Candidates spar over donors, city communications

About 250 people came to the Creekside Community Recreation Centre in False Creek last Wednesday night to hear 14 candidates for mayor and council debate — sometimes heatedly —union donations, a lack of parks and transparency at city hall.  

The Courier earlier reported on a union meeting during which Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs promised the CUPE union city staff local — a large Vision contributor — that his party would not expand contracting out services. Vision Coun. Raymond Louie, the only ruling party member at the debate Wednesday, was asked if the CUPE donation was “appropriate.”

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“The media reports are accurate,” Louie replied. He pleaded that Vision council had long asked the provincial government to ban both corporate and union donations, prompting some people to shout of the CUPE donation “Then give it back!”

Louie added the NPA had voted against Vision’s proposed change.

“Just because they are unions, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad,” said Louie. “They provide good value for money, and hiring cheaper is not always better.”
Kirk LaPointe, mayoral candidate for the Non-Partisan Association, retorted, “If the NPA had made such a deal with a developer, you would jump all over us. So we are going to jump on you. It was a trade of dollars for votes. Vision released its platform today, but with no mention of what this deal with CUPE would cost taxpayers.”

Louie interjected: “There was no deal.”

LaPointe turned to him: “Mr. Louie, are you incapable of keeping your mouth shut for a minute?”

Audience applause ensued as the moderator called for order.

On the number one concern of the evening, residents around Vancouver’s False Creek are shining green lights in their windows calling for city hall and Concord Pacific to fulfill what they call a 24-year-old contract to complete Creekside Park. Most of the panel called on Concord to “do its duty,” and Vancouver First candidate Jesse Johal gained the longest applause of the evening when he asked, “How can Vision or NPA get that park when they take funding from developers?”

Most of the other candidates repeatedly hammered city hall’s enlarged public relations branch and tight grip on information, which Meena Wong, mayoral candidate for COPE, said reminded her of growing up with propaganda control in communist China.

Quipped Cedar Party candidate Glen Chernen: “The big difference between Toronto mayor Rob Ford and Vancouver council is about 150 pounds and 33 communication officers.”

Louie concluded that “a lot of the rhetoric you have heard tonight is just not true, or telling only half the story. And ask Mr. LaPointe if he is meeting with any developers before the election.”

On “fiscal responsibility,” Louie said that “with every promise comes a cost,” and he recalled that his party had inherited a $1 billion liability from the previous NPA council on the Olympic Village deal.

“We all know that we’ve been developing too quickly,” LaPointe said. “There is an ad hoc process, there is no planning per se, and it has been benefitting a very few, and leaving a lot of people out of the picture. I’m beholden to no one.”

Other topics briefly raised were the need for more amenities from developers, social housing at Oakridge, the risk of more oil tankers, the fate of Marine Gardens, a subway to UBC, and fire service cutbacks.

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