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Breaking the Bloc

Multiplicity as Diversionary Tactic

by Joseph Jones

Breaking the Bloc

Also posted by Joseph Jones:

Three times elected to dominate Vancouver City Council — 2008, 2011, 2014 — the Vision Vancouver party machine has shown a strong tendency to vote en bloc. Mockocracy. The triumph of the machine.

In the early days of this regime, when tracking voting was far more difficult, I put serious time into a Vancouver Council Votes web site, and then wrote a piece about the bloc voting: Bloc Vancouver: Join a Party and Stop Listening, Mostly.

The effort of monitoring of an almost undeviating pattern became a very boring task. The point had been proved.

One week ago, the only significant breaking of the bloc that has ever occurred coincided with the only rejection of a rezoning proposal that has ever occurred. Council overturned Beedie's plans for 105 Keefer on 13 June 2017.

During the remarks of the eleven councillors prior to the voting, NPA's George Affleck taunted Vision Vancouver with its bloc voting, as he announced his own intent to vote a Nay — the decisive sixth vote.

Up later on the speakers list, Andrea Reimer responded to Affleck by calling attention to her own bloc-breaking vote "this morning." In the context, it would seem that she had stood against a different rezoning. Now that minutes are available, exactly what she was referring to can be examined.

The Cited Recent Instance

The agenda item that Andrea Reimer referred to was:

TEXT AMENDMENT: 1101 West Waterfront Road (1199 West Cordova Street)

The voting was:

CARRIED (Vote No. 01991)
(Councillors Affleck, Ball, and Reimer opposed) (Councillor De Genova absent for the vote)

Public hearing was held on this matter as agenda item 4 on 16 May 2017. Council minutes summarize the issue:

An application by CitySpaces Consulting Ltd., on behalf of the City of Vancouver (Parks and Recreation Board), was considered as follows: Summary: To amend the text of Comprehensive Development (CD - 1) District (363) By-law for 1101 West Waterfront Road (1199 West Cordova Street) to increase the maximum floor area in Sub-area 3 for Retail and Service use (restaurant) from 600 square metres (6,458 square feet) to 975 square metres (10,495 square feet)

The public hearing file of correspondence shows 1 letter of support and 11 letters of opposition, including 2 from area residents concerned about additional noise. Identified corporate correspondence includes: the President of Cactus Restaurants (a nearby competitor) with three others who identify as Manager, Assistant General Manager, and Sous Chef; landlord PCI Developments; CEO of nearby Tap and Barrel Restaurant.

There is significant overlap in speakers to the application, and similarity in proportions: 1 speaker in support, 9 speakers opposed, 1 other.

What Can Be Concluded?

First, all councillors except three ignored cogent and overwhelming oppostion to a 38% increase in maximum floor space for a project put forward by City of Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board.

Second, for-profit corporate interests lined up against what appears to be crass self-dealing on the part of the City of Vancouver.

Third, Andrea Reimer may have been positioning to render possible her not-so-bloc remark of the afternoon. Tellingly, this unusual divergence served Yea-voter (a fellow Visioneer) Raymond Louie well, giving him a precedent to mention in his long chat with reporter Mike Howell of the Vancouver Courier about his own breaking of the bloc on the 105 Keefer vote.

[Louie] then brought up Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer’s vote against changing the density for a waterfront restaurant. That occurred the same day as the vote on Beedie’s proposal.

Finally, when political fear forces a vote that brings an extraordinarily harsh spotlight onto "voting" practice, what can a caught-out whipped caucus do? Strategize to create penumbra. Reimer counters Affleck, Louie cites Reimer, and on it goes.

Only once has a broken bloc ever made any difference: 105 Keefer.

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