Parties talk spending as Vancouver election looms

Vision targets NPA's $200 million streetcar plan

With less than one week before the civic election, Vision Vancouver and the NPA spent Monday arguing over whose plans for running the city over the next three years will be less costly for taxpayers.

Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Coun. Raymond Louie ignited the debate when they held a press conference Monday to question how the NPA will pay for its initiatives, including a streetcar line estimated to cost upwards of $200 million.

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"There is a startling contrast between the impact of the two platforms on the Vancouver city budget and, therefore, Vancouver city taxpayers," Robertson said from a room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel.

Robertson and Louie said they crunched the numbers of the NPA's platform and concluded the party wants to spend almost $400 million on various capital projects.

"There is no plan to pay for this," said the mayor, suggesting the NPA would need to hike taxes by up to five per cent or make major service cuts to pay for its plan.

Robertson said Vision's platform sticks to the city's proposed 2012-2014 capital plan which residents will vote on when they cast a ballot this Saturday. Total cost of the plan is $702 million, the biggest chunk of which is $228 million for utilities and public works.

In addition, Vision wants to spend another $500,000 to set up a registry for problem landlords, buy new fire department vehicles and use at least $200,000 on "civic engagement."

Vision's plan to pay for the initiatives "is reasonable and achievable," according to Robertson and Louie, who say it will equate to less than one per cent a year in property tax hikes to cover operating costs of Vision's initiatives.

Mike Klassen, an NPA council candidate, attempted to attend Vision's press conference at the hotel but said security told him he had to leave the building.

A group of NPA supporters wearing orange jackets emblazoned with "take back Vancouver" and "play time is over" were also told to get off the hotel's property.

Klassen spoke to reporters on a sidewalk near the hotel and said Vision's calculations-particularly on the streetcar-are "wildly inflated." He said the NPA's calculation puts the cost of the streetcar at $100 million-not $200 million-and it will work to find funding from a private contractor.

"Vision's numbers don't jibe with our numbers," said Klassen, noting a streetcar will attract huge ridership that will help pay off capital costs. "They can make those accusations six days out from an election. But the fact is our plan is well-costed and we believe that the numbers stand up."

He added that many NPA candidates have signed a pledge to keep taxes at the rate of inflation, or less if elected. The election is Nov. 19.

mhowell@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Howellings

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