NDP's Learey vs the Liberal's Baillie
Apart from a passing mention on Frances Bula's blog, the story about Vision Vancouver hiring a new Executive Director barely raised an eyebrow. Let's forget for a moment that the party won the 2008 election a quarter million dollars in the hole, and pretend that they've got all the money in the world to mount a re-election campaign in 2011. You need to get past subjects like burdensome debt to wrap your head around the unreal world of Vancouver politics.
Speaking with a few political types who know the two finalists for the job - former Larry Campbell staffer Stephen Learey, and former NPA supporter and Al De Genova campaign operative Ian Baillie - there is no surprise that Baillie landed the gig. Vision Vancouver posted the job position of an Executive Director last December - see it here on Renewal Partners' (run by Gregor Robertson key advisor Joel Solomon) website. We're not sure if the job was also posted on Rabble.ca, where it might have caught the attention of a few more NDPers, rather than the Hollyhock types that frequent RP's pages.
As Bula pointed out, the political pedigrees of each are pretty clearly aligned with two federal parties. Learey is a devout pro-labour NDP apparatchik who currently runs the Strathcona Community Dental Clinic in east Vancouver. He was all over an opposition attack on the Provincial government this week regarding funding for youth dental care.
Bailllie keeps his political allegiances mainly with federal Liberals. He was hired by Al De Genova to run his NPA campaign in 2005 - where Al ran alongside Sam Sullivan's successful campaign for Mayor - and subsequently worked with the former Park Board commissioner in his quest for Vision Vancouver's mayoral candidacy in early 2008. Ian and I even chatted at a social event during the 2006 BC Liberal convention in Penticton.
Such are the oddities of politics in BC, Ian and I remain friendly yet we are political adversaries. Vision Vancouver have clearly evolved from a gleam in Geoff Meggs' eye to become a gleam in Joel Solomon's eye, which is most likely why Learey didn't get the job as E.D.
Stephen Learey is considered too tightly connected to big labour in BC, and probably too close to Geoff Meggs (who is still recuperating after his bike accident) as the two worked together in Larry Campbell's office. Whereas Baillie is someone seen as more responsive to Gregor Robertson's right hand, chief of staff Mike Magee.
Some interpret this as Vision Vancouver starting to take their NDP support for granted. And why not? Vision Vancouver's NDP base really have no one else to vote for. COPE is still in tatters, and very likely will be wiped off the political map after the 2011 election if they cannot come up with a party leader and a new generation of candidates who can connect better than Cadman and Woodsworth.
Where Vision thinks it needs to shore up strength still is among disaffected NPAers and left-leaning Liberals. With the Grits staring at potentially several more years banished from power in Ottawa, some Liberal insiders tell me that City Halls across the country are good place to practice politics while the party re-groups. And hitching themselves to a winner like Vision is a lot less work than trying to fix the moribund NPA. To that end, Baillie is a logical choice for the party.
These are indeed strange times for Vancouver politics, and you almost need a score card to keep up with who is working with whom today.