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Positive Voices aims to change West Vancouver

"The fear of change should not control people,” the group says.
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Jatinder Sidhu, Dana Anthony Mulhern and John Millar, founding directors of West Vancouver's Positive Voices advocacy group, are aiming to steer West Vancouver council in more progressive directions, May 30, 2022.

They want to accentuate the positive and, just maybe, alter the trajectory of West Vancouver.

Positive Voices, a new non-partisan progressive advocacy group, is making its presence known in West Van council chambers.

“We are very well aware of the challenges facing us in West Van and B.C. and in Canada more broadly. We have a housing crisis. We have very significant climate change impacts that we see firsthand. We know that we need to reduce emissions very dramatically,” said Jatinder Sidhu, a former BBC journalist and one of the founding members. “We started talking about how can we address these? How do we actually galvanize some support by talking about solutions and talking about being positive?”

There are a lot of progressive ideas on the agenda in West Vancouver, particularly in the official community plan. They include building a more walkable and inclusive community that relies less on cars and emits less carbon. But those ideas tend to get “hamstrung” in the council chamber when there’s blowback from the community, Sidhu noted.

Council should show some leadership and stick by the principles in their OCP rather than just be weathervanes that change direction at the slightest breeze, Sidhu said. Positive Voices will be working to gather support for evidence-based progressive policies and help nudge council in that direction.

Some near-term items you can expect to see them rallying support for: Affordable housing at 2195 Gordon Ave., Baptist Housing’s proposal for the redevelopment and expansion of Inglewood Care Centre, and more diverse housing. There isn’t a shortage of people on those and other issues urging council to simply continue saying no, he said.

“We need to engage the whole community, not just those people who are very good at shouting loudly and getting their voices heard,” Sidhu said.

West Vancouver has a reputation for being a town that doesn’t like its apple carts overturned, but founding Positive Voices member Dana Anthony Mulhern said she believes her neighbours are more moderate than most people give them credit for. They just could use a little inspiration.

“People are terrified of change, but that change is happening anyway and very rapidly due to the internet, due to travel, due to the ways of the economy these days. Our mantra is, how do we help people to not feel so anxious and worried?” she said. ““We have to help people understand that they want to keep their community going so that they and their family and their children and their relatives can all be part of a culture that's a positive one. … The fear of change should not control people.”

Director John Millar, a retired medical doctor and former provincial health officer, said a lot of his community members specifically need to be empowered to realize they absolutely have a role in staving off the most destructive consequences of climate change.

“I’ve talked to people personally in this neighbourhood who think it’s already come so far, we can’t do anything. They’re doomers. They think climate change is upon us and all we can do is adapt,” he said. “We know scientifically that we can make change and change is happening, and we have to sell that to a broader sector of the population.”

All three acknowledged they may be in for a frosty reception from some members of the community who are comfortable with the status quo. But with disproportionately aging demographics, a shortage of younger workers and not enough children, Sidhu said he wants them to realize they must allow West Vancouver to evolve if they want to keep what they love about it.

“Are we going to engineer a community in which our own loved ones can’t live? Are we going to wave goodbye to them?” he said. “It's a way to really guarantee the eventual demise of this community the way we're going.”