Affordable housing among key issues for Vancouver Centre candidates

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      Affordable housing is emerging as one of the central issues among candidates in what could be a tight race in the Vancouver Centre riding.

      The riding is one of three Vancouver electoral districts that University of Victoria political scientist Dennis Pilon says could flip, depending on the broader voting trends that develop in the federal campaign.

      “If there’s a lurch towards the Conservatives or the Liberals, then we talk about a swing, and sometimes that swing, well actually almost always, that swing carries over into the ridings,” said Pilon.

      The riding includes downtown Vancouver, the West End, Coal Harbour, Yaletown and Fairview neighbourhoods, as well as part of Kitsilano and the western part of Strathcona.

      Liberal MP Hedy Fry has held the Vancouver Centre riding since 1993. Last year, Conservative candidate Lorne Mayencourt came within about nine percentage points of Fry, at 25 percent. New Democrat candidate Michael Byers wasn’t far behind, with 21 percent of the vote. Green Party candidate Adriane Carr also had a strong showing, at 18 percent of the vote.

      This year, the Conservatives are betting on new candidate Jennifer Clarke as being their game changer.

      Clarke was an NPA city councillor from 1993 to 2002 and ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2002 against Larry Campbell.

      This is the first foray into federal politics for Clarke, who said she was approached to run in the riding about two weeks ago. She said her motivation in running was because she thought “Vancouver Centre needed a voice at the government table.”

      Among the issues she plans to focus on are economic recovery and crime.

      “In the inner city, there are issues with regard to, for example, gang violence, violent crime, property crime, those kinds of things that have been on the minds of businesses and residents there for many years,” she said.

      “I’ve sat with residents’ groups, business groups, individuals who’ve been victims of crime, and they are all very supportive of the Conservative government agenda of getting tough on violent criminal offenders and making it possible to get those individuals off the street.”

      But the candidate maintains that while she’s fiscally conservative, she plans to promote socially progressive values at the Conservative caucus table if elected.

      Among those issues is treatment and prevention of drug addiction. Clarke says she supports the Insite safe injection site, a project that Stephen Harper’s government is challenging at the Supreme Court level.

      “In my past life, I voted to approve the four pillars program for dealing with drug addiction and treatment and crime prevention, and I think that was a very good balanced program which included a pilot project on a supervised injection site,” she said. “I believe that was a good thing to do and I still do.”

      Fry, the area’s MP of 18 years, questioned the contradiction of policies.

      “I don’t know how Jennifer can reconcile her position on Insite with her leader’s,” Fry told the Straight. “She’s obviously against the party’s position. Why run for a party when you do not agree with them on some fairly basic issues?”

      Fry also criticized Clarke’s support for Conservative policies on crime.

      “I don’t agree with the Tory approach to crime at all and I’m surprised that Jennifer Clarke does. This building of jails and putting people in jails”¦ I think we see it doesn’t work in the United States,” she said. “It’s a punitive attitude toward crime all the time.”

      Fry argued there should be more of a focus on crime prevention and speeding up court processes.

      Both candidates have an array of other issues they say they’ll focus on during the campaign. Clarke says she’s also heard from Vancouver Centre residents about education, seniors, the environment, and a sense of election fatigue.

      Fry plans to focus on issues including health care, home care, Pharmacare, and supports for small and medium-sized businesses and the arts community.

      But a position shared among the four major Vancouver Centre candidates is an emphasis on housing.

      NDP candidate Karen Shillington, an antipoverty activist and former Green candidate, plans to focus her campaign around affordable housing, an issue she said is at the top of the agenda for the area.

      “It’s one of the highest rates of people spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing of any of the constituencies of B.C.,” she said. “Everything flows from housing. If you don’t have a place to live, then everything else gets much more difficult than it really has to be.”

      Second-time Green candidate Adriane Carr, the deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada, said affordable housing is also a central part of her campaign, along with issues such as seismic upgrades for schools and hospitals and a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on the B.C. coast.

      Carr predicted the Vancouver Centre race will be “a squeaker” this year.

      “I’m seeing a shift in Vancouver Centre voters, and think that there’s a good number of voters who feel that Hedy has served the riding, but that it’s time for a change,” she said.

      “I really do think every vote is going to count in the election,” she added. “I’m really hopeful that people feel the power of their vote, and know that their vote will be so incredibly important in terms of determining the outcome.”

      But the competition from Clarke and the other candidates doesn’t have Fry too worried as the area’s five-term incumbent, who has won against prominent competitors including Kim Campbell and Svend Robinson.

      “Every election, you never know what it brings, but I feel confident about what I’m hearing on the street, and I feel very confident about Jennifer running and Adriane Carr and everyone else running against me,” she said. “Bring it on – let’s go for the race.”




      Apr 2, 2011 at 2:00pm

      Please stop building expensive luxury condos for offshore investors and please start building durable, affordable rental units for the average citizen who actually lives here. Or tries to live here.

      Steve Y

      Apr 2, 2011 at 10:04pm

      The only way to produce affordable housing in the GVRD is to get rid of the ALR and remove GST/HST/PST from housing and de-regulate the real estate industry so that everyone can list on MLS and have full access to the information contained within it.


      Apr 3, 2011 at 1:48am

      Ig might do something about affordable housing,
      but not Harper, with his track record:
      "The Tories' War on Canada's Poor" (article)
      "Why The Harper Government Mismanages The Economy" (article) and more..
      My federal politics blog: clearpolitics.wordpress dot com
      (Click "About"re reading posts, or on my picture.)

      Taxpayers R Us

      Apr 3, 2011 at 9:06am

      Nope, the real estate industry needs to be more heavily regulated to gain any control whatsoever of this ridiculous housing bubble they've created. Leave it up to them and we'll be looking at another financial disaster come the next time the market tries to correct itself.

      Tyler Durden

      Apr 3, 2011 at 10:01am

      Anonymous28943, I find your comments about "offshore" people racist.

      Imagine the furor if a white American in Arizona demanded expensive luxury condos and not affordable, cheap rental units for illegals. All hell would break loose.

      However, racism against legally immigrating asian people is tolerated?

      Rob F

      Apr 4, 2011 at 11:00am

      Tyler, first why assume that anonymous28943 is white? People of all backgrounds in the Lower Mainland share those same concerns about offshore speculation in real estate as a major factor in housing affordability.

      Second, the comments are not racist, they just reflect reality. As long as the real estate market is kept wide open for offshore buyers, prices will continue to be driven up, making it more expensive for people who actually live here (full-time).

      "[Realtor Manyee] Lui explains why she’s so confident the home will sell: “It will appeal to a buyer from China.” She allows there was a time when Chinese buyers’ architectural preferences differed significantly from the local norm, but over the last 10 years their tastes have widened and become more westernized. Now long-term Vancouverites and incoming Chinese are seeking almost exactly the same thing—except, Lui says with a laugh, “we can’t afford it.”"

      Yes, it certainly makes me laugh that I work my a** off and still can't afford to live in a decent home in the city where I was born...hahaha.

      David Nairne

      Apr 4, 2011 at 12:02pm

      Time to put a legal home ownership limit for real estate purchases by foreign nationals. They have done it in China (for domestic buyers- 2 condo units max.) so why do we put up with it here?..we are sacrificing our youth's future in this city for Chinese money today. WHY ARE WE DOING THIS???!

      Steve Y

      Apr 4, 2011 at 12:24pm

      It shouldn't matter who the hell buys the properties if we didn't have a pointless Agricultural land reserve that is being used to keep prices artificially high, not to grow food. A city the size of Vancouver cannot be food self sufficient anyways, it is a ludicrous pipedream. Have any of you ever left the lower mainland? We have this country, it's called Canada, and it is the second largest country in the world. Why the hell would we preserve some of the land in the second densest city in North America? It is foolish to the extreme. Only an out of touch socialist could think of such a stupid idea.


      Apr 4, 2011 at 4:37pm

      Hey Steve, Have you noticed a lot of the land in the ALR isn't even used for growing? It just site there - empty.

      Steve Y

      Apr 5, 2011 at 7:43am

      @cuz I sure have! I wonder why that is, maybe because it doesn't make sense to have a farm in the middle of a city?