In his first major speech as Vancouver mayor, Ken Sim delivered a State of the City address at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver Thursday.
Sim played to the pro-business crowd by starting off riffing about the city being “open for business” on his watch.
“The next four years are going to be about awakening the giants of Vancouver industry,” he told the crowd of more than a thousand.
But while pumping the tires on commerce, he cautioned it will take time to see results on some of his election pledges.
Pressed during a news conference after the speech, Sim could not give a timeline for when we could see the first hires of his promised 100 new police officers and 100 mental health nurses – or when he expects the full complement to be on the street.
“More to come on that. But for the actual dates, these situations are pretty dynamic and they do take time,” he said.
He also said that he still hasn’t been able to secure funding commitments from other levels of government to pay for the new nurses and police officers.
“We’re going to be bold and we’re going to fund the hiring of a hundred mental health nurses, and if and when the program shows success we will go back to the province and show them an operational case for why they should be funding it,” he said, before acknowledging City of Vancouver taxpayers will be on the hook for hiring, training and paying the 100 mental health professionals.
Green Party Councillor Pete Fry attended the luncheon along with his other council colleagues.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised to hear that nobody’s stepping up to the plate to actually backstop this commitment,” Fry said after Sim’s speech.
“It is widely out of the scope of the municipal government to fund mental health nurses.”
Sim also touched on his promise to speed up the permit process for new construction in the city, saying he would be looking at ways to get more housing stock approved more quickly – even if that meant changing the criteria used for approvals.
“Vancouver does not have a shadow crisis. Vancouver does not have a view cone crisis. In Vancouver we have a housing crisis,” he told the crowd, which included some prominent developers.
Asked by CTV News if that meant he and his A Better City Vancouver council colleagues, who hold a voting majority, might change the city’s View Cone Policy – which restricts building heights in certain areas to protect mountain views – Sim wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’ll look at everything and if it makes sense, we’re amenable to adjusting our policy on it,” he said.
Throughout his speech, Sim urged patience as he and ABC implement their policies, saying there are no quick fixes for the issues facing the city.
“You know, ‘It’s easier to campaign than to govern’ is, for sure, a cliché that often fits,” said CTV political analyst George Affleck, a former councillor himself. “I think what we heard today were big ideas with some specifics but not a lot of specifics.”
As he takes charge, Sim will soon find out just how patient – or impatient – the electorate can be.