Vancouver mayoral candidates Sam Sullivan and Jim Green squared off at the Roundhouse Community Centre Nov 7 in front of about 40 people for the Xtra West/Gay and Lesbian Business Association mayoral debate.
Green, running under the Vision Vancouver banner, and Sullivan of the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) compared their records of support for the gay community.
“I’ve attended almost all of the Pride Parades and attended them before it was politically popular,” said Sullivan. “The NPA had a really good turnout at this year’s Pride Parade. I’m also a patron of the Little Sister’s bookstore. I had a hard time trying to access The Centre. It gives me great pride to know the NPA was a leader in the field by funding AIDS Vancouver. I was also very pleased to attend Councillor Gordon Price’s [same-sex] wedding a couple of months ago.”
Sullivan said he was distressed by criticisms from the gay community for his votes against the equalization of liquor service hours in the Davie Village with those of the Granville Entertainment District, and the $5,000 for this year’s city hall Pride celebration launch.
He explained he voted against the liquor motion because city staff recommended against it and he voted against the money for the Pride launch because it didn’t go through the regular grant approval process.
Green countered that Sullivan often says he won’t vote for initiatives that are against city staff recommendations, but he wondered why Sullivan voted against moving forward on the Woodward’s project in the Downtown Eastside even though it mirrors staff recommendations. Sullivan didn’t give Green an answer on that point.
Green moved on to enumerate some examples of council motions introduced by his party and the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) in direct support of the gay community and West End initiatives.
“We supported Pride plus the extra $5,000,” said Green. “We supported longer bar hours. We supported Davie Village pubs equal to those on Granville St. Tim Stevenson has been our point man on the West End Integrated Neighbourhood Network and we worked very hard to make sure St Paul’s doesn’t do anything that endangers the services to this community.
“We brought the Stonewall celebrations to city hall,” he continued. “We brought Pride to city hall. I don’t know if I’ve ever missed a Pride Parade in the last I don’t know how many years, but I really wanted to miss the one that I saw NPA councillor George Puil pushing a wheelbarrow full of manure.”
Sullivan criticized Green’s Vision Vancouver party and COPE for running a fractured and divided council that was prone to bickering.
“My opposition is not united,” said Sullivan. “They are split into two parties. COPE refuses to endorse my opponent as the mayoral candidate. [Green] has left them divided. To solve the real problems of this city we need unity, cooperation and respect for divergent points of view. The NPA is the only group running a full slate.”
Green retorted: “Unity is not the answer when it means there’s no discussion, there’s no intellectual give and take and people aren’t studying and learning and trying to find out how things happen. I thought we saw unity as a vacuum quite honestly, and that’s why people threw out the NPA before.”
Former NPA councillor Alan Herbert said when he was in council he asked Sullivan to support a motion granting the liquor licence for the Fountainhead Pub. He said Sullivan agreed to support the licence and then failed to show up to NPA caucus meetings, weakening support for the motion and dragging the process out.
Sullivan denied the accusation. “I can’t tell you about that,” he said. “All I can tell you is that I’ve never committed my votes in advance. I listened with an open mind. I heard the staff explain why they recommended against the licence and it made sense to me.”
Herbert challenged Sullivan to speak about NPA candidate for council Ronald Leung (see story page 7).
“He is a member of a conservative Christian Church,” said Sullivan. “He is a talk show host. He has in the past taken a stance against the redefinition of marriage, something that I oppose. I asked him very pointedly if it affected his respect for the rights of gay people. He has said he respects everyone’s human rights.”
Sullivan says gay marriage is not a civic issue and that it’s not one he ever wants to deal with at the city level. “It’s done. It’s a federal issue and it is what it is.”
Other issues raised by audience questions included slot machines, public transit, and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.
Although the debate was initially planned and confirmed to run from 6-8:30 pm, spectators were told at the beginning that Sullivan had another engagement and would have to leave at 7 pm, which he did.
Green stayed behind on his own until 7:30 pm to field questions from the audience.