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Vision Vancouver makes homeless shelters a priority

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, centre, is joined by his wife Amy, centre right, as they celebrate after he was re-elected in a civic election in Vancouver, B.C., on Nov. 19. The man on far left in black is Jinagh Farrouch Navas-Rivas.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Invigorated by a massive electoral triumph, Mayor Gregor Robertson will push the province for a new deal on temporary homeless shelters that the city deems a priority as winter looms, says a prominent Vision Vancouver councillor.

Last month, the province cut support for the temporary spaces, with Housing Minister Rich Coleman suggesting the B.C. government doesn't believe the four shelters with capacity for 160 beds will be needed, thanks to new permanent social housing units that opened this year.

But Geoff Meggs said Sunday the city will go back to the minister on the issue.

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"I don't want to make light of the minister's position, but it's not the first time we've heard there's no latitude and yet something was found," he said in an interview.

"It's a discussion [Mr. Robertson]wants to continue because as long as people are on the streets, they're at risk of real serious problems and we take a chance of even a death," said Mr. Meggs, designated to speak for Vision on its looming priorities. "There just is never quite enough shelter."

Mr. Coleman did not respond to a call on Sunday seeking comment.

Vision comes to the debate on this issue, and many others, emboldened by its fortunes in Saturday's municipal election – its second as a party. Mr. Robertson won a second term by almost 20,000 votes over key rival Suzanne Anton of the Non-Partisan Association, despite polls predicting a close race.

Vision campaign manager Mike Magee said the party was never worried Mr. Robertson's lead was narrowing, as some polls suggested during the height of attention on the Occupy Vancouver protest.

Private Vision polling, he said Saturday, showed the Vancouver Art Gallery encampment was not a major factor among city voters and that the mayor's lead at the beginning of the campaign was never seriously threatened.

"We knew all along we had the right strategy [to win]"

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That strategy involved running on the party's record, asking for a mandate to finish what Vision started in its first term, staying on message and taking the high road, Mr. Magee said.

"I think the NPA made a big mistake focusing so negatively on [Mr. Robertson] That's not a way to build your base. They didn't offer voters a platform to support."

The NPA increased its council ranks from one to two, but every Vision candidate from Mr. Robertson down the ranks to parks board and school board was elected.

Mr. Robertson's win and the policies he espouses reverberate beyond Vancouver, Mr. Meggs suggested.

"[It]resonates with a lot of people outside Vancouver borders because they are looking to the city to show leadership in this area and we're tackling problems all cities have," he said. "[Mr. Robertson]feels strongly we've got to keep pushing on those because it's the only way for our cities to go, to become sustainable and that has a strong response from other cities and jurisdictions."

Further details of Vision's post-election agenda will come Dec. 5 when the mayor speaks to an inaugural council meeting, elaborating on plans to enact the Vision platform.

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The NPA, meanwhile, will try to pick up the pieces, holding meetings this week on its future.

Party president John Moonen said the NPA would not be looking for a 2014 mayoral candidate until 2013. Until then, the party will focus on supporting its two new councillors, George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball.

He vowed the NPA would be back. "Eventually governments do lose support from people," he said. "The very act of governing can alienate people and disappoint people and anger people and people do look for alternatives. It's part of the Canadian system. We see that at the municipal level and we will see it in Vancouver."

With files from Rod Mickleburgh


Percentage point spread between Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson and his Non-Partisan Association rival, Suzanne Anton

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts's margin of victory, in percentage points

Percentage turnout in Vancouver's 2011 municipal election

Turnout in the city's 2011 election

Number of defeated Vision Vancouver candidates in mayoral, council, park board and school trustee elections

2,266 Vote spread between the lowest-ranked Vision council candidate and the top-ranked NPA candidate

91 Vote spread between the Green Party's Adriane Carr, who won Vancouver's 10th council spot, and the 11th-place finisher

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin's share of the vote, up from 45 per cent in 2008

Editor's note: Comments on Mayor Gregor Robertson's win reverberating beyond Vancouver are attributed to Geoff Meggs. An earlier version of this story was incorrect, this version has been corrected.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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