Incoming Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim’s ABC Vancouver party is already walking back the timing of one of the campaign promises that earned him a record number of votes and his party a majority in the Oct. 15 civic election.
During the campaign, ABC promised that “on his first day as mayor, with an ABC majority on council, [Sim] will be requisitioning for the hire of 100 new police officers and 100 mental health nurses.”
Nov. 7 is Sim’s first scheduled day as mayor, when he will be sworn-in along with the 10 city councillors, seven of whom ran on the ABC Vancouver ticket. Following the ceremony, city council’s inaugural meeting.
But the first step in tackling the city’s street crime and addiction crises will not be on the agenda.
Near the end of Tuesday’s final scheduled meeting of the 2018-elected city council, the three ABC incumbent councillors took turns notifying city council of upcoming motions for the Nov. 15 meeting.
Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said she would table motions titled “Urgent Measures to Uplift Vancouver’s Chinatown” and “Adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.”
Coun. Rebecca Bligh followed with notice of her “Transport Pricing: Stopping the Road Tax,” motion, before Coun. Lisa Dominato with “Enabling the Requisitioning and Hiring of 100 New Police Officers and 100 Mental Health Nurses” and “Accessibility Audit of All City-Owned Assets.”
Outgoing Mayor Kennedy Stewart reminded them that the motions must be submitted in-writing to the clerk’s office before the meeting.
The hiring of police officers and mental health nurses was a cornerstone of the ABC campaign and often a cause for confusion. ABC sometimes pledged on social media and in broadcast advertising to hiring the officers and nurses on day one of a Sim-led ABC majority, even after the original news release said Sim would begin the process to requisition on day one.
The allocation of funds and actual recruitment, training and onboarding could take considerably longer. It took the Surrey Police Service just over a year to announce the hiring of its 100th officer in September 2021. If new Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke successfully shuts down the fledgling municipal force in favour of keeping the RCMP, experienced officers could come available sooner.
That it was Bligh who mentioned the anti-road tax measure was a moment of irony. She was one of six councillors who voted for the Climate Emergency Action Plan. The plan included exploring a tax on driving in downtown and triggered $1.5 million of spending to study the measure.
ABC used the proposed road tax as a wedge issue against Stewart, who repeatedly denied that city hall would impose such a tax if re-elected. Stewart accused ABC of U.S.-style disinformation and complained to radio stations that carried ads carrying Sim’s anti-road tax message.
Meanwhile, the rest of ABC’s platform has disappeared from the party’s website. Its campaign promises, news releases and candidate biographies were no longer visible on Oct. 26. They had been replaced with a headline reading “Thank You, Vancouver” and buttons to donate to council/park board candidates, school board candidates and to sign-up as a party supporter.
Neither Sim nor transition team head Kareem Allam responded for comment.
Near the end of the Oct. 25 meeting, Stewart remarked on the challenge of governing through the pandemic. Despite the political differences on council, he estimated there were more unanimous votes than not.
“I look forward to interacting with you in different ways after this is done,” he said vaguely, while looking around the chamber. “I’ve enjoyed my time, and it’s really been the honour of my life to serve here, but I look forward to serving the city in some other way.”
The city council meeting ended with city manager Paul Mochrie debuting a five-minute video montage of images and headlines about civic policy and program achievements since 2018.
“This has been a term unlike any other,” said Mochrie, who succeeded Sadhu Johnston in early 2021. “I think it’s probably fair to say that you didn’t sign up for this job in 2018 thinking you were going to be governing Vancouver through the biggest catastrophe since World War II, but those were the cards you were dealt.”
He also gave gift bags containing commemorative medals to Coun. Michael Wiebe and Stewart, the only outgoing council members remaining in the chamber.
“So the loot has been divvied up!” Stewart exclaimed, before formally adjourning the meeting.
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