Vision Vancouver, NPA in war of numbers

Duelling platforms based on conflicting financial calculations

Anyone considering voting for Vision Vancouver or the NPA better be good at math, research and the city’s budget history to understand how much each party’s promises will cost and how they crunched the numbers.

With Vision having already released its $1.4 million platform, the focus has shifted to the cost of the NPA’s promises, with both parties providing reporters with a variety of numbers from reports, estimates and mind-boggling calculations.

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Over the past two days, both parties have accused each other of not doing their math homework. And each side claims their calculations are correct. So which party should the public believe?

“Absolutely, our numbers,” NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe told reporters Tuesday from the party’s campaign headquarters at the City Square building where the party released the costs of its platform.

LaPointe said the party’s platform is “realistic, it’s affordable, it’ll stand scrutiny and I think the public still has a lot of time in order to evaluate it, ask us questions about it and we’ll be quite open about it.”

The NPA released its full “affordable platform” on the first day of advanced polls and said its 60 promises will cost $18 million per year. Those promises will be paid for from an anticipated cost savings of three per cent achieved in a review of all city departments, agencies and corporations.

“That would save much more than we propose to spend,” LaPointe said. “Vision has increased spending by $250 million in its six years [in office], so we know we can find the funds to pay for our ideas.”

The NPA says it will spend $45 million on capital expenditure projects, with the majority of that money going towards building three new outdoor pools and restoring funding to the Marpole-Oakridge community centre.

The day before the NPA’s release of its platform, Vision Coun. Raymond Louie, the longtime chairperson of the city’s finance committee, did his own calculations on how much the NPA promises would cost. He came up with a $33.3 million increase to the operating budget and $112.8 million increase to the capital budget.

After reviewing the NPA’s budget figures Tuesday, Louie again made himself available to reporters to poke holes in the NPA’s numbers. He pointed out the NPA’s $300,000 one-time cost to create counterflow lanes was “ridiculous,” saying a single intersection with a left-turn bay costs $6 million.

“How on Earth can you implement a number of technologies and signs and lights and make this at all effective under a $300,000 one-time expense, with no operating [budget]?” he said.

Louie also said LaPointe told reporters in July there would be a tax freeze, if the NPA formed government. The NPA announced Tuesday there would be a freeze on property taxes but that it would be “at no more than the rate of inflation for at least one year.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson joined Louie Tuesday to say the NPA’s promises would “blow a $146 million hole” in the city’s budget. The mayor was disappointed the NPA hadn’t made ending homelessness a key plank.

“They have zero commitments on affordable housing or childcare and instead we see a series of risky and costly proposals like counterflow lanes that are not costed and would require big cuts to pay for them,” Robertson said.

Vision says it will cost $1.4 million per year to implement its promises.

That includes annual costs of $500,000 to increase the number of police officers to target dangerous drivers and $400,000 to double the size of the Vancouver School Board’s breakfast program.

Vision says the majority of its commitments require “political choices,” not new spending because programs such as its housing strategy are already funded under the operating and capital budgets the party set over its six years in office.

LaPointe did not question Vision’s $1.4 million in promises at Tuesday’s press conference, although he said Vision has “picked numbers out of the air” to discredit the NPA’s calculations.

“I can only point to their track record in managing city finances — the increase in taxes, the increase in debt, the increases that have made this city far less affordable,” he said. “And all I can say is it’s time for a change.”

Both parties have posted their platforms online.

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