SULLIVAN: A B-Line that works, and a council that doesn’t

Files from the best of times, worst of times department.

Best: the two North Vancouvers actually get together and get it right. Councillors are planning to secure a B-Line bus for the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing, tentatively linking up to the SkyTrain at Metrotown at the south end and Phibbs Exchange at the north end.

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That’s how starved we are for some good transit news, compelled to do our happy dance when politicians put a bus in the right spot. Unlike the bad idea that is a B-Line to Dundarave, this B-Line could go a long way to easing congestion on the Second Narrows. One of the articulated editions holds 100 passengers – imagine taking 100 cars off the bridge every 10 minutes or so during rush hour. And by connecting the bus to the SkyTrain, people will actually use it.

This is a powerful idea. Why don’t our North Shore politicians have more powerful ideas?

Worst: District of North Vancouver cancels an affordable housing project sponsored by the non-profit Hollyburn Family Services Society and decides to launch a task force on housing instead.

This is the opposite of a powerful idea. The Society spent a year and a half working on the 100-unit plan, located on district-owned land off Mount Seymour Parkway, and for some inexplicable reason, the newly-elected district council scuttled the idea – and did it behind closed doors. Pfft! There went housing for low-income people, people with disabilities, people on income assistance, low- income seniors and youth. People who otherwise can only afford to live in North Battleford. It’s a long commute.

The irony (well, one of them) is that the previous council encouraged Hollyburn to develop the project. Then the new council killed it at pretty much the first opportunity.

As for the task force, go figure. District council is looking for innovative housing solutions. Like, for instance, that idea for 100 below-market homes from the Hollyburn Family Services Society?

I’m not sure what the 11-member affordable housing task force is going to come up with. Maybe final confirmation that you can’t afford to live here.

Coun. Mathew Bond isn’t sure either, telling his fellow councillors (as first reported by Jeremy Shepherd in the North Shore News) that “I feel like we might be giving [the task force] the impossible task of trying to find a unicorn or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.”

And once they find the legendary pot or the mythic horse, they’ll probably deny they exist. And of course, they’ll be right.

This may be the most inexplicable decision this council has made. And I thought they set the bar pretty high when they rejected the 80-unit below-market housing project planned for the old Delbrook Recreation Centre parking lot. Apparently council prefers a derelict parking lot instead.

Most vexing is the fact that the Hollyburn project was killed under the cloak of secrecy and Mayor Mike Little refuses to share the reasons why. Instead, he addresses the problem with bafflegab, declaring that he didn’t campaign on affordable housing, but on social housing. You mean like that idea for 100 below-market homes from the Hollyburn Family Services Society?

It’s enough to make you go … eh?

Which is basically what Bowinn Ma, the NDP MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, did when she learned of council’s decision. Now, Mike Smyth of the Province newspaper reports that her criticism has encouraged the Opposition Liberals to target her seat as vulnerable … because she’s messing with local government autonomy?

I have gone all in and praised Bowinn Ma before – when she pulled everyone together over the summer into something called the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project to create the North Shore’s first ever cross-government transportation action plan. Unfortunately it spawned the B-Line to Dundarave idea. So it wasn’t a very good plan – but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Ma is the North Shore version of budding U.S. political superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, only more cattle and less hat, or something like that. Unlike some others, she certainly can’t be accused of all talk, no action – in response to a cheap shot from the Liberals’ Mary Polak, she pulled out a file of accomplishments during her two years in office that’s six pages of tweets long.

Tweets are, of course, short, so clearly she’s managed to pack a lot of North Shore action into a very short period of time. If anyone has earned the right to criticize the puzzling behaviour of district council, it’s Bowinn Ma.

Whether or not they’re going to listen, that’s another matter.

Journalist and communications consultant Paul Sullivan has been a North Vancouver resident since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Madonna. p.sullivan@breakthroughpr.com

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