What’s stopping Vancouver from using proportional representation? — The Georgia Straight

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What’s stopping Vancouver from using proportional representation? — The Georgia Straight

by Devon Rowcliffe

Replacing Vancouver’s antiquated voting system is an unfinished conversation that has lingered without resolution for almost 50 years.

In a previous article, I looked at the problems of Vancouver’s at-large voting system, and summarized the major alternatives: the ward system and proportional representation (PR). I ultimately argued that it would be best for Vancouver to adopt a form of PR for its elections.

If PR would result in fairer elections, what is preventing Vancouver from adopting such a voting system?

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Cooperation, not confrontation, key to success at split Vancouver school board — The Georgia Straight

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Cooperation, not confrontation, key to success at split Vancouver school board — The Georgia Straight

by Devon Rowcliffe

They promised to change. Sadly, they haven't.

After Vision Vancouver recently plodded back into power with a diminished mandate, Mayor Gregor Robertson promised that his political party would change. They would listen. They would consult. Ramming through their plans without collaboration wouldn't happen again.

But at Vancouver's school board, Vision is showing signs of becoming less collaborative than ever before.

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Is it time for Vancouver to change its voting system? — The Georgia Straight

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Is it time for Vancouver to change its voting system? — The Georgia Straight

by Devon Rowcliffe

There has been considerable discussion recently about whether Vancouver should change its plurality-at-large electoral system. The topic is certainly not novel to the city, as this debate has been stumbling along without resolution since at least 1968.

Vancouver has used the at-large system for its elections since 1936. While this voting system does have some redeeming qualities, such as encouraging councillors to maintain a city-wide perspective and avoid parochialism, at-large unfortunately has numerous downsides. Extremely long ballots that feature upwards of 120 names make it impossible for even the most committed of voters to learn about all of the candidates in detail. At-large also skews geographic representation, as several politicians who live in one area of the city may get elected, while other areas might not elect any of their local candidates.

Under at-large voting, financially-impoverished neighbourhoods usually find themselves with less representation due to lower voter turnout. At-large also makes it nearly impossible for independent candidates to get elected, as they must campaign across the entire city at considerable expense, and they are often an afterthought for citizens who vote by slate due to the incredibly long ballot. Additionally, the at-large electoral system has made it extremely difficult for candidates of South Asian descent and other minorities to get elected in Vancouver; the system’s tendency to hinder certain groups from getting elected has led to American courts forcing hundreds of U.S. municipalities to abandon at-large voting.

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What next for local election campaign finance reform? — The Georgia Straight

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What next for local election campaign finance reform? — The Georgia Straight

by Devon Rowcliffe

If the millions of dollars that exchanged hands during Vancouver’s recent local elections caused you concern, you have until December 5 to submit feedback regarding pending campaign expense limits.

In the recent 2014 Vancouver election, Vision Vancouver received contributions of more than $2.25 million by October 31, including $1.4 million from corporations and more than $320,000 from unions. The Non-Partisan Association raised more than $2.1 million in contributions by November 4, including a $360,000 donation from a single corporation.

Over the last decade, the City of Vancouver has repeatedly asked the province to reform campaign finance rules for municipal elections. The most recent request included a call for limits to contributions and expenses (including a ban on corporate and union donations), regular disclosure of financing (which would expose “dark money” received or spent outside of election years), tax receipts for donations, and more flexibility for the City of Vancouver to choose its own election rules.

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Cuts, cops, and cars dominate NPA’s 2014 election platform — The Georgia Straight

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Cuts, cops, and cars dominate NPA’s 2014 election platform — The Georgia Straight

by Devon Rowcliffe

A great party, badly run.

Having dominated Vancouver politics since the early 1940s—with almost a dozen former mayors under its banner—the Non-Partisan Association was expected to be a formidable contestant in Vancouver’s 2014 civic election.

However, the right-leaning NPA (surely an anachronistic name by now) has been largely disappointing for those who may have anticipated novel remedies for some of Vision Vancouver’s governing faults.

For a political machine that draws upon an election war chest worth more than $2 million, the NPA’s policy platform is shockingly clumsy. While it arguably offers an effective response to Vision’s penchant for controlling (and some would argue obscuring) information, the NPA’s platform presents few solutions to Vancouver’s pressing social ills.

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