Chaotic municipal race looms in Vancouver

PV Vancouver Bureau 

Municipal elections take place on October 15 across British Columbia for city councils, school districts and in Vancouver for Park Board. In some cases, including Burnaby and Port Coquitlam, mayors were elected by acclamation when nominations closed with only one name on the ballot. But in other municipalities, election races may be chaotic scrambles as huge numbers of candidates seek public support.

As often happens, Vancouver has the most complicated scenario. A record-breaking ten civic parties have fielded candidates. On the right and centre of the spectrum, parties connected to developer interests have five candidates for mayor, with another ten independents on the ballot. In total there are sixty candidates for council and 31 for nine school trustee positions.

By early September, polls showed two leading mayoralty contenders in the 30 percent range. One is incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart from the recently formed Forward Vancouver party; the other is Ken Sim, who ran for the right-wing Non-Partisan Alliance in 2018, when he finished just a thousand votes behind Stewart. 

This time, Sim is running for ABC Vancouver (largely unhappy former NPA members) on an aggressive “law and order” campaign, calling for more cops to criminalize homeless residents of tent encampments. But vote-splitting among the right-wing parties could open the door for the re-election of Stewart, who has the backing of the Vancouver & District Labour Council as well as powerful business forces including Vancouver Canucks owner and developer Francesco Aquilini.

Opinion polls show around 15 percent each for Colleen Hardwick of TEAM For A Livable Vancouver and Mark Marissen of Progress Vancouver, with Fred Harding of the NPA trailing far behind.

The city council elected four years ago was a mix of five NPAers, three Greens, one each from the left-wing COPE and OneCity parties and Mayor Stewart, a former NDP Member of Parliament. 

The danger of a possible right-wing majority on the next council was on the minds of VDLC delegates when they published a preferred slate list, including Stewart and Green Party, COPE and OneCity candidates. But the Labour Council attempt to forge at least minimal left-centre unity was frustrated later in the summer when Forward Together nominated more candidates for council. That move may fragment the loose alliance which had a majority on the 2018-22 Council, although many progressive civic activists concluded that those six non-NPA councillors did far too little to protect the interests of working-class people, renters and others who find the city increasingly unaffordable.

The Communist Party of BC’s provincial executive has warned that this complex situation, combined with the city’s at-large system which makes campaigns extremely expensive, is a recipe for confusion and possible right-wing gains on October 15. The CPBC also shares the view of other progressives that the mayor and his new party have become mainly a bulwark of “socially progressive” developer interests seeking to exploit the housing crisis for their own interests. 

In this context, the Communist Party says the most important objective is to elect a larger number of real progressives to the next City Council, even though the three left parties differ on some important issues and remain unable to overcome sectarian divisions. The CPBC is recommending support for OneCity, COPE and Vote Socialist (which does not have official status in this campaign.)

For City Council, candidates include COPE’s incumbent Jean Swanson, Tanya Webking, Breen Ouelette, and Nany Trigueros; OneCity’s incumbent Christine Boyle, Iona Bombanis, Matthew Norris and Ian Cromwell; and Sean Orr for Vote Socialist.

School trustee candidates include Karina Zeidler (Vote Socialist); Rocco Trigueros, Suzy Mah and Kyla Epstein (COPE); and Krista Sigurdson, Gavin Somers, incumbent Jennifer Reddy and Rory Brown (OneCity).

At the Park Board level, the candidates include incumbent Gwen Giesbrecht, Chris Livingstone and Maira Hassan (COPE); Andrea Pinochet-Escudero (Vote Socialist), and One City’s Serena Jackson, Tiyaltelus Kristen Rivers and Caitlin Stockwell.

The CPBC will announce its views on the Vancouver mayoralty race by late September, along with recommendations in some other municipalities. 

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