Money and the ethnic vote?

Don't know how the Coalition of Progressive Electors managed to lose the wards vote while having control of city hall? Well, don't worry - Vancouver Parks Board commissioner and coalition-member Anita Romaniuk, who is also running for the provincial New Democrat nomination in Vancouver-Langara, has already figured out what went wrong. In an email sent to Sunrise, a members-only listserv frequented by lefties, Ms. Romaniuk outlines four reasons why the coalition lost Saturday's wards referendum.

According to that email, the yes-side was financially outgunned, spending $70,000 on their campaign or $130,000 less than the Non-Partisan Association-backed no-side. Ms. Romaniuk also writes "the difference between the 1980’s (sic) referenda and today is that there is a much larger Chinese population in Vancouver." And that population was "very susceptible" to the no-side's message a wards system would "result in an increase in taxes."

Ms. Romaniuk then goes onto write that, although the election day operation was well-executed, the yes-side should have started its campaign earlier and "there should have been a campaign specific to young adults." Finally, Ms. Romaniuk speculates opposition from the Green Party, which wanted a proportional representation system rather than wards, might also have been a factor. The following is a copy of Ms. Romaniuk's email, which was leaked to Public Eye.

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Anita Romaniuk"
To: "Sunrise"
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2004 12:50 AM
Subject: Re: [sunrise-l] Wards defeated - what happened??!!!

1. You have to spend money to win an at-large election in Vancouver, and that includes at-large referenda. In the 2002 election, COPE spent about the same as the NPA, more than $1 million dollars. This was 3 times as much as they had ever spent before. COPE won, but is still carrying a debt to this day. Because of the debt situation, the decision was made to only spend as much as they could raise on the wards referendum. This translated into about $70,000. The "No" side spend over $200,000. Money talks. Unfortunately, the message from this is that COPE has to pay off the debt and raise $1 million plus again in order to stand a chance of winning a majority in the 2005 civic election, which will be at large. Sigh.

2. The difference between the 1980's referenda and today is that there is a much larger Chinese population in Vancouver today. They are very susceptible to the message "this will result in an increase in taxes". The NPA a.k.a. Knowards were putting this message out for all they were worth. Wards would mean a more costly city government and therefore their taxes would be raised. In fact, the cost of moving to wards would have been minimal compared to the overall Operating Budget in Vancouver, but the message worked. All of the areas of the city with large Chinese populations voted against wards, including the SE part of the city, not just the west side.

3. The E-Day operation was fairly well-executed, but the campaign itself should have started earlier than it did (and left more time for voter contact). There should have been a campaign specific to young adults. My experience in mainstreeting was that many young adults weren't paying any attention, didn't understand the issue, and weren't interested in
listening. Some non-traditional method needed to be found to get through to them. COPE succeeded in this to some extent in 1999 and 2002. This didn't happen in the short space of time leading up the wards referendum.

4. The Green Party opposed wards because they want proportional representation and weren't prepared to wait for a "second step" (following the results of the provincial citizen's assembly/referendum) where wards came first and then PR. I'm not sure why, because it is quite clear by now that the provincial citizen's assembly is going to recommend a PR system that includes some sort of constituency representation because that is what people all over the province seem to want. There were also some other fringe groups (remnants of VCATeam, etc) who were advocating a "mixed" system of at-large & wards (but not necessarily proportional) who were also advising their adherants to vote "No".

My 4 1/2 cents.

Anita Romaniuk

1 Comment

Why did people vote no this time? Simple, the public saw the process as being foisted on them by people with a political agenda.

This has been more obvious than ever since the Campbell and co agreed that electoral reform is best left in the hands of the voters and not politicians or former politicians.

Berger lost a lot of my respect when he recommended what was most popular with the party he is aligned with. IF an NPA friendly person had been the one to make the report, them it may have looked less political.

People are not stupid and understand that the first past the post system of electing people does not work and that once it was in place in Vancouver, the councilors would never have removed it.

The wards thing was cobbled together and had a patina of consideration for the public. The process was an insult to the public. A public that has always been lukewarm to the idea of wards (this is why it has been defeated so many times before)

Yes, the current system sucks, but if the COPE folk had spend more time to consider more options and chosen one that reflected the best way to elect councilors for the city and then put it to referendum next November during the regular election, I suspect you could have passed some manner of electoral reform.

Wards are dead as a First Past the Post System - get over it and move on to something that better represents the diversity of people

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