"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yes, No, Maybe and Say What?!?

Graphic from commons.wikimedia.org/
I’ve just filled out a candidate questionnaire sent to me by the Tri-City News. The survey, whose results will be published as part of a voter guide a week before the elections, asks a variety of questions, and seeks yes/no, either/or answers. Some of the issues raised, however, are about complex affairs and deserve more detailed examination or explanation. Here are the questions I’m referring to, followed by my analysis, and then my official survey answer:

Question 7. Do you use public transportation?
I use public transportation from time to time (Westcoast Express, Skytrain and buses), but not on a regular basis. Strictly speaking then, my answer is "Yes," even though I suspect the question was about regular use.

Question 8: Are you more willing to see services reduced and taxes held or cut or see services improved and taxes increase?
My sentiments are with the former but my actions on council have been with the latter because I’ve voted in favour of budgets that have seen ever-smaller tax increases while increasing services. As long as we continue to whittle down the size of each year’s tax increase—as we’ve done successfully each of the three years I’ve been on council—I will continue to vote in favour of such budgets. My answer, then, is "services improved and taxes increase" (with a large "on condition that...")

Question 11. What provincial political party's ideology most closely reflects your belief system?
Yikes, what a question! My “belief system” is something that encompasses my religious, philosophical and ideological beliefs, many of which aren’t actually part of any political party’s platforms and shouldn’t be. What I can say is that I have voted for the BC Liberal Party in the last few elections as the most pragmatic choice. So, I selected “Liberal.”

Question 14. Should the city spend more taxpayer money to improve cycling infrastructure?
I have supported budgets that call for moderate expenditures every year to support cycling, but I am not sure about what the question is actually asking. If the options are to cut off such funding entirely or to spend some more money next year, of about the same amount as this year, I would say "yes". If the option is to spend more money next year than the city is spending this year, then I would say "no".  I ended up selecting "Yes."

Question 15. Does the city have a responsibility to ensure the availability of affordable housing to low- and moderate-income households?
Another whopper of a question. Under provincial law, all cities have a duty to adopt an affordable-housing policy or strategy. The City has one in place, and we’re working on a new one. So, if this question is merely asking if I know that provincial law mandates the City to have a policy, then my answer is "yes." Furthermore, I also agree that it’s a good idea for the City to have in place policies that further the availability of affordable housing. We have many ways of doing this—from freeing up land for development to making it easier to have a secondary suite in your basement.
   But, given that the question uses the word “ensure,” which means “to make certain” that something takes place, this question is probably asking if I believe the City has a responsibility, above and beyond provincial law, to make certain that all low- and moderate-income households can afford to buy or rent a home in Coquitlam. If that's the case, and given that Statistics Canada defines a low-income household as having an annual income of below $15,000, then any city adopting a policy guaranteeing that those folks can find a place to live in the city would be courting financial ruin for a variety of reasons which are too numerous to spell out here.
   I do not believe the provincial law demands that we do this. And I do not believe a responsible municipal government should be compelled to do this. Provincial and federal governments have the resources and the flexible taxation systems to tackle this issue, but municipal governments certainly do not. Ultimately, then, I am forced to answer No to this question.

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