Vancouver city council rookies acknowledge learning curve

NPA councillor slams cost of swearing-in ceremony

Incumbents dominate Vancouver's new city council but two political rookies slipped into seats, namely Vision's Tony Tang and the NPA's George Affleck.

Tang, a semi-retired builder, spent roughly two years on the Board of Variance, which gave him some familiarity with city staff and city government, while Affleck, who runs Curve Communications, is a former journalist who's worked at newspapers and at the CBC where he reported on subjects including civic politics.

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Both acknowledge a learning curve, although Affleck has put his media skills to use already, earning coverage for a Sunday press release criticizing the cost of council's Dec. 5 swearing-in ceremony. In the release, Affleck said he'd heard it would be at a community centre rather than in council chambers and noted the ceremony staged three years ago at Sunset Community Centre cost an estimated $85,000. (City hall hadn't released details for the Dec. 5 event as of Monday afternoon, although Affleck informed the Courier late Monday that he was told it will be at Creekside Community Centre.)

"Using taxpayer dollars in a lavish event off site is not necessary and not a great way to use money. That's one of the things [I'll do]-hold their feet to the fire on every dollar spent," he said Monday morning. "Every penny you save is something we can use for something else that we want. That's how I run my business. That's how I run my own life and that's how I'll address city council."

Affleck, 47, doesn't anticipate conflicts of interest between his work as a councillor and running his business.

His managing partner is taking over much of the operational duties at Curve Communications. "I'm asking a lot of questions about conflict. Currently, there don't appear to be any conflicts for me to worry about with my clients. I don't have government contracts. The way I read it is as long as I inform them of any conflicts, and recuse myself if there are any conflicts, then that's fine and dandy for city hall."

Affleck watched council on and off during his election campaign to brush up on city issues and said he's grateful he'll have NPA colleague Elizabeth Ball to second motions.

Tang expects he'll take a few months to become familiar with the job. "But I learn fast and another part of me is I like challenge," he said.

The 61-year-old did a radio interview this weekend, in which he promoted tourism, and he plans to focus on subjects such as land use once he's sworn in. "For me, the most important [issue] is affordable housing. One of my passions would be about senior housing-senior assisted housing," he added. "I know that's not the jurisdiction of the city totally, but I hope I can do as much as the mandate or the city power allows me to get more housing and senior affordable housing."

Tang moved to B.C. from China in 1969, but lived here on and off until about 23 years ago when he made it his permanent home. "I speak fluently in Cantonese, but for some of the political terms I have to think about it. I haven't been using the language for a while except with my parents and some of my friends," he said. "I speak reasonably well in Mandarin. Of course they always say I have a Cantonese accent."

Twitter: @Naoibh

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