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Richmond councillor resurrects $100 voucher campaign promise

Coun. Chak Au suggested $100 vouchers could be distributed to families in need from the city's pandemic fund.
Coun. Chak Au

Echoes of the recent byelection surfaced at Richmond council table Monday afternoon when Coun. Chak Au suggested the city allocate $500,000 to needy families in the form of $100 vouchers.

During the campaign period leading up to the May 29 byelection, when Andy Hobbs won a seat on council, Jonathan Ho’s political party suggested the city distribute $100 vouchers to all Richmond households – to be spent at Richmond businesses – as an economic stimulus.

(Ho ended up not showing up at the press conference about the campaign promise, which was then led by Au, who belongs to the same political party, the Richmond Community Coalition. Ho came second in the byelection.)

Au’s motion – whose urgency and last-minute placement on the committee’s agenda was questioned by Coun. Linda McPhail – was that $100 vouchers would be distributed through Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives’ Christmas Fund.

Hobbs said he was worried such an initiative would take the “wind out of the sails” of RCRG’s Christmas Fund, a grassroots organization that managed, even during the pandemic, to serve everyone in need.

The Christmas Fund is very successful, Hobbs said, adding “it’s very well-organized, well-thought out, very participatory program.”

“If the city, with the best of intentions, injects $500,000 of tax dollars into it, I know - and I have confirmed this with people involved in running it - it will basically take the wind out of the sails of a very vibrant, productive community group,” he said, adding what would be the motivation for volunteers to do work towards it.

Hobbs said Au’s motion “sets us up in a position to say ‘no’ to a good cause.”

McPhail said she didn’t think this initiative would be an “appropriate use of taxpayer money,” noting council will be dealing with a “with a lot of unknowns” in its next budget cycle.

Furthermore, the totality of grants given out by the city to several dozen local organizations, for example, non-profits, was only $593,000.

Coun. Bill McNulty said he was “appalled” this issue came up on council’s agenda after being floated in the recent byelection, adding it was “out of place.”

Au said the city’s $9.3 million that it received in pandemic relief could go towards this initiative.

In the final vote, it was only supported by Au with all other councillors voting against it.

In the end, a motion by Day was supported by the majority to check to make sure Richmond organizations – ones supported by city grants – are managing given the stresses of the pandemic.