Democracy? What Democracy?

When you are asked what Democracy is or means to you, what do you think or say?

Most people say it means the majority rules or 50% + 1 votes in an election.

A lot of people say that democracy means that a democratic government represents the people. Okay…Which people? All the people, they say.

A few folks get technical and state the details of how a vote that is cast for a elected representative is supposed to reflect the views of the majority in that riding at whatever particular political level we’re talking about…this is where most of us drift off quietly…

But let’s check a few, very important assumptions going on in this
“democratic discussion”:

Assumption #1: The winner of an election will be supported by more than half the population.

All of the recent elections in Vancouver, municipal, provincial, and federal, prove this assumption horribly incorrect.

The current Mayor received 46.5% of the votes cast (less than half). This number translates to only 15% of registered voters and only 10% of eligible voters supported Vancouver’s Mayor.

The current Premier received 45.98% of the votes cast in the provincial
riding of Vancouver Point-Grey. This translates to 27.89% of registered voters and only 22.94% of eligible voters supported BC’s Premier.

The Provincial Liberal Party received 45.8% of the votes cast, 28.4% of the registered vote, and only 23.4% of the eligible vote.

David Emerson, the newest member of the Conservative Party and new
Minister of International Trade, received 43.5% of the votes cast in the
federal riding of Vancouver Kingsway…as a Liberal. The Conservative
candidate he ran against received 18.8% of the votes cast. Translated,
25.6% of registered voters and only 17% of eligible voters supported
David Emerson as a Liberal candidate. The Conservative party
candidate received 11% of the registered vote and 7.5% of the eligible vote.

The new Conservative federal government received 36.3% of the votes cast, which is 23.5% of the registered vote and only 18% of the eligible vote.

Assumption #2: The number of votes cast is not important.

Not one government representing Vancouver citizens is supported by a
majority of residents. Even worse, not one government is supported by
even ONE QUARTER of the people it “represents”!

Not only is the number of votes cast important, governments must not be allowed to govern any of us unless they obtain at least a majority of the eligible vote (many other organizations require 60% or even 75% support to pass motions). Anything less is like letting a “special interest group” take over the government. Hmm, maybe that’s how we have right-wing governments at every level and nobody admits to voting for any of them!

Assumption #3: The decisions and direction of the resulting government will reflect the majority of the people it represents.

Obviously assumption 3 is a crock of poo: what government has ever
represented the majority of the people it represents in Canada? From the start of colonization (when the majority of folks were aboriginal) to today, governments are elected by, at most, a handful of voters. And you can bet that that handful is from the richest part of society, not only because they have the time to vote, but because they have to most money to lose.

Assumption #4: the electoral system must be fair because we use it.

That assumption is like saying capitalism must be the best economic
system because we use it. The rich in our society (10% of Canadians own 53% of our wealth) have always controlled our governments and therefore have written the rules that we are expected to obey (you know, laws and taxes and electoral systems). Why would the people with the power voluntarily create a system that could take that power away? They may be inbred, greedy, unhappy and smell real bad, but rich people are not stupid (well, most of them at least). All “legal” systems are written by the rich, for the rich…except when we force them to do otherwise!

Assumption #5: we can’t change the system.

Whatever system that assumption refers to can not only be changed, it
must be changed! How can anyone sit back and allow a group of thieves to run our governments? Yes, thieves. First they steal our governments (hello, 10% Mayor, 22% Premier, and the 17% Minister who blatantly lied throughout the recent federal election; sign the petition to recall him here) and then they use our governments to steal our money (by taxing us and giving tax “breaks”, contracts, and subsidies to their friends and themselves in the corporate world).

Not only do we need to change the electoral systems at every level, we
need to bring democracy down to the neighbourhood level where all of us can participate (Cuba is an excellent example of how to do this). And we need to stop the looting of our resources (both natural and personal) by changing our economic system (Co-operatives in Northern Italy dominate their huge economy).

How? Start by talking. Then talk some more. Get others interested. When you’re ready, start working together. You’ll find the way. Trust yourself. But stop trusting “the system.” You’ll be surprised at how different the world looks when you do. And how quickly it can all change…

This is a Truly Terrible Twin!

No one likes to sit in traffic. That’s one reason why I ride a bike. Unfortunately for those who didn’t look at the big picture when deciding where to live, this isn’t much help. Thousands of folks bought homes in the ‘burbs to try to save money while continuing to work in or near the City. And while they’re stuck in traffic and losing their financial gamble, they aren’t the only ones fuming.

Now the BC Fiberals have their very own solution for this (and yes, I mean their very own). It is a solution much like everything else they’ve done over the past five years (i.e., good for big business, bad for people). They want to double the capacity of Highway #1 from Langley to Vancouver by paving more of paradise and twinning the Port Mann bridge.

Obviously, this appeals to the short-sighted folk sitting in the Trans-Canada parking lot. They don’t want to move, despite being in gridlock.

But this definitely doesn’t work for most of the million living in and around Vancouver. East Vancouver in particular, is already choked full of commuter cars. This is despite (or more likely, because of) most of our transportation tax dollars being spent by the bureaucrats in City Hall to maximize traffic flow and make mini, urban freeways through the Eastside.

So what to do?

We may simply have to battle it out with a fascist regime that is due to crack at anytime…not easy nor particularly fun but perhaps inevitable. Especially given their maniacal desire to privatize everything they can get their hands on.

If these fascists somehow stopped to listen for just a moment, we could find a way for everyone to win (well, except for Big Business, but they take care of themselves).

Let’s start with the obvious need to increase capacity. The general assumption is that increasing capacity on the highway means accommodating more cars. But the reality is we need to move more people, more efficiently.

Despite being the most efficient vehicle known to humankind, bikes are not the answer. Hell, people can’t even walk over the Port Mann bridge, much less cycle over it.

Translink, on the other hand, has put all its eggs in one expensive, privatized basket (RAV, now known as the Canada or Worm Line). Even if RAV is stopped, TransLink clearly doesn’t possess the skills or creativity to make a significant contribution (aside from doing the proposed paving or bridge building) to resolving this issue with bus technology.

So let’s take a quick peek at what’s happening now. There’s an average of five (5) empty seats per vehicle idling on that highway. Most vehicles (80- 90%) are completely empty (the cars can’t drive themselves…yet). Maybe the solution is simply staring us in the face!

Crunch a few numbers, and it is easy to see how we can not only double the capacity of the bridge and highway, but quadruple it or more! If 8 cars are currently carrying (at most) 10 people, and those cars have an average of 5 empty seats, it’s easy to see how we could reduce the number of vehicles dramatically and not pave over even one more patch of greenspace.

Okay, the numbers work. How do we actually do it?

Right now, there are two lanes leading from Langley through Surrey to the bridge. There are no restrictions on use. Hence the preponderance of Single Occupant Vehicles (SOVs).

Converting one of those lanes into a DOV (Double – 2), LOV (Low – 3), or – gasp! – HOV (High, as in 5 or more) would quickly change habits.

Thinking this through, let’s start with one DOV that is ENFORCED and continues right over the bridge to the current “HOV” lane. By the time this lane starts to clog up (a few weeks or months), we’ll have increased the capacity of the highway by 50% without doing anything more than posting a few signs and enforcing them consistently. We’re halfway home.

When the time comes (imagine, if you can, appropriate planning, not just planning for planning’s sake!), we can then upgrade the DOV to a LOV (3 or more people per car) or we can convert the other lane to a DOV. Both options achieve the current goal of doubling the capacity of this commute. I like the double DOV designation because it is simply criminal, not to mention extinction-making, to allow folks to drive around with empty vehicles. But it is safer to assume that the LOV option will be chosen.

When the LOV option starts to fill up, then we can move to a true HOV (5 or more) designation for one lane of the highway. This provides an opportunity to move more people than even the terrible twinning option could ever hope for. And it costs about $4 billion less.

Don’t let folks tell you that they need a passing lane or that no one will use the DOV, LOV, or HOV lane. Putting a few cops to a rare good use will ensure that the lane is used appropriately. A very important side benefit from this change of use will be a safer highway. Right now, drivers believe they have a “right” to pass, no matter how fast the other driver is moving. Speed kills, and on a highway where cars are moving in an uniform stream, many less people will die or be seriously injured. The twinning-spinsters can’t make this claim with a straight face.

Let’s put to rest the myth that we can build our way out of traffic once and for all. The private automobile has cost us all more than we can ever imagine. The population of automobiles continues to grow faster than humans in the Lower Mainland; putting billions of our money into an already failed experiment will only make it worse…even the fascists admit this.

It is time to stop the madness. It is time to rethink our current infrastructure. And even better, it is time to get back on my bike! See you at the Car-Free Fest on Commercial Drive…