Candidates weigh in on the issues at lively Vancouver mayoral debate

Housing, bike lanes, homelessness and more tackled at debate co-hosted by Business in Vancouver, Vancouver is Awesome and the Courier

The Courier, Business in Vancouver and Vancouver is Awesome co-hosted the first mayoral debate of the election campaign Monday night. Here’s what eight of the candidates had to say on a myriad of issues. 

Due to the format of the debate, all of the candidates were not asked the same questions.

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When asked about what they would do to help renters in the city, YES Vancouver’s Hector Bremner said that his new party would implement a three-year action to approve 50,000 to 70,000 more rental units for “those that need it” and aim to “prioritize and cut the red tape” and cut the community amenity contributions that, he said, have triggered many rentals to be turned into condos.

Independent candidate Kennedy Stewart said he would commit to creating 85,000 new housing units in the city over the next 10 years, 60 per cent for renters and 25,000 units at below market rental rates. He also said that in the meantime he would bring in a renters’ advocate.

“We’ve got to look after current renters,” he said.

mayors debate
Independent candidate Shauna Sylvester (centre) has her say while Coalition Vancouver's Wai Young (right) and Fred Harding of Vancouver 1st wait their turns. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Fred Harding, with Vancouver 1st, also targeted the city’s community amenity contributions (CACs), which are in-kind or cash contributions developers must pay when the city grants a rezoning permit.  

Harding gave the example of one case where a developer had to pay $43 million in CACs.

“That gets passed on to rent,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. It’s untenable and we really have to do something about CACs.”

He said the party would reduce, if not eradicate, CACs. 

In talking about what types of housing should be allowed in the city’s single-family neighbourhoods, Non-Partisan Association candidate Ken Sim criticized the current Vision Vancouver council for “trying to ram something through that will fundamentally change how our city looks” – a public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday that will determine whether duplexes will be permitted in most single-family neighbourhoods, with staff looking at the possibility of allowing triplexes, fourplexes and four-storey apartments in low density neighbourhoods.

Sim said there needs to be a city-wide plan and promised consultation with all residents.

Independent candidate Shauna Sylvester said the policy is coming “very, very late” and it fails to provide an affordable mechanism for upzoning.

“That’s the problem.”

ProVancouver’s David Chen said the party has always advocated for a city-wide plan.

“You can’t just open up the streets to development without a plan.”

On the issue of bikes lanes, Coalition Vancouver candidate Wai Young, more than once, reiterated her campaign promise to tear out the new 10thAvenue bike lane by Vancouver General Hospital and on the Cambie bridge, as well as stop the proposed separated bike lane through Kits Beach park and audit the rest of the bike lanes in the city.

“Some of them just don’t make sense,” she said.

Independent candidate Golok Buday said the issue is how the bike lanes are paid for and planned.

When asked how they would tackle the issue of homelessness in the city, Sim said he would “camp out in Victoria and Ottawa to get funding from our partners in government… It’s going to be hard but we need someone to champion it and actually take a stand and have political courage.”

Bremner said the city needs more “no barrier housing and a lot of it now.”

Young said the city needs to lobby the province for more treatment programs, and also referenced the example of Portugal’s five-year strategy on ending homelessness.

Chen took a hard line on the question of what to do about all of the unlicenced marijuana dispensaries in the city, saying that any dispensary that does not meet the city’s regulations should be shut down. He also talked about taking fines a step further and turning them into tax leins.

“We have to take a strong stance if we’re going to fix this problem.”

Harding agreed saying that dispensaries that do not qualify for a licence should close. He said the city needs “some common sense around dispensaries” and he has already engaged a local lawyer who is an expert on the matter.

mayors debate
Independent candidate Kennedy Stewart looks on as the NPA's Ken Sim answers a question. Photo Dan Toulgoet

When asked how they would boost the city’s civic profile and combat Vancouver’s reputation as “No Fun City”, Sim said it’s “completely ridiculous” that people can’t buy a beer or a bottle of wine in corner stores.

“As mayor of Vancouver, we’ll make that happen,” he said.

Stewart said that the city really needs affordable spaces for musicians and artists.

“We need spaces for artists to create.”

@JessicaEKerr

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