The municipal election may still be 24 weeks away, but the lead up to the Oct. 20 vote has been something to behold.
Low-profile candidates, new election spending and donations rules, randomized ballots and simmering public anger over Vision Vancouver’s failures is turning 2018 into one of the most disruptive election years the city has seen.
And now with the NPA’s unceremonious dismissal of Hector Bremner — their leading mayoral nominee — Vancouver politics just got more bizarre.
Local government elections typically have low turnout — only three or four out of 10 registered voters actually cast a ballot. With their long ballots with dozens of candidates listed, voters tend to cast the most votes for mayor, then school board, park board and finally council.
The majority of those voters usually struggle to find names they know on the ballot, which leads them to select candidates by their affiliation to a party or elector organization (EO) brand. This is why joining the candidate slate of an EO gives you a fighting chance of getting elected.
In 2018, however, EOs will be subject to new restrictions on raising campaign donations, thanks to new legislation brought in by the B.C. NDP government. Candidates running as independents are not subject to the same limits that someone running with the Vancouver Greens, the NPA or Vision Vancouver are.
New campaign spending limits — brought in by the previous B.C. Liberal government and only now taking effect — also will reduce the ability of individual candidates and elector organizations to advertise their candidates and election platforms.
Do not expect TV ads like the ones Vision Vancouver ran in their 2014 campaign, or large newspaper ads that local publications have long relied on.
For weeks now, the Vancouver District Labour Council — made up of unionized worker representatives in the region — has been trying to find “one candidate to rule them all.” That is, they are trying to find a Vancouver mayoralty candidate acceptable to all left-leaning EOs such as Vision Vancouver, COPE and the Green Party — so far without success.
After failing to secure one of a handful of Vancouver politicians to run for the mayor’s job, it appears that the VDLC is casting its net into neighbouring Burnaby, by floating the name of Burnaby-South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart. Stewart narrowly won his riding against a Liberal candidate in 2015, which might be a factor in why he is looking at Vancouver as a place to run.
Burnaby South is ground zero for one of B.C.’s most egregious attacks on low-income earners. Hundreds of modest apartment buildings have been razed there in recent years to make way for costly units in condo towers. Little or no accommodation has been made for those who are displaced, something their member of parliament could have helped with.
Notwithstanding his carpetbagger status in Vancouver, Stewart’s mayoralty candidacy looks effectively D.O.A. based upon this lack of action for Burnaby’s poor.
While the left struggles to find someone to lead them to the promised land, the NPA look completely discombobulated after the shocking rejection of Bremner’s candidacy by members of its board.
To his credit, Bremner has worked harder and longer than any candidate in the race, and claims he has signed up thousands of supporters.
The NPA’s green light committee had recommended that Bremner’s candidacy go through. Rejecting a sitting city councillor from running for mayor on the face of it seems to be a failure of board governance.
Now the May 29 vote by members will focus on Bremner’s opponents Glen Chernen (formerly of the fringe Cedar Party) and park commissioner John Coupar. Candidate Ken Sim likely entered the race too late to win.
Chernen’s candidacy is interesting in how it resembles Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House. Like the U.S. president, Chernen comes to the race with no political experience. A well-off West Side resident, he also likes to tweet about taking on the “elites” at city hall (even taking them to court).
Did I mention we still have months of our election “silly season” yet to come? What a year this is shaping up to be.
Originally published in Vancouver Courier newspaper.