Candidates face Hastings voters

A COPE candidate tried to hand Stewart Brinton a pamphlet prior to an election forum at Hastings Community Centre Wednesday night. Brinton waved him off.

“I’ve already decided and part of it is COPE,” he said.

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Brinton, 70, voted for Vision Vancouver during its first term, but regretted it.

“My credo in this election is anyone but Vision,” he told the Courier. “I no longer believe in slates. I don’t think it’s working any longer. I’d like to see parties work with other parties. I’m not looking for ideologues of any stripe. I’m looking for people who can work with other people.”

Brinton is now a member of the Green Party. Aside from Green and COPE candidates, he plans to vote for the NPA’s Melissa De Genova and possibly OneCity’s RJ Aquino.

Several of the more than dozen council and park board candidates appearing on the Hastings panel, which featured representatives from mainstream and fledgling political parties, as well as independents, echoed Brinton’s call for a mixed council and were rewarded by applause from the packed room.

Audience questions touched on a broad range of issues — from high taxes and complaints about consultation with regards to city decisions such as opening temporary housing for the homeless at the Ramada on Hastings near Cassiar, to a desire for more outdoor pools and queries about how to create true affordable housing in the city.

One line of questioning revolved around the fractured relationship between the park board and some Vancouver community centre associations over their joint operating agreements, including Hastings, which just marked its 80th birthday. Hastings Community Association president Sherry Breshears asked a handful of the panelists what they planned to do to resolve the issue.

“We’re tired of this. We want a negotiated resolution to this issue, one that recognizes community associations’ important role in decision-making at our centres. What are you going to do to get this issue resolved both at the city council and park board level?,” she asked.

The Cedar Party’s Glen Chernen said the city needs to rewrite the joint operating agreement.

“I believe the final say has got to be within the community centres. It can’t be the mayor secretly pulling the strings of the parks board or the people behind the mayor pulling his strings — that’s got to end,” Chernen said. “Our community centres have to be brought back to the control of the community. If elected, that is one of the main things I would do.”

Aquino stressed the importance of neighbourhoods, pointing out OneCity would create democratically elected neighbourhood councils funded by the city, while Green park board candidate Stuart Mackinnon said negotiations need to stop, threats of evictions need to stop, and the re-set button needs to be pushed.

“I’m hoping with new commissioners in good faith we can sit down with the community centre associations and say this is what we all agree on — we all agree on universal access so how can we together go there… We have a system that worked for more than 80 years and suddenly a new government comes in and tries to destroy it. I think that’s wrong. So let’s stop and pause [it].”

Coun. Raymond Louie, one of two Vision representatives on the panel, said while it’s a park board issue, the city is trying to work with the park board to find a solution.

He noted [11] community associations are still in discussions, although talks are on hold. Louie said the agreements needed to be updated because they were old and many associations agreed to negotiations, while others dropped out.

“I think the park board has been saying we hope everyone comes back to the table and has a discussion,” he said, pointing out mediator Vince Ready has been asked to look at the situation and the park board agreed. “I hope that comes to fruition. The issue is about service provision to our communities. My interest is making sure services we provide through our park board, through our community centres… are high quality. That’s what I hope to bring as a Vancouver city councillor, to give the resources that are necessary. That’s why in this capital plan there are more investments into facilities that there has been in the past.”

Overall the crowd was most receptive to non-Vision candidates, although Louie, who chairs the city’s finance committee, cautioned the crowd to be wary of promises by candidates and costs attached to their promises.

After the forum, Brinton said the discussion hadn’t changed his opinion much, although he liked what heard from lesser known candidates such as Chernen and Vancouver 1st’s Jesse Johl.

Regardless, he’s expecting change — at least on council.

“Definitely there will be changes. Definitely. If there aren’t changes, there will be an upwelling all over the city. People are unhappy,” he said. “The election is showing people are really pissed. That’s the story here.”

noconnor@vancourier.com

twitter.com/naoibh

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