Metro Vancouver to get new attention under NDP
Metro Vancouver could go from being a region constantly at odds with the provincial government to one getting major attention as the political landscape shifts to an NDP government with big roots in the province’s largest city.
Out of the NDP’s 41 seats, 26 seats -- almost two thirds – come from wins in the Metro region, which turfed high-profile Liberals in the May 9th election. That’s a sign that the city will start getting its due, says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
“I’m really looking forward to working in close partnership with the B.C. government. That’s been a difficult relationship for many years. They weren’t focused on the city, the most vulnerable population of homeless, the housing challenges that we have and accelerating the work on transit,” Robertson said.
“City priorities have been missed for many years on the B.C. level and I think the NDP is really committed on that level,” he said.
The BC Liberals gained 14 seats in Metro Vancouver, sweeping Richmond, hanging on in south Surrey and holding all but one of the seats on Vancouver’s north shore. But the bulk of their remaining seats came from province’s interior and north.
But it could have been worse. The Liberals won Coquitlam-Burke Mountain by just 87 votes, and star candidate Jas Johal was elected in a squeaker in Richmond-Queensborough by just 134 votes. A different result in either riding would have tied the NDP and Liberals at 42 seats each.
Just one more seat in the city would have handed the BC Liberals a slim majority. Instead, voters turned on, Peter Fassbender, the Liberal minister who had been most prominent in delaying action on transit and the one responsible for TransLink.
The NDP-Green agreement has several mentions of urban issues, including a note that the parties will “act immediately to improve transit and transportation in co-operation with the mayors’ council and the federal government.”
“The mayors’ plan is in place. I’ve met with (New Westminster Mayor) Jonathan Cote. It’s critically important to work with him and the other mayors to make sure that happens,” Horgan said.
The agreement promises to find a new and sustainable way to fund transit. It also includes a measure to tackle the opioid crisis that is resulting in average of four deaths a day in this province—many of which occur in the city—by creating a minister for mental health and addictions.
The accord makes a general pledge to “make housing more affordable by increasing the supply of affordable housing and take action to deal with speculation and fraud that is driving up prices,” but doesn’t include specifics.
City drivers won’t be expected to pay for the bridges through tolls, with premier-designate John Horgan saying among his first actions will be to rid the province of its tolls.
“We want to get working on the tolls right away. We think it’s unfair,” Horgan told CTV News on Friday.
The Massey Bridge was meant to be another toll bridge that would ask drivers to ultimately pay the $3.5 billion estimated cost. But the NDP campaign alleged the interest on that bridge would make the final cost rise to some $12 billion.
The Green party’s Andrew Weaver told CTV News on Friday that the bridge may not be built, but the government will explore other options that could include twinning the existing tunnel, which is estimated to cost only hundreds of millions of dollars.
“We probably won’t be seeing the Massey Bridge move forward. We’ll see a pause in that direction,” Weaver said.