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Quotable: Vancouver council in their own words on 6.35 per cent tax hike

Melissa De Genova: ‘If we continually increase the cost of living in our city…we're going to become a resort town’
Vancouver council, including Coun. Pete Fry, passed a $1.7-billion operating budget Tuesday that comes with a 6.35 per cent property tax hike.

Another year, another long budget day at Vancouver’s city hall.

City council spent seven-and-a-half hours Tuesday debating how much the tax hike should be for property owners in 2022.

The working staff document before council suggested it would be five per cent.

In the end, a 6-5 majority settled on 6.35 per cent, which includes a new one per cent climate tax that Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr introduced during debate.

Significant boosts were given to police and fire department budgets. Funds were also provided for the new auditor general’s office, libraries, enhanced street cleaning, new park rangers and a long list of other initiatives.

Council also approved a capital budget of $683.4 million for 2022.

Vancouver Is Awesome reported the details in a story posted Tuesday night.

Here are more comments made by Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the 10 councillors during debate.

Coun. Jean Swanson on voting against increasing the Vancouver Police Department’s budget:

“We need to use those extra millions [of dollars] to provide safety for everybody — not just for some people, not just for the ones that own property. We need a more equal society before safety will apply to everyone. And in order to get that more equal society, we need to put more money into community-led services.”

Coun. Rebecca Bligh after telling a story about her daughter getting “sucker punched” in the face outside a Gastown nightclub and another incident where a homeless man she helped was bear sprayed by a group of young people:

“I ask anybody on this council that suggests that we need to take money away from the police budget today without a plan in place — how are you exercising your responsibility to keep the public safe by doing that? These things are happening every single day. People are at risk. This is not police picking on homeless people. This is people going about their own business that are randomly being attacked by no fault of their own, and the only people that show up are the police and firefighters.”

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung on the cumulative increase of tax hikes reaching almost 30 per cent since she and the 10 others were elected in 2018:

“I do not know anybody in normal times — in a very difficult city to live in — that gets that kind of [wage] increase, let alone in the midst of a pandemic when all of our folks have been struggling. So this is an unsustainable path.”

Coun. Colleen Hardwick, also on the cumulative tax increases since 2018:

“I remain extremely concerned about what we're saying to the public, even with the five per cent [tax hike] that we thought we were going to be limited to, but it's now going to go beyond that. Anybody that's trying to figure out how to live and work in the city with this pattern continuing, I think we've got some very serious problems ahead of us.”

Coun. Pete Fry countering public feedback via the city’s polling of residents on budget priorities and the need to fund programs and services related to equity:

“This is where we have to make hard decisions and make appropriate decisions for some of the most vulnerable people in our city — and for needs in our city that may not always get reflected in the thoughts of the majority.”

Coun. Lisa Dominato on arguing for initiatives outlined in her amendment, which didn’t pass:

“I'm not going to be apologetic for standing up for public safety for police and fire, for the auditor general, for accountability and transparency, for parks and park rangers and accessibility in our city. I am not going to apologize for those things. They are critical. And I have been criticized today for bringing these forward.”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart on the need for the VPD to prioritize community policing centres, its Car 87 mental health response car and Vancouver Coastal Health-supported mental health services:

“The police and the [police] board know that we're not going to strictly police our way out of the current crises that we have in the city in terms of mental health and addiction challenges.”

Coun. Melissa De Genova on the cost of living in Vancouver:

“If we continually increase the cost of living in our city, and we don't keep up with our core services, we're going to be become a resort town. So I just want to remind my colleagues of that, and also remind us all of the thoughtful way we came into this at the beginning of our term that offered me some hope.”

Coun. Adriane Carr on introducing her climate tax amendment:

“The climate emergency is oblivious to who you are, whether you own property or not. It affects us all. And I think all of you know more than anything, it affects future generations and affects our children and our grandchildren and their children.”

Coun. Christine Boyle, who voted against increasing the police budget, but supported other initiatives and programs in the overall $1.7-billion operating budget, including $3.1 million to hire 25 new firefighters:

“This budget is making investments that follow through on promises that we've made all year — motions and priorities that this council has supported in many cases unanimously throughout the year — and that don't mean anything unless we actually fund them. I am glad to see us making important critical investments in many of the priorities that our residents have been telling us matter to them.”

Coun. Michael Wiebe on his support for the VPD’s arbitrated wage increases of $15.7 million for 2022:  

“However, this is something that has continued to increase steadily over the year. It's making this unsustainable for us as a city to continue to fund. So we need to figure out how we're going to continue to fund, with the download of all the other resources and all the expenses onto the city. It’s putting a strain on our budget.”