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Robertson makes Vancouver a Happy Planet

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Vision Vancouver Mayor-electAfter the most despicable civil election campaign season in Vancouver’s history, it looks like Gregor Robertson is going to be our new mayor and starting tomorrow he is going to have his work cut out for him.

The first item on his agenda will be to find a way to douse the open flames that are burning both on the deck of his ship, Vision Vancouver, as well as on the deck of his rival, the Non-Partisan Association.

Accusations have been flying between Vision Vancouver and the NPA over the hundred million dollar loan guarantee. First it was about whether it was appropriate to keep the deal behind closed doors. Then it turned out that the numbered copy of the discussion paper that went missing had been assigned to none other than Finance Committee Chair and NPA Mayoral candidate Peter Ladner. Just as Ladner started to cry foul, Vision Vancouver’s Raymond Louie threatened to sue everybody except Santa Claus over an unattributed report on Global Television that it was he who made the document disappear.

Lost in all the screaming and yelling have been all the other issues that affect Vancouver. While both mayoral candidates and their respective parties both agree that homelessness is the number one priority facing the city, neither side had a chance to make their positions clear to the electorate before the loan guarantee hullabaloo.

Other issues that were not discussed but will be white-hot topics of contention during this term will be the final preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics. And then as though that won’t be contentious enough- it will also be in this term that Vancouver is actually going to play host to these games. Council better be ready for the onslaught of complaints from local residents concerning traffic, hotel vacancy rates, rents, and general disruption of everybody’s precious little worlds here in Lotusland.

Former mayor and Premier of the province Gordon Campbell can’t seem to keep his hand out of the civic arena either. Now that he has lost his ally, outgoing mayor Sam Sullivan, it is quite possible that Grandpa Gordo will start fishing around, stirring the pot that much more. Campbell would do well to stay out of the City’s business.

And so would Robertson do well to stay out of provincial affairs. Vancouver civic elections are often referenda on the provincial government’s performance but this time it doesn’t look like it was. Robertson, a former opposition MLA in the Legislature will have to manage expectations that he will want to pick fights with the BC Liberals when there needs to be continued good relations that front.

It’s good to know that there are points of common interest between the civic parties. Hopefully, our new mayor will be able to bring the council together to peaceably complete the financial arrangements surrounding the Olympic Village and get on with the business of making Vancouver a more liveable city- especially for the homeless.

There has been too much bickering on Vancouver City Council for too long. Now that the election is behind us it’s time for our councillors to grow up and get things done. After all, that’s what we’ve elected them to do.


Gregor Robertson’s Unfare Fight

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

It was reported in the paper today that Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate, Gregor Robertson was caught riding on the Skytrain with an invalid ticket. He was fined $173.00.

This is a stunning hit for boy-wonder of the Vision Vancouver coalition. While it is not as serious as being convicted of drinking and driving which has dogged other political leaders from Metro Vancouver, it is still a major hit against him.

Robertson claims that he rides the skytrain once every six months. Well six months ago, the zone system was exactly the same as it was the day he got the fine. Vancouver, all by itself, is one zone. Travel anywhere beyond Vancouver’s boundaries necessarily means you are crossing into another zone.

Surely, someone who has been a sitting member of the provincial legislature, presumes to be mayor of the province’s largest city- and is an advocate of public transport- ought to know beforehand, or at least be saavy enough to become aquainted with, the zone boundaries and the cost to travel across one.

If this was a mistake, what will this say about his character? Certainly we should expect more of our mayor than this sort of sloppy self-governance. Let’s just hope it was an honest mistake- a sort of slip-up never to be repeated. Ever.

But to make things worse for Robertson, he claims that after receiving the ticket for travelling in the wrong zone with a one zone ticket, he got off the train to buy a zone-upgrade at the next station. Too little, too late, Gregor. The damage has already been done. (After you get a parking ticket, do you then plug the meter? Of course not!)

Then, in an act of political spin that could pull dust bunnies out from under the bed, he postures that he’s going to make a fuss about how the fine unreasonably fits the crime: a $173.00 ticket is way out of proportion to the $1.25 difference between a one-zone ticket and a two-zone ticket.

Is the fine too much? Perhaps. But posture all you want, Gregor. The fine is still $173.00. The fine would have been zero, zilch, nada, had you actually paid for a two-zone ticket in the first place.

Yet Gregor Robertson’s inter-zonal plight highlights a sort of fare evasion that is almost impossible to detect without directly interfering with travellers on the bus, skytrain and seabus. It is so pervasive that one might even go so far as to say unofficially that it is the norm.

People carrying one-zone monthly passes and transfers and travelling in another zone is wide-spread throughout the system. As a transit operator, I see it all the time. It speaks to the unfairness of our zone system.

Why do we still use the archaic zone system anyway? After all, why should someone who lives at Joyce and Kingsway pay $3.75 to go shopping at Metrotown only nine bus-stops away but in Burnaby on the other side of a zone boundary, while pay only $2.50 to go to completely across the city to UBC, a considerably farther distance?

Robertson should take responsibility for his action, inadvertent or otherwise, instead of trying to cover for the fact that he was unfortunate enough to get caught.

But if he prefers not to take responsibility, he should raise the question that would help those who don’t intend to cheat the system, to avoid making the same mistake he claims to have made and make transit use fairer at the same time…

When will electronic payment, a technology that allows for payment in real-time based on actual distance travelled, replace the outdated and unfair zone system we currently have?