Gregor Robertson, Kirk LaPointe, and Meena Wong battle it out ahead of Vancouver mayoral election
Kirk LaPointe, Gregor Robertson and Meena Wong tackled Vancouver's major issues in live CBC debate
Vancouver's mayoral campaign has developed into an unexpectedly tight race — prompting a surprising move from incumbent Gregor Robertson in Wednesday's live CBC debate between the three main candidates.
Responding to a question about low voter turnout, Robertson (Vision Vancouver) appealed directly to anyone considering voting for COPE and urged them to support him instead.
The move sparked exclamations of disbelief from COPE candidate Meena Wong, who was taking part in the debate alongside Robertson and the Non-Partisan Association's Kirk LaPointe.
The debate, jointly organized by CBC Vancouver and SFU Urban Studies, and moderated by Rick Cluff, host of CBC's Radio One's The Early Edition, addressed a range of different issues affecting the city ahead of Saturday's election.
The candidates were initially asked about how expensive it can be to live in Vancouver and how they would make the city affordable for all.
All three focused on transit in their response, with Robertson accusing LaPointe of being unaware of where the proposed Broadway subway would start.
LaPointe hit back, apologizing for having "mispoke" on that point, but said Robertson did not have the money for the subway anyway. Meena Wong implored the pair to stop arguing between themselves and address the issue of public spending instead. Wong is promising to implement a $30 monthly transit pas for Vancouver residents.
Asked to elaborate on their affordable housing policies, LaPointe said he would revitalize the city-wide zoning initiative, known as CityPlan — first initiated by the NPA government of the 1990s — with an emphasis on building more row housing.
Robertson responded that it is action not plans that are needed.
Wong said Robertson's idea of what constituted affordable housing was more than 30 per cent of the average renter's income.
Moving onto homelessness and cold-weather shelter provisions, LaPointe said that homeless advocates he talked to during the recent protest in Oppenheimer Park told him they felt the city had left behind a string of broken promises.
Robertson hit back, accusing LaPointe of not even mentioning the word "homelessness" in the NPA's platform. Wong argued shelters are not a real solution and providing a proper home for people was the real answer.
Asked about getting the public out of cars and into more sustainable modes of transportation, LaPointe argued that Robertson's government had made the city more congested, ensuring that bike lanes almost made driving in the city hazardous for motorists.
Robertson said LaPointe was demeaning the work of city staff, who had implemented bike lanes that had received global recognition.
Wong touted the idea of cheaper transit passes, claiming COPE could offer monthly passes for only $30, as a means of encouraging people to use transit instead of driving.
Bike lanes proved a hot topic during the debate, prompting one member of the public to suggest taxing cyclists for bike lanes, instead of all taxpayers. All three candidates rejected that idea.
Responding to a question about managing to achieve change in the city, while balancing the municipal, provincial and federal jurisdictions, Robertson said Vision Vancouver had a good track record of forming partnerships with higher levels of government.
He cited the headline-making economic stimulus package Vancouver received as a result of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.
LaPointe meanwhile said Robertson had only succeeded in making headlines since due to the Stanley Cup riot.
Wong said COPE's answer to dealing with different jurisdictions would be to work with other city governments to promote change in Vancouver.
Low voter turnout
The last municipal election saw only 35 per cent of voters turn out to cast their ballots, sparking concerns about voting numbers this Saturday.
Asked how best to encourage citizens to vote, Wong called on residents to bring 10 people to vote with them.
LaPointe claimed the democratic system in Vancouver is dysfunctional and said voters feel ignored. He argued that gap needed to be narrowed by building a more open City Hall, providing voters with more information.
In a surprising move, Robertson took the opportunity to appeal to anyone considering voting for COPE, asking for their support on Saturday — a move which prompted incredulity from COPE candidate Wong.
As it happened: Vancouver mayoral candidates' debate
For more on the independent candidates not taking part in the debate, click here — Tim Ly, Colin Shandler, Jeff Hill, Mike Hansen, Meynard Aubichon and Cherysse Kaur Kaiser.
And you can watch CBC's earlier interviews with LaPointe, Robertson and Wong right here.