Jason McLean (r) is the youngest person to hold the Board of Trade Chair's job
As we count down the remaining days of this civic administration, those who want to see a change from the Vision-dominated government are beginning to ask the all important question. Who will take the plunge and put their name on the ballot against Mayor Gregor Robertson and his backyard chicken, vegetable garden, bike lane agenda?
The usual suspects have all but been ruled out. Carol Taylor, John Furlong, Wally Oppal and Christy Clark are essentially out of the game. It would take nothing short of a miracle for either Taylor or Furlong to throw their hat in the ring, while Clark and Oppal are otherwise pre-occupied with work commitments.
Former NPA councillor Tung Chan continues to quietly work behind the scenes and watch carefully as Mayor Robertson's "negatives" continue pile up while his poll numbers head in the other direction. We're told that although Chan owns a home in Richmond, he's also recently purchased a property in Vancouver. If he does announce a bid for mayor, he will apparently only let us know of his intention to run sometime next spring. If you recall, former COPE Mayor Larry Campbell announced he was going to run for mayor about seven months prior to the 2002 civic election. Same with Gregor Robertson.
One other name that is beginning to emerge, albeit in very limited circles, is that of Jason McLean. The thirty-something businessman is the son of long-time federal Liberal godfather David Maclean. He also happens to be the Chair of the Vancouver Board of Trade as well as the head of the McLean Group of Companies which owns the Vancouver Film Studios on city's the east side.
I've known Jason for a number of years and consider him a personable, intelligent and progressive community leader. A few years ago, former Mayor Sam Sullivan was so impressed with his abilities that he helped secure him an appointment to the Vancouver Police Board. By all accounts, his business acumen have been a tremendous resource to the Board and to the police department as a whole.
McLean is a lawyer by trade and he also served as a senior staffer to former Primer Minister Jean Chretien. So the question is not whether McLean would make a good candidate for Mayor of Vancouver, but rather, could he be convinced to do it? What would it take for him to decide that attending public hearings and listening to councillor Heather Deal drone on about life as an opposition councillor is worth it? Likely a lot more than the NPA would be able to offer at this stage of the game.
However, if he were to watch the Mayor's poll numbers continue to slip in the coming weeks, it may well encourage him to keep his options open. Or perhaps the chorus of business and community leaders asking him to throw his hat in the ring might be a bit too loud for him to ignore.
Although McLean attended a recent trip with Robertson to China, he also wrote a strongly worded letter to him regarding his controversy-plagued Hornby bike lane scheme. He states:
The Vancouver Board of Trade has long been a supporter of road sharing in downtown Vancouver. We were, in fact, one of the first business organizations to champion bicycle lanes as part of the major review of downtown transportation conducted in 2002/2003. Sharing the road then, has always been top of mind when examining the use of Vancouver’s road network, especially when it comes to the downtown peninsula.
It was therefore with great concern that we became aware of the proposed separated bicycle lane along Hornby Street — a proposal being made in isolation of the overall transportation schematic in the area. While we acknowledge that certain safety and convenience benefits for cyclists can be derived from lane separation, such benefits must be considered in the overall context of transportation alternatives. In short, these benefits must have a demonstrable net positive impact on the system...
Based on concerns stemming from these issues, The Vancouver Board of Trade cannot support separated bicycle lanes on Hornby Street at this time.
As we reach the one year countdown to the 2011 civic election, the opposition to Mayor Robertson and his Vision team appears to be gaining momentum. On the other hand, Vision appears to be looking more and more desperate as they lash out and make personal attacks against their critics.
If the NPA is truly interested in seeking a "star" candidate who can take on Robertson, they'd be well served to sit down with the likes of people like McLean to see if their arms can be twisted. He's young, he's bright, he can read a balance sheet and he would have broad appeal throughout the city.
Running for Mayor will be a tough sell to the young entrepreneur who has just taken over his father's business, but who knows, stranger things have happened in Vancouver's wacky and wild world of politics. What do you think? If not McLean, are there any other star candidates who you think could become Robertson's successor? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Post by Daniel