Profiling Vancouver's political parties: ABC Vancouver, led by Ken Sim
The party offers a fairly status quo agenda on housing but with a focus on crime and faster permitting
Four years ago, Ken Sim came within a thousand votes of becoming mayor of Vancouver.
A lot has changed in the city since then, but a lot hasn't: Sim is still running for mayor, still hoping to defeat Kennedy Stewart, and still running on themes of affordability, safety, and moderate change.
"I do want to stress that there are a lot of good things going on in the city, and we have amazing people at City Hall," said Sim.
"They're just working with a broken process."
Instead of being with the NPA as in 2018, Sim is with a new party, ABC Vancouver. Running for council along with Sim are incumbents Rebecca Bligh, Lisa Dominato and Sarah Kirby-Yung, along with Mike Klassen, Peter Meiszner, Brian Montague and Lenny Zhou.
ABC's park board ticket consists of Brennan Bastyovanszky, Jaspreet Virdi, Marie-Claire Howard, Scott Jensen, Laura Christensen and Angela Haer, and its school board candidates are Alfred Chien, Peeti Faridkot, Victoria Jung, and Josh Zhang.
It's the only party hoping to have more than 70 per cent of council and park board seats, more than any other party right now and enough to fully control city hall after four years of a minority council.
"There's been a lot of challenges in our city. The last four years have been marked with missed opportunities, divisiveness and combativeness," said Sim.
Tweaks to housing policies
But what would change under ABC look like?
On housing, ABC has been broadly supportive of the Vancouver and Broadway plans — which focus on more density, particularly around transit stations — with the party's sitting councillors voting for both strategies.
Sim argues that the city has pursued a quantity over quality strategy on social housing, which he pledges ABC would reverse.
The party's big housing promise is around permitting — promising three days to approve home renovations, three weeks to approve single-family homes, three months on mid-rise projects, and one year to approve high-rises.
"If we do not fix that process, all these statements about all the housing we're going to build won't happen, and housing will not be affordable," said Sim, who argues the measures will also help reduce property tax increases.
"If we start to build homes faster, what happens is you have people living in these units paying property taxes, and they add to the base of our taxes."
ABC also promises to double the number of co-op units in the city over the next four years and will pre-approve five laneway home designs to speed up the process for their construction and approval.
More cops — but vague on budget cuts
On crime and policing, Sim promises to hire 100 new cops and 100 mental health nurses over his term, ideally as quickly as possible.
Opponents have raised questions about how quickly those cops could come on board and how the nursing component would work, given the well-documented shortage regionwide. But Sim argues it's a necessary first step.
"Is it ambitious? Absolutely. But when you compare it to the mayor's plan to hire 25 counsellors or Coun. Hardwick's plan to hire a commissioner and study the issue, those aren't bold actions, and we have serious safety issues in our streets," he said.
Sim has promised those new hires — which would cost more than $20 million a year — would not result in an increase in property taxes, which have averaged over five per cent during Stewart's term as mayor.
But when asked for specifics on what might be cut from the operational budget to make up the difference, Sim was vague, mentioning various controversies involving office chairs (which were part of the capital budget) supporting a lawsuit against big oil companies (which would be $700,000 at most and is not in the budget yet) and the mayor having two chiefs of staffs (which has nothing to do with the size of the mayoral office budget, which is in the middle of the pack for large Canadian cities).
"We're going to be looking to the province and the federal government to pick up their responsibilities on the items that they've abdicated responsibility on," said Sim, adding that he would demand council be provided more line-item details in the budget presented by staff each year so they could make more informed choices.
Additional ABC promises include bringing back the police liaison program in schools, 5,000 new daycare spaces, body cameras on police, and asking the province to oversee a City of Vancouver lobbyist registry.
"We're going to be looking to the province and the federal government to pick up their responsibilities."
To some, all of ABC's promises will sound practical. To others, too vague.
But it could be a formula for turning Vancouver into Sim's city.
CBC News is profiling all 10 political parties in Vancouver ahead of the municipal elections in October.