The negative campaigning in Vancouver's civic election appears to be ramping up, with Vision attacking the Non-Partisan Association's mayoral candidate for living outside the city, and the NPA doubling down on its claim that Vision has been swapping political favours for donations.
Vision Vancouver has released a radio ad that mentions NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe does not live or pay taxes in Vancouver.
Mr. LaPointe lives on the University of British Columbia campus, in what is known as Electoral Area A. He teaches at the university's journalism school, and also works at a publishing firm on the North Shore.
Mr. LaPointe, in an interview, called the radio ad a desperate smear.
"They're attempting to make a political issue out of something that is a private issue with my family, and I don't appreciate it," he said.
Mayor Gregor Robertson denied Wednesday that the ad was a personal attack. He said it was just a statement of the facts.
"The budget cuts that Mr. LaPointe is proposing will not affect him as a non-resident. It's an odd conflict, that he can make cuts that he will not suffer from," he said.
Political experts, however, called the matter a non-issue.
Patrick Smith, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, questioned the merits of mentioning Mr. LaPointe's place of residence.
"The notion that living in the [UBC] endowment lands is dramatically separate from Vancouver is just kind of silly," he said.
Max Cameron, a political science professor at UBC, seconded that view. He said it would be one thing if Mr. LaPointe lived in Surrey, but the UBC campus is very much a part of Vancouver.
The NPA, for its part, continued its line of attack Wednesday on a $102,000 donation to Vision from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The NPA has said the donation amounts to trading cash for favours, since Vision has told the union it will not contract out city jobs.
Mr. LaPointe earlier this week accused the mayor of corruption, though Mr. Robertson denied any link between the donation and the decision not to contract out.
Mr. Cameron said the donation highlights the need for stringent campaign finance reform at the municipal level.
"I think it's really important that public officials have, and be seen to be of, the greatest integrity. And wherever it looks as if specific interests are buying influence, offering campaign contributions, that's troubling," he said.
Prof. Smith said while the donation does not amount to corruption, it shows the campaign finance rules as they currently exist are something of a free-for-all.
Mr. LaPointe said there is no doubt the donation was an ethical breach and campaign finance reform is long overdue. He said he'd like to see the province take action but, if it doesn't, he would find a made-in-Vancouver solution.
Vision, at a news conference Wednesday, released its full election platform and hit out once again at the NPA for producing only vague, partial plans with no details or costing.
The platform consists largely of a promise to keep going on the issues it has worked on the last six years – homelessness and affordable housing, greening the city, attracting tech businesses and expanding the cycling network.
As well, it promised a few new items, with prices attached. The new items include half-a-million dollars so police can target dangerous drivers and cyclists, and $50,000 a year for a new artists' fund to promote festivals and secure performance spaces.
Vision also promised another quarter-million dollars a year for the "greenest city" fund, an extension of patio hours to 1 a.m. in the summer, and a promise to try out "participatory budgeting" with two pilot neighbourhoods, where local residents would get to set priorities for local projects such as playground equipment, park facilities or traffic calming.
Meena Wong, mayoral candidate for the Coalition of Progressive Electors, also held a news conference Wednesday. She announced she would, if elected, push to build 800 units of city-owned housing a year.
Frances Bula is a freelance writer