Transparency and Local Democracy
Vancouver is facing a crisis of local democracy. The two major establishment parties - Vision and the NPA - are both dominated by the real estate and developer corporations that remain their single largest source of funding. In the 2011 election cycle, both parties received over $1 million in donations from the real estate and development industry. The result is that wealthy developers and real estate moguls can leverage their political influence to push through gentrifying condo megaprojects, convert lower cost housing into luxury housing for wealthy investors, and undermine any attempt to bring down housing costs.
Also, as the only major North American city without a ward system Vancouver has an elitist electoral system which makes it difficult for local neighbourhoods to have any real political say on the issues that affect their communities: from the approval of new condo developments to control over the budgets of their local community centers.
COPE does not take donations from developers, and is fighting against corruption at City Hall. Our proposal for campaign finance reform will end the influence of the developer industry in municipal politics, while our plan for electoral reform and enhanced local consultation will ensure that every neighbourhood in Vancouver has a political voice.
How will COPE enhance local democracy and transparent governance?
Fight Corruption at City Hall through Campaign Finance Reform
COPE will end the influence of real estate corporations at City Hall by getting big money out of local politics. COPE will create hard limits on the amount individuals can donate to political parties, as well as on the amount individuals and parties can spend during an election. Moreover, COPE will implement a public system to fund political parties based on the number of votes each party received in the immediately preceding election, similar to the federal per-vote subsidy system. COPE will also work with other municipalities to lobby the provincial government to ban corporate donations to municipal parties.
Enhance Local Democracy through Electoral reform
COPE will hold a public referendum on electoral reform to let Vancouverites choose between keeping the current at-large voting system or replace it with a more democratic Ward system. The referendum will also give voters the choice to keep the current first-past-the-post system of voting or replace it with a system of proportional representation. COPE will strengthen local democracy by putting all major public capital spending projects to a public referendum, as well as work with other municipalities to lobby the provincial government to pass legislation that would enable citizens to recall elected City officials.
Implement Open Information Systems for Vancouver Renters
COPE will create a Landowner and Landlord Registry database that will register and license landlords; list all rental units, rents, and rent increases; and track all health, safety, maintenance, and tenancy disputes.
Improve Community Oversight of Law Enforcement
COPE will improve public accountability and independent oversight of the police. COPE will create a civilian-run police complaints system empowered to conduct investigations and enforce police compliance with its decisions to ensure that the police complaints process is monitored by a completely independent body, with a sufficient budget and no reporting obligations to the VPD. COPE will also support third-party independent, community-led police oversight organizations.
Strengthen Neighbourhood Consultation and Local Democratic Governance
COPE will adhere to an open, honest and transparent process of consultation in all areas of governance. This will be achieved by actively listening to and gaining an understanding of what is important to local communities, not politically connected developers.
HOUSING: COPE’s new Housing Authority will mandate resident participation in its decision-making process, and help develop tenant unions to defend the rights and interests of renters. COPE will also establish an elected Rent Control Board, with tenant representation and independence from the real estate industry.
SCHOOL BOARD: COPE will ensure sincere and meaningful consultation with local parents, teachers, and community members. It will do this by rotating board meetings in different neighbourhoods, and by strengthening local engagement and consultation processes with parents (Parent Advisory Committees), unions, employee groups, and community members.
PARK BOARD AND COMMUNITY CENTRES: COPE will enhance the decision-making powers of local communities and reverse Vision’s practice of centralising decision-making processes and undermining the power of local Community Centre Associations. COPE will restore the practice of holding Park Board meetings in community centres throughout the city, so that residents of each community can explain their issues and concerns. COPE will also conduct community forums so that residents can raise issues of concern and have input in prioritizing operating and capital expenditures.
COPE will restore the democratic powers of local Community Centre Associations (CCAs) in Vancouver. COPE will oppose pooling CCA revenues as a means for City Council to have total fiscal control over the Park Board, ensuring that decisions over Community Centre budgets are made locally. COPE will make it policy that any review of Parks Board and Community Centre Services is done in partnership with CCAs, so that community organizations can continue to provide unique and localized programs that meet the diverse needs of Vancouver’s many citizens.