Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson speaks to the media at Toronto Mayor John Tory's Toronto Housing Summit, Sept. 30, 2016. (Photo: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Yes, we know all about Vision Vancouver's failed promise to end homelessness by 2015, but they just don't seem to stop with the feel-good empty gestures.
On August 2, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced a huge commitment to build subsidized housing on West Hastings, but, it appears, without any apparent financial plan to get it done. It seems he was hoping other levels of government would chip in, but he had yet to discuss it with them. Whoops!
There is a pattern of baffling policy and gestures which do not add up. Councillor Kerry Jang oversaw a Chinese flag raising ceremony at city hall, replete in a symbolic red scarf. Vision reaching out to celebrate the government of China? It seemed odd to me, but it was a lot more than odd to a number of Chinese-Canadians who found the gesture deeply offensive and started a petition
Kerry Jang's reaction would say so much about Vision's promise to listen better. Let's see how Jang "listened":
First, he said that the protest was "bullshit." Then he said that the protest was born out of anti-Chinese racism. (Never mind that the protesters were largely of Chinese descent.)
Kerry Jang. (Photo: Facebook)
Mayor Gregor concurred. Nothing wrong here. It's just a flag-raising ceremony, get over it. Odd that the mayor seems to hold such strong moral views on issues well outside of the city's jurisdiction, but not this one.
Same thing with the foreign capital issue. Gregor implied it was racist and refused to acknowledge the issue. Now he says the provinces 15- per-cent foreign buyer tax was "too little, too late". What the...? How can the foreign capital issue be slammed by the mayor as racist, and then later be called "too little, too late?"
We have a civic government whose policies seem to be motivated more by sentiment rather than substance, and that's why we have record homelessness and a housing crisis which the city has steadfastly denied for so long.
Now the city has announced its intention to phase out the use of natural gas by 2050 in its continuing effort to claim the title "greenest city." Is the city really going to ban a fuel source we are so invested in, a fuel source we were originally sold on because of its relative environmental friendliness?
The announcement was met with confusion so the city quickly clarified that there had been a big misunderstanding and that there was no intention to ban natural gas. None. Yet, they want to get to zero use by 2050. Repeated requests from the city to confirm that natural gas will always be allowed in homes, newly built or renovated, have not been answered.
You can't just run on a ticket of social justice or saving the planet without effective policy to achieve it.
Of course, the intention is to ban natural gas, but now they don't want to admit it. You aren't allowed to install a round door knob in your house anymore and you won't be allowed to install natural gas. If that's not true, I ask the city to explain, because so far there has been no explanation, just the assurance that they are not banning natural gas -- when clearly they have to be planning to do just that.
This, again, is meaningless policy. We have to save the planet from the emissions causing climate change, so we have to ban the fuels causing it, right?
Let's have a reality check. The total emissions from Vancouver, including natural gas, is so slight that it has as much as no bearing on global emissions impacting our planet. The relative low emissions from natural gas is a small portion of that, so that means even less of an impact. A fraction of "as good as nothing" is effectively nothing.
Some support the move, claiming that no matter what the cost, we have to save the planet. They bought into the simplistic policy put forth by Vision without really understanding how pointless it is. In fact, it is quite damaging when you consider the cost.
Yes, this policy is more about politics and a desire to win this game called "greenest city," no matter the cost and no matter how pointless. It's about winning that title, but public policy and energy use should not be subject to these kind of self serving games. Put efforts into truly meaningful causes that will actually make a meaningful difference, but don't distract the public by making them feel that our city is saving the planet when it is doing nothing of the sort.
Back when Vision promised to end homelessness, I bought in and voted for them. I'm not a one-issue voter, but this pointed to a party which had the right intentions. I've since found that Vision's well-intentioned policy has yet to be backed up by meaningful substance. You can't just run on a ticket of social justice or saving the planet without effective policy to achieve it.
More and more, it seems that Vision is focused on policy which builds an impression of who they want to appear to be at the expense of effective policy which will actually make a difference.
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