There are some days in an election campaign when you wake up and think "when is this ever going to be over?" For Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver team, today was one of those.
It all started when they picked up the Globe and Mail this morning and read Webster Award winning columnist Gary Mason's take on the Occupy Vancouver squat. Under the headline "Time is running out for Occupy Vancouver protesters" Mason writes:
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says the protesters will soon have to leave, but so far he has not given them a deadline. If he does, it better be far into the future, Mr. Makowski says, because his fellow campers are not going anywhere soon.
Situated in the centre of the city as it is, in full view of thousands of downtown workers and visiting tourists, the Occupy colony is the last thing the mayor needed with an election less than a month away. It has given Mr. Robertson’s opponent, Suzanne Anton, the Non-Partisan Association party’s mayoral candidate, a potentially divisive issue. She is pressing the mayor to give the protesters a firm deadline, and if they ignore it, well, that’s where the police earn their money.
This stand appeals to downtown merchants and conservative-minded citizens from the city’s west side – groups among the NPA’s traditional base of supporters.
But Mr. Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party have a political base of their own to worry about: social progressives of all ages who share the protesters’ concerns on a range of issues. While those voters may not agree with the camp remaining where it is for the long haul, nor would they support members of the Vancouver Police Department moving in waving billy clubs during a dawn raid to clear everyone out.
I think Mason nailed this one on the head. If the Mayor forcibly shuts down the encampment, he runs the risk of destroying the backroom deal Vision Vancouver struck with the "progressives" within the COPE party. That's why he won't take any real action prior to the November 19th civic election.
It's hard to imagine council candidates Tim Louis or Ellen Woodsworth abiding by the "don't criticize clause" if city officials move in to take down the tents. After all, Louis did tell the Georgia Straight that the squatters were "a breath of fresh air" and that he "strongly" supported the movement.
Vision's coalition with COPE would essentially be dead in the water if Robertson tried to take down so much as even one tent. This would surely cause major trouble for Robertson and his team heading into the final days of this campaign.
Speaking of backroom deals, the Mayor finally shed a bit of light on the secret agreement today. However, it may not please those pushing for more transparency and openness in this civic campaign. When questioned by Jeff Lee at the Vancouver Sun about the Vision/COPE backrom deal, Robertson responded by saying:
It's an agreement between the parties and there's some campaign strategy involved and it is none of the NPA's business. They might like to see it, I am sure they would. But they won't.
So there you have it. The secret deal between COPE and Vision Vancouver will forever more remain under lock and key.
If the Mason column wasn't enough to send everyone at Vision HQ into a hissy fit, the front cover of the Vancouver Sun likely did the trick. The headline story was about how much everyone loves Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts...but when it comes to Mayor Robertson - "not so much". The Sun reports:
A new poll suggests Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson doesn't have a lock on the top job in next month's city election.
Fifty-one per cent of 403 Vancouver residents surveyed by Forum Research Inc. disapprove of Robertson's performance, compared to 49 per cent who approve...
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts had a strong approval rating of 68 per cent, with disapproval at just 32 per cent. Fifty-four per cent of respondents said they would vote for Watts, while 46 per cent said they would opt for someone else.
Vancouver's Robertson is one of only four big-city mayors whose approval numbers are exceeded by their disapproval ratings in the poll. The others are Toronto's Rob Ford, Montreal's Gerald Tremblay and Winnipeg's Sam Katz.
I'm sure that a few Vision campaign strategists must have cringed when they saw both Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Robertson in the same category.
If that banner headline weren't bad enough, the one next to it didn't do much to lift the Mayor's spirits. The story is about how jobs are moving out of Vancouver and into the burbs over the last 10 years.
From 1998 to 2010, the city of Vancouver enjoyed a net increase of 83,267 new residents and 50,973 new homes - but added just 46 new businesses.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, 24 Hours Vancouver reported on the BC Coroner's inquest into the death of three men on Pandora Street last year. If you recall, the City of Vancouver was accused of not doing enough to prevent the tragedy. Something the Mayor has vehemently denied. 24 Hours interviewed Daisy Lavallee, a mother of one of the victims:
"I would like to see my son alive,” said a tearful Daisy Lavallee, Yellowquill’s mother. She said the city should’ve pushed harder to make the home safe in the months before the fire. “There is no need for it to happen again.”
The Occupy Vancouver squat has quickly become "the" issue of the civic campaign. Attempts by Vision Vancouver to switch the dial by revealing new components of their platform are simply not working.
Yet they continue to soldier on as if they don't have to amend their gameplan. That's because as long as Vision's internal polling shows Robertson ahead of the NPA's Suzanne Anton...it will be steady as she goes.
While this approach may serve to get the Mayor elected, it might also have the unintended consquence of turning a number of COPE/Vision candidates into political road kill. This election is getting more interesting by the day!