Saturday, April 20, 2013

Next Generation Transportation: Election Impressions

This past Sunday, I attended an event called "Next Generation Transportation: All-Party Forum". Put on by Carbon Talks, Sustainable SFU, and SFU Public Square, they had a politician from all the major political parties in BC discuss transportation (it was far too amicable to call it a debate):

Mary Polak, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure 
Jane Sterk, Leader of the Green Party of BC
Duane Nickull, MLA candidate for Vancouver-Point Grey, of the BC Conservative Party
Harry Bains, opposition critic for Transportation and Infrastructure, BC NDP

Mary Polak knew her stuff and, not only that, she can speak rather well. She's an effective communicator and her only mis-steps were really policy ones (and her one reference of the Broadway Corridor as the Burrard Corridor). Two things really struck me as reasons to not vote BC Liberal. One, she called the Port Mann bridge a significant investment in cycling infrastructure. This completely laughable and I doubt that the Minister has ever cycled through a city in her life. Second, she reiterated her party's plan to hold a referendum on transit funding. However, she detailed that the referendum would actually not give the public a veto on funding but rather it would be a list of options and we would pick our preferences (even though the day after this event, the Premier said it would be a veto).

Referendums should not be used in lieu of making hard decisions that, in fact, you are elected to make. This is called passing the buck.

Jane Sterk was impressive if only for her commitment to the broader ideals of sustainability. I'm pretty sure she was the only one that acknowledged climate change, as well. Her handle on transportation issues didn't seem to be very strong but it was great to see the leader of the Green Party take on such an important topic. I would have liked to have seen someone from Metro-Vancouver speak in her place but maybe that's asking too much?

Duance Nickull is a bit of an enigma. He's running for the BC Conservative Party but was very much for things like transit, electric rail, and bike lanes infrastructure. He later explained that he's more of fiscal conservative (and re-iterated, no way affiliated with the federal Conservative Party). He's a self-described 'Geek' and loves using data to find solutions. I did not like the way he a few other candidate kept saying "I'm no _____ (insert 'traffic engineer, etc.') to get off from not understanding some of the audience's questions.*EDIT* Apparently he's not in favour of more bike lanes.

Harry Bains from the NDP was rather quite docile and couldn't really get his points across very clearly. However, he did nail the question of the referendum. Bains may well be the next Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure but it's clear that he might not entirely understand his portfolio.

These are just my impressions.

The format of the event was perhaps too take for an election. It would have been interesting to mix up the panel of politicians with professionals and community advocates to spice things up - have these people hold the candidates' feet to the fire and make then answer the questions.

Overall, I thank SFU for holding such an important event.

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