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Robertson reiterates vow to end homelessness

Vancouver's mayor-elect wanted to talk homelessness, but the pre-election controversy over the city's apparent $100-million loan to the developers of the Olympic Village is still looming.

Gregor Robertson won a landslide victory in Saturday's civic election on the back of a promise to end homelessness. Speaking with reporters Monday, Robertson reiterated a pledge to strike an “emergency task force” on homelessness when his new council is sworn in Dec. 8.

“[I'll be] working on who needs to be at the table, really bringing together the brightest minds in Vancouver to focus on short term solutions and getting people off the streets as quickly as possible,” Robertson said.

The mayor-elect said he would be open to all ideas, including one from NPA candidate Michael Geller to look at using portable modular units as temporary housing for homeless people.

He also promised to talk to the province about using Little Mountain, the site of a planned redevelopment with no concrete timeline, for temporary housing. The site near Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver is set to be demolished within the next six months.

News also surfaced that the city's chief financial officer, Estelle Lo, had officially resigned after weeks of speculation.

“I'm very concerned when a chief financial officer steps aside a resigns,” Robertson said. “I'd like to know why and what concerns exist around that.”

Robertson acknowledged Judy Rogers, the city's powerful top bureaucrat, would have the final say on the matter.

“I'll see what the city manager says about whether these concerns can be aired,” Robertson said. Previous reports have suggested Lo resigned because of concern over the $100-million loan approved by council at an in-camera meeting in October.

Robertson promised to “look at” staging a public council meeting on the $100-million loan saga. “[It's] making sure we can set the record straight on that so the public has confidence in that project going forward,” Robertson said.

The man Robertson defeated for the mayor's seat, Coun. Peter Ladner, doesn't appear willing to let the Olympic loan controversy die either, promising to use the one remaining meeting of the current council to authorize a city-funded investigation into the aftermath of how news of the loan reached the media.

Ladner alleges that Vision Coun. Raymond Louie used “fraudulent information” to refute a Global TV report that strongly implied Louie was the one who leaked documents about the Olympic Village development.

“I'm afraid this council is starting its run under a very serious scandal that I don't think people fully understand,” Ladner told the CBC's Rick Cluff Monday morning.

Ladner and the current NPA council only have one meeting left to start an investigation: Nov. 25. Robertson and the new council are sworn in Dec. 8.

Irwin Loy reports for Vancouver's 24 hours.

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