Meet the Candidates

November 13, 2008

FairVoteUBC interviews the candidates for Electoral Area A in Vancouver, never heard of it you say? Read on.

Update : Congratulations to Maria Harris for winning Electoral Area A, see the results. Number of votes for each candidate shown below, if you ever thought your vote didn’t count, well, here’s an example for you.  Ms. Harris beat Ben West by just 10 votes.

If you live on UBC campus or in the surrounding area known as the University Endowment Lands (UEL) then you hopefully will not be surprised to learn that this Saturday November 15 when everyone else in the lower mainland is voting for city councilors and mayors you will be voting for a representative to Electoral Area A.  If you didn’t know that then don’t be fooled by the snazzy name, Electoral Area A is not part of any municipality but advises the GVRD council that coordinates the region.

Obviously one of the most important issues for this representative should be addressing the quasi-democratic status of the Area itself.  Luckily there are five candidates who have come forward for the job. Fitting with our interest in democratic reform here at Fair Vote UBC we thought we’d poll these brave souls about their opinions on some of the issues of importance to us.

Just a note that one of our neighbours in the UBC blog community (and a friendly competitor for the weekly VFM competition) the UBC Insiders have a great article asking our five candidates a different set of questions.

So without further ado, meet your candidates for Electoral Area A (the only order is by who answered us first).

NOTE: OK, a bit further ado… Just to make it clear that the opinions and comments of the candidates are presented here unfiltered or altered.  These opinions do not necessarily represent the views of FairVoteUBC or FairVote.  If you have comments or corrections the best place for them is…the comments section. That’s what democracy is all about, debate. So here they are, your candidates.

Charles Menzies

1. Do you support the upcoming referendum to institute BC-STV as the electoral system for provincial elections in BC?

I would prefer a system of proportional representation as opposed to STV.

2. Are you happy with the current electoral process being used in municipalities around Metro Vancouver?  If not, what changes are you interested in seeing?

I live in the UBC area so do not have the opportunity to vote in any election other than school board and electoral area ‘a.’    The process for school board is fine with one exception–voters in the UEL/UBC areas are not provided with any information about the election and thus know little about their right to vote.

In terms of electoral area ‘a’ I believe that there should be a local level government that is based upon representative democracy and takes into account the unique history of our constituent communities.

3.  Do you think the current election finance system for municipal

elections needs improvement? For instance,

– should candidates/parties receive public funding?

– who should be allowed to contribute and should there be limits?

-should there be limits on candidate spending?

Campaign funding should be severely limited.  Free time political broadcasts should be permitted on public and private  broadcasters (radio, tv, web).  However, there should be clear spending limits and all donations should be limited to public funding.

4.  Currently UBC is not part of any municipality, falling only under the jurisdiction of the GVRD.  Do you think that UBC should be part of an existing or new municipality?  If so, what arrangement do you think is best?

I believe that there should be local level governance in the form of a municipal city government.  There are several critical issues to consider:

  1. the special arrangement for the UEL
  2. the development of new residential communities on UBC land
  3. student communities at UBC
  4. the need for maintaining the institutional autonomy of UBC for the purposes of academic core purposes

5. Politicians have a conflict of interest in choosing the financial and electoral systems they run under.  Do you support a process, such as a Citizens’ Assembly to design a reform followed by a referendum, which puts these decisions fully in the hands of your average voter?

Perhaps elected politicians have a conflict of interest.  Or mainstream political partiers who realize that they would lose their control over the system.  I didn’t support the citizen’s assembly.  The idea of ‘randomly’ selecting two people from each riding didn’t strike me as reasonable nor effective.  Why not have a large scale community-based process instead in which many different voices can be included?

Matthew Naylor

1. Do you support the upcoming referendum to institute BC-STV as the electoral system for provincial elections in BC?

I have a lot of reservations about the BCSTV system, and while I have a strong desire for democratic reform, I remain unconvinced that the BCSTV system is correct. I would much prefer a modified MMP system, although one that does not rely on party lists so much as creating formulae for interpreting the will of the voters as a whole, by some means of proportional compensation. This is something that requires further study – I don’t think we have it right yet.

2. Are you happy with the current electoral process being used in municipalities around Metro Vancouver?  If not, what changes are you interested in seeing?

To be honest, elections are the least of Electoral Area A’s worries. We have massive problems with development and accountability here, and I would much rather start democratizing this fifedom out here on the end of Point Grey before I started reforming democracy as a whole. In short, I think we should achieve democracy before we start reforming it.

3.  Do you think the current election finance system for municipal elections needs improvement? For instance,

– should candidates/parties receive public funding?

– who should be allowed to contribute and should there be limits?

– should there be limits on candidate spending?

Partisanship is something that I find unwelcome in civic politics. The Calgary city council often had its disagreements but always managed to get things done for the city. Vancouver is more often stuck in partisan gridlock, an extension of the provincial scene, than doing things that its citizens would consider useful.

I doubt public funding would be able to be administered in a fair way, but if a candidate were able to demonstate some degree of public support, either through signatures at the front end, or a percentage of votes at the back, I think some kind of public funding system would be appropriate.

I am opposed to campaign contribution limits, but agree that a spending limit would be appropriate.

4.  Currently UBC is not part of any municipality, falling only under the jurisdiction of the GVRD.  Do you think that UBC should be part of an existing or new municipality?  If so, what arrangement do you think is best?

Consultation is key. The cornerstone of any democratic governance structure is the right of the people to govern themselves. Competitors of mine Menzies and West have come out in favour of Incorporation, and I, in all honesty, find it insulting that people would have the gall to come in and tell us that, for example, ‘West knows best’ and steamroll the foundations of what could become a engaged and democratic system.

5. Politicians have a conflict of interest in choosing the financial and electoral systems they run under.  Do you support a process, such as a Citizens’ Assembly to design a reform followed by a referendum, which puts these decisions fully in the hands of your average voter?

As I said, consultation is key. I do not support a Citizens Assembly, but rather my platform outlines an 18 month consultation series, designed to capture all the opinions of the people of Electoral Area A.

Maria Harris (winner)

1. Do you support the upcoming referendum to institute BC-STV as the electoral system for provincial elections in BC?

I support putting this issue to a referendum though I am personally undecided as to whether the STV system would in fact deliver greater accountability in government although it would make the legislature more representative of opinion in the province.

2. Are you happy with the current electoral process being used in municipalities around Metro Vancouver?  If not, what changes are you interested in seeing?

Yes, I am comfortable with the current electoral process.

3.  Do you think the current election finance system for municipal elections needs improvement? For instance,

– should candidates/parties receive public funding?

– who should be allowed to contribute and should there be limits?

– should there be limits on candidate spending?

It does seem that the current system of financing permits a broad spectrum of political views to be put before the electorate.  I would not be happy if it appeared that money was having an undue influence on the electoral process and, if I were persuaded that it is, then I would support limits.

4.  Currently UBC is not part of any municipality, falling only under the jurisdiction of the GVRD.  Do you think that UBC should be part of an existing or new municipality?  If so, what arrangement do you think is best?

Whether or not UBC should be part of an existing or a new municipality is an issue that needs to be determined after effective consultation with the community at UBC and its neighbours.   There are a variety of arrangements which could ensure effective, accountable and transparent governance at UBC.  One problem that needs to be addressed is the accountability of the University as a property developer.

5. Politicians have a conflict of interest in choosing the financial and electoral systems they run under.  Do you support a process, such as a Citizens’ Assembly to design a reform followed by a referendum, which puts these decisions fully in the hands of your average voter?

I agree that it is useful periodically for the community as a whole to examine the fundamentals of the electoral system and to solicit the views of the electorate through a referendum.

Ben West

1. Do you support the upcoming referendum to institute BC-STV as the electoral system for provincial elections in BC?

Yes I do support the STV referendum. I worked hard on this issue as a candidate and as a citizen. I collected signatures on the petition to create the citizens’ assembly and I like the STV as a system because it has the highest level of voter satisfaction. I like having the ability to rank candidates and not worry about wasted votes. The size of ridings that are necessary would only be a problem if steps are not taken to ensure that each area continues to have a constituency office. The status quo of the “first past the post” system must be changed; the results do not fairly represent the wishes of voters.

2. Are you happy with the current electoral process being used in municipalities around Metro Vancouver?  If not, what changes are you interested in seeing?

I supported the wards referendum. The current reality leaves small communities, especially those that are low income, woefully underrepresented.  It is very difficult for candidates to campaign across the entire city and this will only get more difficult as the population grows. This makes it very hard for people running as independents.  I would like to see another attempt made to bring a ward system to the city.

3.  Do you think the current election finance system for municipal elections needs improvement? For instance,

– should candidates/parties receive public funding?

– who should be allowed to contribute and should there be limits?

– should there be limits on candidate spending?

Yes this system definitely needs improvement.  I would argue that there is barely an electoral finance system at the municipal level.  Parties should receive public funding and there should be limits placed on contributions similar to those imposed federally.  Only individuals should be able to make donations, not institutions, and donation limits should be set at reasonable levels. Candidate spending should also be limited overall at limits deemed reasonable by a non-partisan third party citizens’ group. Furthermore, candidates need to be able to issue tax receipts to donors.

4.  Currently UBC is not part of any municipality, falling only under the jurisdiction of the GVRD.  Do you think that UBC should be part of an existing or new municipality?  If so, what arrangement do you think is best?

UBC and the UEL are currently living in a state of limbo with very little control over their own future. The status quo is not an option because it is fundamentally un-democratic.  Annexation (sometimes called amalgamation) is very un-popular amongst many residents and does not reflect this area’s distinct character nor its potential to be a model municipality. I think this area has a unique opportunity to become a new “special municipality” that draws upon the collective wisdom of all the brilliant minds that live and work in the area as well as provide a model for smart growth for the region and beyond. I have proposed that this new city be called Pacific Spirit in recognition of the beautiful regional park that separates us from the city of Vancouver and gives this area some of its distinct character. As the population of this area grows (UBC estimates 30,000 people by 2030), the question of governance will continue to be a major consideration. City status would permanently put to rest the discussion of amalgamation with Vancouver which has failed in two past referendums. Becoming a city would also require a referendum. I would like to take the lead in heading up a thorough public consultation process that brings together all stakeholders and looks at how best to accomplish this task.

5. Politicians have a conflict of interest in choosing the financial and electoral systems they run under.  Do you support a process, such as a Citizens’ Assembly to design a reform followed by a referendum, which puts these decisions fully in the hands of your average voter?

Yes, I agree that a citizens’ assembly would be the best way to move forward. I hope, amongst other things, this process would explore all the issues listed above as well as reducing the voting age.

Fred Pritchard

Has not yet responded.

Check back later for the rest of their responses, they will be posted whenever they are received, and we’ll hound the winner for an answer if they aren’t up here already.

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4 Responses to “Meet the Candidates”

  1. Wayne Smith Says:

    BC-STV is a form of proportional representation. Charles Menzies seems regrettably uninformed.

    Don’t be uninformed: http://stv.ca

  2. Eric Says:

    Anyone know what voting procedure is used in these metro board elections? I assume it’s “first past the post”, one seat with no (instant) run-off for each electoral area.

  3. Wayne Smith Says:

    Arguing about whether STV or MMP should be used to replace FPTP is like arguing about whether a Honda or a Toyota should be used to replace your horse-drawn wagon.

  4. Ratel Says:

    LOL! that’s awesome. very true, hesitating to move to some proportional system because its not ‘right yet’ is very questionable. We’ve already failed to pass it twice now (once in BC and once in Ontario), how many chances will we get before people give up for a long time? I see the provincial process as a test run for national reform, let one province try STV and one MMP and we can decide later which is better. But they are all , way better than first past the post.


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