Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver should be returned to office for another term, but they should not receive a blank cheque. The governing party needs a larger opposition to hold it to account – not just one lone, brave Non-Partisan Association city councillor, as in the past three years.
Mr. Robertson and his colleagues have been fiscally responsible. They have carried out a pre-existing policy of relieving the disproportionate property-tax burden on businesses – which formerly paid six times as much as residential property-owners. The number of people actually living on the streets – the most acute form of homelessness – has steeply fallen, though the overall level of homelessness is about what it was three years ago. Crime has fallen, too.
As the sole opposition councillor, Suzanne Anton has been capable and spirited, qualities she has also shown as the NPA's mayoral candidate. She stood up to Vision Vancouver councillors who were often lacking in courtesy. Her courage in visiting the Occupy site is a notable contrast to Mr. Robertson, who has been more accommodating to the protesters yet has not gone inside the camp.
The NPA platform, however, is as overstuffed with items as a magpie's nest. Neither side's costing is a model of financial lucidity or coherence, but the upshot has the traditionally small-c conservative NPA promising considerably more new spending than the social-democratic VV, both on capital and operations.
In the coming term, collective agreements with city employees will be up for renewal. Mr. Robertson says he will be respectful toward the CUPE locals, as he should be, but the opposition will need to be vigilant, as the unions generally support Mr. Robertson and his colleagues. His unfortunate choice of the unwieldy injunction route to remove the Occupy protesters suggests a tendency to be deferential to the left.
The NPA has not yet regrouped enough to make a convincing case for a return to power. Mr. Robertson and Vision Vancouver should continue in their second triennium to provide steady, competent, generally well-focused government for the people of Vancouver.
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