'A disaster for the city': Vancouver mayor slams federal Conservatives
VANCOUVER - "This is a critical election for Canadians, and I'm worried," Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart began in prepared remarks before a press conference in the city Wednesday.
"I'm worried that an Andrew Scheer Conservative government could be elected and this would be a disaster for the city."
The mayor went on to recount his office's efforts to secure meetings with each of the party leaders to discuss three issues of great importance to the City of Vancouver: housing, transit and opioids.
He said he had met with Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, but was rebuffed by Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.
"On each of these main issues, all of these leaders expressed a willingness to work with Vancouver and a genuine desire to make things better," Stewart said. "Despite numerous invitations and conversations with key Conservatives, Andrew Scheer refused to meet."
Pressed by reporters for more details about his efforts to meet with the Conservative leader, Stewart -- a former NDP MP -- said his office made multiple phone calls seeking a meeting with Scheer, beginning in August.
The mayor said there was an initial indication that the Conservative leader would be open to meeting, but that later changed to a refusal. No reason for the refusal to meet was given, Stewart said.
"I know Andrew Scheer very well," he said. "I served in Parliament with him for seven years. I'm surprised that he wouldn't meet with the mayor of one of the biggest cities in Canada."
"So I waited, like everybody else, for the platform, and was shocked. It's an austerity platform. It's cut, cut, cut. And that's not what we need here right now."
On housing, Stewart said the Conservative platform "would move us backwards and make housing less affordable."
On transit, he said the party's platform amounts to an $18 billion cut in infrastructure spending that "would kill the SkyTrain to UBC."
And on opioids, the mayor said a Prime Minister Andrew Scheer would force a "return to the days of fighting in court" about safe drug supply, meaning "more people would die."
Stewart added that his preference in the election is to avoid a Conservative government. He declined to endorse an alternative party.
"I want to be clear," he said. "I'm not telling people who to vote for, but I do want people in Vancouver know that if you care about these top issues, housing, opioids and transit -- and I know most people do -- Andrew Scheer would be worse than Stephen Harper."
Asked for a response to the mayor's comments, a Conservative Party of Canada spokesperson provided the following statement:
"A Prime Minister Andrew Scheer will be a strong partner with Vancouver and municipalities across the country. On election day, we look forward to electing strong Members of Parliament from the Vancouver area and British Columbia to stand up for residents at the caucus and cabinet table. The Conservatives are the only party this election campaign who are talking about building infrastructure like the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project."
The CPC platform includes a commitment to provide all of the funding for infrastructure projects committed by the current Liberal government, but it spreads the amount of federal money for infrastructure projects out over a longer time period: 11 years instead of eight.
Asked whether he was concerned that his remarks could hurt his working relationship with Scheer should the Conservatives form government, Stewart said the experience of this election campaign doesn't make him optimistic.
"I think our relationship's already cooked," he said.