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Byelection favours A, B, C and D candidates

This Saturday, Oct. 14, Vancouver voters will be going to the polls for a byelection. Let me rephrase that.
alphabet soup
Columnist Michael Geller is not a fan of the alphabetical ballot, which he says gives unfair advantage to candidates with last names beginning with A, B, C or D.

This Saturday, Oct. 14, Vancouver voters will be going to the polls for a byelection.

Let me rephrase that.

If previous byelections are any indication, between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of Vancouver’s estimated 420,000 eligible voters will be going to the polls to fill a vacant council seat and elect an entirely new school board.

Nine candidates are running for council and 19 are vying for nine positions on school board. In addition to independent candidates, Vision Vancouver, NPA, Green Party, COPE and OneCity are running candidates.

(You can find candidate bios in the Courier’s online voter guide. See city council candidates here and school board candidates here.)

My longstanding complaint about Vancouver municipal elections is the ballot. Candidates are always listed alphabetically, which in my opinion gives the A, B, C and Ds an advantage.

I would be worried if I was Joshua Wasilenkoff, an independent council candidate, or Judy Zaichkowsky, a Green Party candidate for school board.

It would be so much more equitable if future ballots were redesigned so every candidate had his or her name on top an equal number of times.

For many, electing the school board is the most important aspect of this byelection. New trustees must repair the considerable damage caused by the firing of the previous trustees, and deal with the debacle caused by reinstatement of smaller class sizes.

(Given the severe shortage of qualified teachers, why didn’t some smart person decree that smaller class sizes would be phased in over two years?)

Homelessness and housing affordability are significant issues in the council election. Indeed, they have been the only issues, as everyone seems to ignore councillors’ role in overseeing an $1.8-billion capital and operating budget.

Running for the NPA is Hector Bremner, whose fortunate name will put him at the top of the ballot. While I do not know him, he appears knowledgeable, well-spoken and has been around politics for many years.

Based on his remarks at a recent SFU all-candidates’ forum, and response to a survey by Abundant Housing, a group of non-partisan volunteers advocating for all types of additional housing, I generally agree with his proposed solutions to address housing affordability.

Bremner is running against three relatively well-known, left-leaning candidates, and the Vision Vancouver candidate, Diego Cardona, a 21-year old Colombian refugee with a remarkable life story.

I cannot comment on Cardona’s views on housing affordability. He was a no-show at the SFU all-candidates forum, and after reading his responses to the Abundant Housing survey, I doubt whether he personally penned his answers. Rather, they were prepared by Vision Vancouver staffers.

Pete Fry is the Green Party candidate, having run for council in 2014. I find him to be a knowledgeable, credible and likeable candidate.

Judy Graves, running for OneCity, has for decades been a respected advocate for the homeless, and for many years city hall’s homelessness expert.

More recently, she has been critical of Vision Vancouver and Mayor Gregor Robertson who, in 2008, promised to end homelessness by 2015. Vancouver’s homelessness problem is now worse.

Jean Swanson is running as an independent, but endorsed by COPE. She’s been a poverty and social justice activist for more than 40 years, and I first met her in 1975 when I was CMHC’s program manager for social housing.

Swanson is certainly not seeking support from Vancouver landlords with her false claim that four years from now the average one-bedroom apartment will cost close to $4,000 a month. Her proposed four-year rent freeze is also wrong-headed.

While it will no doubt attract many votes, she won’t have mine. I know from experience that if ever approved, it would discourage landlords from maintaining existing buildings, and deter others from creating new rental housing.

This council byelection is important. If Bremner wins, it will give NPA some much-needed momentum going into the 2018 election. A Fry victory will give Green Coun. Adriane Carr someone to second her oftentimes thoughtful council motions.

I prefer not to think about other outcomes.

The city now estimates the cost of this byelection at $1.5 million. If only 10 per cent of eligible voters turn out, Vancouver taxpayers will shell out $36 for every vote. The more who vote, the greater the value for money spent.