In the weeks following an election, political parties spend time pouring over the results and analyzing what went wrong – or what went right.

Not knowing why you won an election can be just as bad as failing to identify why you lost.

Gregor Robertson was re-elected – but it wasn’t because he ran a spectacular campaign or because voters were enthralled with his platform. He hung on to his coveted third term because of the failures of his challengers.

Vision Vancouver was partially saved by hard-left candidate Meena Wong’s weak showing at the polls. Her party, COPE, took only 10% of the vote. The much-talked-about left-wing vote split between Vision and COPE was never realized. Had Wong and COPE done a little better, the mayor’s third term could have been toast.

Vision owes the most to the Non-Partisan Association, whose campaign was a failure. Despite the late-game excitement that the election had developed into a real horse race, mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe only got 0.5% more support than NPA mayoral hopeful Suzanne Anton did back in 2011.

Ultimately, the NPA ran as a pale imitation of Vision and failed to distinguish themselves. The NPA’s policies and promises weren’t much different than what Vision had on the table. It’s difficult to ask voters to change government when you aren’t offering real change, so it’s no wonder the NPA didn’t gain any greater vote share.

While Vision carried the day, the NPA did enjoy one significant victory – the Park Board.

It has always been assumed that people generally vote for parks and school boards the same way they do for mayor and council, but that assumption is wrong and Saturday’s election proves it.

The NPA gained control of the Park Board from Vision, taking four seats while the Greens took two and Vision ended up with only one.

This is interesting because much of Vision’s weaknesses that have garnered them criticism in the last year have been the result of their actions with the Park Board. The controversy was heated over more central control over community centre boards, and Vision’s ban on dolphin and whale breeding at the aquarium.

Voters made the distinction that they were happy with Vision on council and in the mayor’s chair, but not running the Park Board. Vision paid a price for their antics and ideological agenda by losing control – something which cannot be ignored.

Hopefully Vision takes notice of this message sent to them by voters instead of breaking out the champagne.

Only a few more days of cheesy campaign radio ads, lawn signs cluttering our street corners, and zealous canvassers coming to our doors. Nov. 15 is municipal election day, and by now many of us are feeling campaign fatigue. However, we can’t let campaign weariness detract from the importance of our job as voters. Elections matter, and while campaigns can seem long, it all ends at the ballot box.

Critical decisions will be made that will have a big impact on the things that affect our daily lives – from transportation to taxes.

There are interesting races shaping up in municipalities across the province. Here is a snapshot of some of the choices voters are facing in the four biggest cities in our region.

In Surrey, with no incumbent running for mayor there’s an exciting three-way fight. Doug McCallum is a former mayor running on a platform of fighting crime and freezing taxes. Linda Hepner is seemingly running to continue Mayor Dianne Watts’ popular legacy – taxes will keep going up, but the city will be run well. Barinder Rasode is running on a platform of fighting crime and focusing on accountability and smart growth.

In Burnaby, the Burnaby Citizens Association dominates the mayor’s office, council and school board. Derek Corrigan, the mayor who famously spent tax dollars on golf sessions, is running for his fifth term. Opposing Kinder Morgan’s pipeline has been the core of his re-election plan. Corrigan is being challenged by Daren Hancott and the Burnaby First Coalition, who are running on a business-friendly platform.

In Richmond, the race is between Richmond First, which holds the most incumbent councillors and is defending the need to increase taxes, and the Richmond Community Coalition, who have two incumbent councillors and are running on a promise to stop what it calls a planned 15% tax hike over the next five years.

In Vancouver, the choice is between more of the same with Gregor Robertson and the Vision team, versus essentially the same policies but with a different team of players with the NPA. While Vision and the NPA have run prickly campaigns against each other, stripped down there’s little difference between their approaches to running city hall. The outcome will come down to personality between the party leaders and who can best motivate their voters to get out and cast a ballot.

Voter turnout, especially in municipal elections, is dismally low. Yet the power and impact our municipal politicians have on how our communities operate is massive. This has been said many times before, but it’s always worth saying again, and repeating ­ get out there and vote.

We hear stories of waste in government all the time. It’s frustrating, but it doesn’t always surprise us.

When governments waste money, we shake our heads and it’s easy for people to make the mistake of thinking of it as “other people’s money.” But really, it’s our money.

This is especially true in municipal governments because they are funded by property taxes – taxes that do not depend on how much money you make. They are levied on the value of your home and it doesn’t matter if you made a fortune on the stock market or are scraping by on a fixed pension.

And renters don’t get off easily, either. A significant portion of what you pay every month pays your landlord’s property taxes.

The average property tax bill in Richmond is $4,209 per year. Imagine a family with one parent making $80,000 per year and the other $50,000 – to pay that property tax bill those parents each have to work for two whole weeks. Think of that, every day for two weeks two parents working just to pay their property tax bill.

And what does the city of Richmond do with money earned by hard-working people? It wastes it. Not on large infrastructure projects, but on something relatively small that shouldn’t come with a hefty price tag. In September, Richmond opened a new and fancy playground in Terra Nova Park. It looks gorgeous, with a tower, a maze and even a zip line. And the price tag doesn’t disappoint either at $1 million.

Now, I like a nice playground as much as the next person, but a million dollars on one playground is ludicrous. That is the taxes of 238 average residential property taxpayers in Richmond. Basically, an entire neighbourhood worked for weeks and city hall blew it all on a single playground.

It’s even worse in West Vancouver. In October it was revealed that the district is buying some new garbage cans with fancy foot pedals. The cost? A staggering $1,600 to $1,800 per garbage can. And they are buying about 53 of them. Total cost: $101,000.

It is disgraceful.

These stories of waste keep on happening because municipal civil servants and the politicians that are supposed to keep them in check think they can get away with blowing our money mindlessly.

When electing new city councils on Nov. 15, be sure you vote for candidates who really will be responsible stewards of taxpayers dollars.

I need you to do something for yourself.

In about two weeks, on Nov. 15, you will get to vote in the municipal election.

From now until election day, candidates will be asking for your vote. They will campaign at every community event, gathering and coffee party. Most candidates will be running on vague promises of making your community work better and bringing accountability to city hall.

But here’s what I want you to do. The next time you meet a candidate, ask them some tough questions.

Ask them what they will do to make sure your tax dollars are spent wisely. Ask them if they will vote against increasing municipal spending if it doesn’t bring any additional benefits to residents.

Up until now, there has been little restraint on the municipal level. Between 2003 and 2012, spending by civic governments has gone up a whopping 69%. That’s more than the growth in the federal government (45%) and the provincial government (42%).

Do you think the services you get from city hall have improved by 69% over the last decade? I sure don’t.

Every year spending goes up, but services don’t improve.

Of course, it depends on where you live, as some city governments are worse offenders than others. The Fraser Institute just released a study on how much different civic governments in our region spend per citizen.

On average, across Metro Vancouver local governments spend $1,384 per person. But some city halls are big spenders. If you live in West Vancouver, Vancouver or New Westminster, your municipality spends way more than average. In West Van, they spend well over $2,000 per person and in the City of Vancouver, it is almost $1,700.

Compare that to Surrey, where they only spend $951 per person, or Maple Ridge where they spend $1,139 per capita.

So in West Vancouver they spend more than twice per person than in Surrey, but do they get twice the services? Of course not. In Vancouver they spend 78% more than in Surrey, but things aren’t 78% better.

What it comes down to is a lot of money gets wasted. A lot of programs get started with the best of intentions, but never quite work out and still get funded every year.

So in these last two weeks of the campaign ask your candidates what they will do to prevent spending from rising. Tell them it matters to you and maybe, just maybe, we get spending under control.

We’ve all been there. It’s pouring rain on a dark November evening during rush hour and you can’t get a cab because everyone else is trying to get one at the same time. Or, you are running late for a meeting and call a cab, which never arrives. You wait and wait, no call, no explanation, and now you’ve missed your meeting.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an alternative to the standard taxi service?

One of Surrey’s mayoral candidates doesn’t seem to think so.

Doug McCallum has recently made a campaign pledge to ban Uber from operating in Surrey.

Uber is a popular upstart ride-sharing service that was founded in San Francisco and has since expanded to 45 countries. It’s slowly cracking into the Canadian market, with operations in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.

The way it works is wonderfully simple. You download an app on your phone and set up an account. When you want a ride, you request one through the app, which finds your pick-up location via the GPS on your phone. This is a handy feature when you aren’t sure of the exact address.

The Uber app lets you select what kind of vehicle you want to be picked up in, and no need to whip out your cash or credit card at the end of the ride – that information is already programmed into your app account. The app allows you to track the vehicle as it’s en route to you and connect directly with the driver by phone – so no more wondering where your ride is.

Drivers are essentially drivers for hire who are pre-screened by Uber, which sets the fares and receives a commission from the driver.

Now why would McCallum oppose something that offers people more choices?

It could have something to do with McCallum being endorsed by five Surrey taxi companies who employ a great deal of people (i.e. voters) in Surrey.

These taxi companies are not happy about Uber and have put forward a myriad of reasons why it must not be allowed, such as concerns over passenger safety.

But this is really about competition – taxi companies don’t want a new competitor.

Uber tried to get started in Vancouver, but was essentially blocked by the province through hefty conditions.

It’s disappointing to see politicians protecting entrenched corporate interests and not the interests of citizens.

More consumer choice should be encouraged, not chased away.

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