On Wednesday afternoon, Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie announced he would not be running in next October’s municipal election. Then, mere hours later, the party that has ruled Vancouver for almost a decade received another body blow with the release of the first comprehensive poll of this election season.
Louie was only one of two Vision councillors who to this point looked like they were going to stick around when Mayor Gregor Robertson finally announced he would not run for a fourth term. The other is Heather Deal.
Along with Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer, who already announced she is bailing out, Louie was considered an heir apparent for the mayor’s spot. He actually came second to Robertson back in 2008 when the newly formed party was seeking a mayoral candidate. Now, in a clear failure of succession planning, both Reimer and Louie will be gone.
Since Louie was first elected in 2002, he has become one of the best informed, competent members of Robertson’s team. He is the main guy to go to on matters of finance. He has taken on tasks regionally and federally. He is chair of Metro Vancouver’s finance and intergovernmental affairs committee and was the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
As well as being a “rain maker” when it came to fundraising, Louie was also a key link between city hall and Vancouver’s influential Chinese Canadian community. He took the lead in initiating council’s recent apology to the Chinese community for past years of municipal discrimination. Some weeks ago, Louie told me that that community was pressing him to go for the mayor’s job.
Whether he is leaving because of health issues affecting his family, fatigue after 16 years on council or the realization his party is a spent force, he would have been the last of the Chinese Canadian Vision city councillors to still serve. That would include former councillors George Chow, Tony Tang and current councillor Kerry Jang, who is not running again.
It is significant when you consider Vision’s main opposition, the Non-Partisan Association (NPA), has just nominated Chinese Canadian Ken Sim as the person it’s putting forward for mayor.
Which brings me to those polls results: Sim, who’s married to a South Asian woman and has four children, is well ahead of the left-of-centre candidates among South Asian voters.
While the election is still months away, it is clear even at this early date that Vision’s brand is not simply tarnished, it is disintegrating. Of the 400 adults surveyed, no party had more negatives that Vision at 45 per cent. The NPA in that same survey came out with 32 per cent.
The most popular party, the one with the most positives, was the Green Party at 54 per cent. (Now that its leader, Coun. Adrienne Carr has decided not to enter the mayor’s race, it will be interesting to see to whom she throws her support for mayor.)
Meanwhile, both Vision and the NPA were more than 20 points behind the popular front running Greens.
As you may know, parties on the centre-left — Vision, Green, COPE and OneCity — started this electoral dance deciding they would all support an independent candidate for mayor. Then Vision powerbrokers even annoyed some of their own members when they reneged on that understanding and decided they would have their own mayoral candidate.
That turned out to be an outsider to the world of civic politics, Ian Campbell. Campbell is a prominent hereditary Squamish chief who lives in North Vancouver and is a developer who has been working with a consortium including Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and the Aquilini Group to develop the biggest land packages in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, two people have declared they will run on the left as independents: NDP MP for Burnaby South Kennedy Stewart and SFU academic and former Vision board member Shauna Sylvester. And to complicate things further, UBC academic Patrick Condon intends to run under the COPE banner.
Among them they are splitting the vote and may end up all losing if there is a repeat performance of last October’s byelection, which saw the lone NPA candidate Hector Bremner win with 27 per cent against four left of centre candidates. Vision’s candidate came fifth in that tussle just ahead of the candidate called “Watermelon.”
The only saving grace, the only thing that would save a splintering left from losing the race this time (aside from people pulling out), is a potentially fractured right.
The NPA’s Sim will likely have to deal with Hector Bremner and former conservative Member of Parliament Wai Young. So far both seem intent on running under their own banners.
So what does the poll show at this point?
Among decided voters independent Kennedy Stewart is in first place at 26 per cent, followed by Ken Sim of the NPA with 23 per cent and Vision’s Ian Campbell at 18 per cent. Much further down the ladder, Hector Bremner has 10 per cent, Shauna Sylvester is at nine per cent, Patrick Condon is at eight per cent and Wai Young has three per cent.
Incidentally while the left is splitting its vote, pollster Mario Canseco points out that Sim is picking up virtually all of the votes of the NPA’s 2014 candidate Kirk LaPointe and leaving his right-of-centre competition in his dust.
This would seem to indicate that, so far, while the NPA vote is holding together, the left could be on a suicide mission as long as Stewart and Campbell continue to duke it out.
That may change come the middle of next month when the Vancouver and District Labour Council, the organization that has been arm wrestling the left of centre parties into agreeing to somehow share the ballot, will decide who they will endorse for mayor.
Meanwhile, it’s polls be damned. Everyone is standing pat.
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