Written for Daily Hive by Taleeb Noormohamed, a tech entrepreneur and President and COO of Vancouver and New York-based Casaza. He withdrew from the Vancouver mayoral race this spring for health reasons.
Twenty percent of the residents of Vancouver chose our current mayor, and in just two days, it’s likely even fewer will choose our next mayor.
Municipal elections simply don’t attract huge voter turnout, because they’re not seen as interesting as federal or provincial ones. Yet municipal government affects us in the most direct, and immediate way.
Whether it’s the kinds of buildings that get built, how late restaurants stay open, where we might get a bike lane, whether or not you can enjoy a bottle of wine during a picnic in the park, or whether or not we put on festivals or parades – all of this rests in the hands of City Hall.
Despite the challenges and opportunities that Vancouver must come to terms with, the 2018 municipal election has become a battle of personalities and slogans, not big ideas. As voters, too few of us are talking about what really counts: the kind of city we want to build for the future. This is on all of us, for not getting involved, and not insisting that we hear more about the ideas our candidates have.
But, there’s still time, and the time for us to care is now.
Vancouver is growing up as a city, quickly. While it’s easy to be nostalgic and wish that things were the way they were, it’s much harder to build a plan for the future of our city grounded in our shared values and hopes, one that is bold and unafraid to take on the challenges ahead of us.
If we are to be the cosmopolitan, world-class city we say we are, then it’s time we started to worry about the issues that matter, and expect those we vote for to do something about these issues.
Vancouver should be a city where we can all live with dignity and security, regardless of our economic status.
It should be a city that looks at our housing crisis as an opportunity to test solutions that have become best practice around the world: multigenerational housing, co-ops, partnerships with the private sector that deliver real value for our current – and future – residents, rent controlled housing, the list goes on.
There are solutions to be implemented, we just need to be bold, and we must be prepared to take risks.
Our city welcomes diversity in all its forms, and we should work to turn that diversity into economic and social strength for our city. So many corners of our city have a rich history that should not be built over, but rather cherished and protected so we can learn from our past and do better for our future. That doesn’t mean being stuck in time; rather it means ensuring that as the city evolves we do so in a way that celebrates our diversity and our history, while recognizing our need to grow.
We should be a city that actively supports cultural institutions and the arts, that celebrates creativity and those that work hard to add to the artistic fabric of our community. Performing arts spaces, studios, museums, theatres should be able to focus on creating and delivering content, not on whether they can afford a future in Vancouver.
We should be proactive in helping small businesses and startups thrive and grow in Vancouver, by making sure people can get to work safely and efficiently, and that we ensure there’s space for innovators and entrepreneurs, not just for large corporations.
We need to work with other levels of government to ensure that we have a public transportation strategy that makes every corner of our city accessible, while protecting our environment. Our long-awaited Broadway subway line must go to UBC. We need to think about better transportation options to the North Shore, and across the city, from east to west. We need to support ride-sharing in a way that is responsible and thoughtful.
And finally, we must shed our banner of “no-fun city.” People need to be able to enjoy where we live, and yet, as our city grows, our ability to come together to share experiences seems to diminish.
City Hall needs to become an enabler of big, ambitious, city-building ideas. A place where solutions are implemented, rather than held up. A place where big ideas are given life, not where they go to die. For this to happen, we need not just to vote, but we need to know the issues that matter to us, and then hold folks to account. Political engagement isn’t just about going to the voting booth, it’s about taking the time to know about the issues at stake, and continuing to stay aware of what’s happening.
The transformation of Vancouver from a quiet town protected by water and mountains began long ago, with Expo in 1986. The world came to Vancouver in 2010 for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and fell in love with what they saw and what they felt here.
Now we must ask what kind of city we want to be today, in 20 years, and in 100 years.
The first step to answering that question will be to ensure we go out and vote in our municipal election – and then to demand that our new Mayor and Council work together, work collaboratively and creatively, so that we can be proud of the road ahead. In return, our commitment to them should be our active engagement and involvement with them in building the Vancouver we all deserve.