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Profiling Vancouver’s political parties: Fred Harding and the NPA

Talk to Fred Harding about why he should be mayor of Vancouver, and a common theme emerges. 

“We’ve got a distinct lack of leadership going on in the city,” he said, arguing why voters should vote for him and Non-Partisan Association (NPA) candidates on Oct. 15.

“The city is lacking leadership, we’re looking at an existential public safety crisis. We’re looking at a housing crisis. We’re looking at an affordability crisis. I’m going to be the leader that comes in and resolves many, many of these problems.”

In a 13-minute interview on the Granville strip, chosen by Harding due to a recent machete attack in the area, he says the word “crisis” 16 times and “leadership” 14 times. 

A former cop — who has worked in West Vancouver, as well as London, England — Harding says the city is in a desperate situation, mostly around safety, and that he is the one to fix it. 

But what does that actually mean in terms of policies?

19-point crime and safety plan

Aside from Harding, NPA is running Melissa De Genova, Elaine Allan, Cinnamon Bhayani, Ken Charko and Morning Lee for council, Dave Pasin, Dehara September, Jason Upton and Olga Zarudina for park board, and Rahul Aggarwal, Aaron Fedora, Nadine Goodine, Milan Klajic and Ashley Vaughan for school board.

It’s enough candidates to get a majority on council, school board and park board, something only one other party is promising to do. 

To date, their campaign is almost wholly dedicated to crime and safety issues: with less than four weeks until the election, it’s the only part of their platform fully revealed, with a 19-point plan released earlier in September. 

Some promises are fully within local control: reinstating the school liaison program, ensuring more transparency on where money goes for groups receiving more than $100,000 from the city, putting more requirements on B.C. Housing for SRO approvals, bringing in retired police officers on short-term contracts. 

Others have less detail, including “ensure our neighbourhoods are safe by supporting and working with our excellent progressive police service” or “ensure we have safe and clean streets,” working with other levels of government to increase the number of mental health workers, or seeking federal assistance to increase the number of integrated specialized teams.

In other words, lobbying higher levels of government for more assistance, something the current mayor does a lot of — though Harding said it would be done with a different style under him.

“We’re going to be looking at new responses,” he said, 

“We’re going to be absolutely beseeching the federal and the provincial government for money. I can’t speak for what this current mayor has done, but we know he’s not done enough.” 

Aside from Harding, the NPA is running six candidates for council, five candidates for school board, and four candidates for park board. (Justin McElroy/CBC )

‘Crisis-level leadership”

The NPA said it would release its housing platform later this week, and that the platform will focus on housing targets tied to new immigration to the city, cutting wait times for permits and building around transit hubs, and standardizing the relationship between developers and the city. 

But crime and safety are clearly the biggest issues for the party, and Harding says there’s a clear reason for that. 

“We need a crisis-level leadership on public safety. And I’m the guy that’s going to take care of that,” he said. 

“Climate is actually way down there. That is certainly an issue for some people, but it’s way down there. Public safety and housing and affordability are the issues that people want to see tackled, those are the issues they want to see leadership on.”

At the same time, the NPA has had a crisis or two in recent years, losing nearly their entire elected team to new parties as a result of infighting, and losing additional candidates after announcing their candidates for next month’s election. 

For the NPA to be successful on Oct. 15, voters will have to believe that crisis has been resolved — and that Harding is the man to tackle a different one.

CBC News will be profiling all 10 political parties in Vancouver ahead of the municipal elections in October.

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