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Shaughnessy residents grill Ladner and the NPA

October 26th, 2008 · 17 Comments

Finally, some Vancouver council candidates in this year’s election got a chance to tell the public a bit about themselves on Friday when the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association had their local campaign get-together. Three councillors from each party, along with the mayoral candidates, got to have a say, along with one independent who made the SHPOA’s rigorous cut. (They made independents submit statements in advance to ensure that they weren’t wingnuts — though that isn’t quite how they put it.)

The mayoral candidates also got to have their usual say, which I won’t repeat. Instead, I’ll focus on what was new and different about this event, which attracted about 200 people — or “real people,” as we media scrubs like to call them, to distinguish them from the placard-waving supporters who dominated the first two debates.

So, new and different?

1. Both mayoral candidates, Peter Ladner and Gregor Robertson, used the occasion to steal from each other’s playbooks. Peter made his usual stump speech (I have experience and you need that when the world is imploding), but kicked off by saying that he was offering “leadership and action.” Uh, isn’t that two of the three words on all those blue and green Vision signs around town, not to mention the mantra that Gregor has been chanting since early September? Yes, indeed, a break-and-enter in plain sight.

Countering that, Gregor didn’t steal from the NPA’s platform but he did steal a trick Peter has been using along with going through his usual stump speech (Are you better off now after three years of the NPA?) My media companion, Allen Garr, noted in a column last week that Peter starts every debate he’s at by mentioning some kind of link he has with the group or the neighbourhood associated with the debate. It’s a subtle way of underlining what he’s been saying overtly for a while, that he has deep roots in the community and Gregor just got here on the bus five minutes ago. He did it again Friday by mentioning that he’d been at the Greek festival in the same building recently, that his mother lived nearby, that he himself had rented an apartment near Arbutus Village, etc. etc. (Oddly, unless I missed something, he didn’t overly stress the fact that actually he grew up in Shaughnessy.)

But this time, Gregor tried to do the same. He mentioned that his great-uncle Bruce and wife Jean lived in Shaughnessy and Christmas at their house every year was a treasured occasion for his family (who lived in North Van). He talked about going out with his kids on bike races around the Crescent, something they do frequently since he lives nearby at 23rd and Oak, and mentioned that one of his teens is attending Prince of Wales across the road from the Hellenic Centre where the debate was held.

It’s interesting to see how both campaigns have taken what they believe is working from their opponent’s campaign and appropriated it.

2. The second interesting part of the night was the way all of the issues were narrowly focused on a few things that apparently this group cared about passionately, namely:

– council’s recent decision to allow townhouses to be built on the lower part of the historic McRae House (the University Women’s Club house) in order to ensure the developer didn’t tear it down

– planned new development at Arbutus Village

– general veiled discontent with EcoDensity (framed as a “do you believe in CityPlan and the Visioning process” question) and the possible intrusion of laneway housing.

Interestingly, Peter took a few boos and catcalls as he defended his party’s decisions on those issues and he stuck to his guns, even getting a bit sharp with the crowd at one point. When asked “How do you know staff are not being wined and dined” by people involved with the McRae House decision, he snapped: “I really resent that question. That is not in any way what happened.” (To his credit, he also answered the question. Gregor misunderstood it and went into the Vision Vancouver spiel about needing campaign-finance reform.)

Several times, Peter said that being a leader requires making tough decisions and that he made them after carefully weighing the pros and cons. Gregor, on the other hand, made much more appeasing statements to the crowd, saying that the Arbutus Village development was “at this point only a framework and there’s opportunity for discussion,” while Peter said it was a project the city needed to go ahead with.

In a sign that someone has been doing his homework, Gregor noted in his opening speech that he was “disappointed” in the McRae House decision and that the city needs to work hard to protect sites like that, which are “a heritage gateway” to Shaughnessy.

On laneway housing, Peter said he’s a supporter of the concept while Gregor, again, underlined the “we’ll let you decide” theme. “I am a supporter but it’s all about how you do it. It can’t be forced. It’s got to be about respecting the neighbourhood.”

Again, on the CityPlan question, Peter defended the current planning process, which is all about figuring out how to comfortably absorb density throughout the city. “We have lots of Visions, but no plan that says where the next 300,000 people are going to go.”

Gregor again focused on the individual neighbourhoods. They each need their own plan so they can not be overwhelmed by a glut of sudden development, the way Fairview was when old three-storey apartments started being torn down and replaced by upscale towers. And, he added, playing to exactly what that crowd wanted to hear, “I’m concerned about neighbourhoods being overridden by EcoDensity, my sense is that it could over-write what a neighbourhood wants.”

So I started off this post by mentioning that council candidates finally got their say. What did they do with it? A brief rundown.

Kanman Wong, NPA: Insite is not a solution to drug problems; treatment is the solution. Second point was that the city needs more community centres.

Leanore Copeland, NPA: I spent three years in Ottawa, I know how to get gets done. I’m on all kinds of boards. The 2010 Olympics really matter.

Suzanne Anton, NPA: We have a lot of people coming to Vancouver — where are we going to put them? We need to figure that out. At the same time, we have to preserve our heritage. Also — the Kerrisdale community centre is ready for renewal. How about an arts centre there? Plus she defended the McRae House decision

Steve Wansleeben, Independent: The vacancy rate is near zero. You need to raise licence fees for landlords. Also, for elections, the voting age should be lowered to 16.

David Cadman, COPE: I rented near here once at 14th and Cypress. I’m disappointed at what the NPA council did to Southeast False Creek, because our individual neighbourhoods need to look like our city as a whole. The NPA’s taxes have gone through the roof. We are the only party that doesn’t take money from developers. (Applause for that.)

Ellen Woodsworth, COPE: I’m worried this beautiful city is falling into crisis. People feel like the city no longer listens. After I lost in 2005, I realized i needed to really listen o the community and stand up against the disintegration.

Heather Deal, Vision: Southeast False Creek could have worked if people had been allowed to come together and provide creative solutions. Project Civil City was misguided. The NPA keeps turning down good ideas, like having a mental-health advocate.

Geoff Meggs, Vision: One of the projects that will transform this city is Woodward’s and we haven’t seen that kind of creativty repeated. Homelessness is a moral issue and it’s hard to believe the city couldn’t come up with something so that thousands of people aren’t sleeping on the street. On affordable housing, if you work in this city, you should be able to live in it.

George Chow, Vision: There need to be limits on campaign donations and spending to make sure no one group has undue influence. We need more patrol officers on our streets. I support historical neighbourhoods like Shaughnessy. Yes, we have to make hard decisions, but we have to make wise decisions.

And on those wise words, I left for the night.

Another debate tonight about arts, 7 p.m. at the Arts Club.

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  • Wagamuffin

    Well, Gregor, as long as you’re respecting the neighborhoods: Which neighborhoods do you intend to sell on more InSite style centres?

    Since you have repeatedly stated that you would consider placing several more, I can hardly wait to see which neighborhoods are lined up to take you up on the kind offer. I guess you’ll be sensitive to the needs of neighborhoods and just keep them down on the DTES?

    And how unfortunate you apparently had another appointment on Friday night; one that took you away from any nasty follow-up questions about exactly how you would work with neighborhoods on the density issue. And where he would put those new needle exchanges.

    George Chow, speaking at the Vision all candidates meeting at the JCC was steadfast in his view that the other neighborhoods needed to share the responsibility. I guess more needle exchanges are a wise decision, yes, George?

  • Scott

    Is there something wrong with this picture?

    1. Incumbent Vision Vancouver councillor George Chow was a past director of the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association.

    2. A main issue of the SHPOA is the planned Arbutus Village development in another community?

    Well tickle me pink.

  • Wagatoast

    Wagamuffin, can you ask Peter to be at the Biltmore tomorrow night? Gregor will be there ready to debate – too bad Peter feels the need to skip out. Guess those students and those people who probably won’t vote NPA (re: anybody under the age of 60) will be too tough for the old guy. I thought he said he was ready to debate him any time, any place?

    I guess the rest of us born after President Truman’s election will get to watch the insightful musings of NPA candidates like longtime Vancouver resident Sean Bickerton. Hurrah!

  • Wagatoast

    One last thing – strange that the NPA cheerleaders are kind of silent on Kim Capri’s vote with Vision on the McRae issue. Guess she was just watching taxpayer dollars, eh muffin?

  • Wagamuffin, I agree with the points you bring up.

    I’d like to add, I wondered to myself how committed Gregor would be to leading Vancouver when he wasn’t even committed to staying an extra hour to support his colleagues on Friday night.

    I’ve been to the first two debates and the last two debates now. Each time I learn more and more about Peter and his NPA colleagues running municipally too. He always mentions any one of them where appropriate and some of their past accomplishments. Gregor, on the other hand hardly talks about any of his past accomplishments specifically in business or in politics, or about any of his VV or Cope colleagues running alongside him.

    Peter and the NPA seem to be more of a team than Gregor and his mishmash of political parties.

  • Julia

    If Gregor gets in, I see us going back to the Larry Campbell days and the Cope/Vision antics of Council Chambers. They were more interested in fighting with each other than doing the business of the city. How is Gregor going to convince his caucus to reverse 3 years of voting record just because he says so. How will those Councillors answer for that to their supporters? You cannot blame all the past votes on process and you can’t be sick for every vote you don’t want to flip flop on.

  • Indepedent Mind

    From the comments it definitely looks like the NPA have it in the bag.

    However careful review of the last three years leaves me with some lasting impressions. A civic strike that went on way too long and accomplished nothing but deprive the residents of much needed services.

    In additon a number of schemes that produced nothing, but cost a lot, such as Civil City, and the hiring of former city manager Dobell. Which by the way turned out to be a fiasco as Dobell while lobbying did not register with the Province. There was also that stupid over priced phone system, the Ecodensity process that divided communities and the huge wage increases that exceed comparable jobs in the private sector.

    Finally I would like to hear, at one of these debates, from the majority on the current council why we had our taxes raised 19% over the last three years and what we go for our money.

    I guess with ten or so debates to go there is still time.

  • Shame I had a little bug to clear and didn’t make it, bothered making this speech, it’s different, they at least welcomed me on it:

  • Julia, Campbell is a Liberal now who supported DeGenova who supports Ladner now.
    Frankly it matters little since the NPA & Vision Coalition have done nothing to stop regulating business hours and staying out of the way of industrious people and businesses that create the jobs and have done everything to boost the police state and even be inviting to the US Police State (DEA and So On), faught for the Olympics and supported EcoDensity, 100 Dollar nomination fees and worse of all the latest Election Bylaw limiting ballot choices, look at it, there aren’t even 2 Candidates for each seat to choose from in council and still non-electors can run from other cities of all the election changes that could be made that wasn’t.
    They have no respect for the right to life, liberty and property and use of due process if they think they have a right to take it from the presumably innocent.
    They both supported camera in the street and random bag checks including but not limited to the fireworks.
    They presided over laws hard on skaters and restricting arcades to R rating destroying the coin op industry unless you count the repulsive gabling expansion cash crop of theres.

    These are politically fascist and take their elections for granted.


    Gölök Z. Buday
    “The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.” — James Madison (1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President

    Madison is right, no need for star candidates, we need a leader and something that is a decent change not some partisan wet dream that can’t fairly preside (as President of Council) over council fairly as a member of the other parties. Separate the caucuses from the executive!

  • jf

    Hmmm…talking about past accomplishments vs future plans? If all Peter Ladner has is to rest on his laurels then there isn’t much there. I know he has more than that to offer, but it disturbs me when people are choosing how to vote on whether someone is better at bragging than another. And in what way is Gregor anything like Larry Campbell? Come on folks lets have some thoughtful comments here. Don’t like what Gregor has to offer? Fine, but explain why not. Like what Peter is offering? Fine, but say why his vision is better. Let’s not turn this opportunity into a partisan rant. Explain yourselves!

  • Julia

    I am not comparing Larry to Gregor I am referring to the total breakdown of day to day operations of council because of the persistent sniping between the various factions. sit there some time, the issues are far less important than scoring hits against your opposition caucus.

  • Vote for Pedro? Nope

    Ms Hui and Wagamuffin –

    I’d like to pose the question right back to you: how committed is Peter Ladner to becoming Mayor when he refuses to debate Gregor at the Biltmore tonight? Or is Sean Bickerton now running for Mayor?

  • Wagatoast

    How come the NPA fan club hasn’t mentioned Kim Capri voting with Vision on the McRae development? I guess she was exercising common sense, while Vision was pandering.

  • Paul

    Homelessness and affordable housing are important enough issues that all of us should be making a contribution toward the solution. Peter seems to be willing to take a political hit by making that point. Gregor seems to be willing to let some off the hook to avoid a hit.

    If some neighbourhoods don’t want increased density, then maybe there are other ways they could contribute. Perhaps they could contribute more in taxes to support additional homes for those living on the street, for example. To simply let them each turn their back on the challenge and leave the problem solving to the collective of others [other neighbourhoods and those with lesser incomes] is same same.

  • Wagamuffin

    Paul, well said., though the model of totally buying your way out doesn’t appeal I think Peter supported McRae redevelopment to make that point. No one neighborhood should shoulder all the responsibility. But there has to be `-community engagement. So, I disagree with Kim’s George’s and Gregors’ NIMBY attitude. Laneway housing is a great idea for people to live in good neighborhoods. I can only assume that is you don’t want to build laneway it won’t be imposed on you. But if some of the neighbors do, well, the parameters will be decides on to make it work. Carriage house are all over old Toronto. They are wonderful.

    Wagatoast, I don’t know where Peter’s sched takes him—all I know is that he has shown at lots of pubs and clubs where young artists, bike riders and entrepreneurs get together to hear and challenge him about his plans., as they did yesterdya at the Arts Forum. As for Sean Bickerton, I have met him—also well spoken, thoughful, compassionate, and practical. gets things done. So jf, there’s killing two birds with one stone…

  • C’mon!

    It’s just plain silly to assess candidates based on whether they can or cannot make it to a given debate. In the final weeks of a campaign, you can be they’re double, triple, and quadruple booked almost every night. They have to make tradeoffs – just like in government.

  • Wagamuffin


    Apparently, Peter didn’t miss much last night.

    If only there had been a debate…

    Here, the Tyee’s report on the Biltmore.