The final edition gets it wrong – Tung Chan wins by a nose
The following is an excerpt from a local paper the morning after Vancouver's next civic election..
BY MORGAN NACH, VANCOUVER SUN NOVEMBER 23, 2011
Gregor Robertson was elected in November 2008 after handily defeating former City Councillor Peter Ladner, but this morning many Vancouver residents are stunned to learn that he went down to defeat last night to NPA mayoral candidate Tung Chan.
Only three years ago on election night, Robertson was all smiles and there was a lot of hope for the future of his upstart party Vision Vancouver, as they elected a massive majority to council. This morning, the Mayor has not only lost his job, his Vision party went down to a major defeat. In addition, COPE was completely shut out of all three levels of government after a controversial decision by Vision to run candidates for all 27 spots on council, park and school board - rather than leaving a few spots open for COPE candidates. COPE Caucus Chair Ellen Woodsworth called the decision "arrogant."
As for the NPA's victory, pundits are saying that popular businessman and community activist Tung Chan was simply too difficult to beat considering he had the backing of almost every local Chinese community and business leader in Vancouver.
"I am amazed that we were able to defeat an incumbent and bring the NPA back to majority status," said an exuberant Chan. "They said we couldn't do it. The pundits and bloggers had it all wrong when they all but wrote us off, but we did it."
Joining Chan in council will be high profile candidate and independent thinker Michael Geller as well as Sean Bickerton, an activist in Vancouver's Downtown neighbourhood who repeatedly raised serious concerns about the Mayor's HEAT shelter fiasco.
Robertson, a former NDP MLA, is the first incumbent mayor not to win re-election in over 40 years. This is despite the fact that polls in the first year of his mandate indicated he remained fairly popular with the Vancouver electorate.
SFU political science professor Jeremy Rubinstein says that he's stunned with Robertson's loss but chalks it up to trying to accomplish too much in too short a time.
"You could say he bit off quite a bit more than he could chew," comments Rubenstein. "He was basically learning on the job for the first couple of years and made some key strategic errors. Issues such as approving backyard chickens and ripping up the north lawn of city hall to build a community garden proved to be symbolic gestures that hurt him more than they helped him. The Burrard Bridge decision and his unwillingness to pull back after a winter of discontent from motorists proved to be too much for the electorate. This is despite the fact he was able to hold his left wing coalition together up until the bitter end."
In 2008 Robertson ran on a platform of ending homelessness, a commitment that would come back to haunt him throughout the election. A high profile study released by the HomeNow Foundation only one month before the election revealed that homelessness had actually increased slightly during Robertson's term, rather than decreasing as he had committed. This was an issue that Chan pounced on night after night on the campaign trail.
Overall, voter turnout was at record lows with only 28% of all voters showing up, the majority of those from Vancouver's westside who were upset with Robertson for not only the Burrard Bridge trial, but record tax increases that appeared to spiral out of control. The other issue of the city being saddled with $1 million social housing units at the Olympic Athletes Village also didn't sit well with conservative minded voters throughout Vancouver who are on the hook to cover the spiraling cost overruns.
In the end, Robertson lost by only 1476 votes, which some now say came from the neighbourhood located near Beach and Howe Street in Vancouver. Back in 2009, local residents started a "Recall Robertson" coalition shortly after he forced two no-barrier shelters in their neighbourhood without any consultation.
Eventually both the shelters were shut down and moved into the Downtown Eastside, but not before local residents banded together and worked for over 24 months to help defeat the Mayor. This morning they are gleefully taking credit for his defeat. Spokesperson Tim Lansdown speaks on behalf of the Recall Robertson Coalition.
"The polls in this neighbourhood went solidly against Robertson," says Lansdown. "We worked day and night to make sure as many local residents went out and voted against him as possible. I'm pretty confident that over 1400 people from this neighbourhood switched their vote and that's what made the difference. I don't think a future mayor will be so quick to act first, then consult later."
Janice Dunahee, a high-profile activist with the Coalition successfully sought out an NPA nomination for council and was narrowly elected in the 10th spot.
Unfortunately for Robertson, his political future now looks uncertain. He will be unable to take part in the current NDP leadership race as the party decided to close the nominations just prior to the civic election, a decision that didn't sit well with Robertson's staff. There is is a slight chance that he could run during an upcoming federal election, as the current Liberal minority government is about to face yet another vote of confidence in the coming weeks.
As for his future, here's what a contrite Robertson remarked in his concession speech, "I wouldn't change a thing. I put forward a bold vision for Vancouverites and I think it was the right approach. In the end, the voters are never wrong, and it's time for me to move on."
The NPA's victory party took place at the Croatian Cultural Centre, in stark contrast to the swanky hotels they used to hold their election night events. The decision to hold it there was made by Chan himself who wanted to send a strong message to the electorate that this was a new and reinvigorated NPA. Once the official results came in at around 10:30 pm and Robertson called Chan to acknowledge defeat, the room packed with over 700 supporters erupted in a chant of "Chan, Chan, Chan."
Introducing Chan to the stage were former NPA Mayors Philip Owen and Sam Sullivan along with mayoral candidate Peter Ladner. Mayor-elect Chan was instrumental in the 24 months leading up to the election in pulling the NPA back together after the disastrous defeat in 2008. Even some of Chan's television and print advertisements had Owen, Sullivan and Ladner jointly recommending his bid for the mayor's chair.
Back at Vision headquarters, the mood was much more somber. Only three Vision Vancouver candidates were re-elected. They are Raymond Louie, Heather Deal and George Chow. Louie had been openly critical of Robertson's leadership style in the months leading up to the election as polls indicated Vision's support was beginning to erode subsequent to Chan being nominated as the mayoral candidate. If there had been bad blood between the Mayor and his lieutenant, Louie wasn't showing any of it on election night.
"Tonight we heard a strong message from the voters and we need to move forward and rebuild the party one member at at time," stated Louie. "Tonight's not the night to comment on what went wrong or what we could have done better. There will be many days ahead where we can focus on these kinds of things."
According to Concensus Research who conducted exit polls, over 87% of all registered Chinese Canadians who voted in the election cast their ballot for Chan and the NPA. Mayor-elect Chan committed to uniting all cultures and neighbhourhoods together under a banner of "Your NPA, Your Vancouver."
Okay folks, I must admit I did have a lot of fun writing this piece. It was partially inspired by a meeting I had recently with a few NPA types who when asked said that someone like former councillors Maggie Ip (or her husband Kelly) or Tung Chan could be a real strong candidate for mayor in 2011. I must admit, the prospect of them running is rather intriguing.
Although I still think 2011 is still Gregor's to lose, a candidate of the calibre of Tung Chan or Maggie Ip would give Robertson a real run for his money. If they do eventually throw their hat in the ring, I dare say that my fictional newspaper article might actually be closer to reality than some Visionistas would like to believe.