It’s municipal election time in Vancouver again, and this one is considerably different than most recent elections. For the past ten years, Vancouver has been led by Vision Vancouver, a centre-left municipal party with historical ties to the provincial NDP. For all the good they’ve done for community centres and cycling infrastructure among others, housing and homelessness remain problematic. In what some have dubbed the year of the independent, with 158 candidates running for 27 mayor, council, park and school board positions, it seems unlikely any parties will dominate after October 20th. The City of Vancouver has put together a planner to help you review all candidates and make a list. Oh, and for the first time, all candidates were drawn for a random ballot, so finding them alphabetically isn’t happening. You NEED to plan before you vote.
If you’d like to skip my preamble and just get to my lists, you can jump to:
A Very Brief History
With Vancouver’s housing crisis reaching a fever pitch in the past couple years, Vision has been seen by many as slow to act and beholden to property developers, while housing costs have spiralled out of control. As such, most Vision incumbents jumped ship for the 2018 election including three-term mayor Gregor Robertson, who wore most of the blame on the housing file. They also lost their 2018 mayoralty candidate, mid-campaign.
The Non-Partisan Association (NPA), the conservative municipal party in power for many years prior to the rise of Vision, has been relegated to council opposition since 2002, save for one term under Sam Sullivan from 2005-2008. Many people are still wary of the NPA, since they’ve largely advocated for the status quo on housing (and most other things) for years. In fact, outgoing NPA council members voted against even the Making Room zoning changes recently passed. I guess you have to give them credit for sticking to their guns and proudly continuing to wear their true colours on their sleeves.
Vision was born of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) when then mayor (now independent senator) Larry Campbell and three councillors split from COPE to form Vision. Two of those Vision councillors have remained on council until deciding to not run this year. COPE and NPA formed the traditional left-right battle lines for years prior to Vision rising up the middle.
With that out of the way, the rest of this post is dedicated to my choices and hopefully some level of rationale as to why.
For the most part, my mayor and council choices are not derived from party affiliation, while my choices for parks and schools generally are more so. I find at the local level individual people and their values are far more important in moving a city forward. In the interest of full disclosure, I paid for a membership with OneCity because I liked their platform, but have not volunteered or campaigned on their behalf. I have, however, decided to vote for all five of their candidates, based on their strengths. The only downside I see to them is their endorsement of Kennedy Stewart for mayor as a result of being part of the slate the Vancouver & District Labour Council is supporting.
So, a brief word then, on a few of the upstart parties and why I’m not considering their candidates. The following groups have largely appeared in the past few months, are generally a variation on a couple themes and, frankly, have so many people running I can’t possibly do them all justice in evaluating them as individuals. Either that or observed behaviour makes them nonstarters in my mind. In other words, if they don’t stand out positively as individuals to me, they won’t be getting my vote. Sorry, but IDEA Vancouver, Yes Vancouver, ProVancouver, Coalition Vancouver and Vancouver 1st, we’re done. The last two, in particular, are rumoured to be opposed to SOGI and, as such, makes them atrocious choices for schools.
It’s probably also worth stating that in the case of three of these new parties, a few of the individuals running have stood out for absolutely the wrong reasons. The following and anyone who’d run with them are simply not on for me:
- Yes Vancouver is the brainchild of current NPA councillor Hector Bremner, who may have well retained his seat had he not had mayoralty ambitions and ended up on the wrong side of the NPA board. I won’t get into that circus here, but he’s an unabashed housing advocate (a good thing), a former BC Liberal ministerial assistant, former failed BC Liberal candidate and, more recently, has been professionally connected to property developers (not a good thing). He’s a one-trick policy pony with a very extensive housing platform and little else. He isn’t trustworthy IMHO.
- Coalition Vancouver is also largely the brainchild of one candidate; former Vancouver South MP Wai Young. I had the misfortune of living in Wai’s riding during her single term. You can read all about her questionable history here. Polling at a dismal 7% as of October 9th, Wai’s also largely a single issue candidate, but somewhat inexplicably in a city like Vancouver, has chosen to shit all over cyclists and promises to rip out infrastructure. Her messaging is largely dark and negative, she’s on the record as an MP as opposing LGBTQ issues and her school board candidates are noted anti-anything LGBTQ zealots, Ken Denike and Sylvia Woo.
- Not to be outdone by Wai, Glen Chernen is also running for council under her banner. He ran the Cedar Party in 2014 with his brother (who lost a 2018 Green council nomination for failing to disclose a lawsuit), has a history of filing frivolous lawsuits against Gregor Robertson, and more recently vied for the NPA mayoralty nomination, like Bremner. Since joining Wai, he’s run a series of bus shelter posters themed on fictitious shyster lawyer Saul Goodman. This approach, actually seems fitting for him. But he’s with Wai and that means I probably didn’t need to point out his flaws.
- ProVancouver seemingly started by David Chen as a result of his Vancouver is Falling Facebook group. Chen, also polling at 7%, has attracted a small slate of candidates, the most visible of whom (on Twitter anyway) are Rohana Rezel and Raza Mirza for council. There’s been a tendency to attract many anonymous supporters online who seem to revel in trolling people into arguments, or seizing upon something out of context and then claiming they are victims of [insert your conspiracy here]. They are basically housing protectionists and anti-Airbnb, but rather than debate the issues, they simply label anyone who doesn’t agree as a “developer shill” and then typically repeat the labels ad nauseam. Members of cloistered circle jerks are generally not fit to run a city.
So, Who Am I Voting For?
Now that you know how I’ve decided who to not vote for, a fairly brief set of bullet lists of who is on my slate and why. What I’ve tried to do in my choices is assemble a group that, if elected, would tackle the broadest range of issues facing Vancouver, and whom I could see working collaboratively.
Shauna Sylvester, an independent, is an SFU Professor and Director of their Centre for Dialogue. Shauna has developed the most comprehensive platform, period. She’s been visible, responsive, and been campaigning harder than any other mayoralty candidate. Qualified, experienced, policy-driven, collaborative and hard-working.
Sarah Blyth (independent) was the first person I decided I would vote for, and nothing has changed my mind. Opioids and homelessness are massive issues which have unfortunately taken a back seat to housing in this election. As co-founder of the Overdose Prevention Society, council desperately needs her front-line addiction expertise.
Christine Boyle (OneCity) is part of the only party slate I’m voting for. Being a United Church minister doesn’t necessarily play strongly into this atheist’s evaluation, but I do think it speaks to a general approach to helping people, and that’s important. Christine’s priorities are more generalized than some of my other choices and, having heard her speak, I think she’s incredibly strong and articulate with great ideas for building inclusive community.
Graham Cook (independent) is another of my early favourites whose priorities are (surprise) affordable housing, public transportation and the opioid epidemic. His values across the board means he’d work well with the other candidates I’m voting for. His brief but clear housing policies address both supply and demand issues, while speaking to zoning and parking. He specifically aligns with Sarah Blyth on opioids and that’s a big checkmark.
Adrian Crook (independent) has been somewhat well-known as 5 Kids 1 Condo, and long been an advocate for housing and transit. He’s always been visible, engages online and I like that he takes stands and communicates well. I’m like a broken record with housing, but Adrian has been on the issue of affordable housing for a long time. I never quite saw a fit with his initial desire to run for the NPA and brief flirtation with Bremner, but since he stayed with neither, at least I can vote for him.
Heather Deal (Vision) may seem an odd choice, since I originally thought I’d never vote NPA or Vision. However, Heather has been one of the really steadying voices on council and simply gets stuff done. Being a biologist by trade means to me that she considers evidence above all else and deficiencies aside, Vision has done some very good things. Finally, this council will need Heather’s experience.
Derrick O’Keefe (COPE) is one of two COPE candidates I want on council. Derrick is a long-time community activist, unabashed socialist and another person who takes stands and sticks to principles. Some of COPE’s housing strategies may be difficult to achieve, but we need a strong social conscience who’s aiming high on council.
Tanya Paz (Vision) is another vote I thought I wouldn’t make. As I read more about Tanya, I realized that her values would serve the city well and her background in community and transportation planning is crucial. She’s big on cycling, urban sustainability and the UBC subway.
Jean Swanson (COPE) is almost legendary in the fight against poverty, working on behalf of marginalized people for decades, much of it in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Along with O’Keefe, I’m looking to Jean to ensure that voice is strong at the council table. Jean is a 2016 Order of Canada appointee, too.
Michael Wiebe (Green) is presently on the Park Board and is the other voice of (municipal gov’t) experience I’d like to see elected. As an accomplished Green candidate with community and business experience, I hope Michael can be the traditional Green voice I’m not seeing in Adriane Carr (and why I won’t vote for her). I still feel connected to Green politics, have voted Green at all levels and have been very dismayed by the municipal party recently, particularly on housing.
Brandon Yan (OneCity) is one of the first candidates I spoke with in the spring. He’s a community-oriented LGBTQ and arts advocate and, frankly, simply based on the shitstorm some of his opponents put him through on Twitter, deserves to be on council for possibly the thickest skin of any candidate. As the other part of the council component of the OneCity slate, I really want to see if he and Boyle can get any traction on OneCity’s land value capture tax for funding non-market housing.
I’ll admit to less research for Schools and Parks than that which I’ve done for mayor and council, but they’re still incredibly important governance roles in the city. In deciding my School Board candidates, the criteria are primarily that they need to have a well articulated (party or individual) platform for education which truly advocates for learners and supports like SOGI. Secondarily, if they have a solid history or record with regard to children and family issues, I’m probably sold. Similarly, if ‘revenue’ is in their priorities for schools, I’ll probably pass.
Carrie Bercic (OneCity) is an incumbent and advocates for no school closures, more teachers and more childcare spaces, while being opposed to public funding for private schools.
Diana Day (COPE) is in favour of a food program and piloting an affordable daycare program.
Janet Fraser (Green) is the incumbent School Board chair, and is an advocate for full funding and more childcare.
Estrellita Gonzalez (Green) is another incumbent who shares Day’s goals of a food program and echoes my other choices for more childcare.
Erica Jaaf (OneCity) has been very involved at the local and district PAC level and advocates, like her OneCity colleagues, for better funding, no closures and more childcare.
Morgane Oger (independent) is my only independent for schools. A transgender activist who’s been active at the district PAC level (and BC NDP executive member, I think), she’d be a strong voice for LGBTQ students. Particularly if Ken Denike or Sylvia Woo get elected, the VSB will need Oger.
Barb Parrott (COPE) is actually a (retired, I think) teacher, and for my money it would be nice to have a professional educator on the VSB.
Jennifer Reddy (OneCity) is actively involved supporting immigrant students in Vancouver schools. She is running on the OneCity platform and also boasts an MA in Social Policy and Development.
Allan Wong (Vision) is an incumbent, on the VSB for nearly two decades. He began as COPE and moved to Vision, but is committed to ESL and special needs supports. I see Allan providing balance and experience on what is admittedly a pretty left-leaning school slate.
For my parks slate, the decisions were primarily party-based and who I thought would best advocate for and ensure green space maintenance and improved infrastructure. One of the biggest problems in choosing a slate is the sheer volume of candidates running for parks for parties that I cannot support. However, I think the following candidates offer some balance and good experience.
John Coupar (NPA) is even odder to me than my Vision council choices. However, John’s a two-term incumbent and is definitely the conservative voice on the Parks Board. He was eyeing a council run for the NPA until that was nixed. John brings experience and advocates for improved infrastructure and maintenance.
Casey Crawford (NPA) is seeking re-election with priorities to renew facility funding, and has a history of solid community involvement.
Dave Demers (Green) is, frankly, a choice based on party lines. While I have many misgivings about Greens at the council level, I’ve generally liked their parks work, particularly challenging the Vancouver Aquarium on captive whales, and I trust that kind of advocacy to continue. He’s also a horticulturist by trade.
Camil Dumont (Green) is another of my party choices, but he’s also ED of Inner City Farms and has experience working for the Park Board.
Gwen Geisbrecht (COPE) is past president of the Britannia Community Centre board. In all honesty, that and her COPE values gets her on my slate.
John Irwin (COPE) has a background and post-graduate education in sustainable urban development, and has been heavily involved in the Southeast False Creek planning process.
Stuart MacKinnon (Green) is the current Park Board Chair and was instrumental in pushing the Vancouver Aquarium to stop bringing in captive whales. Stuart’s experience, leadership and the continuity of another term is needed.