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COPE platform heavy on affordable housing

Tim Louis endorses Mayor Gregor Robertson

The Coalition of Progressive Electors launched an ambitious campaign platform Tuesday focused heavily on creating affordable housing in the city.

The party, which is running three council candidates in the Nov. 19 civic election, promised to create an "affordability crisis commission" that would determine the extent of the city's housing shortage and recommend solutions to stop residents from moving away from the city.

"Some [people] are being forced to leave the city because it is no longer affordable," said R.J. Aquino, a council candidate who launched COPE's campaign at SFU Harbour Centre.

The housing plan also calls for the creation of a housing authority to create "semi-market housing" and find developers to build and sell new units at the cost of construction.

COPE says it will ensure the new units include "housing covenants," which means they can only be resold at a predetermined rate.

Whether COPE will see any of its platform, which also calls for tax increases to big banks, fast-food chains and big box retailers, become policy depends on first getting elected, then working with the rest of council.

Vision Vancouver holds the majority on council and is running a "coordinated campaign" with COPE, which has agreed to support Mayor Gregor Robertson in his re-election bid.

"It is an ambitious program but we have to take bold steps in order to make bold changes to the city and I'm sure our colleagues at council will see that, and we'll do our best to demonstrate the positive changes that we're outlining," Aquino said. "With [Vision], we'll be able to do a lot for the city and it's something we're going to be talking about."

Ian Baillie, executive director of Vision Vancouver, was leafing through COPE's platform when contacted by the Courier.

"Vision has always said we're open to hearing what our partners think on a number of issues, and that includes COPE," Baillie said. "But that's going to be up to whoever gets elected on Nov. 19 to work out some of those issues."

COPE and Vision signed an agreement to run a coordinated campaign. Former COPE councillor Tim Louis, who often sparred with Vision councillors in the 2002 to 2005 term, was coy when the Courier asked him in September whether he supported Robertson, saying he hadn't put his mind to big questions like that.

On Tuesday, however, Louis said he supported Robertson. "I have complete confidence in him to be the mayor of Vancouver," Louis said. "I am working very hard to see a progressive city council and I will work with him when he's elected."

Aquino and Louis are joined by COPE Coun. Ellen Woodsworth to form the party's council slate. COPE Coun. David Cadman lost a nomination battle in September, which leaves him off the ballot.

COPE is running six other candidates for park board and school board. Their biographies and COPE's platform can be viewed on the party's website. Twitter: @Howellings