Posted by: Karen Quinn Fung | April 30, 2011

Where are urban issues in this Federal Election?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been sifting through the coverage of the Federal Election since the Parliament dissolved on March 26th, and waiting for the parties to say something related to cities. “Where do cities fit into this?” I’d find myself asking, skimming the headlines. I’d inevitably find myself disappointed at the issues which took centre stage.

Unfortunately, the parties themselves haven’t made much mention of some of the urban issues we focus on. How about services to help immigrants adapt and thrive in our communities? Or issues related to the cost of housing? Or transportation issues? Or ensuring people are able to get what they need to be healthy, like access to greenspace and fresh fruits and vegetables? Or that our access to information through the Internet remains equitable and fair? While there’s a case to be made that these are more in the jurisdiction of the provincial or municipal governments, given that 80% of the country lives in an urbanized area, it seems like there’s an opportunity that none of the four parties in the running have much to say about.

Even Brent Toderian, the City’s Director of Planning, has pointed this out in his blog post at Planetizen entitled, “An election call to action for Canadian urbanists!” Despite compelling arguments from a number of fairly high profile groups, none the parties have heeded cries for things like a National Transit Strategy or a National Housing Strategy. One of these groups, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, has been running a campaign to gather support for a national transit strategy called, Cut My Commute. It aims to show just how much time and money people lose as a result of traffic congestion. (You can support their campaign by sharing their call with your connections through Twitter or Facebook, or by posting the story of your commute with them, through their website.)

While Vancouver and its surrounding areas have done a commendable job with the transit services we have in place, ongoing “service optimizations” — some of which came into effect just recently on April 18th — show us that the battle is very, very far from won. When it comes to making sure our transit authority has the resources to give us transit that supports our communities, and is convenient, safe and attractive for people from all walks of life to use, we should not be putting our operators in the position of deciding between continuing to grow ridership on the routes that need service, and maintaining the levels of service that people have come to rely on. (10th to the Fraser has a great summary of how some these changes to transit service are affecting people in New Westminster.)

We also highly encourage you to go out and vote on Monday — with some ridings in Vancouver having been decided by a difference of 20 votes in the previous 2008 election, your vote and voice are paramount. Although our electoral system is definitely flawed, the fact is that we still have a vote, and we can still use it to steer what we want for our country.

Are there any issues you wish the parties or your local MPs had addressed when it comes to public space or your life in the city?

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