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Vision council hopefuls tackle tough questions

The 17 candidates vying for positions on Vision Vancouver’s council slate fielded tough questions Wednesday night during a series of mini-debates at the Jewish Cultural Centre.

In three teams of four – and one team of five – the contenders addressed a crowd in the hundreds under the glaring lights of the Norman Rothstein Theatre.

Each candidate had one minute to make an introduction and then two attempts to answer questions from a panel of moderators that ranged from strategies for affordable housing to waste recycling initiatives.

Newcomer Vaune Adams Kolber netted the first laughs of the night during her opening address when she stated: “I’ve been described as new, unknown – even naïve. I prefer fresh.”

Probably the freshest answers from the first round of debaters though came from incumbent Heather Deal, who focused on organic waste when asked what Vancouver should do to create a sustainable waste collection strategy. She proposed public composting units on a block-by-block basis and called for recycling at every bus stop.

The second round of debaters will be remembered for the one-two comedic punch of newcomer Kerry Jang and incumbent George Chow. 

“I decided to run for city council because of this pain in my head,” said Jang during his opening remarks. He slapped his forehead as he added, “Every time I walk around the city I go, ‘Jeez, why are they doing that?’”

Meanwhile, Chow drew some of the biggest laughs of the evening when he compared his decision to join Vision in 2002 to the current nomination process, which sees 17 contenders battling for eight spots on the council slate.

“We didn’t have to go through this process (then), speaking to you, grovelling for your support," Chow said.

Later on, Geoff Meggs put forward carefully thought out solutions to Vancouver’s lack of affordable housing that called for the city planners and developers to work together to solve the crisis. He proposed that the city waive certain parking requirements, speed up the building approval process and set up an authority to allocate a set amount of affordable housing.

“Developers are part of the solution, not the problem,” Meggs said.

In round three, Rey Umlas delivered his introduction with a fiery passion. Claiming that he had to come to Canada from the Philippines with only one suitcase and $50, he declared, “I am a supporter of all hard working Canadians.”

The rousing remarks continued when incumbent – and former mayoral hopeful – Raymond Louie was asked if he would support measures to ticket and arrest people sleeping on the street.

“Let’s be clear,” Louie replied. “Homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction are not a crime.”

But the biggest fumble of the night followed shortly after when newcomer Ray Lam was stumped by Vancouver’s rental housing shortage.

“I don’t have an answer to this complicated question,” Lam said, netting some cheers for his honesty.

Andrea Reimer took the stage for round four with a well conceived but nervous-sounding opening address packed with jokes, some well executed, some not.

In contrast, David Eby’s opening address exuded confidence and knowledge as he described the city’s housing shortage in human terms and expressed outrage at the lack of a credible housing authority.

But in the end, the energy and enthusiasm of all 17 candidates was perhaps summed up best by Chow in his closing remarks when he exclaimed, “we all have the passion and commitment to build a better city.”

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for The Hook.

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