Opinion: Listening in while LaPointe talks

Memo to Kirk LaPointe: Avoid holding news conferences within 200 metres of the Helijet landing pad on Burrard Inlet.

In the event that this location is unavoidable, as it apparently was Tuesday morning because of the photo-op the location afforded with the Port of Vancouver in the background and how it fit in with your economic message, let me make one suggestion: When a helicopter is taking off or landing, stop talking. Nobody can hear you.

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Etc. etc.

Talk is cheap. But then, as I am discovering as I make my way along the election campaign trail, it apparently depends on who is doing the talking and whether anybody is listening.

Although the trek to the polls is still a month off, I am attempting to decipher messages from the principal candidates. I attended that news conference near the Helijet landing pad on Tuesday which was about affordable housing and the economy. On Wednesday the NPA’s LaPointe was at a Board of Trade breakfast.

The man who heads the “government in waiting” gave a speech and then was in conversation with Globe and Mail reporter Gary Mason. Along with the topics from the previous day, the subject of the imminent shutdown of the tent city at Oppenheimer Park was raised.

First, LaPointe’s views on some of what could be called Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s accomplishments and aspirational goals. The bike lane along Point Grey Road was a “phony consultation,” he says. People were asked but no one at city hall was listening.

Robertson talks about his plan for a subway out to the University of British Columbia as if it is a “done deal” but, says LaPointe, nobody with the deep pockets required to fund it, which is to say nobody at the federal or provincial level, is listening.

Robertson continues to go on about ending street homelessness by 2015. But LaPointe calls that “phony” too because it is “hyperbole to say that you can end anything.” And what about funds for low-cost housing to provide homes for the most vulnerable citizens? Well, says LaPointe, in that case it is Victoria that is mute: “The province doesn’t talk to the city anymore about housing.” Really?

And, oh yes, all that talk from Robertson about increased oil tankers in the harbour should the Kinder Morgan expansion go ahead, he’s just wasting his breath. It’s not something a mayor has the authority to do. “He believes the people of Vancouver think he can stop the pipeline.” That simply means to LaPointe: “He has no respect for their intelligence.”

So what does the guy who has the best chance to end the NPA drought and defeat Robertson have to say for himself?

What about on the need for affordable housing in the city, for example? This question is interesting because we constantly hear there is a crying need. But it is also interesting because of what we know about LaPointe. He does not live in Vancouver. He told reporters living in Vancouver is “unaffordable.”

Meanwhile, he lives in a condo on the UBC lands assessed at $1.2 million (thanks for the research Frances Bula) where his wife pulls down at least $150,000 a year working as an associate dean. Not sure what LaPointe brings home. But I don’t think you have to pass the hat for him.

“So what,” asked my colleague Mike Howell, “do you considerable affordable housing?”

“Well,” said LaPointe, “it depends on your income.” I hope you all were listening.

And what about that whole generation who can’t afford to the live in the city? Easy, they just need higher paying jobs, which will come of course, with LaPointe’s plan to grow the economy by catering to resource-based industry and not just Robertson’s “pet projects.”

And how, wondered Gary Mason in conversation with LaPointe at the Board of Trade breakfast, does he think transit should be paid for? “Well,” said LaPointe, “I’d like to leave that open to discussion.”

What do you think about Oppenheimer Park? “There needs to be genuine consultation and genuine listening.”

LaPointe says the city is “deluding” itself thinking the problem will go away.

Yes, but what would you do right now?

“It is not for me to aggravate this. I am not the mayor. The city needs to deal with this.”

I hear you.



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