Vancouver’s newly sworn-in city council met for the first time Tuesday, referring several of new mayor Ken Sim’s key election promises to a Wednesday committee meeting to hear from speakers.
Sim’s A Better City (ABC) party won a commanding majority on council in last month’s election, meaning the slate should have no problem passing its policies.
The party’s biggest promise during the campaign was to hire 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health nurses to address public safety concerns.
The first step in that plan will get a formal look Wednesday, and, if approved, would direct city staff to allocate $6 million in the upcoming 2023 budget to requisition and the police officers ($4.5 million) and nurses ($1.5 million).
The money would be subject to a plan from each agency to hire and deploy staff, and “expand mental health initiatives and partnerships” like the Car 87/88 program and other outreach initiatives.
Another motion on Wednesday’s agenda proposes “urgent measures to uplift Vancouver’s Chinatown” amid the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant property crime.
The Vancouver Police Foundation recently sent a delegation to San Francisco to learn about how that city was able to protect its own historic Chinatown.
The motion would direct staff to develop a draft action plan to support the community by January, and to liaise with the police foundation about its findings from the San Francisco trip.
It would also require the plan to include better support from the city’s Streets and Engineering Department, new graffiti removal strategies, placemaking and mural opportunities and outreach.
A third ABC motion would bar city staff from any further work towards a “road tax.”
During the campaign, ABC hammered incumbent mayor Kennedy Stewart over an alleged plan to implement a charge on vehicles entering the city’s core — though the party was criticized over the veracity of the claims.
In 2020, Vancouver city council did direct staff to take a long-term look at road pricing as a part of its suite of climate change responses, however, there was no timeline for any such measures. Road pricing is also under provincial, not municipal, jurisdiction.
Nonetheless, the motion would direct staff to suspend all work related to transport pricing by any definition or name, unless it is part of a regional project.
Another ABC motion seeks to have the city adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s controversial definition of antisemitism, in response to rising hate crimes.
The definition, which has been adopted by the federal government and several Canadian provinces, reads: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
However, groups including Independent Jewish Voices Canada, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs have voiced opposition to the definition, which they say has been weaponized to silence dissent about the mistreatment of Palestinians or actions by the government of Israel.
Council’s standing committee on policy and strategic priorities is set to meet Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. to hear from speakers and consider the motions in depth.
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