Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim talks about 'swagger' at first State of the City address

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim makes his first State of the City speech at the Vancouver Board of Trade conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Jan. 24, 2023.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim makes his first State of the City speech at the Vancouver Board of Trade conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Jan. 24, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver — a city of glass, a city of mountains, and if Mayor Ken Sim has way, a city of swagger.

"I envision a Vancouver in the not so distant future, that is super exciting. A mayor with a renewed swagger," said Sim to a crowd of about 700 people at the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade's State of the City event.

"Make no mistake about it, it is a new day in Vancouver."

Mayors typically use the annual event as a way to highlight key themes for the city government over the next 12 months — and 101 days after Sim defeated former mayor Kennedy Stewart in the 2022 municipal election, the mayor used it to highlight his optimism for the city, citing the energy Vancouver had during the 1986 Expo and 2010 Winter Olympics.

"The most significant legacies that emerged from both Expo 86 and the Olympic Games were not just about infrastructure, buildings, or sports," he said.

"It was about the energy and spirit that permeated our city. And this is the same energy we need as we build the future of our city."

Sim also acknowledges challenges the city faced, particularly when it came to housing costs, and promised a pro-supply approach to approving new developments and downplaying concerns that had dominated debate in past proposals.

"Vancouver doesn't have a shadow crisis. Vancouver doesn't have a view cone crisis. Vancouver has a housing crisis," he said, adding that Vancouver should be home to the tallest and densest development projects in the region, rather than Surrey or Burnaby.

WATCH | Ken Sim talks about his vision for Vancouver's future:

The mayor also promised to work more collaboratively with other municipalities on Metro Vancouver-wide issues.

"For too long, Vancouver has been absolutely silent on the big challenges facing our region," he said, citing the $10 billion wastewater plant proposed for Iona and discussions over rapid transit to the North Shore.

"Let me be very clear: Vancouver is to be there to lend a hand."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

First steps in charge

In his early days as mayor, Sim and his ABC Party — which received a majority on council, school board and park board — have mostly focused on moving forward on election promises, from starting the process to hire 100 new police officers and nurses, to efforts to support the Chinatown neighbourhood.

At the same time, last week, they received criticism for two actions that weren't in their election platform: eliminating the city's nascent renters' office and rejecting a $7,500 grant to the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users.

In both cases, the decisions happened after amendments were made on the council floor, which opposition councillors criticized as not allowing for public debate.

"Telegraph your intention beforehand, so the public has an opportunity to reflect on it," argued the Green Party's Pete Fry.

Klassen said that ABC councillors had been in touch with opposition councillors about amendments before meetings and collaboration was a key priority of the ruling majority.

"Previously governments ... wouldn't have brought forward [opposition councillors] in the room to go forward together," he said.

"We are working together closely."