Vision needn't panic. Just breathe deep and put your head between your knees
Much has been made of the recent revelation that Mike Bruce, former executive and member of Vision Vancouver, quit his party in disgust over Mayor Robertson’s endorsement of Premier Gordon Campbell in the last provincial election. For all those Vision politicos who feel like the flight cabin is losing air pressure, I have only one thing to say - please place the oxygen mask over your mouth, before assisting others. This is not the time to panic.
It’s rare that I agree with fellow CKNW civic affairs panelist Jim Green, but on this one we’re on the same page. He refers to the fact this whole controversy resulted in the loss of only four members for Vision Vancouver. This is hardly a mass exodus. Green states that Vision still has 17,496 other members who are willing to take the place of Bruce and company now that they’re gone.
When you consider the NPA has all but folded up its tent and has been put into a political party witness protection program, the Mayor has nothing to fear heading into 2011. That is, should he choose to run again. His personal victory is all but assured. The future of his council colleagues on the other hand...well, that’s still something open for debate.
What I believe we are witnessing here is a re-alignment of the broad-based coalition known as Vision Vancouver. It would appear Robertson and his sustainability supporters are finally grabbing a hold of the steering wheel and telling the union brass they’re no longer in control. Clearly Bruce was not amused.
Robertson was very clever during the provincial election. What better way to send a message to hard-core NDP supporters that Vision is a coalition that includes Federal and BC Liberals than to publicly go gaga over Premier Campbell’s carbon tax.
By his actions, the Mayor is clearly looking out for his future political prospects, and those aren’t with the NDP who have no hope of forming government in Canada. Nor will it be with the BC NDP who are destined to remain on the political sidelines until at least 2013.
If the Mayor were to ever consider jumping ship, you can bet it would be to take up a plum cabinet post somewhere within a Federal Liberal, or dare I say even a BC Liberal government. Who knows, when Premier Campbell decides to retire, Robertson may even fancy himself as the next leader of the BC Liberal party. Stranger things have happened in this wacky province of ours.
Did Robertson’s comments about the Premier’s stellar environmental record have any impact on the results of the last election? Quite likely, as it’s hard to imagine how the Mayor of Vancouver lavishing praise on a BC Liberal Premier and talking about his “three-peat” would have no impact.
Perhaps NDP Leader Carole James should not have been so hasty when she stripped Gregor of his critic portfolio when he announced he was running for Mayor. If you recall, a glum looking James didn’t pull any punches when she told the media she learned of Gregor’s decision to run for civic office from the media. Apparently Robertson had tried to reach her, but couldn’t track her down.
These types of statements by your former leader can result in hard feelings for months and years after they’ve happened. After the way Roberton’s departure was mishandled, is it any wonder he might see Campbell as a greater ally considering what he’s delivered for Vancouver since the Mayor took office. A better strategy for James would have been to have wrapped her arms around Robertson and to ride on his enviro-coattails for as far as they could take her. However, she chose a different path.
So where does this all go for Vision? Well, as someone who has been through my share of internecine warfare within the NPA over the last 8 years or so, I consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject. For what it’s worth, I think the Mayor should continue on his agenda and try to keep the majority of his membership calm. So far, so good.
He will need to position this publicly as just a small splinter group that doesn’t represent the broader membership base of the party. Great work, Jim. So far, so good.
He will need to change the dial and get the media focused on other issues. Anyone want to go for a ride aboard a high speed train? So far, so good.
I’m confident the photogenic, Teflon-like Mayor of Vancouver will pull his party through this minor hiccup. Losing someone like Bruce in such a high-profile manner is never a good thing. But if Robertson plays his cards right, he could come out of it even stronger.
He could end up positioning Vision as a truly centrist party mainly comprised of Liberals, with a few seats at the table for the NDP. This would leave COPE as the only option remaining for the hard-core left-wing who desperately needs Vision Vancouver if they want to cling on to even one of their two remaining seats on Council. If you think the NPA being in a witness protection program is bad, COPE’s prospects look even grimmer. Their party is on life-support and they're running out of intravenous drip fast.
Gregor is still very much in the driver’s seat when it comes to his own fortunes come the next civic election in 2011. It’s been well over four decades since an incumbent Mayor who ran for re-election lost his post. Therefore, to all those Vision politicos who feel lightheaded right about now, take a deep breath as the oxygen is about to kick in anytime soon.