Archive for November, 2011

I am, for the first time in my life, in the position of being a swing voter. I had been a politically committed individual before coming of age, so this experience is wholly new to me. In the last municipal election I didn’t live in any municipality, and thusly was only allowed to vote for Director of Electoral Area A, and for the Vancouver School Board. For the former, I voted for someone in whom I have incredible confidence – myself. Sadly, too few of my fellow electors shared that inclination, and didn’t cast their votes for me (or, for that matter, anyone – voter turnout was around 8%). In the latter election, I voted the straight ticket for the NPA, more out support for Peter Ladner than anything else, and for Ken Clement, as the NPA did not run a full slate.

In this election, I’m going to be splitting my ticket between Vision and the NPA.

My instincts direct me towards the NPA – I feel that, of all the parties in Vancouver, they are the closest to what I would describe as my ideological home. However, policy matters, and behaviour matters, and with the NPA I have been impressed with neither.

The NPA has gone on the attack. They have attacked bike lanes, they have attacked backyard chickens, and they have attacked wheat fields. They have harped on the handling of the riot and the Occupy Vancouver protesters. Attack ads are all well and good – don’t construe this as an indication that I am opposed to negative ads. However, the problem here is that they are attacking things that I actually thought were good ideas. The wheat fields in particular are a sore point – the city spent only $5000 on an urban agriculture pilot program, and urban agriculture is, frankly, a good idea. The way the program was implemented was designed to teach children about how food is grown. Call me crazy, but fostering some understanding of our supply chains, in this era of almost total detachment from the sources of our food, sounds like a good thing.

The other problem that I have with the NPA platform is a frustrating amount of bad policy. Particularly grating was the idea of returning property taxes to people at the end of the year. This is a foolish idea for two reasons. First, as a renter, my property tax is embedded in my rent. If my city decided not to spend all that they collected, barring some magnanimity-inducing stroke on the part of my landlord, I’m not going to be seeing any of that money back. I will be, in effect, paying property taxes for services that I’m never going to see. Second, this provides a disincentive for good money management in the city bureaucracy. The natural disposition of any organization is to hold on to what it owns. If this is done by default, then no behaviour is incentivized one way or the other. However, if a money spending entity knows that it will not have access to money it has now in the future, their inclination will be to spend it, rather than see it go unused. This creates a bias towards bloat, expanding government, clunky and poorly executed services, and fiscal instability.

I cite this merely as an example, rather than as the sole reason for my frustrations. I have problems with the streetcar, tax policy, and a host of others. I don’t feel that the NPA has necessarily moved right, and that I am left with a choice between a party in which I would be on the right (Vision) versus one in which I would be on the left (NPA), but rather that the NPA has been slapdash and shoddy in their policy development. It was not a question of ideology, but one of quality.

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