[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]
Dear Dr. Steve,
We are less than two weeks away from the civic election on Oct. 15. Are you ready?
Oh God, is that this month? Don't we turn the clocks back first? It's Forward Together, Fall Back, right?
But no, advance voting started this week. It's like one of those school test nightmares where you wake up in a sweat. You forgot to study. But there are so many damn chapters — 15 mayoral candidates, 137 other candidates for office in Vancouver alone. Who to choose? Which party platform wants more cops? Which one supports a new cafeteria drink machine? Which one wants to hire Taylor Swift to play prom?
So many parties, so many platforms. Reading the ballot is like keeping all the characters straight in a Russian novel. Or trying to sort through prescription drug names. Metoprolol, Cymbalta, Plavix — which does what? All those drug brands are marketing terms for a particular drug, but which drug? Is Fosrenol the brand name for lanthanum carbonate or pemetrexed? Is Invokamet invoking canagliflozin or tazarotene? Does ABC stand for A Better City or abrocitinib for the treatment of atopic dermatitis?
Platforms! Progress Vancouver — OK, you know this one. Something something zoning, right? OneCity Vancouver — aren't they the ones in favour of affordable housing? And the Affordable Housing Coalition — what's their deal? Crime, maybe?
Dr. Steve suspects many Vancouver voters may be zoned out. Thank God it's multiple choice. Just fill in every third oval and hope you didn't elect Dread Cthulhu and Team Underworld for a More Hellish Vancouver. Dr. Steve notes that there has never been a civic ballot featuring a party called Cling to Your Pathetic Piece of Ground While We Grind Our Boot Heels Into Your Cracked and Bleeding Fingernails. But judging by the results, that bunch always seems to win.
And yet for all the confusion it can be argued that the 2022 election in Vancouver is an example of democracy at its finest. The issues in Vancouver are real and substantive, with the parties offering a variety of nuanced solutions. There are some clear divides but it's not really like Beto O'Rourke vs. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, or even Justin Trudeau vs. Pierre Poilievre.
For the most part all the civic parties are struggling to identify the best remedies to problems that often seem intractable, particularly those involving housing. Choosing the best candidate involves diving into the respective policy positions and trying to determine which parties and candidates have identified the root of the problem and offer the best plans for the future.
Screw that. That's why Dr. Steve prefers to ignore Vancouver completely and concentrate on Surrey. Surrey is way more fun. Stadiums! Canals! Re-elect Doug McCallum as mayor of Surrey or, failing that, shot-caller of Cell Block C!
Dr. Steve exaggerates of course. No one is going to send Surrey Mayor McCallum to a maximum security facility. The campaign song of the Safe Surrey Coalition is not "Jailhouse Rock." The mayor's platform does not involve distributing improvised shivs and cigarette lighters to every qualified inmate.
But the mayor is scheduled to be in court shortly after the election on a charge of public mischief. Sherlock Holmes said, “The game is afoot!” and how right he was. McCallum, who is replacing the RCMP with a Surrey police force, claimed that his foot was run over by a political opponent in a Save-On-Foods parking lot. The RCMP charged McCallum after reviewing security footage. Just doing their jobs of course, but perhaps the new motto of the RCMP should be “Don't Tread on Me.”
The fun doesn't stop there. McCallum's previous proposals for Surrey included a big canal, no doubt kiboshed by the forces of Big Venice. This time around he has proposed a 60,000-seat Surrey stadium which he says could host football and hockey. Picture it. Go on, picture it. Then explain it to the rest of us.
So never mind Vancouver. Phooey on serious, nuanced discussions of affordable housing and zoning policy. Imagine instead a Doug McCallum electoral victory, followed by a criminal conviction for public mischief and a face-off between the RCMP and the Surrey Police, perhaps in a sparkling new 60,000 seat stadium. With a canal.
Are you not entertained?