Assuming Mayor Gregor Robertson opened his morning Globe and Mail earlier this week to check out the story reviewing the first year of his second term in office, his eye surely would have drifted to the piece on the right hand column of the page.
That is where he could read of yet another attempt to put Vancouver’s most successful political party out of its misery. That political party would be the Non-Partisan Association. And, not for the first time, Daniel Fontaine — former chief of staff to one-term mayor Sam Sullivan and a man who certainly helped drive the NPA and his boss to the periphery of power — was reported as saying it was time they “fold their tent and create a new neighbourhood-based, centrist alternative to Vision Vancouver.”
Now, to say that the NPA is Vancouver’s most successful political party would involve embracing its history back to its founding in 1937 when it was created by a group of wealthy business types to stem the socialist tide about to dominate city hall.
But if you consider more recent history, you would see that in the last four elections, the NPA has won only once and that ended disastrously.
But even then, there were calls to reinvent the NPA. There were those who wanted to make it into a real political party, one that was based on policy as opposed to one that was simply there to keep the other guys out of power.
Well, those other guys in the form of Vision Vancouver, led by Robertson won a first term. And discontent within the NPA grew.
My colleague Mike Howell recalls attending an NPA meeting, held ironically at the Vancouver Museum and just before the most recent election, where former park board commissioner and soon to be NPA council candidate Bill McCreery argued along the lines raised now by Fontaine including a change in name: “Vancouver First.” Not to be confused with Dianne Watts’ “Surrey First” created when she split with the old guard.
What makes the proposal interesting now is the ubiquitous bitching coming from Vancouver neighbourhoods over a variety of Vision policies, but which is being met with a typical shrug.
This is not to say Robertson et al have not had successes in reducing street homelessness, improving available childcare spaces, creating more opportunities for urban agriculture, at least attempting to deal with affordable housing and addressing the need for more rapid transit to give people a reason to shift out of their cars into more “active” forms of transportation.
But all that is lost on the folks still on about spot zoning in the West End, as well as those who fear for their safety in that part of town because of the placement of cold-weather shelters for the homeless.
The Dunbar crowd gathered on the steps of city hall a few days ago, up in arms about a seniors’ residence that exceeds in density what was approved in their community plan.
They followed an even more aggrieved group from Kitsilano unhappy about a development that will wipe out an iconic bowling alley and the Ridge Theatre.
While people are less hysterical about bike lanes these days that doesn’t mean they are always accepting.
The Commercial Drive BIA is opposed to what a bike lane will do to their businesses. And there is still the little matter of plans to pave, or not, the last strip of natural beach in the city by extending the sea wall.
All of these groups, and others, are undoubtedly more successful in getting their voices heard thanks to social media.
Nonetheless, the question for Gregor Robertson and the team that keeps him on message and insulated from much of the criticism as he cruises through this second term and aspires to a third, is this: are they at risk?
Or can they go merrily along ignoring their critics in a town where political fortunes have been known to turn almost as quickly as the weather?