Fact-Checking The Richmond, BC Municipal Election Campaign
We’re under 3 weeks away from the 2014 Richmond Municipal Election on November 15 and now that there have been a few debates and some platform releases, now’s a good time to fact check the candidates.
At the beginning of the campaign, councillor Chak Au said he wanted to build Richmond an “airport-based economy”, even though we already have one. He was then called out in the Richmond Review for that remark. YVR is responsible for plenty of jobs and business revenue. In fact, YVR’s aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue streams are rising. More and more products produced overseas find their way to shops across Richmond. It’s crystal clear that Richmond has an airport-based economy – so that begs the question, who’s funding councillor Au’s statement?
Councillor Au’s civic group is running on a pledge to stop the automatic 3% per year tax hike, yet councillor Au himself voted to keep the increase this past year, as pointed out by councillor Linda McPhail. Councillor Au’s civic group is also running on self-imposed term limits, if elected. Wouldn’t that mean that their sitting, multi-term councillor Ken Johnston would have to step down?
Richmond’s First Two All-Candidates Meetings
This past week, there were 2 all-candidates “meetings”. Wednesday’s was an all-candidates meeting hosted by the Steveston Community Society at the Steveston Community Centre. Thursday’s was hosted by the Richmond Centre for Disability at the Minoru Activity Place Centre.
With 3 candidates for Mayor and 31 candidates for City Council, there didn’t leave too much time for everyone to have equal time. Wednesday’s event was simply a 2 minute speech for all council candidates and a 5 minute speech for each mayoral candidate. Thursday’s event gave each candidate a 1 minute introduction. In the Q&A session, a question would be directed to a specific candidate and after that initial response, any candidate could raise their hand and answer.
Councillor Bill McNulty proudly called himself the first candidate on the stage to ask the City of Richmond to purchase the Garden City Lands, back in 1974. Yes, he did ask the City to buy the Lands. BUT, McNulty didn’t want to preserve the land. He asked the City to buy it and turn it into a colossal sports facility around half the size of the present-day Richmond Olympic Oval. Not surprisingly, McNulty conveniently left that last bit out.
Last week, McNulty’s party announced that their platform, which included “increased transparency”. School Trustee candidate (for re-election) Eric Yung tweeted out a link to a story about his party’s platform announcement. When I responded to trustee Yung asking if his party would disclose all of their campaign contributions, he replied saying they would “disclose after the election”. Fact: Every party is required to disclose after the election, per Elections BC. So no real transparency from “Richmond First”.
Let’s Go Home?
I wouldn’t call this next point a fact-checking moment but rather, a colossal missed opportunity at Thursday night’s debate. It was 9 o’clock and council candidate Alexa Loo was directed with a question from the moderators about housing affordability – arguably the biggest issue in Richmond right now. She said it was “time to adjourn” and asked the audience to clap if they wanted to go home. And that, abruptly, concluded the all-candidates meeting. So to recap – no answer on arguably the biggest issue Richmond faces.
Lastly, a big thumbs down to council candidate Elsa Wong for reading her answers off a sheet of paper. That won’t endear you to voters who want you to speak from the heart.
I’ll conclude this fact-checking session with one favour to the people of Richmond: Question your candidates! Ask them tough questions when they come to your door or when you’re hanging around after a debate. During these debates, candidates get a bunch of what we call “softball” questions – questions that are easy and ones that candidates are likely to have a pre-determined response to. We heard a lot of rhetoric and not too many facts last week and I expect to have to clear the record at least once more. There are two city council debates, on November 4th and 7th, respectively. Plus, there’s a trustee debate on November 5th. Get ready.