Could Shauna Sylvester be Vancouver’s first female mayor?

Head of SFU Centre for Dialogue has the CV to unite the centre-left

At this point I would say that Shauna Sylvester could very well be the first female mayor elected in the Vancouver’s history. For weeks now this neophyte in the world of public electoral politics has been saying publicly that she is actively considering running as an “independent candidate.” If you haven’t heard much about her, you will soon enough.

Rumours are rife that, to get ahead of the pack, she will be launching her campaign Thursday morning, April 5.

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That’s when the current head of SFU Centre for Dialogue will roll out her CV to impress us with her economic and green credentials and her skills at bringing disparate people together.

Sylvester confirmed to me a few days ago she was also in conversation with various civic political power brokers and three of the four centre-left parties — Vision, OneCity and the Greens — expressing her ambitions and seeking support.

OneCity, in particular, has yet to be convinced and is still waiting to hear about Sylvester’s platform, particularly around housing affordability. They also point out it will be hard for Sylvester to separate herself from her long and close association with Vision. She was on the Vision board and has done work for the mayor’s office.

COPE is apparently not on Sylvester’s speed dial. No serious worries there, though. The only high profile opposition COPE could put forward would be Jean Swanson, who they endorsed when she came second in last year’s council byelection. Swanson now says she may run for council, but she will not seek the mayor’s chair.

Swanson’s team is also participating in a discussion with the other four parties in a meeting sponsored by the Vancouver and District Labour Council to figure out how to work as a left-of-centre coalition for October’s election.

Vision, the city’s governing party for the past decade, recently announced they are “not formally opening a mayoral nomination process at this time.” The only possible candidate they could have turned to, and the only one of two councillors who has not said they will be stepping down at the end of this term is Raymond Louie, (the other being Heather Deal).

But not everyone loves Raymond. And should he choose to run under the Vision banner, he will inevitably carry all the baggage left behind by Gregor Robertson.

What about the Greens' sole council member Adriane Carr’s intentions? After all, she did top the council polls in the last election. But two things stand in her way: While the Greens are “polling,” I suspect she would be reluctant to run as an “independent” and risk losing the most powerful position of any Green locally. She’ll be able to live with Sylvester.

As for other names that have been floated as possible centre-left independent candidates such as former COPE city councillor and NDP MP Libby Davies, federal NDP MP Don Davies and current NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert — while they may all have given it serious thought, they have demurred.

So what about the other guys, the Non-partisan Association, the NPA that for decades was Vancouver’s naturally governing party? They obviously see the failure of Vision to effectively deal with succession in its own ranks as Robertson was pushed out the door as an opportunity to retake city hall.

But they stand to be defeated by their own internal squabbling. Recall that their last two mayors — Philip Owen and Sam Sullivan — were both defeated by their own party in their desire to seek a nomination for another term in office.

Now we have a three-way tug for the NPA nomination two months from now. The most competent and experienced candidate is park board commissioner John Coupar. He clearly has the support of the party’s old-line establishment. But recently elected city councillor Hector Bremner, while seriously lacking in experience, may have the best machine for rounding up membership votes. The third candidate Glen Chernen, formerly of the Cedar Party… well, I’m not sure how he will make out.

But the NPA also has a problem on their right flank. Former Conservative MP Wai Young is forming her own party in a run for mayor that threatens to peel away the Christian right as well as the likes of the crowd that has been opposed to modular housing for the homeless in Marpole.


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