The race is already underway. Last April, there were already three presumed challengers for mayor or Vancouver – John Coupar, Ken Sim and Mark Marissen – 18 months before the next citizen election. And there are rumors abounding that three high-profile women – Coun. Adriane Carr, county. Jean Swanson and Count. Colleen Hardwick – can also participate in the race.
Then there is the potential mayoral candidate most followers on social media, former MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is waiting behind the scenes, even though she seems to have sworn election policy from now on. The former deputy chairman of Vancouver’s police board, businessman Barj Dhahan, is another name to consider.
If even half of these people end up on the ballot, it will be a wild ride on the way to the voting day on 15 October.
With that in mind, here are our picks for this year’s six most significant political stories from Vancouver City Hall.
Mayor to form his own party
Mayor Kennedy Stewart revealed before Christmas that he plans to line up with a list of city council candidates in hopes of securing a majority in the next election.
This move will boost his fundraising ability, just when he needs it most, and help boost his appeal to different communities, given the likely composition of the board.
Along with the boots-on-the-ground support of the labor movement, this new party may prove crucial in helping the mayor keep his job. And that may just stem the growth of the annoying Greens, who went from a council member, Adriane Carr, to three at the 2018 election.
Secure rental policy
On December 14, all members of the Vancouver Council except Coun. Colleen Hardwick voted to change zoning plans to allow for more six-story, mixed-use rental buildings along commercial streets.
From Stewart’s perspective, this will help dull Progress Vancouver’s mayoral challenger Mark Marissen’s frequent complaints that he has not done enough to promote more rental housing. In 2018, tenants were a critical part of Stewart’s election efforts – and Stewart must hold them back if he wants to avoid being a one-time mayor.
“This policy is checking all the boxes,” Commercial Real Estate Agents Mark Goodman and Cynthia Jagger wrote in the Goodman Report. “It offers assistance in meeting affordable housing and climate targets, speeding up permit times for rentals and shifting land use from low density with few families to higher density with new neighbors, shops and access to transit.”
But it could also lead to a further escalation of land prices, which will lead to higher property taxes for business tenants.
The municipality requests a dispensation from the drug legislation
On May 28, the city of Vancouver submitted its formal request to the federal government for a city-wide exemption from Section 56 (1) of the Controlled Substances and Substances Act. This would have a decriminalization of possession of illegal drugs within the city limits.
“A key goal of decriminalization is to reduce the risks and harms associated with the stigma and marginalization of people using drugs (PWUD),” the city said in its post. “This exception represents an opportunity to improve the health outcomes of people who use drugs, by reducing the effects of drug law on simple possession, reducing stigma and promoting access to life-saving health services.”
So in October, the city council voted to support an application for a similar exemption for the Drug User Liberation Front so it could deliver tested drugs in Vancouver.
So far, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has not responded to these requests, although a record number of overdoses of illicit drugs took place in BC in October. More than 200 people died that month, and in the first 10 months of 2021, BC eclipsed its previous annual record.
Here’s the political significance: Mayor Kennedy Stewart can say he is doing something about the overdose crisis in the next election campaign, even though the federal liberal government is not doing anything to make this a reality.
Vancouver’s center-right party is beginning to resemble the Agatha Christie novel And then there was no one.
In April, the NPA lost three of its council members (Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung) and all three of its school trustees after the board anointed Park Commissioner John Coupar as mayoral candidate in 2022.
It left a tip of three in the caucus: Coupar, Coun. Melissa De Genova and Park Commissioner Tricia Barker.
De Genova participated in Marissen’s campaign launch together with Dominato and Kirby-Yung. This suggests that De Genova may be frolicking the NPA, just as her father, former Park Commissioner Al De Genova, did after many years in office.
The NPA not only makes its best impression on one of Christie’s most famous mysteries. The grand old party of Vancouver politics also sees the character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who keeps declaring to the truck driver: “I’m not dead”.
Distribution of lots
The Balkanization of Vancouver policy continued this year with the split of the old NPA coalition into a growing number of parties. In addition to Marissen’s development-friendly Progress Vancouver, former NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim leads NIMBYish A Better City. And Hardwick is the de facto leader of the even more NIMBYish TEAM for a Livable Vancouver.
As of this writing, Progress Vancouver has 590 Twitter followers. A Better City has 420 Twitter followers. And TEAM for a Livable Vancouver has only nine Twitter followers.
It’s hardly a sign that they’re setting fire to Vancouver’s political house – at least not yet. But hey, there’s still more than nine months until polling day.
The Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services received what they wanted, allowing Stewart to go ahead of voters in October next year with a message that he is on the side of public safety. Plus, he covered his tracks on the climate by persuading a majority to approve a new environmental tax to raise $ 100 million over 10 years to pay for the climate plan.
Stewart had previously voted with center-right councilors to defeat a parking fee that would have funded climate action.
But the overall tax increase of 6.35 percent in the latest budget provides ammunition for his center-right opponents, most of whom do not want to narrow the role of the police, which could actually save the city some money.
In a November presentation to a legislative committee, BC human rights commissioner Kasari Govender outlined a roadmap for dramatic police reforms, including “de-tasking.” (She did not use the word “defund”.)
Did this landmark document have any measurable effect on the council and mayor, a self-appointed police reformer, as they enter an election year?
Nix. The last thing most of them want is to turn the influential police union against them in the months leading up to election day.