For a political party whose goal is to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world, Vision’s disdain for green space seems oddly out of place. In one of their first budgets, Vision stripped funding for street trees and ripped out the heart of park maintenance. After being re-elected, Mayor Gregor Robertson mused on destroying a green space in Langara to put up affordable housing. The idea of cutting the Langara golf course up to make way for condo towers was surely one of his more bizarre ideas.
Then there was the idea, pushed by Vision, to cover Vancouver’s last natural foreshore on Burrard Inlet, along the waterfront from Kitsilano to Jericho, with a concrete path. The latest is to take green space out of Kitsilano and Haddon parks for a bicycle route so cyclists could have a view of the water.
For a party that promotes itself as green, it appears to have a great affection for concrete and asphalt. Vision Vancouver seems to view our parks as some sort of “land bank” that they can make withdrawals from whenever they feel like it. In fact, our parks and beaches are a legacy left to us by our parents and grandparents and held in trust by us for our children and their children in perpetuity.
Where does this seemingly odd contradiction come from? Could it be that Vision is so beholden to lobby groups and their development donors that they only pay lip service to their green credentials? Or could it be that their vision of green is completely different from what other people see?
Many Vancouverites would agree getting people out of their cars and onto alternative modes of transportation, like bicycles, buses and sidewalks, is the right direction. Many also would agree that we need to build affordable housing. What I don’t think most citizens would agree with is that it should be done at the expense of our parks and natural spaces.
Vancouver has had the silent goal of being a green city since its inception in 1886. The first act of the newly formed city council was to create a park board to manage Stanley Park. This single decision has ensured that Vancouver has always meant that parks and green spaces are a priority and that citizens have a direct say in what their city would be like. Over its history, Vancouver has planted street trees, maintained our beaches and parklands and encouraged the population to enjoy nature in the city.
Until recently that is.
Being green is not some new concept made up by Vision Vancouver no matter how they spin it. Under independents, NPA, TEAM, and COPE administrations, Vancouver has always been a “green” city. It is bizarre that the first administration that actually calls themselves that and has a goal of making Vancouver the greenest city in the world, would have such a little regard for the green areas of the city. This may ultimately be Vision Vancouver’s downfall — their Achilles heel.
As Abraham Lincoln is attributed as saying “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”. Come election day next November, the citizens of Vancouver may not wish to be played the fool for a third time.
Stuart Mackinnon is a Vancouver teacher and former Green Party Vancouver park board commissioner.