The race to become Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate is officially down to two candidates—Squamish Nation hereditary chief Ian Campbell and tech entrepreneur Taleeb Noormohamed, who was to launch his campaign Wednesday night in Gastown.
Both candidates, who know each other from working in different roles in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Games, will compete June 24 in only the second leadership race in Vision’s history. Campbell and Noormohamed have until June 10 to sign up members.
The winner will replace Mayor Gregor Robertson, who is retiring at the end of this term, as the party’s mayoral candidate going into the Oct. 20 election.
Campbell, 44, launched his run May 14 and Noormohamed, 41, was to make a speech Wednesday at Steamworks on Water Street to kick off a campaign led by strategist Michael Gardiner, who was campaign manager for John Horgan when he sought the leadership of the provincial NDP.
In an interview Wednesday morning at a café across from the Olympic Village Canada Line station, Noormohamed talked about the need for a stronger economy in Vancouver and creating more density across the city to bring some affordability to neighbourhoods, although he didn’t define affordability when asked.
A supporter of the city’s housing strategy, which calls for 72,000 different forms of housing types over the next 10 years, Noormohamed wants more long-term thinking on “how to build communities and not just units of housing.”
“There is a narrative that says developers are evil and all of the stuff that they’ve been doing has caused the problems that we have,” said Noormohamed, who lives in Yaletown. “And there’s a narrative that says we must only be in the business of social housing. But I think somewhere in between we have to look at the role developers can play, the role the social sector can play, the role that government can play in actually coming together to become creative.”
More work, he said, has to be done in creating a sustainable economy in Vancouver and attracting investment in small and medium-sized businesses. As a tech entrepreneur, Noormohamed is intimately familiar with the fact tech workers are paid far less in Vancouver than in Seattle.
“We cannot claim to be a world-class city where people can build and grow if we also at the same time position ourselves as a low-cost labour market,” he said. “The joke is you can hire a person in Vancouver for half the price than you can in Seattle or San Francisco.”
Noormohamed said he joined Vision because the party has “a legacy of success,” including fixing the financial mess with the former Olympic Village and adding bike lanes. He said all the party’s moves haven’t been without criticism but believes Vision represents diverse views.
If he became leader of the party—and ultimately, mayor—he said he would bring “openness and humility” to the job and be the first to acknowledge he doesn’t have all the right answers.
“I’m not an ideologue and have never been an ideologue, and I find that to be one of the most dangerous ways for folks to govern,” said Noormohamed, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 federal election with the Liberals as the party’s candidate on the North Shore.
Prior to getting involved in politics and business, Noormohamed once worked for the Privy Council in Ottawa. In 2005, he was director of the Air India Review Secretariat and senior advisor to Bob Rae.
His role in the 2010 Winter Games was as vice-president of strategy and partnerships. After the Games, he became president and CEO of Serebra, an online technology learning company. His biography also cites senior executive roles with tech companies HomeAway and Farfetch.
He’s served on numerous boards, including Lions Gate Hospital and Convenant House Vancouver. He studied international relations at Princeton University and geography at Oxford University. An Ismaili Muslim, he was born in Ottawa to parents who are originally from East Africa.
He is currently working another tech start-up venture in Vancouver and New York.
Asked why he would be a better candidate than Campbell, he replied: “I would not even presume to answer that question. I don’t think it’s reasonable or fair. This is all about making sure how we put good ideas forward and that we make each other better through the process.”
But, he added, he feels he is the best candidate to lead the party’s “revitalization.”
“I bring a lot of experience in business. Having spent time in government, I understand how to work with the federal government, I understand how to work with the province. I have a good set of relationships at both levels of government that I think add a ton of value.”
The Non-Partisan Association, meanwhile, announced last week that its mayoral nomination contest will be moved from May 29 to June 3. Park board commissioner John Coupar, entrepreneur Ken Sim and financial analyst Glen Chernen are the party’s candidates.
Shauna Sylvester of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue and Kennedy Stewart, the NDP MP for Burnaby-South, are both running for mayor as independent candidates.