Vancouver's mayoral candidates debate problems of transit, poverty and loneliness

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Green Party Councillor Adrienne Carr speaks with Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe while Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong talk during a break at the Metro Vancouver Alliance Municipal Accountability Assembly panel discussion held at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2014.
 
 

Vancouver Green Party Councillor Adrienne Carr speaks with Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe while Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong talk during a break at the Metro Vancouver Alliance Municipal Accountability Assembly panel discussion held at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2014.

Photograph by: Richard Lam, PNG

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Vancouver’s biggest social issues, poverty, affordable housing, social isolation and a stressed transit system took centre stage Thursday in the first major panel discussion involving those who want to be mayor after the Nov. 15 civic election.

Inside the cavernous hall at the Italian Cultural Centre in East Vancouver, more than 500 people came to hear how Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Non-Partisan Association mayoral contender Kirk LaPointe, Coalition of Progressive Electors mayoral contender Meena Wong and Green party leader Adriane Carr, who is running as a council candidate, might solve these seemingly intractable problems.

It was the first time the four candidates sat together to debate issues in this election campaign. As critical as they have been of one another so far, the two men genteelly shook hands and wished each other well.

But it was the issues themselves that dominated the evening, as the event’s organizers, the fledgling Metro Vancouver Alliance sought to bring home the severity of problems facing the city’s residents.

As the candidates sat on the stage for nearly an hour, the Alliance, made up of faith organizations, labour unions and community groups, outlined the issues they believe are dominating the election. The group then asked pinpoint questions about whether each of the candidates would work with the MVA, and whether they support the group’s specific calls to action.

For the most part there was no difference of opinion among the candidates. They delivered a constant refrain of “yes and yes” when asked if they would assist the MVA and would they endorse specific MVA policy proposals. For example, the Alliance wants Vancouver to enact a “living wage” policy that would encourage businesses to pay their workers more than minimum wage. It also wants the city to strengthen and enforce standards of maintenance bylaws to improve housing conditions. And it supports the Metro Mayors council call to redirect a portion of the provincial carbon tax towards sustainable transportation improvements.

But on that last proposal, LaPointe disagreed, pointing out that the proceeds of the carbon tax are already devoted to improving transportation.

“The biggest beneficiary of that revenue are low-income British Columbians so we’re penalizing lower-income people if we take that way. So I cannot support redirecting funds from them for this transit plan. That just isn’t fair,” he said.

For Robertson, who had the support of almost every Vision Vancouver candidate running for office, this was fairly friendly territory, with many in the crowd from the party’s traditional vote base. So too for Wong and Carr.

For LaPointe, however, this was a more uncomfortable setting, in part because few of his candidate colleagues were in attendance and many of the organizers of the event were from labour unions, not traditionally the NPA’s supporters.

Robertson outlined an affordable housing strategy he’d reaffirmed on Wednesday. He said Vision’s council had created record amounts of rental housing and family housing and cracked down on slum landlords. He warned the NPA could not be trusted because they voted against many of those projects.

“The (housing) problem is so huge we can’t continue to have the NPA vote against social housing,” he said.

In the first half of the event the Alliance laid out their concerns on each of the four issues.

It said it was particularly concerned about social isolation of residents, citing a recent Vancouver Foundation survey that found one in four Vancouverites feel disconnected from their community. It also produced a slick video that outlined serious deficiencies in Metro’s public transit system, particularly how it affects poor people and those with disabilities.

The four sponsoring organizations are Vancity Savings Credit Union, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 258.

The mayoral candidates have agreed to participate in at least six more debates and panel discussions.

jefflee@vancouversun.com

Follow me: @SunCivicLee

 
 
 
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Vancouver Green Party Councillor Adrienne Carr speaks with Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe while Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong talk during a break at the Metro Vancouver Alliance Municipal Accountability Assembly panel discussion held at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2014.
 

Vancouver Green Party Councillor Adrienne Carr speaks with Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe while Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong talk during a break at the Metro Vancouver Alliance Municipal Accountability Assembly panel discussion held at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2014.

Photograph by: Richard Lam, PNG

 
Vancouver Green Party Councillor Adrienne Carr speaks with Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe while Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong talk during a break at the Metro Vancouver Alliance Municipal Accountability Assembly panel discussion held at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2014.
Vancouver Green Party Councillor Adrienne Carr speaks with Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe while Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong talk during a break at the Metro Vancouver Alliance Municipal Accountability Assembly panel discussion held at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on Oct. 9, 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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