SFU Public Square and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson hosted a forum on urban issues with federal election candidates at the Orpheum Annex on Oct. 1, 2015. From left to right: Mayor Gregor Robertson, Burnaby South MP Kennedy Stewart, Vancouver East Green Party candidate Wes Regan and Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry.

This article was published originally on Vancouver Metro News on October 1, 2015.

Federal candidates make no promises for Vancouver Art Gallery at SFU forum

By Emily Jackson, October 1, 2015, metronews.ca/vancouver

Liberal, Green and NDP candidates’ promises to invest in arts lacked details at a forum hosted by Mayor Gregor Robertson at SFU. The Conservatives skipped the event.

The Vancouver Art Gallery wants $100 million from the federal government to build its bold new gallery, but it might not want to get its hopes up for a pre-election promise for funding.

Federal candidates from the Liberal, NDP and Green parties all skirted the issue of the art gallery’s major ask while pledging their support for generally investing in arts and culture at an urban affairs forum hosted by SFU Public Square and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Thursday.

The Conservatives were invited several times, according to organizers, but did respond or attend the panel discussion that was attended by about 100 people.

When asked specifically about the gallery, the candidates all said their parties would expand the budget for cities and the money could potentially come from there.

“The super fund I mentioned could go towards things like the art gallery,” said Wes Regan, Green Party candidate for Vancouver East. He was referring to the Green Party’s plan to commit one per cent of GST to municipal needs to the tune of $6 billion annually.

For incumbent Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, the problem is that art hasn’t been a priority with a Conservative majority.

“You have a chamber that’s dominated by people that really don’t care as much about arts and culture,” he said, adding the NDP would create a stable investment fund of about $1.3 billion annually that cities could draw on for projects such as the gallery.

Incumbent Vancouver Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry said her party wants to develop new institutes, refurbish old ones and train new generations in the art, but that it will consult cities to prioritize the funds. The Liberals plan to run a deficit in order to spend $20 billion on infrastructure including the arts. 

All three candidates put a premium on urban issues such as affordable housing, transit and arts, with the key difference being how they intend to pay for their promises.

Organizers lamented the Conservatives’ decision not to attend the discussion. “It’s very difficult to have a dialogue when a party does not show up,” moderator Shauna Sylvester said.

“By being here you send a very important signal about how you and your parties feel about cities,” Mayor Robertson said.

After the forum, Robertson said he hadn’t yet made up his mind on who to vote for, but that the NDP and the Liberals have the best platforms thus far.

“We want to see more tangible commitments in the weeks ahead,” he said.