Mayor’s Communiqué: Happy Canada Day!

I hope you are looking forward to a safe and enjoyable long weekend. Canada Day is one of the most special holidays of the year. That is why City Council has agreed to support an investment in the Canada Day Fireworks for the second year in a row. This celebration will kick off another wonderful summer season of community celebrations around Vancouver. It promises to be a record year for special events in our city.

City Hall Progress Report

This past week was a busy one for us at City Council. Further to previous reports, I want to update you on some of the progress we are making on a number of important issues, including:

I have also included a brief update on a few other issues – including progress on our plan to bring back the Downtown Streetcar Network to Vancouver. As always, I look forward to your feedback at

On behalf of my Caucus colleagues, please accept our best wishes for a wonderful Canada Day long weekend.

Sam Sullivan

Sam Sullivan

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New Culture Plan for City of Vancouver

Establishing Vancouver as a premier international destination for arts and culture is one of the five goals we have established for our government. This week at City Council, we took another major step toward accomplishing this objective as we approved a series of measures associated with the implementation of our new 10 year cultural plan.

The report approved by City Council this week focuses on city grants, public art, facilities and cultural tourism. It includes the following measures:

  • integration of eight city grant programs into one new Cultural Grants Fund
  • expand program eligibility for new fund to include partnerships with non-arts groups, professional development and touring initiatives of Vancouver-based organizations
  • increase cultural grants budget by $575,000
  • reduced red-tape & administration
  • annual $50,000 allocation for Mayor’s Arts Awards
  • phased increase of public art budget
  • increase participation of artists in public art planning
  • modernize and harmonize Zoning and Development By-Law, Building By-Law and relevant Licensing and Permit processes to support facility development and activities
  • coordinate cultural investments and planning with EcoDensity and Project Civil City initiatives
  • cultural tourism partnership with Tourism Vancouver
  • establish new $600,000 Cultural Tourism Product Investment Grant Program

In addition to supporting these new items, we have asked out staff to begin preparing an extensive application to the national Cultural Capitals of Canada program for funding to support the City of Vancouver’s 125th anniversary celebrations in 2011

All of these measures complement many of the other investments we have made in arts and culture over the past year. In the coming weeks we will begin preparing for the largest Pride Parade in our city’s history, and introducing ideas on how we can make the upcoming 2009 Juno Awards in Vancouver is the best ever.

The Most Progressive Green Building Standards in North America

Earlier this month – and after two years of public consultation – City Council approved our groundbreaking EcoDensity program. It will deliver high quality density that provides Vancouver with an opportunity to improve the environment and our quality of life.

In addition to approving an EcoDensity Charter of basic principles, Council also approved a series of action items associated with the plan – including the establishment of new green building standards. This week at City Council, we started the process of implementing our plans with the establishment of a new Green Homes Program.

Mayor Sullivan & Clr. Anton at a recent EcoDensity announcement regarding the expansion of laneway housing in Vancouver

The Green Homes Program establishes the most progressive green building standards for new dwellings in North America. It goes beyond current provincial standards and will help the City of Vancouver achieve the long range climate change targets we have established. The Program includes a number of by-law amendments to improve:

  • wall, basement, foundation & window installation
  • energy performance for lighting fixtures, hot water heating & fireplaces
  • water efficiency
  • provisions for roof-mounted solar energy generation & electric vehicle charging

The improvements being proposed have the potential to reduce the energy consumption of new buildings by 33% – 14% more than required under the Provincial Building Code. Over five years, the Green Homes Program has the potential to save over 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases.

Municipal/Provincial Fiscal Imbalance

Over the past decade, it has become increasing clear that the fiscal structure of Canadian municipalities is not sustainable. The role of local governments has changed substantially over time due to changing social environments, expensive regulatory standards, greater urbanization and downloading of senior governments. The problem is particularly acute in Vancouver.

The fiscal capacity of our government is insufficient to sustain municipal responsibilities. At the same time, the fiscal capacity of the provincial and federal governments is greater than their need to sustain their spending obligations to the same taxpayer. As of 2006, municipalities received only 8% of every tax dollar collected in Canada. This compares to 50% for the federal government and 42% for provincial governments.

This week, City Council received a comprehensive analysis on this issue in response to a motion approved by City Council in January asking staff to report on the full nature of the fiscal imbalance in Vancouver. The report concludes that if the provincial government were to reinstate the revenue-sharing program the previous government cut in 1997, the City of Vancouver would have received $44 million in unconditional funding last year. If applied entirely to property taxes, this could deliver an 8% tax decrease for Vancouver residents and business owners.

The municipal revenue sharing plan was cut by the provincial government in 1997 to support the national effort to eliminate the deficit. Today, both senior governments are posting record surpluses.

The report identifies a number of specific areas where Vancouver has incurred substantial costs to fund services that have traditionally been the responsibility of provincial and federal governments, including:

  • social & supportive housing
  • child care
  • mental health & drug addiction (policing, fire & rescue, street cleaning)
  • port policing

311 Update

311 is a proposed single-point-of-access phone number for non-emergency municipal government services. Our goal is to replace the 550+ phone numbers the city currently offers with one 24 hour a day, seven day a week multiple language phone number.

In addition to making it easier to access City Hall, 311 will improve service quality, response time and case management. Mayor Sullivan and City Council approved the 311 plan in November 2006. This week, staff provided an update to City Council that confirms the project is on schedule for its “soft launch” in January 2009.

The report confirms that 311 will be implemented in three phases as follows:

  • Phase One (January 2009) – internal redirect of a number of phone lines within the City of Vancouver to the new 311 Contact Centre
  • Phase Two (June 2009) – public launch with communications campaign publicizing the availability of the service
  • Phase Three (April 2010) – last stage of migration of calls to 311 Contact Centre

The report also confirms the 311 operating budget has been refined and reduced since the initial $12.3 million estimate. The reductions in operating costs are due to lower maintenance costs for software, lower facility and personnel costs.

Other Issues

City Council reviewed and approved a number of other significant measures at City Council this week, including:

  • Downtown Historic Railway – In March, Mayor Sullivan and Council approved a $8.5 million plan to develop the Downtown Streetcar Demonstration Project between Granville Island and 2nd Avenue Canada Line station in advance of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The goal is to eventually complete the line to Science World, through Chinatown to the Waterfront. This week, City Council will move the project forward with a contract award to purchase rail and other related project materials.
  • Positive Ticketing – Further to recommendations in Project Civil City, staff are recommending a $20,000 contribution to the Kids Up Front Foundation for a positive ticketing partnership with Vancouver Police Department and local arts organizations. Positive ticketing is a crime prevention program aimed at youth that rewards good behaviour.
  • Employee Mobility Program – This week, City Council will approved a new parking plan for city employees in the City Hall precinct. In addition to implementing a pay parking program for employees, the plan will create a Mobility Program Reserve to support sustainable community options for staff.