Who on Vancouver’s left will wear the one ring to rule them all?

Push to unite left against NPA takes on Tolkien tones

Vancouver politics, like so many of its civic institutions, feels like it’s broken. A case in point is the discussion of a new left-wing coalition to challenge the NPA on the right.

That idea was floated barely hours after Gregor Robertson announced he had a walk-in-the-sand epiphany over the winter holiday, and would not run again as mayor.

Even the most favourably disposed left-wing commentators will have to admit that coalescing the left in this city around any single party brand or leader is challenging.

One friend observed it would be a bit like the Fellowship of the Ring, but without wizards, hobbits, elves, or even dwarves. It would be just men (and women) — all drawn to the power of the Ring.

What, or more accurately who, would be the one ring to rule them all?

Who will lead the remnants of Vision Vancouver, plus One City, the Vancouver Greens and COPE into battle against the city’s centre-right party?

Finding that perfect post-Robertson candidate is undoubtedly the current quest of both the city’s union leaders and the political left’s backroom operatives.

Newspaper reports are bandying names of people who were first elected to council when Duran Duran topped the music charts, which indicates how shallow the candidate pool is.

The combative councillor Raymond Louie is one whose name is mentioned. But Louie’s significant role in foisting the highest tax increase on Vancouverites in over a decade has pretty much dashed his mayoral ambitions. I predict he will want to keep his relatively secure council job.

It might be time to think outside the box.

There is one candidate that left wing parties could potentially rally behind, while appealing to many voters on the right, too.

The person I am thinking of already has a long-established career in civic politics and enough name recognition to make him highly electable.

Furthermore, he has a strong personal connection to the provincial government, as well as noteworthy track record on transit, housing and regional government.

He can also boast of having the lowest homeless population numbers of any large city in the region — only three per cent the size of Vancouver’s.

Did I mention he chairs the Mayor’s Council?

Derek Corrigan

Of course, I am speaking about Derek Corrigan, the mayor of Burnaby.

Surely, that is not possible, you say. To my understanding, however, there are no rules in the Vancouver Charter barring a mayor from holding that job in another city.

It should be noted that former Vancouver Mayor Fred Hume (1951-58) was re-elected to multiple terms despite serving previously as New Westminster’s mayor, and being a West Vancouver resident while in office. So, the Corrigan idea is not too far out there.

With 50-storey condo towers popping up across Burnaby almost as fast as the low-income rentals are being razed, Corrigan shows that he knows how to build cities when Vancouver can hardly keep pace.

His city apparently has $1 billion in reserves, which will make Vancouver’s more fiscally aware voters coo.

Corrigan has been unopposed within his city for years, which demonstrates his political appeal. For three terms in a row, all seats on Corrigan’s city council and Burnaby’s school board consist of candidates from the labour-backed Burnaby Citizens Association.

A self-identified socialist, Corrigan’s impeccable left-wing credentials allows him to stand his ground on things such as homeless shelters — which he rejects as not being a municipal responsibility, and therefore Burnaby has none.

The 2017 Metro Vancouver homeless count lists only 69 homeless people in Burnaby, compared to more than 2,100 in neighbouring Vancouver.

His council recently approved a long-term plan for the Metrotown neighbourhood that housing advocates estimate could displace upwards of 6,000 people who currently reside in low-income housing.

Boulevards in Burnaby are manicured year-round. Hard to imagine that Vancouver’s streets and sidewalks would remain litter-strewn with Corrigan as mayor.

OK, I will admit that transplanting Derek Corrigan into city hall at 12th and Cambie — as appealing it might be for some — is a stretch. But it does showcase the absurdity of partisan left-versus-right politics in Vancouver.

Is it too much to ask that we elect a mayor who represents the city as a whole, and not just the interests of unions, real estate developers or other special interests?


Originally published in Vancouver Courier