Thursday, 20 June 2013


One thing politicians are paid to do is to balance interests. When the City constructs a bike lane, demolishes a viaduct, licenses a food cart, blocks off a street, holds a street party, or authorizes a next door chicken coop, to come to a decision it balances the public's interest in having the thing against the private interests of those who may be adversely affected by it.

Vancouver’s left wing party, VISION, has the advantage of being certain of its own infallibility. They make one controversial decision after another, secure in the belief that whatever they do is in the public interest by definition, because they did it. They know that to make an omelet they have to break eggs. The eggs have no say. The great do what they will and the rest suffer  what they must.

Not so fast

The Supreme Court of Canada has finally applied the brakes to the notion that the public interest always trumps private rights. In the unanimous decision of Antrim Truck Centre Ltd. v. Ontario (Transportation), the Supreme Court held that even where a thing is constructed for the public good, the government may have to pay those who are injuriously affected by it. It is treated as an expropriation even if no land has actually been taken.
[Some things like property value changes brought about by zoning can not be the basis for compensation.] The court has put more balancing back in the required balancing of interests.

Antrim Trucking had a truck stop that was easily accessible by the road upon which it fronted. The Province of Ontario decided to widen the road and in doing so rerouted it. Antrim’s Truck Stop ended up far from the highway and was effectively put out of business.

Ontario has an Expropriation Act that provides that where the government builds something that it is expressly authorized to build, and the construction causes damage to another, the injured party can force the government to pay. Although there are subtle differences in our legislation including in our Transportation Act, British Columbia has the equivalent provision in s. 41 of its own Expropriation Act RSBC 1996, c. 125.

The Court said that interests are to be balanced by considering on one hand, interferences that constitute the give and take expected of everyone and, on the other, interferences that impose a disproportionate burden on individuals. The fact that council acted in the public interest and for the public good did not end the matter.  

The question is whether the interference is greater than the individual should be expected to bear in the public interest without compensation… the focus in nuisance is on whether the interference suffered is unreasonable, not on whether the nature of the defendant’s conduct is unreasonable.

It seems then that the legal meaning of the word  “unreasonableness” has been redefined. The court does not look into whether the interference was unreasonable in light of the community standard and duration. It says now that something is unreasonable if it would be unreasonable in all the circumstances to require a person to suffer the loss without compensation.

Plaintiffs will not in every case win a claim for injurious affection to their properties. When, however, our councilors demolish the viaducts or limit access with bike lanes, it may want to think about this: If a person can show that he has suffered more than he should be expected to bear he or she may very well force the city to pay. 
Councilors now need to make a realistic assessment of the City's exposure in carrying out their statutory mandate.

An action would be brought in the B.C. Supreme Court under the Expropriation Act. The appraisers would battle it out. Each case will be decided on its own facts. Lawyers will argue about whether the  facts in the Antrim case are the same as, or distinguishable from the law and facts in a Vancouver case, but the door is now open to a series of  successful claims.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


The NPA had its annual general meeting on Saturday. The celebrations were to include the excommunication of board member, Ken Charko, to be followed by a barbecue. Things did not work out as the directors hoped. Charko supporters forced a change in the agenda, defeated the motion to remove him and he was returned to the board along with one supporter. Judging by reports it had a grass roots Kazakhstan flavour to it.

There are those who feel that this could be the end of the NPA. Don't bet on it.Forget the crazy meeting. Many in the past were worse. Much worse! The NPA remains an extremely potent force and a threat to VISION Vancouver and the newly created TEAM.


To understand its future it helps to know something about the NPA' s past. Initially, the Non Partisan Association's main purpose was to protect Vancouver from the Socialist Hordes.

Established in 1937, its board of directors were the pillars of the community. They surfaced before the elections, anointed a slate of worthy candidates, and vanished. During the height of its powers few if anyone knew about or attended their board meetings.

                                                         Early NPA Board Meeting

City elections were held annually. The ballots listed all candidates in alphabetical order without party affiliation. Most candidates were unknown. They remained unknown after their election. The alphabetically advantaged like Atherton, Adams, Alsbury and now, Affleck enjoyed better odds at getting elected.

An NPA campaign consisted of a card mailed across the West side of the City listing its slate. Voters were asked to take their precious card to the poll booth and select the candidates on the list. The voters were comforted by the list. Candidates had been interviewed by the directors and were certified not to be one of the socialist hordes. Independents did not stand a chance unless they were rich or famous.

The NPA was not and did not purport to be a political party. It simply endorsed candidates. It imposed no party discipline. Once elected, aldermen could vote as they wished, provided they did not think about nationalizing a bank .

The NPA's campaign expenses were limited to the cost of printing and distributing the candidate list and advertising a picture of a candidate a week or two before the annual election. It was the perfect political system: simple, elegant and cheap.


Fear of the socialist hordes held the whole thing together. Who were the hordes?  At first they consisted of one lawyer- Harry Rankin. Harry ran for Council and lost at least 12 consecutive times. The WW II hero never gave up. On the 13th try he was elected as an independent. Rankin helped created a second electoral organization called COPE (the Committee of Progressive Electors). Harry, the one man socialist horde turned out to be the most popular alderman in the city. Everyone gave one vote to Harry, "To keep the rest of them honest." When Harry died the Council declined to lower the flag to half mast because if they did it for him they would have to do it for everyone. Miraculously, the flag lowered itself.


In the early 1970s the election of Mayor Arthur Phillips under the TEAM banner brought about a further change. The provincial government amended the legislation so that party affiliations could be listed on the ballot. The NPA's poll sheet, by which its power was assured, was no longer necessary or effective.

From the 1970s onward a primordial soup of political groups burbbled away, evolved, merged, transmogrified died and were born again. These included COPE, NPA, TEAM, VOICE, NSV, RHINOS, COMMUNISTS and others.  Through it all the NPA won some, lost some but remained a power to be reckoned with. Its annual general meetings always seemed scripted by Saturday Night Live.

The attempted excommunication of Mr. Charko was nothing compared to earlier events. In 1962, Tom Campbell was elected as an NPA alderman. Then he split from his party and running as an independent, beat out NPA Mayor Bill Rathie in the 1966 election. In 1970, he returned to the the NPA and again won as mayor.

                                                       MAYOR TOM CAMPBELL 1969

Team and Art Phillips defeated NPA candidate, Bill Street, but TEAM dissolved after a couple of years. Jack Volrich was elected under the TEAM banner and then split from the party and ran as an independent. TEAM morphed into Mayor Harcourt's independent civic electors and formed an alliance with COPE. Harry Rankin in the 90's split from COPE and supported VOICE. Gordon Campbell, whose career began as Art Phillips assistant led the NPA to victory in 1986.

Estranged from Rankin, COPE seemed headed for the dustbin. Instead it was miraculously resurrected. It came to power under Mayor Larry Campbell, re-branded as VISION which metamorphosed into the new developers party replacing the NPA.

And so it goes. Fractious events do not always lead to  adverse results for a party.


A group of people, many of whom were associated with the original TEAM, now hope to see its rebirth  as a centrist party to replace both VISION and the NPA.  Because VISION and NPA are both funded by developers they see the choice as between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Politics makes strange developers.  Land Use Planning and zoning is the responsibility of Local Governments and when those who are regulated fund the regulators, huge towers coincidentally result. Sometimes they are even  named after the City Planner who approved them.

TEAM will not win by moral virtue alone. It must develop a machine and select good candidates. As long as the process encourages packing party meetings with new members to select candidates life  will be full of surprises.

To succeed, TEAM must not sell the NPA short. The split on the NPA's Board was less embarrassing then it could have been. Sure, they did not seem to be able to get many members out to an important meeting but at least they didn't make a martyr out of anybody. People can joke about  the latest neo- Borgia colour scheme for its coat of arms, but none of that matters. The fact remains that the NPA is a formidable political institution with a significant history. It has been able to raise awesome amounts of money from a relatively few donors.  For most of its history it has not depended on huge membership lists.

Local Elections are won by the comparative strength of political machines. The pollsters don't measure this and that is why they got it wrong in the recent provincial election. The NPA has exceptional connections to the Provincial Liberals. Those Liberals will be operating phone banks and knocking on doors to identify the vote in the next election. Even with all of the interest that is expressed in TEAM, it has a lot of catching up to do.

Thursday, 6 June 2013


A thrilling event happened yesterday. I received  a little green Louis Vuitton plastic box from the City. It was to recycle my food scraps and to carry bones, egg shells and stuff like that  to the Green Bin all of which could ultimately be recycled into musical instruments. 

A planner published in the  Georgia Straight has criticized our Mayor for diverting attention from important, long term planning issues to Street Parties which she suggests are used to raise money for VISION. There are two sides to the issue: Shall we plan or shall we dance?

As a planner and a musician it is a tough choice. Planning has its moments but I have a higher dream. It is to play a tuba and flute duet.  There is only one piece composed for  that combination. It is the  Titl  serenade. Titl was a composer determined to bring together, the Tuba, an Ill Wind that no one blows good,  and the sublime flute. I would love to have a city wide festival. The Titl serenade could be played at any intersection in Dunbar. The Mayor plays the tuba. I play the flute. We could both play on recycled instruments as they do in Paraguay.

                                TITL SERENADE FOR FLUTE AND HORN

Just after we got our Louis Vuitton hand held recycling box,  my wife, by a strange coincidence,  received a personal email from the Mayor bringing truly glad tidings!

He said that VISION  was at the half way mark and they had another half term to do even more good to us. He explained that street homelessness had declined over 61%.

That's not all. 

They have delivered loads of rental housing much of which will become occupied when they get the landlords to get over their aversion to tenants and actually rent some of it.

He noted that "Vancouver is getting greener every day, but we must work with our partners to invest in rapid transit, including on the Broadway corridor --scope of our cycling and pedestrian transportation networks. We also need to build on VISION Vancouver's record of unprecedented support for the arts and Vancouver's vibrant world-class creative sector...To keep Vancouver moving forward, we're counting on your support, ideas and engagement****HELP US BUILD A PROGRESSIVE VANCOUVER - DONATE HERE."

As I continued my reverie about playing the Titl Serenade duet with the Mayor, on a recycled plastic water-main flute and  the Mayor on an exhaust pipe tuba, all of which was triggered by my green Louis Vuitton   garbage carrier, I was distracted  by a poisonous posting from the  Georgia Straight.

That ankle biter paper had  the effrontery to run a critical article. The author, a planner, criticised the Council because they were not consulting enough on this or that 30 year official plan or anything else. They were also guilty of turning things over to Metro Vancouver in a "regional context" statement.  (As if there is something wrong with taxation without representation.)  

And then the author even attacked our Mayor because he wants to get everyone out in the street and dance! Not just a neighbourhood dance. A full frontal entire city dance, neighbourhood by neighbourhood

For a good example of a neighborhood dance in Paris that we could do here:

Well the planner is wrong. These  stressful times demand release:

  •  We all fought for the right to recycle our food scraps in our green bins. 
  • For years we have cried out for well designed person-hole covers. Now we have them.
  •  We have demanded urban forest removal by means of adorable lane- way houses.  We have 500 already and more trees to go.
  • There will be lots more stress on the way to an underground subway to Paradise.  
  • And if that is not enough we must Increase the population to 10 million so we can support high speed trains like the French TGV  that could allow the newcomers  to commute to Kelowna in 45 minutes. 

Check out this to appreciate a train that moves at  578 kph 


What  the Nabobs of Negativism (to coin a phrase)  forget is that there are solid historical precedents for what our Mayor wants to do. In ancient Rome they offered bread and circuses. More recently, in the Middle Ages after the black plague, the surviving Villagers held what were referred to as "dancing manias." 

They  jerked around in the streets like zombies until they dropped.  Michael  Jackson's, “Thriller” and Harry Bellafontes “Zombie Jamboree” had their roots in Europe's dancing manias of the middle ages. So well choreographed street parties are exactly what  I would expect of a city that leads the world in the arts on top of which happens to be the greenest city in the world. 

The Mayor does not need my advice, but here is my prediction. The Mayor will invite Chris Christie, Governor of ”, New Jersey, (the“Garden State) to the Street Dance.  Christie would choreograph and dance a street version of   George Gershwin's  Lets build a stairway to paradise”  Christie  could take all the  streets he wanted.  (Gershwin was a New Jersey Lad.)

After that Gregor and Governor Christie, with their invited constituents  would start at opposite ends of the City and join in a chorus line of  our cities' respective songs: “In the Boardwalk in Atlantic City” and the far superior Vancouver Song by local composer Mike Sims.

                                    New Jersey Governor Christie

I would sure rather see all that then sit through another jargon laden, insufferable planning or zoning meeting in which flocks of planners, who don't think because they already  know, tell me how I ought to live. The Mayor is right: Lets Dance.