Honesty and the future of Vancouver

Mark Busse
Oct 18, 2018 · 6 min read

You know those feelings of minor panic when you feel like if you don’t do something, things will go wrong? Yay, well, three days before the 2018 civic elections in Vancouver, I really felt like I was being dishonest if I didn’t say something, so I sent this message to everyone local in my contacts database.

Hello friend,

I hope this message finds you happy, healthy, and hopeful. If we’ve not spoken for a while perhaps this email will reconnect us so we can catch up! I am emailing you about the civic election in Vancouver — which I confess is stressing me out. Don’t worry, I’m not emailing you to promote a candidate or political party — and I’m not running (can you imagine? Yikes!).

Last week’s Creativemornings lecture was on the theme of honesty which got me thinking about how people (especially during election season apparently) seem a little too honest to the point of being uncivilized, about their opinions and criticisms of others. I absolutely include myself (if I’m honest), and am working on finding ways to get more informed and more effectively engage in meaningful discourse, but sometimes it’s a real struggle.

Our city is in trouble. We need change. I’ve said goodbye to far too many friends as the city became unsustainable and unwelcoming for them. If you’ve moved away, please forgive me and let me know so I can update my address book. And know that you are missed.

So, with an unexpected burst of honesty, here I am composing a missive about our civic duty to participate in democracy in the hopes that we can work together to get our city and region back on track with new leadership in City Hall.

Did you know that today is your last chance to participate in advanced voting? Andrea and I voted last night and even with a well-considered list of who we were voting for it still took 20 minutes to figure out the super long and confusing ballot. 158 candidates for 27 positions listed in random order? Are you kidding me?

I know that most people I know are wide awake and understand the importance of voting, but it has surprised me how many friends have expressed a nonchalance — even apathy — toward the whole process, confounded by how bizarre the elections have been so far, and feeling like their vote wouldn’t matter. And no wonder people are confused, with new electoral finance rules, a bunch of new parties, a dizzying array of candidates, a confusing randomized ballot, mud-slinging, misinformation, and on and on…

There are some strong opinions flying around about important issues and proposed approaches, claims about who is most qualified, accusations about labour unions breaking finance rules designed to keep big money out of elections, and now even an investigation into vote buying from China!?! Gah!

One particular narrative I’ve heard more than enough of is the “politics is power and this is just how its done” argument, typically told by older, wealthy, white men if I’m being honest. You know, people in power with the most to lose. They often talk about how only parties with name recognition can win. That flexibility with ethics and bending rules is OK if it’s a means to an end. That polls or endorsements guarantee certain candidates will win, or that “I like her, but she doesn’t stand a chance so I don’t want to split the vote.”

You know what? I am sick of that negative claptrap. This is OUR city and WE get to decide who runs it and how. Not old white men. Not dusty old political parties. And not labour unions. Anyway, the reality is that with so many candidates running this year, the one thing that seems certain is that it will not take many votes to win a position of power and influence inside City Hall this year. SO YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

For these reasons (and more), I chose not to join any political party, and although I am an avid supporter of one particular independent mayoral candidate, I am voting for many candidates from various parties across the progressive spectrum along with a number of independents. And to be clear, my motivations are 100% personal, as I have no agenda and do not serve in any official capacity role in any candidate’s campaign.

I really do want to encourage you to participate in this election, but don’t want to share my picks or opinions unless you reply and would like to chat about my perspectives. I will tell you that I am focussed on the kind of city I want to live in, and what kind of progressive leadership, policies, and governance feels most appropriate to get us there. So while some have criticized a few of my choices as “not strategic”, to them I say pshaw. I am uninterested in the naysayers, pundits, and pollsters and am voting for who I feel is the most experienced, ethical, and equipped to lead. Period.

Here are a few resources from folks I respect who’ve put hard work into their analysis that you might appreciate:
A candidate report card as analyzed by various folks using a comprehensive rubric
An election guide produced by a tech startup entrepreneur
An informative website with a great overview produced by a local designer
• And
a terrific “Plan Your Vote” tool on the City of Vancouver website which I found helpful

Also, if you haven’t watched any of the numerous recent debates — which I found much more informative than much of the media coverage — there are many videos of online worth watching. And this morning CBC is hosting a livestream of what I believe is the very last mayoral debate.

I hope this is helpful, but if you’re still confused (no one would blame you) I’d be happy to chat. And even help if I can. Heck, if you don’t know where your polling station is or need a ride, I’d even be willing to come give you a ride on Saturday! (I’m serious).

Again, I realize that you are probably all over this stuff, so thank you for indulging me by letting me rant a bit. I really do hope you don’t find this email in any way annoying. Heck, in my mind it would be worth it if I could even motivate a handful of old friends or acquaintances to vote.

BTW, I continue to help produce free informal Likemind coffee gatherings once a month if you’d like to join us at VFS Cafe this Friday and we can talk about all this stuff before the last and final voting day on Saturday, October 20. And of course, if you want to keep up to date on upcoming CreativeMornings events (and strong arm me when you really need to jump the line), just make sure you’re subscribed to CMVan’s mailing list here.

Your friend in honesty,

Any guesses how many people replied with anything negative to say? Two. One who said it was inappropriate to email a political message to her work email address (fair enough), and one from someone who took umbrage with my negative comment about older, wealthy, white men in positions of power with the most to lose. Any guesses who it came from? You guessed it, a smug, wealthy, 70 year old who feels the world is out to cut him down after working so hard during his life and career. Sorry sir, but you had your time, now it’s our turn.

See you at the polls on Saturday, October 20th friends!

Mark Busse

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