Analysis

'This is BS': breaking down the verbal brawl in Vancouver's council chambers

Both Vision and NPA supporters can look at the exchange and see a winning argument in next year's election. Whether ordinary Vancouver residents are as enthralled is another matter.

George Affleck and Raymond Louie's argument a preview of the partisan warfare to come in next year's election

Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie speaks to reporters about a property tax increase, while NPA Coun. George Affleck looks on in the background.

Go to any city hall in the country, and there's a fine line between people of differing viewpoints trying to pass effective policy and all-out partisan warfare. 

That line was obliterated at Vancouver's last full council meeting of 2017. 

Fists pounding on desks, people rising every two minutes to defend their personal integrity and a spirited face-to-face argument between two councillors as the cameras were rolling.

Oh yeah and a last-minute hike to property tax increases: from 3.9 per cent to 4.24 per cent

It's a sign, 10 months before the next municipal election, that we're in political silly season: where Vancouver politicians will spend plenty of time framing ballot box questions and less time working together.

Approving the tax without consultation

But let's take a look at how we got to that argument between Vision Coun. Raymond Louie and NPA Coun. George Affleck.

Louie was answering questions from reporters about the extra tax increase, which works out to around $10 for the average homeowner for a variety of initiatives.

He said it couldn't have been included in the original budget, because staff didn't know whether council would approve policies on housing and preserving Chinatown when drafting it. 

"This is the role of council, to make adjustments up or down if we agree or disagree with the initiatives brought forward by staff." 

Reporters told Louie he couldn't remember a time that a councillor from the governing party brought forward a tax increase on the same day the budget was approved. 

"It's been done on a regular basis. A regular basis," argued Louie. 

However, city staff were unable to provide a previous example. In a followup email, Louie cited attempts by opposition members to cut or add spending on the day of the budget  — which, coming from opposition members, were either defeated or referred to committee.   

Process vs. policy?

So was this politics? A cynical, last minute addition to force NPA councillors to either endorse new taxes or vote against funding for affordable housing and Chinatown?

"I don't think cynicism is the appropriate description of what has happened," said Louie.

"There are people, perhaps, not happy with a tax increase for sure but there's also many people who will be very happy we're taking action to the words we've spoken about, rather than what we've seen with opposition councillors saying they support it but actually taking no action."

Which is when Affleck, who had been glowering behind Louie for much of the interview, said, "this is complete BS," and jumped into the interview. 

Campaign video for both sides

It's rarely a good look to interrupt somebody else's interview, berate the subject for a minute and then leave the room, as Affleck did.

But he never has to answer to voters again: choosing not to run for re-election. His haranguing of Louie was less a debate and more of a cathartic release.  

"It's all about election 2018, and that's all you guys care about is staying in office. And you know what? It's time for you to go ... you're running this city into the ground, and people can't afford to live here, and that's 100 per cent Vision's fault."

Louie's response, however, as Affleck turned and left, will also be applauded by Vision Vancouver supporters.

"You don't care about Chinese discrimination. You don't care about housing. You don't care about permit times. You don't care about social grants."

Both Vision and NPA supporters can look at the exchange and see a winning argument in next year's election.  

Ordinary Vancouver residents might look at it and see why so many get turned off by politics. 

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is a reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering political stories throughout British Columbia.

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