In pod we trust: Courier columnist explores Vancouver politics in new podcast

First episode of Vancouver Overcast goes behind the scenes of the NPA organization

Will the NPA be rocked by its forthcoming board election? How will the public react to the intense growth of the Senakw development in Kitsilano? Is Vancouver’s “woke” voter base too fickle to be counted on at election time?

These are some of the questions discussed in a new podcast I launched this month titled Vancouver Overcast.

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The name is not just a riff on the persistent grey weather conditions we endure here. My goal is to establish a channel where listeners can discover more about Vancouver and hear from some of its thought leaders.

There are several fine podcasts providing local perspectives, including the BIV Today business program, Price Talks, the Cambie Report and the podcast among others. The Toronto-based Herle Burly podcast — featuring prominent Liberal and Conservative campaign insiders — became my go-to source for analysis on the federal election.

Just as digital streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ are disrupting TV broadcasting, podcasts (which are short audio programs you can download to a smart phone or home listening device) are now showing strong growth among older audiences who have been slow to embrace the format.

2019 statistics indicate there are more than 750,000 active podcasts and more than 30 million podcast episodes. By comparison, there are more than 23 million YouTube channels, according to a 2018 survey, and hundreds of millions of episodes, if not more.

And to think we once complained about having 500 satellite TV channels.

The audiences are miniscule when compared to the heyday of big broadcast television events, but so were radio audiences a century ago. The room to grow for this do-it-yourself media culture seems, today at least, positively limitless.

My decision to go from a podcast listener to a creator involved a learning curve, but thankfully there are countless resources to guide you on to the medium, within your personal budget.

Even with the equipment in place, and an understanding of music licensing and podcast publishing, nothing prepares you better for that first episode than to hit the record button and start talking.

For the debut, I enlisted the help of two friends to talk about city politics. George Affleck is a former two-term NPA councillor who co-hosts his own current events podcast, Unspun, at He joined me along with Rob McDowell, a two-time city NPA council candidate and frequent podcast collaborator with urban planner and former NPA councillor Gordon Price.

Any plans to ease into podcasting went out the window when Affleck warned me he had a family commitment to keep, and we had just about 45 minutes before he had to leave.

So, with just seconds to adjust the mic levels, I pressed the bright red record button and our discussion began on a range of heady topics.

Though the conversation may have been impromptu, I am pleased that during our talk I gained new perspectives from my guests.

Some of the most animated discussion surrounded the Vancouver NPA political organization. Currently, five of the 11 members of city council were elected under the NPA banner. This coming Monday the association is holding a determinative board election that will (once again) shape its future as a local political force.

Affleck and McDowell, who both have long experience with the organization, lamented how many times the NPA with the help of its board wrongfooted itself before elections. Too often, they argued, board members put their own political priorities ahead of supporting the elected caucus, or focusing on voter outreach and fundraising to keep the association relevant and sustainable.

“It’s really hard to find people who want to be behind the scenes for four years. Most of them are just wannabe politicians,” Affleck contends.

“The only governance the board of the NPA should be doing is the governance of the NPA — get away from the people who are elected.”

Their concerns about the organization could fall on deaf ears, however. Several NPA board candidates for Monday’s contest come from fringe elector organizations that failed to elect a single representative last year.

For more on my conversation with Affleck and McDowell and for future discussions with interesting people from our region, I invite you to subscribe to the Vancouver Overcast podcast, available now on all popular streaming services.


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