I spent a pleasant hour the other day with NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim chatting about, you know, what he would do if he was elected mayor later this month — which is certainly not out of the question.
But I will get to that in a bit.
Sim is a political rookie. He has never been elected to any public body, let alone governed. This makes him the same as virtually all the other folks — except former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart — who figure they can do the job. And Stewart, it should be noted, has never governed.
Oh yes, there is also Hector Bremner who was on city council for a nano-second before running up against his own NPA party before defecting. And Wai Young, she’s a former one-term Tory MP who powders her nose with a compact that looks remarkably like a cellphone.
But what the hell, if Donald Trump can be president of the United States, who can’t be mayor of Vancouver?
The last time I saw Sim, he had just won the NPA nomination with a clear 50 per cent of the members’ vote. Most notably, he beat out park board commissioner John Coupar, a signal I assume that the NPA membership understood this would be a “change” election.
Sim’s rookieness — if that is a word – was obvious from the outset. His oratory skills are, well, limited. His subsequent performance in media scrums — the bread and butter of political communications — has him stumbling and resorting to uttering NPA boilerplate.
He is also guilty, if that is not too strong, of shifting positions. On the possible extension of the Broadway SkyTrain to UBC, he variously says “doesn’t make economic sense” and “we will do it if it makes sense.”
Observers will doubtless note, to quote an old line from Brian Mulroney, that Sim will likely “dance with the folks who brung him.” And the folks who brung him, who convinced him to step away for a time from his successful private sector ventures and leap into the uncertain abyss of civic politics were Peter Armstrong, owner of the luxury train business Rocky Mountaineer, and money bags Chip Wilson, formerly of Lululemon-fame, now living in the most expensive home in the city and a former backer of Gregor Robertson and Vision.
Everyone needs friends, I suppose.
Sim says he owes his unquestionable entrepreneurial success to his mentor, the highly respected Milton Wong. Wong sat on the board of Sim’s Nurse Next Door Corporation for many years. That company has franchises right across the country
More recently, Sim formed a partnership with Parise Siegel, of Siegel’s bagels fame and a couple of others to open up Rosemary Rock Salt Bagels.
But, he says, it is his business experience with Nurse Next Door and dealing with the hundreds of franchise holders that will form the template for his success as governing as mayor.
He cites the book Getting to Yes as his roadmap when dealing with those franchise holders. But let’s remember, in those situations he is the boss. On council he will just be one vote. And he has clearly never come up against the hurricane force of COPE council candidate and longtime community activist Jean Swanson.
That said, Sim, the chartered accountant and Sauder School graduate, is as well aware of the crisis in housing we face as anyone on the ballot.
We need to build more affordable housing on city-owned land. The approval process for new construction is “broken” and simply adding cost to housing. And let’s allow people to have two basements suites, not just one.
And while he consistently trails behind Stewart in the polls and lacks political experience, he may well win.
This is not simply because the notion of having a successful local lad of Chinese ancestry as the city’s first mayor is compelling.
But the dizzying plethora of independent candidates and the confusing upstart parties that are “Vancouver this” or “Vancouver that” may well cause people to simply stay home rather than face a ballot “the size of a pillow case.”
And in this town, when the turnout is low, older property owners — the West Side bedrock of NPA support — can be the most counted on to come out and vote.
And they will vote for Ken Sim.