Tuesday, November 10, 2015

UNA Directors' Meeting: Nov. 10, 2015

This evening, 5pm at the Old Barn Community Centre, the UNA Directors are meeting.

There are a number of things of relevance on the agenda (Parking and Car2Go) and at least one thing of relevance not on the agenda (open access government).

On the agenda:
(1) The UNA Staff have proposed some rather significant changes to the Car2Go situation which would entrench a large number of fixed Car2Go parking stalls on Logan Lane, Eagles Drive, and other UNA Neighbourhood Streets.  Staff is asking the Directors to make a decision tonight.  Given the scope of the changes and the direct impact upon residents I am hoping that our Board will agree to defer a decision so that we can receive a meaningful degree of community comment. This is a matter that would have been decided in a closed Operations Standing Committee meeting two weeks ago, but that meeting was cancelled due to the unavailability of some directors.  The fact that it is no in front of the Directors tonight is a mixed blessing  which will at least allow a full open public discussion that I hope will lead to an extended period of consideration that allows effective community input.

(2) Parking rates are set to rise again. The current parking system sort of works.  However, it doesn’t; really work.  Just the same the UNA Staff are again, for about the third or fourth year in a row, recommending upping parking permits pass fees. Staff will say that the cost of managing parking is not effectively covered by the permit fees.  True enough.  However, residents need to be aware that we actually pay already for parking management in two additional ways: through our service levy which is supposed to cover ‘municipal-like’ services and through our rural taxes in which a set proportion goes to the ministry of highways who is the agency with the legal authority over our roads. Th UNA staff have prepared a set of price increase options for the board to consider.  This is again a matter that would normally have taken place in a closed meeting but due to the cancellation of the Operations Standing Committee in October we get a chance to have a full public discussion of the matter. 

It is not clear to me that simply raising permit prices has any bearing upon the parking issues in our neighbourhoods.  The fundamental problem is that Provincial Highways has legal authority over our roads and nobody who can make a decision seems to care to do anything about it.  It’s as though the status quo is just fine.  For those of us who have to live with the issue we know that there is a problem but we are powerless to really do anything about it.  

An effective solution would involve 1) BC Highways transferring to the UNA a portion of our rural taxes that should be used to roads (in the same way as would happen if we were a municipality with taxation authority). A sum of between 250,000 and 350,000 would be sufficient to properly manage and enforce the parking regulations, (2) UBC  getting off their backsides and communication directly with the Provincial govt to have the legal changes made in the legislature that would create the legal platform for the UNA to actively manage our own roads.  They did this before when it mattered to UBC (I.e. When Metro was intrusively managing planning UBC went to the province and the province enacted legislation that placed development planning an management into UBC’s hands). (3) the UNA actively and effective manage parking regulations. 

In the meantime we will continue to limp along with inadequate band aid solutions that constantly annoy residents without fundamentally addressing the underlying and real problem related to parking. 

Take home message: brace yourself for yet another parking permit cost inflation.

Not on the agenda.
Last Directors meeting I was pleased to see such support from fellow directors for the idea of open standing committee meetings.  The motion that I presented was discussed, with several directors commenting positively on it and then it was referred to the closed door standing committee for discussion.  I was not able to be at the closed door standing committee meeting (I as out of town at an academic conference) but from what I can glean of the governance committee report and the agenda for today’s directors’ meeting the issue has disappeared into the bowels of a consultant’s review.  

I am puzzled that the simple idea of open access governance requires an expensive private sector consultant to review and prepare a report on. One might suggest that had I been at the meeting I would thereby be better informed.  However, if I had been at the meeting then the rules of the closed door meeting would have prevented me from commenting on the reasons for why a decision to hold the governance and the operations standing committees in front of our public was deferred to a high priced consultant.

Municipal governments (recall that the UNA and UBC always likes to call the UNA municipal like) are required by law to hold all meetings in which decision are made in a public forum.  There are provisions for which meetings need to be in camera (things like personal matters, contracts, litigation, etc).  The key point is that the process of decision making should be public. If we are to embarrassed, ashamed, afraid, concerned, worried, to say something in public then maybe we shouldn’t say it all.  

But here we are again with one step forward, two steps back and the small conservative step of opening two committees to public observation erased from the agenda. A careful reader will even note that the the motion itself was even erased from the minutes of the last meeting with simply  aline saying referred to committee.  But the content of what was referred was removed from public scrutiny.

Maybe we can try again. But after three years of trying I’m not that hopeful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

UNA Directors Aks for More Pay

At tonight’s UNA AGM members will be asked to increase by over a third the UNA Chair’s take home pay and increase by 10% the money regular directors take home, plus give $1500 extra payments to the chair of governance, finance, and operations/sustainability standing committees.  This would mean that the Chair would be paid $12,500, and the secretary and treasure would both get $7,500 per year. On the one hand the amount that Directors are currently paid, about 5500/yr, is not a lot.  That said any bumping up of politician pay by such radical amounts should receive serious scrutiny.  Part of the argument that has been made is that when compared with equivalent sized municipalities our UNA Directors’ pay is way too low. There are all kinds of problems though with comparing what we do as UNA Directors with what a City Councillor does. The biggest difference is that UNA actually has no real power or authority; it’s al granted to us from UBC.  We are, essentially, a volunteer advisory board to UBC charged with running two community centres, element’s of UBC’s private property (so called public realm spaces) and, well actually that’s about it. After sitting on the UNA’s Board of Directors for the past three years I’m not even sure we are needed in order to run the affairs of the UNA.  In fact I often get the feeling that for some people the Directors are considered more of a hindrance than a help in running the UNA; but that’s just my feeling. 

The pay of politicians is always a problem, just think of the way our Federal Senate manages their profligate affairs. There’s a big difference between the tens of thousands that a Senator pulls down for a few hours in the red chamber and between  he few thousand that a UNA Director gets.  The parallel is that any change payment needs to be clearly, opening discussed, and that those of us who might materially benefit from such pay should not be the ones making the recommendations or advocating for pay rises.

Disclosure: Charles is a UNA Director who will not be voting for upping directors's pay; Charles' views should not be misconstrued to represent the official UNA or UNA Board policy.  Despite having tried in the past not to be paid by the UNA, Charles will materially benefit from any increase to UNA Directors's pay.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Changing Directions on the UNA

For the past 2 & 3/4 years I've been the UNA Secretary and Chair of the Governance Standing Committee.

The first year was quite exhilarating. I felt the positive benefits of a shared political vision amongst the resident directors.  While we would disagree on the finer details we did share a common vision that improvements in governance were needed. Over time the reality of UBC's overwhelming presence in the affairs of UNA governance has lead to growing differences of perspective, both on the place of the UNA within UBC's domain and the particular issues that the UNA should focus upon. These differences in perspective have been intensified with the change over in resident directors. I find myself no longer able to support the majority direction of the Board.  Consequently I am stepping down as the Secretary of the UNA.

My engagement with community advocacy predates the existence of the UNA.  As one of the first residents in Hawthorn Lane renting from UBC Properties Trust we came upon a series of issues that UBC's unique form of governance seemed unable to adequately respond to.  So we organized the Hawthorn Lane Residents Association.  In cooperation lies strength.

Our association was part of the catalyst that brought the UNA into existence. UBC has always realized that the local governance issue is one that needs to be treated with some degree of community engagement, but at each step of the way has resisted a full resolution.  Part steps make sense to the primarily hierarchically organized command style governance model of the university administration.  It is my view, and the view of many others, that the best way to rule a community is through self-governance.

This is the view that I have long subscribed to.

I appreciate that in fact I am a member of a minority within my own community.  There are others who value direct self rule, but many more seem to find the current form of tutelage preferable to self rule.  It is important to have a minority voice on this Board.  However, I can not in good conscience continue as an executive member of the UNA.  To do so would imply, rightly or wrongly, that I support the general direction that the UNA is taking.  To continue would ultimately be a violation of my  own sense of what is right and proper.

I take issue with the way some have used UNA structures to essentially create a political party within the UNA.  I find it inappropriate for self-appointed community leaders to enjoy junkets at the general tax payer's expense. We have an obligation to contribute to our society without expecting to be rewarded for it.  I find it offensive to observe Committees of the UNA, ostensibly set up to engage the entire community, focus on one sub-sect and then not regularly report to the Board on their activities.  These types of activities offends my sense of civic mindedness.  I know that I am not alone, even if we are a minority, in being upset by such practices. But ultimately these are not my primary concerns.

My primary concern is my heartfelt belief that we have civic duty to advocate for our collective future as a self governed community.  We must attend to the details of day-to-day operations, but we must also look to our community's future.  It is inconceivable that a community of our size and scale would still, in the 21st century, be managed like a late 19th century company town.  I had hoped that my colleagues would share with me the desire to address the democratic deficit.  But on this point we do not see eye to eye.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

UNA Children's Garden

There’s a small gem hidden in the heart of our town.  You might already know about it but just not realize it.  It’s the UNA Children’s Garden.  It's tucked in beside the Old Barn Community Centre.  The garden brings together all kinds of people, all ages, and all interests.  Its a place where children of every age can have fun, work, and learn!

A lot of people talk about sustainability, food security, and community building.  Getting a chance to do something about often lags far behind stirring words. Eight years ago a small group of neighbours saw the need of putting words into action. With the approval of the UNA Board this small group of people broke sod and proceeded to transform the landscaping into a productive organic community garden.  Today the children’s garden boasts a mini orchard of 5 apple trees, a plum tree, a row of blueberries, and an array of vegetable crops.

The garden is community driven.  Participation is open to anyone in our community who is willing to spend some time in the garden.  The opportunities vary throughout the year.  Winter brings a brief quiet time followed by an increasing level of activity as the garden starts growing.  From June to September garden produce is sold on Saturday mornings.  The garden is financially self-sufficient.  The UNA advances funding to pay for materials needed for the garden over the winter. The summer produce sales refund (usually at a modest surplus) the cash advanced by the UNA.

There are lots of opportunities for participation.  This spring the stewards of the garden coordinated a series of four workshops for children of all ages to learn about apple pruning, natural cosmetics, soils, and probiotic sodas.  Regular work parties focus on sharing knowledge.  There is almost always someone doing something most weekends. Children and youth are particularly encouraged to join in the weekly Saturday morning work parties and garden sales that start up in June once fruit and produce begin to ripen. Check out the garden blog https://unacg2014.wordpress.com

Friday, April 3, 2015

Multiculturalism: A Need for Balance

Multi-culturalism is a sacred tenant of Canadian liberalism (and, in a modified version that places a higher value on wealthier ethnic communities, of Canadian conservatism as well).  For those of us who grew up here and are of a certain age we have a deep attachment, verging on nostalgia, to the ideal of a multi-cultural society.  We grew up with the notion that, unlike in the Unite States (where we were taught everyone got thrown in a great melting pot), we could all retain our different ethnic identities and still be Canadian: all at the same time.   Who doesn't recall that heart warming Canada Song from 1967?   Or the ever so popular annual folk-fests of the 1970s that celebrated ethnic diversity through food, dance, and costume?

Enacted by the buoyant Trudeau Liberals of the day, multi-culturalism was an utopian ideal that made us (children, youth, and adults) feel very good about being Canadian.  It conformed to an idea of the "nice Canadian" (wonderfully spoofed in the Michael Moore film staring John Candy, Canadian Bacon).  It was premised upon a perceived fundamental difference between a Canadian vs an American kind of society.

The idea of a Canadian "Cultural Mosaic" laid the basis for the multicultural policies of the 1970s and onward in which nice Canadians opened the door to the people of the world and, as the story goes, accepted without question all of the difference that each wave of newcomers brought to this immigrant settler nation.  According to this Canadian myth we all lived in a kind of happy utopia where we could be separate and equal and no one among us would be compelled to give up our ethnic languages, cultures, or customs.

The reality is not quite so simple. John Porter's trailblazing 1965 study, the Vertical Mosaic, clearly showed a racialiazed and ethnic socio-political hierarchy in which Indigenous peoples were firmly locked at the bottom of the cultural mosaic. There was no happy society in which all ethnic groups and social classes shared in the wealth and decision making of Canadian society.  Certain groups were on the top. Indigenous peoples were consistently on the bottom. Of course, if one strips away the ideology of multiculturalism we can see a structure of power based in a colonial system in which the original owners were (and continue to be) displaced from the center of power and from the very means that would ensure Indigenous communities the resources to rise out of poverty.

The idea of the mosaic in which different ethnic communities would simultaneously integrate and retain cultural distinctiveness has never truly been realized.  Instead, what has emerged has been a kind of ethnic balkanization.  Ethnic communities, especially those with wealth and power, have organized internal hierarchal power structures. Interaction circulates within neighbourhoods and communication stays locked within the home language. Integration, such as it is, comes at the level of power brokers rather than at the grassroots level.

"John Porter publicly opposed the policy of multiculturalism on the grounds that it would:
'foster ethnic separation, enclavement and retention of traditional values. Ethnic particularism, in turn, perpetuates the vertical (ethnic) mosaic by creating barriers to upward mobility in post-industrial society which is predicated on universalistic norms. In this view, government encouragement of ethnic diversity legitimates the proliferation of particularistic value differences among Canadians and thus impedes the development of national unity.' (Kallen 1982, 54) 
In two later essays, John Porter (1987) strengthened his critique of multiculturalism and challenged the validity of the census data on Canadian ethnicity as a basis for the policies.4 
In summary, its opponents in the 1960s and 1970s claimed that multiculturalist policies endorsed and reinforced the "age-old Colonial technique of divide and rule utilized by majority ethnic elites to guarantee and perpetuate their ascendancy" (Porter 1987, 54). Multiculturalism as a policy, it was stated, symbolized the contradictions between rhetoric and the practical, daily treatment of ethnocultural and racial minorities. It was frequently purported to be a policy of containment and appeasement of the conflicting demands made by the non-English and the Québécois. As such, it was feared it would become a technique of domination, legitimating the entrenched powers of the ruling Anglo elite when its superordinate, national position was threatened by both Québec's claim to political power and the ethnic communities' growing numerical, economic and cultural strength (Kallen 1982, 54-55). [Quoted from Lorna Roth]
 Looking back from our vantage point in 2015 it would appear the John Porter and other opponents of the Trudeau style multiculturalism were right.

We can now see how the policy of multiculturalism - encouraging new immigrants to retain their core cultural practices without expecting them to adapt their practices to already existing Canadian cultural practices- has indeed fostered ethnic separation and the retention of traditional values, many of which are decidedly antagonistic to a democratic civil society.

The small 'l' liberal ideals held by many Canadians makes it difficult for us to speak out against what is clearly becoming a serious social problem in our society.  Many, feeling guilty by their perception that they might have some intangible privilege, hold their tongues even when they have witnessed clear abuses of position and power couched in an ostensibly anti-racist multiculturalism (yet, ironically and sadly, it is anything but anti-racist).  But few liberals want to be called insensitive or politically incorrect and so they remain quiet.

There are those in positions of power, more conservatively minded, who benefit from their alliances with multicultural power brokers.  They see no need to call attention to a system that works in their favour.  In fact they laud such a system. These power brokers fly off on political junkets to far flung lands and enter into all manner of business deals to their personal and corporate advantage.  Back home in Canadian the power brokers form alliances that server their vested interests, rewarding their clients and supporters. Ironically, these are people who may well have no qualms about doing business with power brokers from other ethnic communities but in their private lives have little kind to say of their business and political partners.

We need to find a more honest and direct way to solve this problem before it fuels the indignation of populist opposition movements such as France's anti-immigrant National Front.  Across Europe we see the rise of the far right where integration has not worked.  We see rumblings of it here in Canada, but no where near as strong as it is across the Atlantic, yet.

We should start to redress the imbalance with a proper and full recognition by all Canadians and immigrants that this is a settler colonial nation that has stolen the land upon which everyone is living without proper compensation or acknowledgement (this is especially the case in British Columbia).

We must also insist that the language of business, instruction, and governance conforms to the official languages of Canada, which should include (where appropriate) Indigenous languages.

Cultural values that diminish the democratic secular aspects of Canadian society need to be replaced. It is important and useful to value the cultural diversity of peoples. At the same time we have an obligation to evaluate these imported cultural values against the rubric of democratic and universal values that uphold human rights (such as gender equality, one person one vote, safety from discrimination for one's sexuality and sexual orientation, etc).

I recall my childhood school civics lessons.  The core value highlighted our personal responsibility to contribute to society - not so we would receive personal recognition, but because it made society better.  The civics lessons emphasized the link between education, critical thinking, knowledge, and democratic practice.  We were all to be equally valued members of civil society.  While that dream may not have been fully realized, it's the best dream to take us toward a just and democratic society.

It's time to reset the balance.  The push to value difference, as manifest through multiculturalism, merely reinforces old power systems and keeps ordinary people locked into ethnic ghettos.  We need to break free from ethnic particularism and reinstate a form of universal citizenship where we all share a common set of values in which participatory democratic practice is front and center.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Exploring the Academic Core of UBC

There are a lot of things to do on a university campus that don’t cost money to do them.  Universities are centers of knowledge production and exchange. Living as we do, right along side of one of the most amazing universities in North American, it just seems like a good idea to see what is out there.  Most readers will know about the regular things, the Museum of Anthropology, the Belkin Art Gallery, the Beaty Biodiverstiy Centre, or all of the various recreational opportunities. What about all the many special talks, performances, film screenings, seminars, and lectures that cost nothing to attend?  Starting with this issue of the Campus Resident we’ll provide an irregular heads up on some intriguing informative events that are open to the public, free to attend, and well worth our while to check out. Here are five upcoming events in March and April that reflect the diversity of some of the best UBC has to offer.
UBC Archaeology Day. All Day, March 21. AnSo Building (6303 NW Marine Drive). This year’s event highlights the ongoing problem of obliteration, destruction, and looting of global heritage sites.  Case studies range from the worn torn regions of the middle east (were insurgents recently sacked a museum in Mosul) to areas undergoing industrial redevelopment on British Columbia’s north coast.  UBC Archaeology Day 2015 is open to anyone with an interest in, and concern for, the protection of our endangered cultural heritage, archaeological resources, and indigenous culture here in British Columbia as well as across the world. Further information can be found c/o UBCDepartment of Anthropology.
Eco-Poethics and Community Engagement. 3pm-5pm, March 23. First Nations Longhouse (1985 West Mall). This event has a playful structure of performance and sharing that is highly interactive.  It draws from the Faculty of Education’s strategic emphasis of community engagement.  Participants will be able to select from three sharing tables: local and global; equivalency of epistemologies and methodologies, and; social and eco-justice. If you attend this event plan to be involved! Participants will join “in collaborative performances and companion-planting of ideas” (don’t ask, I’m not really sure what that means).  RSVPhttp:ce.educ.ubc.ca/rsvp-march23/
Eighth Annual International Festival of Anthropology Film. 10am - 5pm, Sunday, APRIL 12. [NOTE: revised date] AnSo Building (6303 NW Marine Drive).  This small local festival screens a thematically linked series of outstanding international and rare films. This year’s theme is work and solidarity.  Films from Asia, Europe, and the Americas explore bizarre, intriguing, and even perplexing forms of work.  Each film is carefully selected from a pool of new films to showcase the best the world of global anthropology has to offer.  More info can be found @ anthfilm
What Canada Needs to Know About China, a book launch. 4pm-5:30pm, March 31. CK Choi Building. (1855 West Mall).  China’s rise is having a direct impact on our prosperity, our health and well-being, and our security here in Canada. We need to start paying closer attention, says David Mulroney, author of the new book Middle Power, Middle Kingdom. China has become our second largest economic partner, not as important as the US is, but far bigger than all the rest.  The author served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012.  RSVP: http://tinyurl.com/ubcDavidMulroney
It’s About Time: Reflections on a Career in Geography. 3:30pm-5:00pm, April 9.  Rm 229, Geography Building.  (1984 West Mall).  Featuring Professor Graeme Wynn, this talk “offers a series of reflections, near the end of [Prof Wynn’s] (remunerated) UBC career, on almost forty years in this institution.”  Professor Wynn is one of the foremost practitioners of historical geography.  His talk promises an exciting examination of fate and chance in the shaping of academic production among other things. This is the sort of academic talk that is always worth the effort to attend as one doesn’t quite know what to expect!
All of these five events provide a slice of the ongoing world of the academe that lies inside the institutional core of UBC.  From the vantage point of the University Neighbourhods we often only see the PR face of UBC, or the problems, or the marketing.  Take up the challenge to engage in the core mission of the university, the site of knowledge production and exchange.  Enter into the world of the lecture and the seminar.  You might be surprised at what you find!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Guest Post on Transit Vote. By Thomas Beyer, UNA Resident (former UNA Director)

To get people out of their cars we need more RAPID transit. The new plan fails on that front. The newly proposed plan is merely a band-aid. The currently proposed transit plan is far too bus based and car use will remain far too cheap for any significant changes to happen in MetroVan.

For example: With the viaducts soon gone, we need a subway along Hastings, to Burnaby, then looping to N-Van over Second Narrows bridge along Marine Drive all the way past Lonsdale to W-Van's Ambleside. The proposed Broadway line ends far too soon at Arbutus, especially with the federal & native land being developed on Jericho barracks. It has to go to Alma at the very least, then cheaper above ground all the way to UBC. 41st needs a subway, possibly extending to UBC to make it a full loop eventually. Langley need a train to connect to Surrey. Lionsgate bridge needs widening with a ped path and rail link on it to complete the North Shore subway loop into downtown. Then, and only then, will N-Van and W-Van folks switch from cars, especially if each car crossing will cost $10 in rush-hour or $5 outside of rush hour. This vision is nowhere in the band-aid plan.

Highrises get built and levies collected to fund overpaid civil servants in the planning departments or elsewhere in the vast city bureaucracies but far too little infrastructure is developed. The cities then have their hand out to the province lamenting: we need more roads and especially transit – look at all these people coming.MetroVan councils have increased spending over 50% the last decade, well above inflation plus immigration due to excessive unionization and lack of outsourcing or other cost control measures.

This is a major issue, and at the core of the city-province dispute over funding, not just for transit but also education (loads of ESL requirements – see teachers strike), healthcare (not enough funding for nurses & doctors to be hired), homelessness (rents are too high as immigrants with money crowd out folks that live here on low wages) or crowded community centers.

Let's look at in-migration, the main cause of this congestion: What is the rational behavior of a rich or even merely affluent immigrant ? Buy a huge mansion or condo with the best views in town, as capital gains are not taxed and property taxes are so low, and shift income to abroad ie from his foreign owned corporation, or just have the wife and the kids here and husband works abroad, i.e. very little PST and almost no income taxes are paid in BC ! Plus buy a fat car as gasoline taxes are quite low and roads are not tolled. That is rational behavior, we see by the ten’s of thousands per year in BC, primarily Vancouver & Richmond but also elsewhere to a somewhat lesser degree. The new transit plan does not change this rational behavior one iota. As such: we need a better plan on the expense reduction, the funding and the spending side !

The tax system needs some major re-jigging in BC: far higher road use fees (at choke points say bridges, tunnels, major intersections), far higher land transfer taxes, say 1% per $1M to 15% (like UK or Hongkong), far higher property taxes (up 100%, say over 10 years), coupled with a credit for BC income tax payers, plus far higher parking fees on every residential road, plus perhaps a luxury tax for vehicles over $50,000, plus gasoline taxes that are 100% higher.

A mere 0.5% PST increase is a drop in the bucket and will not systemically change things in MetoVan .. with more (slow) buses as it will not shift the rational behavior.
Which politician has the guts to be honest with citizens, then tackle that on the city or provincial level?

I am happy to pay 10% PST or any of the above taxes or fees if I get something of value. I do not today, and neither do 600,000+ other car users who will thus oppose this band-aid "decongestion" plan as it will not achieve what it is intended to do, namely shift car users to transit. Only far more RAPID transit coupled with higher car use costs will achieve that.

I urge both MetroVan mayors and provincial political leaders to come to their senses as opposed to snow ball their voters with more lies and band-aids ! Soon 3.5M people deserve a world class RAPID transit not mere band-aids !

Yours Sincerely,

Thomas Beyer

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Metro Transit Referendum: why I'm voting no.

Public transit is an important public good. If funded and designed well public transit makes our communities better places to live.  If underfunded and used as a political football public transit will never achieve it's potential.

Our current regional transit system is managed like a quasi-private corporation.  Executives are paid outlandish salaries [when there are children going hungry it is a crime for anyone to be paid as handsomely as these people are]. They are beholden, it seems, to next to no-one. The regional mayors, for their part, lack the real courage to stand up to the regional transit authority.  The provincial government has managed to absent themselves from meaningful involvement. The entire system is, true to BC form all about political oneupmanship.  One almost wishes for the days of highway patronage of the old style Socreds who built highways to win votes.

Everyone sings the chorus to "we want sustainability," but they are so off tune and dysrhythmically to sound worse than a run of the mill Sunday church choir.  One wonders if any one of the mayors, MLAs, or pundits lobbying for more transit dollars could define sustainability if asked. And, if they could define it, if any of them would define it the same way?  I suspect not.

The current transit referendum asks us to vote over millions of dollars for a transit system that kind of works with little idea of what the real plan is.

Here's one problem with the idea of a sales tax: the underlying basis of that tax is that it will disproportionately affect those least able to pay and most likely to take transit.  That is, poorer people who spend a higher percentage of their disposable dollar on basic needs will end up paying more for the basic items they need.  To add insult to injury those with lower incomes are more likely to live further out on the transit system, to have to rely upon the system more, and will already be paying an exorbitant amount in transit fares.

From a purely local UTown perspective improved rapid transit to UBC will only increase housing density.  Increased density, while making money for the Developers tied to UBC's business operations, will only decrease the quality of life for those of us already living in UTown.

Fundamentally the transit referendum is about subsidizing the real estate development industry of the lower mainland.  It is a wealth transfer from the majority to the elite minority who are raking in big dollars by revalourizing land through the development of public transit.  This is not a new plan, it's one used by developers historically and the world over: use the mechanisms of the state to take money from the majority to fund the profit making ventures of the minority.  UBC, for example, wants a subway so that they can realize the highest rate of return off the land they have.  The same goes for each of the town centers created by the regional plan and the expansion of public transit.

The push for transit in Metro isn't about ecology, sustainability, or making our communities nicer: it's about using public means to facilitate the accumulation of profit by a minority of developers.  It's a form of social theft.

So when I get my paper mail in ballot I'l vote no to social theft, no to the developer tax.