Leadership BC: Where’s the vision for our cities?

spain-pavilion-expo-2010-shanghai-china-1-550x366
Illustration of the Spain pavilion at the Shanghai Expo – high marks for imagination

The following column ran in 24 Hours newspaper last Thursday…

Our cities are the engines of growth, the hub of our creativity and economic vitality, yet I don’t see a vision for our urban centres in all the political rhetoric spoken since Gordon Campbell stepped down.

As I see it, the next Premier of British Columbia must also be the Mayor of B.C.

Say what you will about the outgoing Premier’s leadership, but Campbell was someone who truly understood the importance of our cities. As a former Mayor of Vancouver and chair of the GVRD (now Metro Vancouver), he had a strong vision on how to make cities work for the whole Province.

Whether it is the BC Liberal candidates, or the growing list of names wanting to lead the BC NDP, none so far have captivated the imaginations of city dwellers. You might blame the system for this lack of discussion about cities – candidates must appeal to ridings all around the province, after all.

But out of the whole slate of BC Liberals and NDPers, only a couple of the candidates come from the city. The rest either reside in suburbs or in quasi-rural ridings. Moira Stilwell represents Vancouver-Langara, and Adrian Dix (who is expected to announce soon) is MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway.

In the case of both Vancouver candidates they have rapid transit lines running right through the heart of their ridings. They can see first-hand the impact transit has on building sustainable and vibrant neighbourhoods.

Christy Clark hails from the Tri-Cities but lives in Vancouver-Fairview near to downtown, and steps away from the Canada Line. It’s early days still in the campaign, but a strong commitment from one of these candidates to build rapid transit along West Broadway would help to set them apart from the pack.

Our cities are becoming increasingly (some say insanely) unaffordable. Those of us who bought in years ago might feel like we’ve won the lottery, but how about young families who need housing today? Are they resigned to living on the city’s outskirts, or can housing affordability be achieved with aggressive targets for new development?

Metro Vancouver suffers from a lack of accountability, and an uncoordinated vision for the region’s economic future. Councillors and mayors sitting on those boards are often far too parochial in their views to support important regional initiatives. Leadership from above – from Victoria – would help to change that.

Dianne Watts announced this week that she’s taking aim at red tape in the City of Surrey, but why isn’t someone looking at ways to harmonize building and business license regulations across all cities in B.C?

Most British Columbians are pretty confident of our future and what lies ahead for the 21st Century. We’re damn proud of the place we live, and the 2010 Olympics displayed reserves of patriotism we didn’t know we had.

So which candidate for the leadership of the Province is going to capture that spirit with a vision for our cities?

- post by Mike

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