A politician looks forward to an election with the exuberance of a patient, whose doctor commands, as he pulls on his rubber gloves, “Assume the position.” Which is to say that the demand for longer terms comes from the politicians- not the voters.
For much of Vancouver's history council terms were one year. This was changed by the Provincial government to two years more than half a century ago. In the early 1990s the Vancouver Charter was amended to provide for three year terms.
Ever solicitous of their own interests, B.C. Councillors are pushing for four year terms. Their arguments are all specious. They include:
1. Elections cost a lot of money. That is true and on that theory the positions should be made hereditary.
2. Newly elected councillors need time to learn. A large city, however, like Vancouver is mainly run by its bureaucracy. A newly elected councillor gets all the help and instruction he needs from staff as well as from more experienced colleagues. It is ridiculous to suggest that politicians need a year to figure out which end is up.
3. The longer the term, the longer the perspective. If politicians are on short leashes, the argument goes, they will only maintain the status quo. They will fear going where no man has gone before. That is because in their view the public is sort of stupid. For every truly significant action, the looming election is like a referendum. Elections and referenda are dampers on genius. If they face frequent elections councillors will eschew brilliant ideas, like building houses on streets, or encouraging cyclists to ride without helmits. Albert Einstein never got elected nor did he need a referendum.
In replying to one of the delegations who spoke against the recent plan to rezone the entire City, the Mayor said something to the effect that he had a mandate. After all, he had promised during the campaign that he was going to solve the housing shortage.
That is one way of looking at it.
I prefer to look at it scientifically. The human brain is a collection of neurons. Thoughts are transmitted when two neurons join to form a synapse. Hundreds of neurons synapsing can come up with simple twitter tweets. Millions produce Beethoven symphonies or Chopin sonatas.
Based on this scientific analysis, if Vancouver's local party, VISION, believes that it has a mandate to do what it has done, it is one neuron short of a synapse. The spot rezoning of the entire City to demolish existing houses, which already have lower priced units in them, is not an anticipated response to a promise to provide lower end market housing. It is an anticipated response of politicians anxious to pay back their developer supporters.
I would like to see the Provincial government amend the Vancouver Charter and restore two year terms. If they don't, voters should keep the faith. Two years remain on Council's current term. During this time every spot zoning that must be done to implement the plan as proposed will require a public hearing. This will give the voters time to put on their unlubricated rubber gloves.