Not exactly breaking news: Christy Clark and her B.C. Liberals are back in, sort of.
Yes I know there are all those absentee ballots to count and the three Greens must decide whether they want to align with the 43 Liberals or 41 NDPers.
But as I write this just past midnight, and Clark is talking about “tonight being the start of something different,” what the heck does all this mean for Vancouver?
Had I been smart enough to predict such an outcome earlier in the day, I would have asked that question to the NPA’s George Affleck, Vision Vancouver’s Raymond Louie and the Greens’ Adriane Carr.
Instead I asked them what they thought about the prospect of a re-elected Liberal government, which sort of happened.
In short, Affleck is kind of OK with it, while Louie and Carr not so much, which is what I expected; their political lineage isn’t exactly a secret.
Carr, for example, canvassed for the Greens’ Janet Fraser in Vancouver-Langara and represented the party on CBC radio. Heck, she co-founded the party and was once the provincial leader.
The NPA-Liberal connection has always been strong, the same way the NDP-Vision connection has been solid; hey, wasn’t that Louie and Mayor Gregor Robertson campaigning with George Chow, the NDP candidate for Vancouver-Fraserview?
Yes, that same George Chow – the former Vision city councillor, who Tuesday knocked off former NPA city councillor Suzanne Anton, who had been Clark’s justice minister and attorney general.
Chow’s victory was the only political shift in the city, which had been 7-4 in favour of the NDP going into today's vote. So now it’s 8-3, keeping Vancouver a largely NDP city overseen by a Liberal-led provincial government.
Which means likely more of the same back-and-forth between the Vision-dominated council and the Liberals over housing, transit and the drug overdose crisis as central issues.
The Greens, of course, could have something to say about that if the NDP proposes a marriage.
Affleck, who said the Liberals’ fiscally conservative spending policies align with his, more aptly described it as “political ping-pong” – a term he used while criticizing Vision Vancouver for its poor relationship with the previous Clark government.
“If Vision continues with this acrimonious relationship with them, it won’t be good,” said Affleck, who voted for former NPA mayor Sam Sullivan Tuesday; Sullivan was re-elected as the Liberal MLA for Vancouver-False Creek. “My feeling is that whoever is in power in Victoria, we should have a cooperative relationship to ensure that we get what we need in our city – and housing and affordability is key. But the mayor refuses to play at all in the B.C. Liberals’ sandbox.”
Robertson had strong words for the Liberals in March when he criticized the Clark government for not addressing homelessness and allowing the drug death toll to climb.
“If you connect the dots here – between unprecedented homelessness across the region, a fentanyl overdose crisis that has killed over 900 people across B.C. and the shelter rate and income assistance rates being frozen since 2007 – it’s been war on the poor in B.C.,” said Robertson, suggesting the government preferred to invest billions of dollars on a Massey Bridge and Site C dam.
Regardless of the rhetoric, the facts are: Homelessness is at an all-time high in Vancouver, the drug overdose crisis persists, real estate prices continue to soar, congestion is an everyday reality and not everyone’s salary has gone up an average of $8,500 in recent years, as Clark declared at one of the leaders’ debates.
As Louie told me a few weeks back, and reiterated Tuesday, these are not partisan issues but problems that need to be addressed by the provincial government, which has jurisdiction over health, housing and transit.
“This is about whoever will support the policies and a framework where we can achieve what we need to better serve our people,” he said, noting the failed transit and transportation referendum pushed back investment that is needed today. “Clearly, we need more responsive policies and investments in affordable housing. Clearly, we need more investments and more energy put towards transit. Whichever government holds the majority, we will hold them to account.”
Carr, who was about to have a root canal before she spoke to the Courier, rattled off a list for the new government to get working on, including affordable housing, social housing, transit and banning union and corporate donations from civic campaigns.
She wasn’t happy with the Clark government’s approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and was miffed at the Liberals’ interference in the city’s plan to reduce natural gas use in new developments.
But Carr acknowledged the promise from the previous Clark government to invest $2.2 billion in transit. The construction of 13 supportive housing sites also benefited Vancouver’s low-income and homeless people, she added.
But as the city grows and affordability persists, she said more has to be done.
“I really hope they don’t stay the course. There is a lot at stake on virtually every file.”
Good luck newly elected Liberals, NDPers and Green trio. Good luck city councillors. Good luck to every Vancouverite who is tired of surviving in this city and just wants to live in it.
Good night everybody.