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Mayor Gregor Robertson speaks at Vision Vancouver press conference on Nov. 14, 2011. (JOHN LEHMANN/JOHN LEHMANN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Mayor Gregor Robertson speaks at Vision Vancouver press conference on Nov. 14, 2011. (JOHN LEHMANN/JOHN LEHMANN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Robertson blasts NPA spending proposals Add to ...

Running out of time to make the case for a second term, Mayor Gregor Robertson has stepped up his attack on his Non-Partisan Association rivals, accusing them of proposing runaway spending to be implemented by inexperienced candidates if the NPA wins power.

At a Monday news conference, Mr. Robertson made his most concentrated argument on the NPA, arguing that the party is not exactly putting taxpayers first with a program of more than $390-million in unfunded new city spending.

By contrast, he said his Vision Vancouver party’s platform would cost $5.5-million in capital and operating costs.

“They are putting taxpayers first in line to pay for their reckless promises,” Mr. Robertson told reporters at a downtown hotel. “Vancouver can’t afford the risk of voting NPA in these elections.”

He said the NPA would either have to cut services or raise taxes to pay for its agenda, which includes re-establishing Vancouver’s streetcar line as a public-private project. Vision alleged the line would cost $200-million.

Suzanne Anton, the NPA’s mayoral candidate, accused Mr. Robertson of exaggerations and said it appeared that Vision was panicking.

“They must be feeling the heat from their polls. I am breathing down his neck,” she said. “Overall, I am saying their theory is off in that if they had chosen to read the NPA platform, they would have seen there are funding sources and this is a funded plan and a plan over time. It’s not a plan for tomorrow. It’s a plan over time.”

She said Mr. Robertson’s streetcar numbers were “fiction” and that she would seek federal government funding to help with the costs for the project along land the city has already invested in. “We already bought the whole right of way,” she said. “Right now, that city asset is just sitting there, getting no value for taxpayers so I am going to put that city asset to work, which is to have the streetcar on it.”

Ian Baillie, Vision’s executive director, said there is no panic in his ranks, and that the tone of Monday’s arguments is part of a planned campaign arc.

“This is about going to the narrative of whether these people are fit to govern. That’s exactly what it is, and it’s exactly what our endgame message is,” he said. “She’s not getting to us at all. What we’ve seen is their platform hasn’t been costed out. Their platform hasn’t been vetted and what we did today was vet it for them.”

Pollster Mario Canseco of Angus Reid Public Opinion said Monday, as his company released a poll on the race, that the political fate of either side will depend on rallying their base to get to the polls. That is especially true with a low turnout that could be around 30 per cent based on the last vote and the company’s poll. “That’s the secret to a municipal election,” he said.

The poll suggests nearly half of respondents would like to see Mr. Robertson as mayor, either with a Vision majority – the preference of 29 per cent – or no majority, which was the preference of 18 per cent.

Alternately, 27 per cent of respondents preferred Ms. Anton as mayor – 9 per cent with no majority, 18 per cent with an NPA majority.

The poll was conducted between Nov. 9 and Nov. 10 as an online survey of 402 randomly selected adults in Vancouver. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 4.9 per cent.

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