger city where no one questioned the existence of municipal election slates or “dubbed them as negative because they opposed those in power.”

Despite the fact that the District Labour Council has run highly organized and well-resourced slates and slate campaigns in New Westminster for many years (all the while pretending their candidates are all “independents”), New Westminster remains a notable exception in the world of civic politics in maintaining the illusion and pretense that organized election slates don’t exist in the community.

Our thanks to MaryAnn Mortensen for weighing in on the subject and for addressing the question of slates thoughtfully and eloquently.


We had to laugh when we saw the Record and NewsLeader’s sensationalized “news flash” stories about Bob Osterman and Betty McIntosh “leaving” Voice. News travels fast in this town, eh? Will they be reporting on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or the landing of the first man on the moon next?

Bob Osterman hasn’t really been part of Voice since the election campaign two years ago. We don’t have any particular problem with Bob or the representation he has provided for the community, but Bob was really only onboard with Voice during the election — and only nominally so — as he really never fully bought into the concept of a team working together for a common purpose.

But for the record (no pun intended), Bob Osterman has never been central to Voice and we presume vice versa. Despite the slow news day “news flash” stories, things are pretty much as they always have been and no one ever expected that Bob would run with Voice again.

We can certainly appreciate the kind of strain that Bob and Betty have been under on council during the past two years. In the Record, Betty very eloquently alluded to the kind of bullying they’ve been subjected to at the hands of their council mates from the-slate-that-claims-they-aren’t-a-slate. We feel for Bob and Betty on this point and have always indicated our readiness to back them up on issues. They took a bold step in joining forces with Voice and stepping away, albeit tentatively, from the past and into the future.

Unfortunately, Bob and Betty didn’t have the same strongly developed connection to the Voice team the way the three Voice school trustees did and consequently Bob and Betty didn’t have the strength to stand up to the bullying. And based on what we’ve seen and heard over the past year or so, Bob seems to have been particularly shaken by the experience of stepping out from his old comfort zone.

Fortunately for the community, Lisa Graham, Jim Goring and Casey Cook have had a much more successful, more team-spirited relationship on the school board with solid support from the community and Voice members. As a result of that mutually supportive spirit they’ve demonstrated the kind of positive results that can be achieved when the community’s interests are put before special interests.

The strong community voice the Voice trustees have brought to the school board table is what got things on track with the middle school and high school projects after decades of watching these projects languish in a cloud of stale thinking and the patronizing “we-know-best” attitude of trustees from the-slate-that-claims-they-aren’t-a-slate slate.

So, contrary to amusingly sensationalized non-news stories on the subject in the NewsLeader and Record, Voice is very much alive; And slowly but surely the nepotism, cronyism and special interest agendas that have taken precedence over community interests in New Westminster for decades are being replaced by accountability, transparency and fresh thinking, and Voice is at the forefront of bringing about these positive changes.

We wish Bob and Betty all the best in the final year of their electoral term and we will continue to be ready to back them up on issues of importance to the community. But we’re also keeping our eyes open for fresh new talent that can help move our community into the future while building on the best of the past. And we’ll also be watching for any breaking news on the Amelia Earhart and moon landing stories!

Is the political ground shifting in New Westminster?

It looks like the political balancing act the Mayor has been pulling off for the past several years may be coming to an end.

Sources have told Voice New Westminster that the District Labour Council has made a decision to run their own mayoralty candidate in the next civic election rather than support Wayne Wright as they’ve done behind the scenes in the past three elections.

Voice has also learned that one of the District Labour Council city councillors approached the mayor to sound him out on what it might take for him not to run again and potentially split the Labour Council’s vote.

No word on what the mayor’s response was to the offer, but it’s clear that the District Labour Council has definitely decided to go with their own candidate this time around.

The extent of the growing rift between the mayor and the District Labour Council first surfaced during the last civic election when the mayor ran as part of two slates with a total of 7 councillor candidates vying for 6 council seats.

Reportedly, the mayor did ask the District Labour Council to drop one of their councillor candidates to make the arithmetic work but they refused.

On election night, one of the mayor’s running mates from his “non District Labour Council” slate (already hurt politically by suggestions of a conflict of interest over a real estate deal) ended up being the odd man out when the votes were tallied and only the mayor and his four person District Labour Council slate had been elected (plus two incumbent councillors running under the Voice banner).

The District Labour Council are also said to be unhappy with the mayor’s handling of issues relating to the high school site and the fact that the mayor has apparently cut the District Labour Council members out of the loop.

The District Labour Council’s strong ties to the unions and their ideological bent is also said to be a point of conflict, as is the mayor’s reported backroom wheeling and dealing with developers.

The District Labour Council apparently want to be the ones calling the shots with developers and clearly they’re feeling strong enough, or perhaps disenchanted enough, to go their own way this time around.

Only time will tell if this is just speculation on the part of our sources or whether things play out as they’ve been described to us.