Some advice for the winners in Vancouver’s election

Whew! While some campaign signs are still up, the election is finally over.

I spent election night at CTV’s Vancouver studio with outgoing NPA councillor George Affleck, former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, pollster Mario Canseco and Gordon Price.

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One of the most exciting and nerve-racking election night decisions is when a candidate should be declared “elected.”

It was easy for CTV’s Decision Desk to “kill Corrigan” and declare Mike Hurley Burnaby’s new mayor. But many were surprised how early CTV declared Kennedy Stewart’s victory, including those over at Global TV.

While there were some anxious moments for the CTV team as the evening wore on and Ken Sim closed the gap, ultimately the “Decision Desk” was astutely correct.

Ten years ago, I was an NPA council candidate. While my 44,353 votes would have put me in ninth place this year, I was 1,524 votes short of a council seat when I ran.

This year, 61 of the 71 candidates running for council also lost. While some were fringe candidates, many others were highly credible, and are no doubt still hurting over the results.

Don’t despair.

As Brita Owen once told me, her husband Philip Owen ran unsuccessfully many times before eventually winning a park board seat. He went on to become one of Vancouver’s most beloved and respected mayors.

This year, name recognition was a major factor in who got elected. But so was the ballot design. Just ask Vision’s long-serving councillor Heather Deal who was listed last on the ballot because of the new randomized order and did not get re-elected. More about this in a future column.

Now I would like to offer some advice to the winners.

Kennedy Stewart, while I was critical of aspects of your campaign, congratulations on your victory. You say you are willing to work across party lines, and I hope you will continually demonstrate this. A good start will be to appoint Green and NPA councillors to the Metro Vancouver Board and Council committees.

You might also want to borrow an idea from Philip Owen and host a monthly TV show during which residents can phone in to voice concerns and support for your actions.

Adriane Carr, congratulations on again topping the polls. I endorsed you and the Green Party’s Housing Plan since while no one can “fix” housing affordability, many of your ideas could contribute to a more affordable Vancouver. I look forward to seeing how you, Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe implement your ideas.

Jean Swanson, we have known each other since the mid-’70s when as a CMHC architect and Social Housing program manager, I participated in the development of new Downtown Eastside projects including the first renovated SROs. You were a force to be reckoned with then.

In 2008, as a volunteer with the Building Community Society, I was shocked to discover the shelter component of welfare had not been increased for 14 years. I proposed that you and I jointly write a Vancouver Sun op-ed urging the provincial government to increase the amount.

Sadly, you and your colleagues rejected the idea fearing this would only put more money in landlord’s pockets. You were wrong, but now that you’re on council, I hope you will become more understanding of real estate economics.

Also, please abandon your call for a four-year rent freeze. It is beyond the city’s mandate and completely inappropriate unless you’re going to freeze property taxes, maintenance and operating expenses as well.

Christine Boyle, everyone speaks highly of you, including my wife and daughter. However, I was disturbed by your party’s call for the downzoning of the Little Mountain property to rental only. While this property has been mismanaged by the province, city and developer, any downzoning at this stage would be a reckless act for a municipal government.

Finally, to all the NPA councillors, congratulations. More than two thirds of the items to be brought before you will relate to planning and development. While Melissa DeGenova and Colleen Hardwick understand planning, I’m afraid the rest of you must now learn the difference between FSR, UPA and Site Coverage.

Early next year, the Urban Development Institute will again offer its Development 101 course for new politicians. I hope you and other council colleagues will attend since none of us wants to see housing affordability as the number one issue in the 2022 election.


Note: this column has been updated since first published.


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