Thursday, November 29, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


Tonight, was probably the most heated council debate that I have ever witnessed. To say that tempers were flaring would be an understatement. The meeting deteriorated into name calling, amid allegations of improper conduct and even suggestions that corruption had entered into our municipal electoral organizations.

During the three hour debate on this issue of banning corporate and union donations put forward by Vision Councillors, George Chow and Heather Deal, the meeting became so unruly that even City Manager, Judy Rogers, had to intervene as the Chair of the meeting, Councillor Suzanne Anton, completely lost control of the meeting.

I have never before witnessed so many points of order, counter points of order and points of personal privilege in one three hour meeting. Councillors were not even waiting to be recognized by the Chair, they were just jumping in and talking over one another.

Councillors microphones were being cut-off in midstream while making their points. Mayor Sam Sullivan, even though Councillor Suzanne Anton was chairing, on a number of occasions, inserted himself as Chair. This was a committee meeting, which according to procedure, the Mayor doesn't chair.

At times, it appeared that both Mayor Sullivan and Ms Anton were chairing. Councillor David Cadman was repeatedly cut-off during his allotted five minutes of speaking time as was Councillor Raymond Louie. The Chair deemed Mr. Cadman and Louie's remarks un-parliamentary like. She scolded Mr Cadman for not respecting the chamber and Councillor Cadman who is one of the more senior Councillors, gave as good as he got. He fired back on a number of occasions. In fact, Ms Anton as Chair, was challenged numerous times over her "editorializing".

Even the usually mild-mannered Councillor Peter Ladner lost his patience and chastised Council for acting so erratically. The only Councillors refraining from the nastiness was Councillors Elizabeth Ball and B.C. Lee. Councillor Kim Capri also tended to shy away from the nasty stuff.

What caused this major dust-up was the issue of campaign finance reform. It seems that all Councillors should have embraced this beneficial reform as being in the public interest, however, Councillor Ladner put forward a number of amendments which set off both Vision and COPE. In fact, Councillor Tim Stevenson took a number of potshots at COPE Councillor David Cadman and this is interesting because certain factions within COPE desire an electoral alliance with Vision.

In any event, Councillor Ladner's amendments passed, which basically request that Mayor Sullivan ask the Minister of Community Services for an update on the City of Vancouver's July 12, 2005 request for electoral financing reform measures including: restrictions on campaign contributions, restrictions on campaign spending, tax credits for municipal campaign or political contributions, reporting of all contributions, regardless of when the contributions are received and financial reporting requirements similar to those for federal and provincial parties.

Unfortunately, the public trust in our political governance system is badly shaken and seriously eroded. This is a result of the various corporate entities which have heaped huge sums of money on candidates and electoral organizations such as Vision, NPA and to a lesser degree COPE.

In the 2005 Vancouver municipal election, over 3.5 million dollars was donated to Vision and NPA. As a result, there is a very real public perception that non-voters in this City have enormous influence over our elected representatives and there is a widely held public belief that these campaign donations influence outcomes of our elections and how our elected representative vote.

If there is not any movement for municipal finance reforms, by January, 2008, the municipal election campaign of 2008 is a forgone conclusion.

It will be bought and paid for by the highest financial bidders.

Isn't politics grand?

Jamie Lee Hamilton