Q&A with Mayoral Candidate Suzanne Anton

In lieu of the Mayoral Candidates Debate scheduled for November 9th, NAIOP Vancouver asked both Suzanne Anton and Gregor Robertson to provide their views on a number of topics important to Vancouver business. An identical set of questions was provided to both parties, with the request that they be addressed to accurately reflect how each would perform as Mayor of Vancouver. Thus far, NAIOP Vancouver has only received feedback from Suzanne Anton. See her responses below to understand her views and priorities on a number of pertinent topics to the Commercial Real Estate Industry.

What points stand out to you? Did we miss any key questions? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Transportation
Question: Much of the focus of the current city administration has been in regards to investments in cycling routes to encourage cycling in and out of the downtown core.  Road congestion is a significant issue for the Metro region and downtown congestion in particular is affecting businesses and their employees who do not have enough viable public transit alternatives to get from the suburbs to downtown.  NAIOP is concerned that the decisions to implement dedicated cycling lanes have not been fully considered in light of the significant costs to businesses and employees, both in terms of real dollars and personal time of employees spent idling in traffic away from their families, not to mention the significant pollution and greenhouse gases caused by this additional congestion created. Can you please outline what you would do towards implementing a comprehensive multi-modal transportation strategy for the downtown core that considers the needs of all stakeholders including businesses, residents and visitors?

Answer

  1. Pedestrians
    • Repair sidewalks
    • Ensure good pedestrian connections throughout downtown area
  1. Bike lanes
    • Independent review of downtown bike lanes
    • Fix issues which can be fixed and remove parts which cannot
    • No further separated bike lanes downtown unless issues resolved, and there is full consensus of neighbouring businesses and residents
  2. Transit
    • Build downtown streetcar
    • Ensure Broadway line (completion of Millennium Line) is next rapid transit project after Evergreen
  3. Vehicles
    • Keep viaducts in place

Planning & Land Use
Question: Downtown Vancouver's location and geography means that the City has limited real estate available for development in the city core.  Outside of existing policy and zoning in place, please outline specific policies and steps you would take to both protect existing job space and encourage investment in the creation of additional job space throughout the City. 

Answer

  1. Suzanne Anton did not support Regional Growth Strategy as she was opposed to submitting City of Vancouver zoning decisions to the Metro Vancouver Board.   Council's decision in support of that external authority was made on a spur-of-moment council motion with no notice nor any input from stakeholders.
  2. NPA is open to considering the definition of industrial land to ensure it is "employment" land - heavy industry has left the city and current supplies of industrial land need to accommodate new technologies and industries.
  3. The Port of Vancouver needs to be a close partner in decisions re industrial land to meet its significant growth needs.

Taxation
Question: Vancouver's commercial to residential tax ratio in Canada, with a ratio of 4.5 compared to a number of its closest neighbours, Richmond at 3.5, Burnaby at 3.9 and Surrey at 3.  Having cities in the regions with  more favourable ratios becomes an attractive lure,  subsequently pulling businesses out of the Vancouver. Although Vancouver has made improvements in their ratio over the past 3 years, further reduction of the excessive property tax burden on commercial and industrial tenants and landlords will make Vancouver more competitive and promote jobs and investment. If elected on November 19th, what would you do to increase the fairness for businesses located in Vancouver, and how would you incent them to stay in the downtown core, when viable alternatives exist in other cities and provinces?

Answer:

  1. NPA has committed to continue the tax shift off commercial properties past 2012 until the ratio is more in line with neighbouring municipalities.  It was the NPA council which initiated the current shift, beginning in 2007, now progressing at 1% a year until 2012.
  2. Ensure continuing new supply of commercial spaces downtown and around city.

City Budget
Question: There has been significant discussion throughout this campaign cycle about the appropriate way to spend taxpayer dollars in Vancouver. Please outline your 3 major spending priorities in the next mayoral term, and what the benefits of each would be for the city.

Answer

  1. First priorities are to cut unnecessary Vision programs (water meters for example), increase taxes to no more than inflation, and return budget surpluses to taxpayers.
  2. Spending priorities are:
    • Streetcar - public/ private partnership and senior government funding
    • Bring firefighters up to full complement - short 20 personnel at the moment and units are not staffed in some neighbourhoods
    • Invest in planning around city to identify opportunities for housing supply and city building

Sustainability:
Question: NAIOP believes that a key part of sustainability of any city is "economic sustainability."  Vancouver's Greenest City Strategy recognizes this and wants to increase the amount of green jobs, which is positive; however, in order for the rest of the private sector to thrive and grow jobs, there are a number of essential elements that appear to be missing from the City's strategy, including a focus on non-green job creation and reducing barriers to new businesses being formed in the City.  Can you confirm what measures you would put in place to ensure that ordinary businesses continue to thrive and create jobs for the residents of the City?

Answer:

  1. As Mayor, Suzanne Anton will be the mayor of all the business sectors which are important to Vancouver:  mining, forestry, shipping, high tech and film, education, medicine.
  2. Anton recognizes small business as the backbone of employment in Vancouver, and the foundation of the city's thriving neighbourhoods.  NPA will help with property tax shift, red tape removal and a staff position to liaise with small businesses
  3. Anton will establish an Asia/ Pacific council to advise the Mayor and council on Vancouver's greatest asset:  Our multicultural society and the links established to the rest of the world, and in particular Asia.

Affordable Housing
Question: Another challenge for many commercial businesses today is the ability to have reasonably affordable housing available to its employees within a reasonable distance.  It has been well documented that Vancouver is one of the least affordable housing markets in the world.  Some experts attribute this to a severely restricted supply of homes as a result of:  extremely lengthy city approval processes, costly DCC's and CAC's and a city-wide fear of community backlash to growth and development.

What do you believe are the city's greatest challenges to housing affordability for its citizens and what actions or measures will you propose to address these concerns as to ensure that there is the opportunity to provide a continuous and sufficient supply of new housing in the most timely and cost-effective manner?

Answer:

  1. City Hall processes are the biggest barrier to building adequate housing supply in Vancouver.  NPA will appoint a red tape commissioner to reduce the barriers at city hall.
  2. NPA will:
    • Create more certainty in land-use through increase in rezoning policies where appropriate around the city
    • Create certainty in community amenity contributions around rezonings

General
Question: What are your top 3 priorities in the first 60 days?

Answer:

  • Appoint red tape commissioner
  • Appoint task force to advise as to how to get the streetcar back on track
  • Embark on cultural facilities plan for short and long-term

The Industry
Question: How do you see the real estate community involvement over the next 5 years and how do you intend to support our industry?

Answer:

The industry will be my partner in decision making around land use in Vancouver.

The Future
Question: What do you think is the greatest opportunity for Vancouver over the next 5 years? Please be specific and give examples.

Answer:

  • The opportunity to build our city so as to create additional housing supply and affordability; and the community benefits accruing from that supply: cultural facilities and recreation centres
  • The opportunity to get the streetcar back on track
  • Building a superior cultural infrastructure

 

The Vancouver Mayoral election is on November 19th, 2011. Note: this post is not an official endorsement by NAIOP Vancouver for any Mayoral Candidate. For more information on the election please visit the official website of Vancouver Votes here.

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