Is Vancouver-Kingsway NDP MP Don Davies a NIMBY?

Vancouver's Stupidest Politics Column

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Back in December I wrote a column about how former CTV broadcaster Tamara Taggart had just thrown her hat into the ring to try and take out Don Davies, the MP of the Vancouver-Kingsway riding.

It’s HERE if you care to read it. The Coles notes are basically:
People in NDP MP Don Davies’ riding of Vancouver-Kingsway love Don Davies and they love the NDP and he will win and Taggart has no chance of winning, the end.

As the federal Liberals continue to become more unpopular in Vancouver I stand by that original, probably-way-too-early prediction.

However it seems that as of this week we’ve now got a race on our hands; Team Taggart pulled a shrewd one by speaking at a public hearing at City Hall, directly opposing Don Davies, who spoke earlier.

Vancouver-Kingsway NDP MP Don Davies. Photo Twitter

I won’t bore you with the details of the rezoning itself as it’s fairly inconsequential (somebody wants to build a six-storey rental building on Fraser – HERE).

Public hearings like this are meant to be a mechanism to gauge the sentiment of neighbourhoods, and give the average citizen a voice when our elected officials are deciding on things that will change the city around us. In this case, council wants to hear what people think about bulldozing a few single-family homes to make way for 121 rental units.

What public hearings at Vancouver City Hall are not meant to be is a platform for federal election candidates jockeying for position and campaigning under the guise that they’re simply concerned residents.

But here we are.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart presides over a public hearing on July 11th, 2019. Photo via City of Vancouver

MP Don Davies lives three blocks from where the new development is going to be. He started off his five-minute plea to council by saying that “We [he and his constituents] are for densification” then in great detail listed about twenty different types of housing that they’re in favour of.

He then explicitly stated that “We are not NIMBY[s]”.

If you’ve been to a public hearing regarding a rezoning you’ll know that roughly 74% of NIMBYs start by letting everyone know that they’re not NIMBYs. They then move on to say that they just don’t think this or that particular development fits in this part of their (cough – backyard – cough) neighbourhood.

And of course that’s what Davies did.

About the six-storey rental development, he said “It’s too high, it’s too large, it’s in the wrong place” and backed that up with an incredibly well-researched and reasoned presentation.

For whatever reason he then took to Twitter over the course of a couple of days to breathlessly respond to people who were calling him a NIMBY. This is likely when Team Taggart picked up the scent.

As the hearing went into overtime on the night that Davies spoke, they had to reschedule to hear the rest of the speakers two nights later. And wouldn’t you know it, Tamara Taggart was the second to last speaker. Speaker 29 of 30.

People signing up to speak at hearings are put on the list in the order in which their request is made. There’s absolutely no way that these two MPs signed up at the same time; Team Taggart saw an opportunity to drive a wedge between her and the candidate who was being called a NIMBY, and took it.

Taggart’s plea to council on the rezoning of 3811-3833 Fraser Street & 679 East 23rd Avenue was decidedly different than Davies’.

While the one obvious difference was that Taggart was speaking in favour of the rezoning and Davies was against it, Taggart’s was a campaign speech. Full stop.

It begun with “Although I’m a candidate in the upcoming election I’m here as a concerned resident, a mother of three and someone deeply concerned about our city’s housing crisis.”

She then told of her personal experience as a renter for twenty years, attempting to align herself with the not-wacky 51% of Vancouverites who rent. The speech framed her as someone who knows what it’s like to get renovicted, but that she’s now a homeowner and also understands the struggles that come with that.

The Federal Liberals’ candidate for the Vancouver-Kingsway riding in 2019: Tamara Taggart. Photo @tamarataggart Instagram

Normally when people have five minutes to speak at a public hearing they don’t say things like “I’m passionate about inclusion…. and rental housing”.

“We need to build a Vancouver where everyone can live, and work” is the kind of statement that you’d typically hear at a Liberal Party of Canada campaign rally, not a public hearing on a Fraser Street rezoning.

As Taggart wrapped up, Councillors De Genova, Carr, Wiebe, Kirby-Yung, Hardwick, and Bligh all took turns asking her questions until it became painfully evident that she was not as prepared to answer them as Davies was. She clearly didn’t have as firm a grasp on the individual item she had come to support, or at least she didn’t want to talk about it in as much detail as Davies did.

Maybe that’s what happens when you decide to use a public hearing as a convenient place to stump, with less than two days to prepare a speech?

Councillor Hardwick took a hard tack, indirectly pointing out the fact that Taggart was there to speak generally and make sweeping statements; “So just a broad statement, not specific to this project then?”

The exchange got testy and Taggart outright refused to answer two of Hardwick’s questions, and as the Councillor ramped up the combativeness Mayor Stewart offered “I think we can just take the tone down here a little bit.”

The boundaries of the Vancouver-Kingsway federal riding. Photo via Elections Canada

Housing is going to be one of the most important issues in this riding in the upcoming election, and it’s great that two of the leading candidates are talking and thinking about the issue.

While incumbent MP Don Davies’ appearance at council may have simply been an ill-advised attempt to get him out visibly supporting his constituents ahead of the election, on an important issue, Taggart’s was a cynical pile of political garbage, drawing flies in an alley off Fraser.

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