How Christy Clark lost Metro Vancouver

All politics is local. Nowhere has that been more obvious than in the results of last week’s provincial election, which until the final recount next week remains a work in progress.

It would certainly explain why Christy Clark and her Liberals took such a beating in Metro Vancouver and four Liberal cabinet ministers got the boot.

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Look at Vancouver.

Local politicians tend not to get involved in provincial battles. After all, they have to deal with whoever wins. Even so there is little love lost between the Mayor Gregor Robertson and the provincial Liberals. Think Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Then nine days before the actual vote, while Clark was in a full-blown attack against U.S. president Donald Trump over his imposition of a tariff on softwood lumber, the Liberals shifted a part of their artillery barrage to target Vancouver.

They declared that the city’s latest escalating plan to reduce emissions in new construction projects would result in a “ban” on natural gas. Clark’s gang threatened to amend the Vancouver Charter, weakening the city’s powers over development.

Robertson denied that there was any ban. And with the prospect of the city’s foundational governance document about to be shredded, he joined the battle. Vision councillors actively and publicly supported NDP candidates up to an including pulling the vote on election day. None benefited more than their former council colleague George Chow. He took down Liberal Attorney General Suzanne Anton in the long-held Liberal stronghold of Vancouver-Fraserview.

(One notable Anton supporter was Vision founder and former Vancouver mayor, sort-of-Liberal Senator Larry Campbell. He didn’t respond to my interview request. But I figure it could be payback to Clark’s ex Mark Marissen. He was helping run Clark’s campaign. When Marissen was working for Prime Minister Paul Martin, he had a hand in Campbell getting that Senate gig.)   

But I digress. Through it all, Vision councillors and the mayor laid out a litany of issues where Vancouver’s needs were not being met. There was insufficient support for the opioid crisis; the Liberals are insisting on yet another transit funding referendum, which put federal money at risk; and, finally, there was the slow response to the housing crisis while the province raked in millions in property transfer taxes.

The folks in Surrey were equally peeved about local issues, and that cost Liberal cabinet minister Peter Fassbender his seat. In a piece in the Vancouver Sun earlier this week, Douglas Todd looked at how the Liberals failed to meet the needs of that community’s residents, particularly South Asians.

(The Liberals lost all eight Metro Vancouver ridings with large South Asian populations.)

In Surrey and North Delta, South Asians working in the trucking and taxi industry felt betrayed by the Liberals. Specifically on taxis, the Liberals support cheaper ride-share companies such as Uber.

But, more generally, Surrey residents were upset by the Liberals’ failure to meet education needs by building permanent school rooms for the 7,000 kids who use portables. They also failed to deliver plans for a second Surrey Hospital.

And then there is the issue of toll bridges. Surrey residents feel fenced in. Like a “Mexican Wall.” There’s the Port Mann and soon the new tolled Pattullo Bridge. Then there’s the planned toll bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel.

Finally, there is the small matter of the North Vancouver Lonsdale riding. Clark had campaigned there a number of times to shore up her cabinet minister Naomi Yamamoto. But on Clark’s last visit, in a small Iranian produce store just off of 15th and Lonsdale, she bumped into Linda Higgins, a retired government employee. Higgins managed to get exactly nine words out of her mouth: “I would not vote for you because of what …” then Christie brushed her off. Rude, but not politically fatal, until Marissen (see above) back at Liberal campaign HQ tweeted Higgins was “an NDP plant.”  

That turned out to be a total fabrication. #IamLinda hit the Twitter-sphere and began trending, producing mounds of anti-Christy vitriol. It took five days for Clark to recant. By then the damage was done.

While it wasn’t the only factor — there were grievances about transportation and housing, too — it was a significant factor in Yamamoto being dumped and replaced by the NDP rookie Bowinn Ma.


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