Friday, 7 November 2014


Yesterday, November 6,  2014 was a great day for both VISION VANCOUVER and the NPA. 

Tweeting on Twitter Mayor Gregor chirped, “Honoured that former @NPAVancouver president Michael Davis endorses @VisionVancouver team #vanpoli”.

That was just the beginning. David Cadman, formerly of COPE also swore fealty to VISION. As if that wasn’t enough the whole ménage a deux  endorsed the entire VISION slate. That was like when you buy a Fiat and Jesus comes into the agency and assures you that you have made a terrific deal and that he is going to throw in a lot of extra’s like a USB port and a portable WIFI.

As to the NPA, Robert Kasting, independent candidate for mayor dropped out of the race and endorsed the NPA’s mayoral candidate, Kirk Lapointe. Better yet, the latest polls are trending in the right direction. Best of all VISION s Councillor Meggs and Mayor Robertson sued Lapointe for defamation. What better plug for their ads could there be.

 L’Affaire Local 1004 

The law suit serves both parties' purposes. For the NPA it calls attention to L’Affaire Local 1004 which LaPointe in the Vancouver Province and the Huffington Post described as “Corrupt.” Someone had taped the proceedings of a union meeting in which money was committed to VISION. The audio was given to the journalist Bob Mackin and was placed on YouTube. The Cedar Party picked it up and ran YouTube Links. LaPointe discussed it in the Province and ran ads.   (VISION PRESENTATION)     (RESPONSE)

Mackin grills Cllr Louie on his appearance at CUPE 1004. Are you buying votes?

A condensed version of the transcript is as follows:

MEGGS: “My name is Goeff Meggs. I am running for VISION.” ***”Gregor Robertson our Mayor has recommitted to not expand contracting out. “****

UNION: “How much money do we have to spend to curry favour with VISION in the next round of negotiations? OUR SUPPORT IS NOT UNCONDITIONAL”

Both sides of the story are reported on CTV news:

Never to be outdone, COPE’s Tim Louis ran a hilarious ad “What has Tim Louis Not done for you lately” that, among other things, referred to VISION’s "Influence Peddling."  Louis needs to be sued for the ad to get the full publicity it deserves but it would not be in VISION'S interest to give him the extra attention. This is not the time to start a war on the Eastern Front. Here is Tim’s ad:

That was yesterday.

Today, the Vancouver Courier published Goeff Olson’s cartoon. He shows someone who looks like the Mayor in bed with two fat guys representing Labor and Developers. The Mayor is depicted saying, “This isn’t how it looks.

There was a famous law suit by Bill Vanderzalm who sued a cartoonist for a caricature showing him as minister of Human Resources pulling the wings from flies.   Vander Zalm v. Times Publishers, a Division of F.P. Publications (Western) Ltd. [1980] B.C.J. No. 1391 (BCCA). The decision produced three separate reasons for judgement. The Cartoonist was not liable.

So Olson could also be sued, not because there is anything wrong with three guys in bed but because of the company it suggests the Mayor keeps. 


VISION has disclosed its source of funding.  Concorde Pacific and Aquilini are major contributors. 

It is also alleged that they are both  owners of some of the land next to the Georgia Viaduct.

 If that is true,could the  universe contain the possibility that the money given to VISION by these corporations was "not unconditional?" Would it be possible that Megg's pushing for the demolition of the viaduct relates in some way to contributions or prospects thereof to the party? 

Once the viaduct has been demolished will these land owners be offered development rights with tremendous density?

Listen to the tapes and tell me that such speculation is unreasonable.  

The problem with a system in which the people who are regulated by local governments finance the party is that there is in fact something wrong with it. It causes people to lose faith in the system  precisely when it deals with the matters central to their jurisdiction. 

When I am told that a developer has given $40,000 it is hard to believe that there are no strings attached and that it is not the way it looks. Casey Stengel once said, "Only half the lies they tell about the New York Yankees are true." The same may be said of VISION.

A fine municipal defamation action was Ralston v. Fomich [1992] B.C.J. No. 463, a decision of Spencer J.

During a Surrey City council debate the defendant alderman called the plaintiff alderman a "sick son of a bitch". The Plaintiff won.

In my opinion the words "son of a bitch" by themselves are not capable of any defamatory meaning. They are peculiar, in that they take their meaning either from the tone of voice used or from whatever adjective accompanies them. They are a translucent vessel waiting to be filled with colour by their immediate qualifier. Thus, one has sympathy for a poor son of a bitch, admiration for a brave son of a bitch, affection for a good old son of a bitch, envy for a rich son of a bitch and, perhaps incongruously, dislike for a proper son of a bitch. Why right thinking people should dislike anything that is proper is rather a mystery unless proper is used to mean "real", but I am confident that is the colour that adjective gives to the expression. It is perhaps a throw-back to an earlier use of the expression when the mere words themselves carried an opprobrious meaning, see for example Kent's apostrophe to Oswald: "(thou) art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch:" (Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 2, Scene 2)

That brings me to the qualifier in this case, the adjective "sick". Whatever innuendo the word may be capable of must be disregarded, for none is pleaded. Instead, the statement of claim relies upon its ordinary meanings, that the plaintiff was either mentally ill, unstable or unbalanced, that he was perverted, unwholesome or morally corrupt, or that he was unfit to hold public office or to practise his profession as a barrister and solicitor.

So you can call a politician a son of a bitch but don’t ever say he is sick.


Section 123 of the Criminal Code is set out below:

In summary it provides:

123. Municipal corruption

123. (1) everyone is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years who *** being a municipal official, directly or indirectly *** accepts from any person for themselves or another person — a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind as consideration for the official

(a) to abstain from voting at a meeting of the municipal council or a committee of the council;

(b) to vote in favour of or against a measure, motion or resolution;

(c) to aid in procuring or preventing the adoption of a measure, motion or resolution; or

(d) to perform or fail to perform an official act.

It may be that in back rooms, promises have been exchanged on conditions or with strings attached but Meggs and Robertson v Lapointe is the first one that I am aware of that have been videotaped. One interpretation of what is shown on the Video  is that the Mayor has agreed to maintain the status
 quo as they enter negotiations and that the support of the union is provided in exchange for the promise not to change anything. 

I don’t see a commitment to maintain the status quo as legally distinguishable from a commitment to change it. To a passenger in an airplane that has not crashed, a promise to maintain the status quo would provide a distinct advantage.


Ironworkers Local 97 of The International Assn. of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers v. Liberal Party of British Columbia [1997] B.C.J. No. 2357 was an action for defamation that had some elements similar to what has happened here. 

The defendant Liberal Party issued a press release. They alleged that the plaintiff, Ironworkers Local 97, was involved in a kickback scheme benefiting the provincial New Democratic government. The release formed the basis of a newspaper article written by the defendant, Brian Kieran, and published by the defendant, Southam. 

Unlike the situation with VISION there was no evidence at all that there were strings attached to the deal. Nevertheless the Union’s action was dismissed. The release and article were in fact held to be defamatory. The use of the word "kickback" and a reference to unrelated criminal charges by other parties carried the inference that Ironworkers Local 97 was involved in unethical behaviour.

The plaintiff's problem in these political cases is that he must establish on a balance of probabilities that there was actual or express malice on the part of the defendants. A defence of fair comment is available and means that the Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant acted with malice. 

 Kieran and Southam were covered by the defence of fair comment. Kieran's column was an opinion column. He discussed a matter of clear public interest. It contained an honest expression of his views. It was technically possible for money paid by the government to the Ironworkers Local 97 to have been legally diverted to the New Democrats through the unions. It had not happened but there was no malice behind the actions of any of the defendants. 

If this case goes to trial, one defence will likely be "truth" i.e. that the words if not the money mean what they say and are true. The union donated $206,000 to VISION. This support was allegedly not unconditional, whatever that means. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

FRAUD ON THE LAW - The Heritage Action Plan

When a scheme is devised to evade the law, it is referred to by the courts as a “fraud on the law.” The City operates under the Vancouver Charter and must comply with it. One reason Vancouver faces so many law suits is that the public relations people running the show do not seem to understand much less care about this  simple concept.

The VISION Vancouver Council has had years to deal with the rate at which Vancouver residential areas are changing. It is not that tough. (In 1988 Gordon Campbell’s NPA Council enraged developers by enacting 'rate of change' bylaws to slow down the demolition of apartments and renovictions of seniors.) In addressing the issue, however, the City must act within the 4 corners of its powers under the Vancouver Charter.

Which powers? In land use matters, the City generally has to hold public hearings after which it enacts  regulatory bylaws. The Council is not bound to adopt what the public wants but they have to follow requirements of procedural fairness.

Vancouver has all the powers it needs to either ignore or to deal with the rate of demolition of affordable housing, the loss of character and / or  heritage homes. It could have at any time directed its staff to prepare a bylaw applicable to all pre 1940 or for that matter post 1940 houses. It could have directed staff to prepare zoning bylaw and plan amendments to carry out any planning policy it wanted.

It must do it, however, in the manner prescribed by the law. The Courts are fussy about the way cities do these things because there is a lot at stake.

Here is how it must do it: Under s. 570 of the Vancouver Charter it can withhold the issuance of a permit for 30 days if it considers that a proposed development is at variance with a plan in the course of preparation; after that it can withhold the permit for a further 60 days and then adopt the bylaw. If, at the end of 90 days it has not enacted the bylaw then, in the interest of fairness, it has to compensate the owner for damages he or she may have suffered as a result of the delay.

Under section 588, it can specifically withhold demolition permits respecting heritage matters. (The sections are set out below.)

The Vancouver Charter thus gives the Council plenty of time to catch up on what it should have done in advance. As the Mayor says in his current TV ad there is supposed to be a plan in preparation. The City is supposed to be going somewhere with it. It may not jerk people around. It cannot freeze permits only to worry and wonder and study and ponder and then do nothing it all. 

If people are entitled to permits the City must promptly issue them unless there is a lawful basis for delay.

The VISION Council may be accused of many things. Generally, transparency is not one of them. In this case, they are very transparent. They are evading the requirements of the statute which is to regulate by bylaw – not by report or policy. Instead, they have a scheme to delay the issuance of the permits at least until after the election even though they do not have a bylaw in the course of preparation.

After the election, they will either go back to issuing demolition permits or there will be a series of very expensive law suits to compel their issuance and damage claims on the grounds that the Heritage Action Plan is a fraud on the law.

Jonathan Baker

Current to October 21, 2014

S.B.C. 1953, c. 55, s. 570

 [eff since March 18, 2013](Current Version)


SBC 1953, CHAPTER 55

 Part XXVII --
Planning and Development



Withholding of permit pending adoption of zoning by-law

570. (1) Before the adoption of a zoning by-law, an official development plan or a by-law under section 593 designating a heritage property, or of an amendment to a zoning by-law or an alteration, addition or extension to an official development plan, the Council may cause to be withheld the issuance of any development or building permit for a period of 30 days from the date of application for such permit.
(2) Where any permit is so withheld, the application therefor shall be considered by the Council within the said period of thirty days, and, if in the opinion of the Council, the development proposed in the application would be at variance or in conflict with a development plan in the course of preparation, or with an alteration, addition, or extension to an official development plan in course of preparation, or with a zoning by-law in course of preparation, or with an amendment to a zoning by-law in course of preparation, the Council may withhold the permit for a further sixty days from the expiration of the thirty-day period hereinbefore referred to, or the Council may impose such conditions on the granting of the development permit as may appear to the Council to be in the public interest.
(3) In the event that the Council does not within the said period of sixty days adopt any such plan, alteration, addition, extension, or by-law, the owners of the land in respect of which a development permit was withheld or conditions were imposed pursuant to this section shall be entitled to compensation for damages arising from the withholding of such development permit, or the imposition of such conditions. Such compensation shall be determined by arbitration pursuant to the Arbitration Act.
(4) Despite subsection (1), an owner of property for which a permit has been withheld before the adoption of a by-law designating a heritage property may agree that a permit may be withheld for a period longer than the 30 days referred to in subsection (1) and, in that case, subsection (1) continues to apply during that longer period and subsection (2) is deemed to read as if the longer period applies.

Current to October 21, 2014

S.B.C. 1953, c. 55, s. 588

 [eff since July 28, 1997](Current Version)


SBC 1953, CHAPTER 55

 Part XXVIII --
Heritage Conservation

Division (3) -- Temporary Protection


Withholding of demolition permits pending other approvals

588. (1) Without restricting section 587, the Council may, by by-law, direct or authorize a board, committee, officer or employee who issues permits for demolition to withhold approval in the following circumstances:

(a) in the case of protected heritage property, until a heritage alteration permit and any other necessary approvals have been issued with respect to alteration or redevelopment of the site;

(b) in the case of real property identified in the heritage register established under section 582, until a building permit and any other necessary approvals have been issued with respect to the alteration or redevelopment of the site.
(2) The Council may establish restrictions, limits or conditions on a duty or power under subsection (1).
(3) Nothing in this section authorizes the withholding of any approvals other than permits for demolition of heritage property.

For an excellent review of the plan see:

heritage action Plan lElizabeth Murphy

Saturday, 1 November 2014


When the people who write the Mayor and Council's stuff tell us that they have created thousands of affordable housing units, to what extent is it true? It all depends on what we mean by truth. If we define "affordable" as what someone could afford, then the statement has a certain truthyness but within a context of falsyness.

Section 523(d)(10.3)-(10.5) of the Vancouver Charter authorizes the City of Vancouver to waive or reduce Development Cost Levies (DCL’s)  for “for profit affordable rental housing”. In 2009, the City endorsed a program called 
Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing (STIR). Its goal  was to create market rate rental housing for moderate income households who cannot afford home ownership in Vancouver.

The City Manager was empowered to decide what development she considered to be “for profit affordable rental housing.”  Under STIR, the City granted developers enormous tax breaks and rezoned their lands to allow for massive increases in density and height but did not cap the rents in any way. Not surprisingly, actual rents ended up being significantly higher than the rents the City Manager deemed affordable at the time of providing the breaks and rezoning.

In May 2012 STIR was replaced with Rental 100. As with STIR, the goal of Rental 100 was to increase the supply of market rental housing. On the eve of a court hearing brought by the West End Neighborhood Association, the City amended the  bylaws to re-define “for profit affordable rental housing” as follows:

(a) all dwelling units in the building are rental units;

(c) the average size of the dwelling units is not greater than:

(i) 42 square meters for studio units,

(ii) 56 square meters for one bedroom units, or

(iii) 77 square meters for two bedroom units,

(d) agreed upon average rents per unit type for initial occupancy do not exceed the following specified rents:

(i) $1,443 per month for studio units,

(ii) $1,517 per month for one bedroom units, or

(iii) $2,061 per month for two bedroom units,

Annual rent adjustments were allowed.  The proposed construction costs were not to exceed $2,475 per square meter, annual adjustments. A covenant restricted the tenure to rental for 60 years.

 The Bylaws 
  • create tiny rentals at very high rents. 
  • result in the demolition of old stock “affordable rental housing”  being replaced by expensive housing.
  • create an incentive for developers to decrease the size of the units while simultaneously increasing the rents. 

The rental rates in the bylaw are based, not on average rates of all existing old and new units, but on average rental rates for new construction in Vancouver (regardless of size or location) as determined by CMHC in its annual Rental Market Report. If a
verage rates had included both new and existing rental stock they would have been set significantly lower. 

Developers are given  tax breaks and  density bonuses for creating tiny expensive units. Vision’s argument is that they are affordable by virtue of being “rental” as opposed to ownership. As they age, so the argument goes, the rents will drop.

Substandard housing is the market's response to substandard incomes. 

The fact that the maximum rents are based on average rents for new construction in Vancouver allows developers to create very high-end rental housing in less expensive neighborhoods. Thus a 500 sq. ft. one-bedroom unit in Marpole or East Hastings for example, where the average rents according to CMHC are 850 and 893 respectively could rent for $1,500 a month and meet the definition of affordable rental housing. A 700 sq ft. two bedroom unit could rent for $2,000 a month and meet the definition of “affordable rental housing” even though the average rents in these areas for a 2-bedroom is $1,122 and $1,179 a month respectively.

The City claims that these units are “affordable”  because the City’s target, moderate income earners ($21,500 to $86,500), can theoretically rent them without paying more than 30% of income. But low income and even moderate income earners on the lower end of the moderate income spectrum ($44,000 per year or less) and median income renter households (approximately $35,000) could not even rent a studio at the City “affordable rents” rents without paying more than 30% of income.

Vision's effort to provide affordable housing brings to mind Alice in Wonderland:

Would you tell me, please,which way I ought to go from here?
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
I don't much care where-
Then it doesn't matter which way you go.


I just received a package that included a copy of the City of Vancouver Annual Financial Report 2007 with a link to the full report:

Also enclosed was a copy of the 2013 Consolidated Financial Statements with the Link to the full report at

If the author's analysis is correct, and it seems to be, then, notwithstanding VISION's claims, the following is the true state of affairs for the City of Vancouver.

Assets have been depleted by nearly 5 billion dollars since 2007, when VISION took over.

Liabilities have ballooned by $800 Million dollars.

Long Term Third party debt has increased by $275 Million.

As of 2013 79% of the debt will mature outside of a five year period.

This analysis is consistent with the following one that was published on Vancouver's debt addiction in mid July, 2014.

Below is a slightly edited text that accompanied these documents. I assume it has been distributed to others already. The links were correct and the analysis seems also correct.

Dear Sir:
"The following package contains the audited (See Page 9) financial statements for the City of Vancouver in 2007 as well as in 2013. The purpose of your receipt of this package is an effort to demonstrate the corruption and lies that Vision Vancouver and Gregor Robertson have been placing upon the city for the last 6 years.
The Vision Party's Mayor and Council are responsible for the dramatic deterioration of the financial well being of the City of Vancouver. The audited statement of the City of Vancouver for 2007 was the year before Vision was elected.
Page#               2007                              2013                                  Difference
10 * Assets $10.9 Billion                         $ 6.1 Billion                  ($ 4.8 Billion)
• Note 6 references on page 18 of 2013 audit
Page 10 (see “A") demonstrates that the City has nearly $5 billion dollars fewer in assets. 2007 note 4 vs 2013 note 6, the City has $4.2 billion less in land. These are audited financial statements, where has the money and our city's assets gone?
10     Liabilities    $ 1.05 Billion               $ 1.85 Billion (                  $ 800 Million)
It would be expected that the city should have a slightly greater number in liabilities after 6 years. However these increased liabilities are largely in the form of long-term debt and financing. The party is developing massive and unmanageable levels of debt. (See "B"). The next note demonstrates more clearly.
Pages 17&18 Long Term third party debt $ 514 Million       $ 789 Million    ($ 275 Million)
Note “C” demonstrates the excessive debt that Vision Party has built-up, this debt largely matures after 2018. In 2007 the debt was manageable, and the amount maturing outside of a five-year period was only 37% of the total. In 2013, this climbs to 79% - Gregor Robertson is NOT planning for the future.
Since Vision was elected in 2008 the party has controlled all aspects of the management of the City of Vancouver. After Vision was elected in 2008, the Mayor and Council fired the City's manager and appointed a new City manager. Three hundred department managers of the City of Vancouver were fired or retired due to conflicts with the inept management of Vision. The morale of the City's employees is at an extreme low as Vision's policy is that if an employee does not agree with Vision's policy, they are fired. How does this create an open and democratic situation for the city and citizens?
Vision has been in control of the City of Vancouver for 6 years. The coming election could have Vision in control of the City of Vancouver for another 4 years.
Can the residents of the City of Vancouver cope with another four years of the financial and management wreck that is the Vision party?
On a related matter the Supreme Court of British Columbia has held that a lie told by an elected candidate for municipal office is grounds for immediate removal but the application must be filed promptly after the election.

Sunday, 12 October 2014


As I said before, upon receipt of its affordability report the VISION Council or whomever pulls its strings, decided that there was a market rental housing emergency

There was at the time no such thing. The problems faced by people who could not find cheaper market rental housing or, for that matter, reasonably priced single family dwellings, was not quite the holocaust the authors made it out to be. It was a market!  

In case the bold, italicized and underlined fonts don't make it clear enough, they were not talking about the mentally ill or the hungry or the homeless. They were talking about the market.

Those who can't find market rentals in  Vancouver find them in surrounding suburbs. Middle class families who can't afford an apartment in Shaugnessy or Kerrisdale are not sleeping under bridges. They are sleeping in Yaletown, the West End, Coal Harbour or even Surrey. That is not a cruel or unusual punishment.

Vision's contribution to policy has been to apply modern social media techniques to politburo politics. It reeks of a Brezhnev era Five Year Plan. It started with the immediate imposition of a uniform standard in all neighborhoods, relating to the distance from certain sized streets. All neighbourhoods near such streets, if the Manager and Council have not noticed, are not alike. Some are ripe for change and others are not.

City Hall aimed a blunderbuss at all residents in Vancouver who happen to live near any street. Any street can be reclassified to an arterial. They created an incentive to consolidate lots in these neighbourhoods. The disruption caused by construction including noise, traffic, loss of trees, blocked views etc. has accelerated. The report called this "making transitional neighbourhoods."   So stable neighborhoods were destabilized into transitional ones.

The Vision Council had no mandate to make these kind of changes. It is ironic that an earlier Council under Larry Campbell held a referendum on whether or not to host the Olympics. By contrast this Council, funded by developers, appointed a gang of them to tell them what they wanted to hear, but has consistently ignored Community Groups from Norquay to Dunbar.

It should not take long for a politician to realize that the democratic process does not end with his or her election. It begins there. These inflated martinets didn't get it.

Hopefully, the election will bring this nightmare to an end. Whomever replaces these people should start with the following:

  1. Require an Official Community Plan in all areas of the City. These should be established through local planning offices. 
  2. Spot zoning, the practice of rezoning one parcel of land, should be subject to new strict regulations.
  3. Discretion in zoning should be brought into line with Development Permits under the Local Government Act so that it is limited to changes in siting but not changes in use or density. 
  4. The Affordability programs must be reworked from the ground up. I may have more to say on that later.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Housing affordability is becoming the major campaign issue in the local election. In an article yesterday on the topic, the Georgia Straight summarized the various party platforms on affordability.  The GREEN'S platform can be found at It competently deals with matters that are within Vancouver’s powers. Whether or not they would be effective can be discussed at future all candidates meeting. 

COPE 's platform is available at

The Party would declare a state of emergency, impose strict rent controls and create a squatters' rights bylaw. 

One way  or another it would increase construction of rental units. These policies and others will quite possibly work to reduce the rate of investment and therefore prices. Investors may take one look, and head for Seattle.

The folks who carefully cultivated the garden of unaffordability  in the first place, VISION, have  produced their Affordability Agenda. It does  everything to make demolishing existing low cost housing stock even more attractive. To understand  VISION's cynical approach one has to look at their bylaw. 

It offers very significant gifts to Developers in terms of extra density and fee waivers to produce units that they call "affordable" but which are anything but. These units are  market rate rental units. Bylaw 10833 and Bylaw 10834 amending By-law no. 9755: A By-law to impose development cost levies in the general area of the city

3.1A Notwithstanding section 3.1, Council waives the levy otherwise required under section 3.2 for construction of for-profit affordable rental housing, which shall mean housing where:

(a) all dwelling units in the building are rental units;

(b) no dwelling units are strata units;

(c) the average size of the dwelling units is not greater than:

(i) 42 square meters for studio units,

(ii) 56 square meters for one bedroom units, or

(iii) 77 square meters for two bedroom units,

except that the floor area used for stairways within two bedroom townhouse units of two or more storeys is excluded from the calculation of maximum unit size;

(d) agreed upon average rents per unit type for initial occupancy do not exceed the following specified rents:

(i) $1,443 per month for studio units,

(ii) $1,517 per month for one bedroom units, or

(iii) $2,061 per month for two bedroom units,

except that such rents shall be adjusted annually on January 1 to reflect the change in average rent for all residential units built since the year 2000 in the City as set out by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in the Rental Market Report published in the previous calendar year;

To be clear, VISION's  "affordable" housing is 

  1. at very high market rents
  2. subject to annual rent increases
  3. extremely small
  4. subsidized by the taxpayers.

                               Future affordable housing
                                 Versailles, France

VISION's  justification is voodoo, trickle down theory: As the new housing ages it will become cheap and run down, and then become affordable and converted to low cost housing  just as has not yet happened to Marie Antoinette's Palace at Versailles 

The distrust of VISION was palpable at an all candidates meeting at Killarney Community Centre on October 8. All others were given warm receptions. The other parties must have felt that with enemies like that who needs friends.  

The NPA and the other parties are now  in a position to show how the bylaw can be used to produce affordable housing. I would say now is the time to do it.

Vancouver is not the only city trying to deal with the loss of community caused by allowing housing to be turned into investment instruments. It does seem to be the only City, however, that has attempted to solve the problem by Orwellian Newspeak. It has redefined the word unaffordable to mean "affordable."

In Vancouver, developers and their drum majors, the Mayor and Council, join in an orgy of development in one of many Cities in the world  swamped by cash from investors seeking a safe port in a storm.

The CBC has done a good review of how other cities and countries have tried to deal with this isue.

Foreign investors in London’s toney areas have bought up houses and kept them empty. It reached the point where a city Councilor said,

Housing costs and availability are consistently one of the biggest concerns for our residents and we believe we have reached a crisis point in private rental sector housing in the borough.”

Owners of empty properties were being charged 50 per cent extra. The number of long term empty houses quickly fell. See

An article appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review in June 2009 by Patrick Chovanec, China’s Real Estate Riddle explaining cultural attitudes towards investment. Chovanec, then a professor at Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management in Beijing, China said this:

“In China, real estate—occupied or not—offers them a visibly reassuring place to park their money, sheltered from inflation. *** with little or no holding costs, Chinese owners are unconstrained by the need to make the property “pay” in cash or in kind. For them, an empty condo is a store of value, much like gold, another asset that performs no practical function besides retaining its worth….. Apartments in China aren’t for living in, they’re for investing. That is the real source of demand.
Vancouver voters are split almost evenly between renters and owners. In our at large system therefore, any party must meticulously calculate what does what to whom. Rent controls, for example, create long term shortages in rental properties but may be irresistable to tenants at election time.

Nothing is as nervous as a million dollars. Restrictions on foreign investment and efforts to tax vacant properties will likely cause a rapid drop in the values of some properties as investors head to countries that have not imposed those measures. 

Density incentives that result in towers or laneway homes in neighborhoods of detached homes can gain votes from those homeowners who want to build them but anger neighbours whose views are blocked.

Hopefully the NPA will produce a thoughful affordability platform in the next couple of days.So far the parties have been offering  freebys to their constituents. The GREENS will provide protection from reno-victions. COPE  will implement rent control. VISION will give developers everything they want including free swimming lessons. 

There is always free cheese in a mousetrap.

Sunday, 28 September 2014


Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, the Power of Thinking Without Thinking is about the remarkable accuracy of intuition. He explains how the first 2 seconds of a meeting convey impressions and hunches that can be more reliable that careful studies and conscious strategies. 

Voters’ decisions in local politics are likely to be intuitive. Campaigns do not really get underway until a week before an election. Under an at large system, a week is not much time to know much about dozens of candidates.

Chapter 3 of Blink is entitled, The Warren Harding Error. It describes why intuition sometimes goes wrong, particularly in politics.

The first president to visit Vancouver was Warren Harding. There are no statues of Lincoln or Roosevelt here but there is a statue of Harding in Stanley Park. Harding has been considered by historians to be one of the worst presidents in US history. He died shortly after his visit to Vancouver. 

Harry Daugherty, a lawyer and lobbyist, was the classic behind the scenes fixer and a shrewd judge of political opportunity. He ran into the 35 year old Harding while he was having his shoes shined. Daugherty took one look and concluded that he could make him president.

Harding  had it all...well almost all.  He had charm, looks and a great speaking voice. Also he was not very bright. As he rose from one local political office to another he remained safely undistinguished. His speeches were described as an army of phrases searching for an idea. As he grew older, however, he became better and better looking. He could have played Julius Caesar on the stage. Although Harding was unburdened by accomplishments, Daugherty persuaded him to run for the White House, believing that he would make "a great looking president."

So Harding got the Republican nomination and was elected. He was the first president to use modern public relations techniques. Five thousand speakers were trained  and sent abroad to speak for Harding; 2,000 of these speakers were women. Telemarketers were used to make phone conferences with perfected dialogues to promote Harding.

Gladwell states, "Many people who looked at Warren Harding saw how extraordinarily handsome and distinguished looking he was and jumped to the immediate and entirely unwarranted conclusion that he was a man of courage, intelligence and integrity. The way he looked carried so many powerful connotations that it stopped the normal process of thinking dead in its tracks.

The Warren Harding error is at the root of a good deal of prejudice and discrimination. It is why picking the right candidate for a job is so difficult and why on more occasions than we may care to admit, utter mediocrities sometimes end up in positions of enormous responsibility

Harding was loyal to his friends even though they were bad news. Of them he said, “I have no trouble with my enemies, but my damn friends, they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!"


He appointed many of his pals and campaign contributors to prominent political positions in control of vast amounts of government money and resources. They were a corrupt gang. Operating in secrecy, they negotiated leases and took gifts. 

One of his friends was ultimately convicted of accepting bribes and illegal no-interest personal loans in exchange for the leasing of public oil fields to business associates. Albert Fall was the first cabinet member in U.S. history imprisoned for crimes committed while in office. Charles Forbes, one of his buddies appointed to the department of Veteran Affairs received traveling perks and alcohol kickbacks, took a $5,000 bribe in Chicago, and made a secret code to sneak through $17 million in government construction hospital contracts with corrupt contractors.

Harding died a month after his visit to Vancouver. Some claimed it was food poisoning, others said it was suicide but recent evidence is that he had a serious heart condition that was misdiagnosed.

The secrecy unraveled and scandals and corruption came to light after he died.


There is no substitute for learning everything one can about the full slate of candidates. 

Our forthcoming Vancouver election will be a challenge if we accept Gladwell's observations. All candidates - not just Mayor Robertson - are  good looking people. The Harding effect can turn the election into a beauty pageant where the candidates compete making vacuous promises to bring world peace, to repeal the internal combustion engine and to always look  good in swim suits.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Harry Rankin was the founder of the Committee of Progressive Electors (COPE). He ran 12 years in a row before finally getting elected  in 1966 as an independent. 

Over the next twenty years Rankin became the most popular alderman in the City. The NPA controlled the other seats but there was a reservoir of affection for Rankin. When election time rolled around the voters who worried about the 'Socialist Hordes at the gate' always "Saved one vote for Harry to keep 'em honest." 

In 1986 Harry ran for Mayor against the NPA's, Gordon Campbell. Harry lost.  In 1988 he regained his council seat. 

Why was he so popular?  He was very funny, highly intelligent and, although he did not suffer fools gladly, showed a streak of kindness to everyone including, on rare occasions, the opposition.

Paradoxically,  Rankin and COPE  for all their socialist rhetoric were extremely cautious.  COPE's acronym was parodied as “the Committee Against Practically Everything.” 

He was the Councillor who most carefully analysed  expenditures. He insisted that the City should only undertake  projects that free enterprise could not do. He was sceptical of most government initiatives because he feared City Hall's propensity to screw things up. When  Council created the position of "children’s advocate" Rankin suggested that for all the good  she was doing,  she might be a valuable source of protein for hungry kids in school.

He refused to attend Expo 86. He referred to the Federal Granville Island development as a "boondoggle". Ditto for Granville Mall. He was ice cold to the Vancouver Land Corporation, the purpose of which,  was to supply market rental housing on City owned land. He dismissed it as "state capitalism."

Rankin served on Council until 1993. He ultimately quit his party in disgust in 1996.  He considered that it had been hijacked by witless opportunists-the same ones who ultimately morphed COPE into VISION. 

When he died in 2002 there was a demand that the flag be lowered to half mast. The Council of the day declined ('if we did it for him we'd have to do it for everyone') but miraculously it lowered itself and stayed there for a week.

Tim Louis articled with Rankin. He and mayoral candidate, Meena Wong, seem to be trying to return COPE  to its roots. Their platform is left-wing and has some strange elements but don't sell COPE short. The party could regain the votes usurped by VISION when it abandoned Harry and lost its soul.

Sunday, 21 September 2014


The bitter laments of young developers at an Urban Development Institute panel discussion,  to the effect that old folks in walkers were giving them the miseries by failing to appreciate their good works, is astonishing.

*** the 34-year-old president and CEO of [ the company] spearheading the Trump Tower in Vancouver — said he almost wants to leave and open shop in another country because developers are rarely recognized locally for their good work.“We as developers are painted as bad people, that we are making windfall profits all the time,” he said.“We try our best to contribute back to the communities and neighbourhoods and shape our city, but we’re hated by everyone else.”

***“We have lawsuits filed by residents associations that are completely log-jamming legal services at the City of Vancouver,” he said.“The people who show up are literally in walkers and canes. ***

“*** I don’t have time to go and attend these planning sessions... and the people who do have the time aren’t going to be around to see the plan implemented.”

Before zoning, first introduced to North America in Euclid N.Y. in 1924,  land use was governed by private restrictive covenants.

Covenants controlled everything including the acceptable ethnicity of residents permitted to buy into  developments. 

The case of Fleischman v. British Pacific Properties Ltd. [1997] B.C.J. No. 2838 reveals how the system works to this day.

In 1984 Mr. Fleischman purchased a one and one-half acre property in West Vancouver. He wanted to subdivide the lot in order to construct a second, smaller, home.

The respondent in the case, British Pacific Properties Ltd. was incorporated in 1931. B.P. acquired a large tract of undeveloped land which it has developed and sold, one subdivision at a time. .There are 814 homes on 1500 acres.

Each subdivision is subject to a "Building Scheme" consisting of a number of restrictive covenants. 
Mr. Fleischman's filed an application to the Developer, B.P.  but the plan was refused by the Managing Director.

The first thing to note here is that this is a quarrel between a resident owner who wants to build a small second  house
 and the developer who wants to stop him. This is the reverse of what has been happening in Vancouver. The developer is the NIMBY or, more properly, NIYBY.

Why would the developer, BP do that?  Why would he choose to pick on the  homeowner and prevent him from building his second house?

If one were to accept the theory of the tadpoles at the Urban Development Institute it is probably that British Properties is run by demented nonagenarians scuttling about in walkers. They have nothing better to do than to torture young developers with their regulatory obsessions.

Another possibility is that the Developer wants the rules enforced because it it was and remains in his best interest to do so. 

Here is what the court said:

6.      The purpose of the restrictive covenants is to create and maintain a unique residential environment, which will maintain and enhance property values and ensure the continued desirability of the British Properties as a residential area.

The purpose of land use controls - both zoning and private building schemes - is to enable developers to sell their developments. Who will buy an apartment in a building for a million dollars if the rules on the lot next door will suddenly allow a building with Beijing densities to abut against it? 

There is no room for uncertainty in land use law.

If there were no zoning today, these same Developers would be forced to create their own private building schemes in which either the company continues to administer the system, or the covenants are reciprocally enforceable by homeowners.

The willingness of our Vancouver government to treat the established city as though it is raw land that is available for  redevelopment is contrary to the interests of everyone including developers. Of course, if their purpose is not to create housing but simply investment instruments that no one lives in, then the attitude makes more sense.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Vancouver has been able to avoid buying the CPR right of way because 8 years ago the City got lawyered up and won its expropriation case. [ Canadian Pacific Railway Co. v. Vancouver (City), 2006 SCC 5] The Supreme Court of Canada held that the Official Development Plan (ODP) merely freezes the use of the land with a view to preserving it for future development by precluding present uses that might interfere with that development. The City is not obliged to compensate CPR for the land even though the CPR said  in 2006 that it was no longer useful as a transit corridor.

Since then the old corridor has been used by trespassing gardeners. The City treated  it with benign neglect. They didn't have to buy it and the CPR could run trains up and down for fun if they liked.

When development obsessed, VISION started their mass rezonings the CPR hit upon a strategy borrowed from Mel Brooks in his Hitchcock parody, High Anxiety. Brooks’ character, a psychiatrist and Madeleine Kahn are in the airport toting guns. They need to get through customs. Brooks tells Kahn, counter-intuitively, that instead of avoiding attention, she should be as obnoxious as possible. They both become quite disgusting. The security is so turned off that they push them, with their cargo of weapons, onto the plane.

The CPR after carefully studying High Anxiety announced that they were going to run trains from here to there on their tracks. Pursuant to Mel Brooks’ strategy, they trampled the farmers cumquats and bulldozed their fences. Their next act would likely involve blowing horns at midnight or a food fight out of Animal House.

Lets suppose that Council's very own psychiatrist, Kerry Jang, possibly a student of Brooks, is planning the next move. I have never met a psychiatrist I couldn't help, and this is what I would suggest.

"Professor Jang, there is an election coming up and you incumbents have a dilemma. If  you do nothing other than say things like, “That’s no way to run a railroad!” you will seem weak and ineffectual in the face of the CPR’s brutish behavior."

"If you agree to a price or even compromise with the CPR, it will seem like you are rewarding pigs with breakfast."

Then I would tell him that the Expropriation Act offers a solution that allows both sides to win and the public to lose. Section 3. (1)  would allow the CPR to agree to transfer land to the City without going through the full expropriation process. If they cannot agree on the price the City can pay a tiny fraction of its fair value to the CPR. That would all happen before the election. The VISIONISTAs would trumpet their business acumen: "We paid $500 dollars and they accepted. Ha. "

The farmers, who have been described by Pete McMartin as Marxists, would thank the council commissars

The CPR’s wax mustachioed executives would slink out of town.

Scene 2 would occur long after the election. A hearing would take place before a judge as required by the Expropriation Act and based on appraisal evidence would set the price for the sale as of the date the owner agreed to transfer  the land to the city.

The Expropriation Act states that the court must award as compensation the market value of the owner’s estate or interest in the expropriated land *** In determining the market value of land, account must not be taken of (g) any increase or decrease in value of the land that results from the enactment or amendment of a zoning bylaw, official community plan or analogous enactment made with a view to the development in respect of which the expropriation is made.

There are also special provisions for unique properties like railroad right of ways and abattoirs.

After the purchase and the election, the City could repeal or amend the OCP anyway it liked. The change would not affect the cost of the purchase. What is likely to happen, though, is that the City would have to pay much more than what it has been calling “fair market value.” The CPR would get fair market value.

You can bet that at midnight when the Supreme Court delivers the next CPR decision, the VISIONISTAS will not let the railroad turn back into a pumpkin patch. A strip casino will be more like it.

If they manage to get re-elected in November by a heavy turnout of kale growers and residents on Point Grey Road, the public will promise not to vote for them when the next election rolls around in four years.

Note: Since writing the above I have been asked whether the City has the power to expropriate. This is a complicated issue but the CPR seemed to think so. It argued in CPR v Vancouver SCC 2006

35     CPR also argues that the British Columbia Expropriation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 125, requires the City to compensate CPR (Appendix B). Section 1 of the Act defines "expropria[tion]" as "the taking of land by an expropriating authority under an enactment without the consent of [page241] the owner", and goes on to define "expropriating authority" as "a person ... empowered under an enactment to expropriate land". Section 2(1) of the Act provides that "[i]f an expropriating authority proposes to expropriate land, th[e] Act applies to the expropriation, and, if there is an inconsistency between any of the provisions of th[e] Act and any other enactment respecting the expropriation, the provisions of [theExpropriation Act] apply." The Expropriation Act requires compensation for land expropriated, while the Vancouver Charter states the City is not obliged to compensate for adverse effects to land caused by an ODP. CPR argues that this constitutes an inconsistency and that, under s. 2 of the Expropriation Act, the requirement of compensation in that Act must prevail.