Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Underbelly of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside


Yesterday, our civic government looked another way. COPE city councilors believe there's an improved method of conducting municipal elections and cleared the way for WARD elections in 2005. By voting to put a referendum to the citizenry of Vancouver, most likely in October 2004, council is engaging in a capital spending cost in which residents had not been previously polled. This amounts to council imposing its will on Vancouverites by spending their money without first obtaining approval from you. The referendum will cost taxpayers $700,000.00. Not a mere drop in the bucket but then again apparently democracy has its costs. Not to worry though since the funds are earmarked in a slush fund called Contingency reserve, which is a fund the Mayor and council can dip into whenever there's an emergency or pet project that council desires to support. A glaring question comes to mind which is this - if there's this much money in Contingency, why hasn't the rampant homelessness in the Downtown Eastside been properly addressed?.

Moving along, Its worth noting that the referendum itself has some built in problems. The City, when conducting its referendum, doesn't plan on using the recent federal voters list as this would apparently pose higher costs to the City. And this is where problem number 1 takes stage. On referendum day, voters can simply register at a voting place in order to vote. Perhaps the city will use the polling stations currently used in municipal elections but this hasn't yet been determined. Also in the spotlight, is the issue of potential cheating. I hate to imply dishonesty could occur in any election, however I haven't yet seen evidence on how, if a person who registers on voting day, what prevention measures are in place to ensure the voter doesn't travel to various polling places, thereby voting a second time, third time and so on...... Conceivably a voter could misuse the system and vote at all polling places and Council needs to address this problematic matter.

Of course, in fairness to COPE, they believe its way past due that we have Ward elections. Their platform has always included their desire for Ward elections. Now that they are in control, they finally have the opportunity to implement their longstanding policy.

In any democracy, voters usually make the right choices. To accomplish this, the process first needs to be fair and transparent. From where I'm perched, I cannot endorse the WayWARD approach COPE is embarking on to finally realize its dream.

Jamie Lee Hamilton