The Mayoral debate at Vancouver's Christ Church Cathedral saw incumbent Gregor Robertson quietly confident, as his opponents took swing after swing. The forces bearing down on Vancouver were highlighted, from affordability and homelessness to subways and pipelines, developer influence to the city's low wages. And, yes, bike lanes. After a slow and quiet start, election season is in full swing.
The candidates squaring off at the October 26 Mayoral debate:
- Mayor Gregor Robertson (Vision Vancouver)
- Kirk LaPointe (NPA)
- Meena Wong (COPE)
- Bob Kasting (Independent)
The debate was hosted by CBC News Vancouver’s Andrew Chang, and the questions were tailored to individual candidates.
L-R: Mayor Gregor Robertson, Meena Wong, Andrew Chang, Kirk LaPointe, and Bob Kasting
Each candidate made opening remarks. Mayor Robertson began, saying, "We need to continue the progress we've seen over the past six years." He touted Vision Vancouver's progress on homelessness and affordability, as well as crime reduction and the Greenest City 2020 initiative. "We can't break that momentum right now," he implored the crowd.
Meena Wong spoke next, saying that Vancouverites need "real, made-in-Vancouver solutions" to what ails the city. She said, "We all know that there are many people without homes, and many homes without people", before reiterating her desire to place a duty on vacant properties in the city to pay for city-owned affordable housing. She added her wish to introduce a dollar-a-day transit pass for Vancouver residents.
Next was indie candidate Bob Kasting. "Vancouver, in my opinion, has taken a wrong turn," he said, and it needs to find a new path, "back past the chickens; back past the bike lanes; back past the upset neighbourhoods; back past the control of development; back past the secret deals between unions and the City, and between developers and the City." He called out the Mayor's campaign for a $25,000 lunch controversy. Kasting saved some shade for the NPA, calling them "the party of your grandparents", which has "been taking developers' coin for decades. If $25,000 buys influence, what do $950,000 cheques buy?"
Kirk LaPointe introduced himself last, saying, "Our city government's failed... We need change at Cambie and 12th if we want change on the Downtown Eastside." He said, "I offer no baggage, I am beholden to no one."
The first question was for Meena Wong: Since so many aspects of the housing issue are controlled at the federal and provincial levels, what solutions does she have for Vancouver's housing crisis that don't require the kindness of Ottawa and Victoria?
Wong wasted no time in telling the crowd that COPE doesn't take developer money. She said that a local tax on abandoned properties would fund affordable housing on city-owned lands, as opposed to Vision's giving of "sweetheart deals to property developers." She noted that nearly half of Hong Kong's housing, a third of Zurich's, and roughly 80% of Singapore's, is publicly-funded. "We have the property, we have the land... we believe that we can do it better [than private developers].
Robertson replied, "My Council has put unprecedented focus on homelessness and affordable housing. No prior Council has ever made this a top priority at City Hall." This extends from supported- and social housing to the Rent Bank. He called people sleeping on the street "absolutely unacceptable," and attacked the NPA for voting against social housing initiatives.