It's shaping up to be a David vs Goliath battle in Vancouver civic election this fall
Last week our family decided to get out of Metro Vancouver and head to sunny Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for some much needed Vitamin D. After I boarded the cruise, I shut down all of my electronic equipment until the ship docked at the port of San Diego a week later.
Needless to say, a week can be a lifetime in politics. When I returned to Canada, there were suddenly a bunch of candidate lawn signs popping up everywhere. During my absence, it appears the opposition parties decided to bring down the government and throw us all into an election.
For political junkies in BC, this period in our history is akin to being a kid in a candy store. We have just gone through months of political intrigue as BC Liberal members selected a new leader and premier. Meanwhile, the BC NDP dumped their leader and are also on the verge of selecting a new chief (they’ll likely choose someone I’ve known for years - Adrian Dix). If that wasn’t enough, we’ll be heading into a by-election in Point-Grey riding as well as immersing ourselves in the HST referendum debate within a few months.
So how does all this provincial/federal political activity impact the civic scene in Metro Vancouver? Over the course of a few posts, I’ll provide some analysis regarding how the various players might be impacted. I’ll start off with the organization I believe is in the most trouble, the venerable Non-Partisan Association in Vancouver.
How else can I say it? The NPA are in a pickle at the moment. With local developer Rob Macdonald recently bowing out of the race for Mayor, it's unclear if they have a single credible candidate ready to step forward to run against a weakened Gregor Robertson.
Even Suzanne Anton, long thought to be considering a run at the top job herself, has quietly told her supporters she’s not interested in running for mayor. All round nice guy Michael Geller, a man who would have given Gregor a run for his money, has also indicated he’s going to stay on the sidelines for this election.
If the NPA don’t find a mayoral candidate soon, it could well find itself in the same position as the COPE party. Without a credible leader, it will be difficult for them to elect more than a couple of candidates to council.
The NPA's previous decision to barrel forward with a June 4th meeting to select a full slate of candidates is no longer looking very strategic on their part. Given everything that has transpired at the federal/provincial level, standing firm with this date rather than rescheduling at least some nominations to September seems rather silly about now.
All the politiking at the federal/provincial levels will impact the NPA. I have no doubt their fundraising efforts will be hampered by the fact that senior politicos (with tax credits in hand) are tapping into a limited donor pool – big time. By the end of this federal election, most people/companies will be suffering from a major case of donor fatigue.
There is also the issue of finding volunteers to work on the various nomination campaigns. I suspect they will be in short supply until at least May 2nd. Unlike Vision Vancouver who draws heavily from within the union ranks to run their well-funded operation, the NPA relies heavily on unpaid volunteers. As you can imagine, not many of them haven’t been knocking down the doors of the NPA of late.
Most importantly, anybody wanting to run for the NPA must declare their candidacy to the Board prior to May 4th in order to be considered. With the federal election taking place on May 2nd, that only provides a 48-hour gap between the end of the federal election and the cut off for the NPA nomination.
If there are any failed Liberal/Conservative (or even NDP) federal candidates who may want to consider running for council under the NPA banner, they simply won’t provide enough time to weigh all of their options. As a result, if the NPA continues with their June 4th nomination meeting they may well lose out on attracting a few good candidates to their slate.
If the NPA doesn’t want a repeat of the 2008 civic election (something I'm not totally sure of yet), they’d better get into gear really fast. They are clearly running out of time and options that could provide them with their best chance for electoral success in November.
The NPA needs to demonstrate they are nimble and can assess that the current political climate in BC has radically changed over the last few months. They’d be smart to hold off on nominating all candidates until September, and pray that Premier Clark doesn’t call a general election in BC this fall. It’s the only hope they have at attracting decent candidates, raising over a million dollars and attracting some positive press.
Mayor Gregor Robertson’s polling numbers have been on the steady decline over the last year or so, but he still remains the “Goliath” in this evolving political drama. Even a resurging NPA would find him a tough opponent to beat. If they want to elect more people to the council, school and park board, the NPA will need to re-assess where they are going and set a new course within the next couple of weeks.
In Part II of this special feature, we’ll focus on how Vision Vancouver and Mayor Gregor Robertson are being impacted by all the political activity at the federal/provincial level. You might be surprised to learn that there are some significant up and downsides to having the spotlight turned away from their government at this critical juncture.
- post by Daniel