Vancouver's mayor may be enjoying the fact he's out of the political spotlight
This is the second part to a set of posts I began last week, where I describe how the federal election would impact the NPA.
Yesterday, the Vision Vancouver administration and senior public servants did all they could to generate some front-page headlines regarding their latest policy initiative. With all the fanfare they could muster amidst a heavy downpour, they announced the names of a few more vendors who'll participate in the City’s longstanding food cart program.
The Mayor even asked former Chicago environmentalist and now Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson to share centre stage with him at the announcement. Although the news conference did garner some favourable press from the folks at one TV newscast, it certainly didn’t get the kind of coverage the Mayor’s team had likely planned for only a few months ago.
Therein lies one of the big problems facing Vision Vancouver over the coming months as they try desperately to convince Vancouver voters to provide them with another massive majority government. It's increasingly becoming difficult for the Mayor and his team to make enough noise to attract the attention of voters who are obviously focused on politics of a different kind.
By now most voters know the Vision administration is clearly linked to things like separated bike lanes and backyard chickens. But those aren’t the kinds of issues that will convince folks to get off the couch and provide the Mayor's team with another 10-1 majority government. Mayor Gregor obviously needs to begin developing a new message track which will have broad appeal to voters come the November election. However, time is quickly running out for him to change the dial and redefine the narrative.
For the last several months Vancouver voters have turned their attention to the BC Liberal leadership race which chose Christy Clark as BC’s new premier back in February. To a lesser degree, the media have also been focused on the BC NDP leadership race, which will be wrapping up in a few weeks.
Notwithstanding a few stories on food carts, we are now in the midst of a federal election which has all but sucked the air out of any kind of discussion on urban politics. The media have only so much ink and right about now little of it is being used to highlight the Mayor and his systemic social change agenda.
As we move forward, it is unlikely the focus will be on civic politics anytime soon. That’s because we are on the verge of a high-profile by-election in Vancouver-Point Grey where Premier Clark will be running to become the MLA for that riding.
This will be immediately followed by a heated debate on whether BC should keep or scrap the much maligned HST. By the time all of this politicking is over, we’re well into the dead of summer – a dreadful time for the Mayor’s office to ramp up any kind of effective communications strategy.
So that leaves Vision with only a few months this fall to re-engage voters and get them excited about their brand of politics. But wait a minute, isn’t there rampant speculation Premier Clark will call a general election in September in order to secure her own mandate from the people? If so, get ready for everyone’s attention to be focused on provincial politics until at least mid-October.
As you can see, depending on the date of BC’s provincial election, it may well be difficult for all three of Vancouver’s civic parties to get people to donate, volunteer their time and get engaged in the civic election. However, in the case of Vancouver’s incumbent party, having voters focus on non-civic issues may not be a bad thing after all.
In the 2009/10 period, Mayor Gregor did command a lot more attention than he’s received lately. As a result, his approval ratings steadily declined and polling “negatives” increased. The more people saw of him on the nightly news, the less they became enamoured with his backyard chicken, city hall vegetable garden and tax increasing agenda. Being accused of running Canada’s most secretive civic government and calling members of the public “effin NPA hacks” probably didn’t help much either.
The fact few voters are focused on homelessness increasing by 12% since the Mayor got elected may well play in his favour. By mid-November, it is very likely people will be burned out of all the politicking and simply tune out of the civic election.
As the incumbent, this would leave Gregor in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting re-elected. That said, if another last-minute sleeper issue comes out of the woodwork, it may also leave his team very vulnerable at the ballot box.
The other logistical issue the Mayor may have to deal with if a general election is called in BC this fall is the fact so many of his key operatives are also working for the BC Liberals and Premier Christy Clark. If push comes to shove, will they work on the Premier's campaign or dedicate their time to Vision Vancouver? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Overall I think all this attention being paid on provincial/federal politics will benefit Vision Vancouver as they'll receive a lot less scrutiny leading up to and during the fall civic election. I can attest there are only so many hours in the day for our local media to report on political stories and it appears they'll have their hands full until at least mid-October.
- Post by Daniel. Follow @CityCaucus on Twitter.