Once again, Vancouver voters failed to elect a woman as mayor.
Shauna Sylvester was contemplative Saturday night as she finished third in the race to become Vancouver’s next mayor.
“While we didn’t win, I feel like something happened that was different in this election,” she said Saturday night, eliciting a big cheer from the crowd. “We offered really concrete solutions to the different needs.”
Sylvester was joined at the Ironworks event space in Railtown by a large group of supporters. The mood was upbeat as the crowd waited for the results to start trickling in, however, as the NPA’s Ken Sim and Kennedy Stewart battled it out, Sylvester stayed solidly in third place all night.
And while the final results weren’t in yet and with the race between Sim and Stewart close, Sylvester had a message for Stewart, who she called Vancouver’s new mayor.
“Now I want to take a moment to acknowledge our new mayor Kennedy Stewart. I want Kennedy to know he has my full support in leading the city I love,” she said. “Kennedy you’re assuming the role at such an unprecedented and challenging time and you’ll need the support of all of us in this room to move this city forward.”
And while voters failed to elect a woman as mayor, Sylvester highlighted the number of women elected to council this time around.
“I know that there are many in this city who want more women to assume leadership roles and tonight there are a lot of women on this new council,” she said.
Earlier in the evening, Sylvester said no matter what the outcome is "we're celebrating. I'm dancing tonight." Signs in all different languages read “Thank You” and a sign at the door greeting supporters read: “Thank you none of this would have been possible without you.”
While the mayoral results weren’t what they were hoping for, the crowd cheered for COPE’s Jean Swanson and the Green Party’s gains on council.
In her concession speech, Sylvester also mentioned the Greens’ success.
“I am so glad to see the Green Party doing so well.”
Throughout the campaign, some pundits characterized Sylvester as the spoiler splitting the mayoral vote on the left, but earlier this week she had a different take and pointedthe finger at Stewart.
“I think I would say that Kennedy siphoned votes off me and the vast majority of people that voted for me would not vote for Kennedy,” she said. “So there is a big chunk of my voter base, Kennedy is not their second choice.”
Announcing her campaign in Gastown back in April, Sylvester was the first mayoral candidate out of the gate on either side of the political spectrum.
The Courier reported earlier this year that for months before her announcement, the city’s left-of-centre parties —the Greens, COPE and OneCity — met to devise a strategy to foil the Non-Partisan Association’s plan to take back city hall. Some of the conversations included Vision Vancouver and all parties agreed that they had to unite behind one mayoral candidate on the left.
“I think that when I came in in April, it was to be a unity candidate and Kennedy decided to come in and split that vote and run,” Sylvester said outside city hall Tuesday afternoon. “That was a decision, I respect it… I also think that I tend to bridge across the political spectrum.”
Earlier in the evening, as the polls closed, Sylvester told the Courier there was a point in her campaign when she considered dropping out of the race.
"There was so much pressure on me to step back, so much pressure and there was a group of younger women who said ‘You just can’t. What’s the message you’re delivering to us. That’s just not OK,’” she said. “And we sat down and we went through a little workshop… and walked out of that [thinking] ‘I can’t step back.’ Since then, once I made the decision. Once I was 100 per cent in, it’s actually been really enjoyable.”
She garnered many endorsements, including former Liberal MP Stephen Owen, Peter Ladner, a former NPA mayoral candidate, city councillor and chair of the David Suzuki Foundation board, Vancouver-Quadra Liberal MP Joyce Murray and David Suzuki.
Sylvester, who is the executive director of Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, has a long history with the party that ruled city hall for the past decade. She is a former Vision Vancouver board member, was lead facilitator of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s task force on affordable housing taskforce and co-founded “Women in Vision.”