Electoral Area A Candidates Exposed

Posted by: | October 30, 2008 | Comments Off on Electoral Area A Candidates Exposed

On November 15th, people will go to the polls in Metro Vancouver to vote for new municipal governments. People that live on UBC campus will also go to the polls, but they won’t be voting for mayors and councilors like everyone else since UBC is not part of any municipality, but rather part of an unincorporated area termed Electoral Area A. That doesn’t mean that these residents don’t have representation though. On-campus residents can still vote for School Board and for a representative to the Metro Vancouver Board. Electoral Area A’s representation to the Metro Vancouver Board is extremely minimal – one vote out of 124 – but nonetheless important.

In the aim of improving the 4% voter turnout in the 2005 election, I surveyed the five candidates for Electoral Area A Director to get their views on some of the most important student issues. Before getting to the results, here’s a rundown of who the candidates are:

Charles Menzies – UBC anthropology prof, chair of the Schools Action Committee of the University Neighbourhoods Association, founding member of Vision Vancouver’s education committee
Fred Pritchard – works for local developer Leddingham MacAlister, former Director of Campus and Community Planning, worked on the South Campus Neighbourhood Plan, former UNA board member and consulter
Matthew Naylor – UBC arts student, AMS Councilor, former AMS VP External
Ben West – Vancouver Green Party Chair, works as the Healthy communities Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, former student representative to the Capilano College Board, former BC Organizer for the Green Party of Canada, fomer deputy leader of the Green Party of BC
Maria Harris – economist, member of the University Endowment Community Adv

1) Do you support keeping the UBC Farm in its current location at its current size (24 ha)?

Charles: Yes. Period. No qualifications.

Fred: Yes

Matt: Yes, unequivocally. Beyond that, steps must be taken to institutionally recognize the permanency of the Farm. I was happy to vote to support changing the designation of the Farm to ‘Academic Field Facility’, and, from the perspective of MetroVancouver, would work to secure the farm in perpetuity, using such options as placing the Farm into the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Ben: Yes. I am one of the lead organizers of the campaign to save UBC Farm, and have been working hard on strategy, communications, collecting petitions, helping with media training for friends of the farm representatives, and much more in my role as a Healthy Communities campaigner for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

Maria: Yes, I support keeping the UBC Farm, including the forest buffer, in its current location and at its current size. It is a precious educational, environmental and community asset whose social value will increase over time and which needs to be preserved for future generations, particularly in view of increasing population on the Point Grey penninsula and diversifying educational uses of the farm.

2) Are students fairly represented on the UBC Board of Governors?

Charles: I would like to see the Board of Governors majority elected with equal numbers of seats for faculty, staff, and students.

Fred: Yes

Matt: No. There is an immense contribution that students make to this university, both in terms of a fiscal contribution, and societally. Three out of twenty one seats does not reflect the importance of students in this University setting. More specifically, there is often a gap in representation for graduate students – I would like to see a specific seat for graduate students created on the Board.

Ben: No. The Board of Governors is a fundamentally un-democratic institution. I was elected 4 times as a student representative on the Board of Governors at Capilano College. This group of appointed volunteers may in fact have the best interests of the university at heart from their perspective, but I believe the lack of truly accountable and transparent representation is very problematic. Look at the UBC farm as just one example of an issue where the Board is so far not responding to the needs and wishes of students or community members in the way an accountable group would have to.

Maria: I should defer to students for an answer to this question since fairness of representation needs to be evaluated by those who are represented. I believe quality of representation is a pivotal issue in this election and I am willing to make the significant time committment required to represent the many different needs of Electoral Area A residents at the Metro Vancouver Board and on committees.

3) Do you support the presence of the Olympics on campus?

Charles: The Olympics are a big festival that has already been committed to. I would be concerned if the security or other aspects of the event interferes with
normal functioning of learning and campus research. I do not want the Olympics to unduly interfere with or cause harm to the normal functions of education on this campus.

Fred: In its limited form without affecting the academic year..Yes

Matt: The Olympics are coming to campus whether we want them to or not, it’s up to us to make the best of them. We must be clear in what we want to see for the Olympics in our district, and have a plan to ensure that we get the most out of these games, and mitigate the effects of the aftermath of the Olympics, not only here, but across the GVRD.

Ben: I have concerns about the presence of the Olympics on campus, as I have problems with the commercialization of education in general. I was opposed to the Olympic bid because of the cost (especially in the context of closing schools and hospitals at the same time), the impact on the city, and its aftermath. I love snowboarding and other organized sports and wish the athletes all the best.

Maria: This is now a given and I think we should do what we can to welcome the world and enjoy the spirit of this event.

4) Should a rapid transit line to UBC be built before the Evergreen Line?

Charles: I think that having a UBC line built at the same time or very soon after the start of the Everygreen line would be a good idea.

Fred: No. We need improved service faster which can be done by improving level of existing bus service

Matt: Yes. While I believe that both projects are very important, UBC is severely undeserved as the second highest transit destination of the GVRD, second only to downtown Vancouver. We cannot have our line built fast enough.

Ben: We need more buses now. Rapid transit improvements are needed throughout the region. We should not see this issue as competition with other under-serviced areas. Light rail is an interesting option, but to consider over time, making use of existing corridors and doing everything possible not to replicate the disruption of the Cambie street corridor. I am opposed to underground subway construction to the campus because of cost, aesthetics, and safety issues.

Maria: The critical issue is to ensure that UBC has fast, frequenc, and efficient public transit sooner rather than later. Public transit to UBC needs to be part of an integrated socially responsible system of public transit throughout the Lower Mainland and the fact that UBC is the second highest public ridership destination in Metro Vancouver should receive appropriate recognition in the allocation of resources.

5) Do you have any concerns with RCMP conduct on campus?

Charles: I have noted that over the years the RCMP have at times reacted too strongly –in my personal opinion- to student protests. In 1997 I watched as RCMP officers pepper sprayed student and community protesters. Through several other protest movements leading up to this past year the RCMP have seemed to over respond to student protests with a fairly heavy hand. Yet there are many issues related to crimes committed against people and property on campus that appear not to have been dealt with adequately. Many housing developments on campus in the UNA area have had to hire private security to deal with property crime. Many issues of crimes against people on campus appear not to have been adequately dealt with by the RCMP or campus security. Policing is also an expensive issue with most of the costs being paid for by resident taxes. The cost structure for rural policing (that’s the way policing is set up for the UEL/UBC area) does not provide sufficient funds for adequate policing to deal with real problems.

Fred: No

Matt: Yes, I do. I feel that the actions of the RCMP have been unnecessarily heavy handed, and have been working against the creation of campus community, rather than for it. While I am in favor of a safe campus, I feel that a safe campus can be created while still allowing for an inclusive community to be created on campus.

Ben: I have concerns about any excessive use of police force on or off campus. Dragging students away from a protest by their hair is never called for as was the case at the most recent altercation on campus. Given the history of past incidents with students, such as during the APEC protests, it would stand to reason that extra steps would be taken to ensure this kind of conduct would not happen again. University campuses must be a place of free speech and the RCMP should help facilitate social and political dialog in all forms. The RCMP have a tough job to do but they must take greater steps to ensure that UBC is safe free speech zone and students rights are respected.

Maria: I am aware that there have been some tensions between the RCMP and students on campus. The solution to this is to ensure that the student community and the police consult and collaborate to ensure appropriate policing on campus.

6) Which group do you feel you are more in touch with: students, the UEL, or the UNA?

Charles: I see myself being ‘in touch’ with residents of UBC who are both students and UNA area residents. I share similar outlooks with people who live in the UEL such as the desire to ensure that our green spaces and woodland areas are maintained for public use.

Fred: I have two UBC student family members that keep me more up to date on students at UBC than anyone from the UEL or UNA on affairs in the UEL or the UNA

Matt: Students. One is always going to be more in touch with what they are. I have lived the student experience on campus and work to improve it, but it will be done holistically – I would represent everyone, not just the constituency I belong to.

Ben: I have a strong background in student organizing and public education advocate on this campus and elsewhere and I can personally relate to student life, and the issues we face as renters, transit riders and young people. I also feel very at home with the residents in the UNA and the UEL. As a community organizer I have made it my business to work closely with disparate communities. The truth is that all of these communities are diverse and multi-faceted. I have found common ground between myself and many individuals in all regions.

Maria: I am a resident of the UEL and have participated in UEL community affairs, but I have always been committed to the wider community. Over the last six years, I have been engaged in committees, workshops and meetings involving students, the UEL and the UNA. Having said that, I recognize that I am somewhat less in touch with the particular concerns of students and of UNA residents than those of the UEL, though I have participated at many venues where the views of students and others have been expressed.

7) Which political parties do you support municipally/provincially/federally?

Charles: Municipal- I am supporting individuals municipally, not political parties. Because I am a resident in Electoral Area ‘A’ (the region that includes UBC) I am only able to vote for school board. In this year’s election I will be supporting Patti Bacchus (Vision), Ken Clement (Vision), Carol Gibson (NPA), Alan Wong (COPE). Provincial and Federal –NDP.

Fred: I tend to support the local candidate who offers a platform that reflects local values and interests regardless of political party

Matt: Surrey Civic Coalition, NPA/Vision (dependent on candidate)/BC Liberals/Liberal Party of Canada. I do want to mention that while I have partisan leanings, I have consistently worked well with people in other parties, rising above partisanship, to get things done in my capacity as VP External Affairs, and would like to continue that tradition in this position.

Ben: I am a past deputy leader of the Green Party of BC, was the BC Organizer for the Green Party of Canada, and have worked closely with Elizabeth May. That being said, I have decided that the best way to bring progressive leadership to our municipal government is to work co-operatively with Vision Vancouver and COPE. I am very proud to have negotiated a collaborative agreement with Gregor Robertson, and I believe that as part of this team I can provide a much stronger voice for this campus than we have ever seen before.

Maria: Federally and provincially: Liberal. Municipally: Vision, but with respect to the School Board, I would support candidates committed to fast-tracking UBC elementary and high school expansions, regardless of their party.

8) If you could not
vote for yourself in Electoral Area A, who would you vote for?

Charles: Maria Harris. Maria has lived on campus since 1999. During this time she has been very involved in the life of her community. I have sat on UBC advisory committees with Maria in the past and have nothing but good things to say about her. I am certain she would do a good job.

Fred: I have not yet decided who that would be.

Matt: I would probably vote for Ben West, as he has similar views on the future of Governance, but I don’t have access to any specifics of the plans of other candidates, so I couldn’t say for sure.

Ben: I believe it is fundamentally important for whoever is elected to this position to have a solid understanding of student issues, and the perspective of young people. Although I cannot imagine voting for anyone affiliated with the BC Liberal party, I think student government is an excellent training ground for anyone interested in making the jump into the political world. Matthew Naylor clearly has political ambitions and is interested in making this leap, and I think this election will be a great experience for him. When I was a student years ago taking these first steps, it was a fascinating experience. What is important is remaining focused on community advocacy and not getting too caught up in the politics.

Maria: Undecided, I have a high regard for each of the candidates who have put themselves forward.


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