Vancouver-Point Grey Community Office March 2020 Newsletter
The (New/Old) Hollywood Theatre is Coming Soon…
I’m writing to you from Vancouver on a Friday; the legislature is back in session so I’m in Victoria from Sunday night to Thursday night for the next 12 weeks or so. This has been a very eventful month for our province and our city – there are lots of updates to share with you.
Changes at the office
My office was the centre of several news reports when it was occupied by demonstrators in mid-February. One of my staff members, who was working alone in our closed office, was tricked into unlocking the door by a “decoy” team sent ahead to fake a request for assistance, and had a large group of people push past her into the office as leaders of the group filmed her without her permission, talked about how they were taking over and suggested that she would soon “turn on the waterworks” while urging others to come into the staff area of the office and get into our personal space, sit on desks, and take over the private areas of the office. Under duress, she left the office unlocked to get police assistance in keeping the crowd and the public materials and information in our office safe. She had to be escorted back in to get her possessions and files from her desk.
My office and my staff has hosted many demonstrations on many different issues over the past few years that we have been in government. We have been protested by anti-fish farm activists (we offered them tea and painted wooden fish together), anti-school tax activists, environmental activists, trial lawyers, anti-poverty activists, and many others. My goal has been to remain open to the public; no one has to protest in order to get an appointment with me, as I meet and interact regularly with constituents who agree with me and those who disagree with me. While some of the protests have veered closer to the line than others, so far they have made their point and left or protested outside our office and events as allowed by law rather than forcefully taking over the storefront community space where we invite people to use our legos or take a seniors’ guide, host childcare workers’ meetings and artists’ groups, and where our walk-in hours help under-resourced people in our community access legal assistance, housing, health care, childcare and other basic needs.
Unfortunately, because of the shift in tone and tactics of this February demonstration, I have finally been forced to pursue some changes to office protocol and physical configuration.
I continue to believe that an office that is literally wide open to all ideas and concerns should be the goal of every politician. However, given our small staff and limited ability to secure our space, at this point we have to circle back and make some adjustments to enhance the safety of my team, including young and older volunteers who regularly help us in the office, and the security of the information that our community members trust us to keep for them. We will be engaging in these security renovations in a way that we hope will maintain our participation in the community around us and our “walk-in” culture – but access will not be the same in the interim, and there will be significant disruption to appointments and planned events as we work. Thank you in advance for your understanding, and please email me at email@example.com if you want to arrange a time to visit.
Public inquiry on money laundering
The independent Cullen Commission into money laundering in our province begins hearings this month. I understand that the Commission will be hearing from witnesses intended to provide orientation to the public to the issue. The Commission has been collecting extensive documentary records from government and third parties to prepare for hearings in the Fall where further witnesses, including those who were in key decision making roles during the expansion of money laundering models in our province will testify. For more information, visit https://cullencommission.ca/ or read some of the latest news coverage: https://globalnews.ca/news/6586652/bc-money-laundering-inquiry-begins/.
News about ICBC has been difficult to avoid – the troubled Crown Corporation was a file given to me by the Premier before either of us had any idea how much trouble it was in. We have made a significant amount of progress in putting out the dumpster fire. ICBC’s billion-dollar losses have been ended and will finish the year close to break even. Benefits have been increased for British Columbians, the first time that has happened since the 1990s, and the basic rate increase for next year is 0%, meaning that most British Columbians will see insurance renewals at or below the rate of inflation.
But car insurance in our province is still too expensive and benefits too limited for those seriously injured in a crash. For the past year, I have been working with a group of senior people in government to identify ways to improve benefits and provide a meaningful reduction in rates. Following this work, earlier this month I was proud to announce that B.C. will be transitioning to a care-based insurance model similar to those models in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Under this new model that will launch in just over a year, British Columbians will save an average of $400 annually on their insurance (around 20%) and have access to benefits of at least $7.5m. These changes are being paid for by eliminating legal expenses from the system, and focusing on delivering care under the guidance of your doctor, instead of focusing on litigation and cash-based settlements. If you have questions about this new insurance model, visit https://2021.icbc.com/ for more details.
We examined privatization, “competition” and other approaches, and only this reform both dramatically improved benefits and reduced prices. A report we commissioned from a third-party firm found that British Columbians will have some of the lowest car insurance rates in the province after these reforms – a pleasant change for many families. I look forward to the debate in the legislature about the enhanced care model and hope it passes the legislature quickly so that we can start delivering savings and benefits to all British Columbians as soon as possible.
There was significant news for UBC students and prospective university and college students in the 2020 budget – a new needs-based grant program will provide up to $4,000 for students who are working toward a degree, certificate or diploma, to offset their tuition costs and make higher education more accessible. This request for student grants has been a long-standing campaign of student groups across the province, as B.C. was one of the few provinces in Canada failing to provide this support to lower-and-middle income students.
Support for childcare was also extended and expanded. This is good news for Vancouver Point Grey, which has seen more than 120 new funded childcare spots under this provincial program. These 120 spaces do not include the 2,300 funded spaces under the City of Vancouver partnership with the province, as sites are still being selected for those childcare facilities. Vancouver Point Grey families have received more than $3.5m in support to date to reduce their family childcare costs.
2020 is also the first year of the end of MSP payments. British Columbians are now no longer the only people in Canada who have to pay a specific surcharge to cover medical services. The end of MSP, and the elimination of many pharmacare deductibles means that healthcare is now more available than ever, and life is a little bit more affordable, for many people in our community.
Many of you have written to me expressing interest in ridesharing being made available in Vancouver. This past month, both Uber and Lyft began operations in our city after receiving their authorization to operate from the Passenger Transportation Board. While implementation was later than we had hoped, this was due to our interest in ensuring that concerns experienced in other jurisdictions related to safety and congestion were addressed before – not after – ridesharing was active in the province.
UEL Governance and bike path
The province has just hired a third-party firm to conduct the first stages of a true governance study for constituents who live in the University Endowment Lands. Urban Systems will be engaging with stakeholders about the future of governance in the community, as well as conducting an inventory of existing government systems and property that would need to transition to a new owner/operator in the event of a change in governance. The Musqueam Nation and UEL residents will be key participants in this engagement which is expected to last about a year. We will send out more information about this study once it is available. You can also find out more by staying in touch with the hardworking UEL CAC and/or attending their monthly public meetings http://uelcommunity.com/.
In other changes, the UEL is in the process of completing a bike path along the West side of Blanca street from 4th to 16th Avenue. This path will provide residents with a safer and greener way to connect to Pacific Spirit Park bike paths as well as UBC bike paths. Parking along the new bike path area will no longer be permitted.
The Broadway subway construction process is already underway with preliminary work to relocate power lines having been completed a few months ago. The request for proposals process for this massive transit project which will run from Commercial Drive to Arbutus Street is underway. Once a preferred vendor is selected, and they prepare their construction plans, the Broadway Subway Project Office will provide construction planning details to our office and the broader community. We will share information once we have it about the timing of potential delays or temporary closures of parking space for station construction east of Arbutus, and you can contact the Project Office directly yourself: Call: 778 572-3544 (project office) or 1-844-815-6114 (24/7 construction line) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org To receive project updates, you can register for the project e-newsletter
As you may know, many community members organized to “save” the Hollywood Theatre. I recently had the opportunity to tour the under-construction renovation project at the Hollywood Theatre, and it is shaping up beautifully. The project owners and operators have preserved two of the original film projectors, restored the original theatre seats, and purchased a new cutting-edge digital projector and sound system to facilitate regular movie events at the site.
Their vision and commitment to a community-based arts facility with music, movies and family events is incredibly exciting and will be a great contribution to our community along West Broadway. I understand their hope is to be open this Spring, and I would like to offer my congratulations to this incredible team for their commitment to establishing a beautiful, refurbished, and badly-needed venue for the arts in our city: Sean Mahwhinney + David Hawkes (the operators), Hollywood Theatres Ltd. (the owners), and the architectural team of Marianne Amodio + Harely Grusko – MAA Architects Inc.
Wet’suwet’en and CGL
Many constituents have written to me to express concerns about the Wet’suwet’en and the CGL pipeline project in the province’s Northwest. Given the extensive litigation related to this project, in my role as Attorney General I am very limited in what I can say. Our government is working hard to support dialogue and peaceful resolution of this dispute, and our work in partnership with the Wet’suwet’en to facilitate resolution of governance and title issues in their community will continue as it has for more than a year now.
Point Grey Village and the old Safeway site on 10th
Many neighbours will know about the demolition and removal of the old Safeway on 10th Avenue, and the significant impact the loss of this anchor tenant has had on some of our favourite retail businesses in Point Grey Village.
I have been in contact with the owners of the site, a large insurance company based in Toronto, and they have committed to providing some support to the Point Grey Business Improvement Association to try to mitigate some of the effects of what will be an extended project to remove contaminated soil at the site before construction of any new housing can begin.
Our government will be providing a new statutory tool to the City of Vancouver to enable them to mitigate the impact of significant property tax increases on local retail businesses in the community, including potentially in Point Grey. While the development at Jericho and the completion of the subway to UBC will support Point Grey Villiage businesses, these developments are many years into the future.
Be sure to support our local businesses – there is no government substitute for loyal local customers! The Point Grey BIA is working hard to find ways to keep the street lively and the businesses alive. Sign up for information on news and activities of the Point Grey BIA here: https://pointgreyvillage.ca/
Opportunities for participation in government policy
Our government has several active engagements with British Columbians on topics as diverse as ferries, beneficial ownership registry, and how to encourage more housing supply. If you’re interested in seeing how you can help shape government policy, visit: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/
Neighbourhood Small Grants
The Vancouver Foundation provides small grants to neighbours in our communities for projects that help facilitate a sense of connection. Each year, it has been my pleasure to attend the small grant celebration event for West Side projects at Kits Neighbourhood House and learn about how people use these grants to make our communities better. From neighbourhood knitting sessions to community gardens to shared meals, these small grants help offset the cost of community-building initiatives. There are special grants for environmental projects (Greenest City) and youth involvement, so if you have an idea in either of these categories, be sure to apply. To learn more or start your application visit: https://neighbourhoodsmallgrants.ca/our-communities/west-side-van/ or talk to Faith Greer at Kits Neighbourhood House, who is available to help applicants in advance of the deadline: FaithG@kitshouse.org. (For those of you in our other neighbourhoods (UBC/UEL/Musqueam), the grant administrator is UTown at the UNA. They are on a different cycle for application.)
Bayview elementary seismic groundbreaking
The groundbreaking ceremony for Bayview Elementary’s long-awaited new school is taking place this spring – construction will start soon after. Hang in there Bayview students, parents, and teachers, you’ll soon be in a beautiful, safe new school!
As always, if you have feedback for me, please e-mail me at David.email@example.com. Thank you for your ongoing support as we work together to make our community better.
In Our Community
Meeting with Babies for Climate Action, Opening of the new Undergraduate Life Sciences Building at UBC, Point Grey BIA Members quarterly get-together, and Lunar New Year! Thanks to MLA/Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman for joining me at Kits High to talk about plastics and politics with student leaders.
The Vancouver School Board is engaging the public regarding planning for school sites and your opinions and priorities on utilization of school facilities. Please participate in their survey if this is an issue of concern to you: https://build2learn.ethelo.net/page/welcome
Those of you who have contacted us about the dire need for afterschool care will be interested to note that in February, the Province/Ministry of Education passed enabling legislation that will officially allow school boards to prioritize after school care on school grounds: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020EDUC0009-000332
As always, 811 is a free provincial information line staffed by nurses that is available in 131 different languages upon request, and should be the first place anyone concerned about symptoms or questions should go. There is also a specific hotline for Novel coronavirus information: 1-833-784-4397