Vision’s Ian Campbell can’t have his ‘change’ and eat it, too

Robertson’s legacy could prove a headache for mayoral hopeful

I knew that Vision’s mayoral candidate Ian Campbell was in for a tough slog the first time I heard him speak. The occasion was last Sunday night’s party for 80 or so Vision volunteers awaiting the results to see who their candidates would be for park board, school board and council.

In a short speech, Campbell said going into this election Vision wants to “be the transformation.” It wants “to be the change.” (Applause.)

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On the surface that makes sense. I mean, the NPA’s mayoral candidate Ken Sim was making the same noises when he won his party’s nomination last month. And given the massive turnover that is about to take place on Vancouver’s council, many people are describing this as a “change” election. After all, the majority of people elected to council will never have sat at that table before. And the same can be said for whomever is elected mayor — with the highly unlikely exception of NPA defector Hector Bremner.

But here is the problem as I put it to Campbell: If you are pressing for transformation and change, what is wrong with what is going on now? After all, Vision has held power for the past decade.

He attempted to duck: “We don’t want to see the good work come to a grinding halt.”

To me, that sounds like a stay-the-course position, not one of transition or change.

But what is changing and likely to cause another headache for Campbell is the current mayor, Gregor Robertson, polishing up his legacy on his way out the door.

In the past many months, we have been inundated with announcements of more social housing, more co-op housing, more modular housing and more rental apartments designed for families. All to the good, even though it took Vision three terms to finally get to it.

The housing plan, presented a couple of weeks ago in a back-breaking mass of reports and appendices, had much to commend. Chief city planner Gil Kelley and his staff have the bit in their teeth as it were. It has been all to the good; better late than never.

But wait. While we were all digesting that, Robertson jumps in with a last-minute policy change. The staff has recommended duplexes in all parts of the city as a way to densify and relieve the housing crisis somewhat. Then, as was reported by various news outlets, we have the mayor asking city staff to report back next spring on the possibility of allowing “triplexes, quadplexes and other multi-unit forms to significantly bring down the purchase cost per unit of housing in low density neighbourhoods.”

A few things: There is no evidence that this will increase affordability; community consultation would be nice; and Robertson won’t be around to carry the can.

While other mayoral and council hopefuls make those points and express the view that this should really be the business of the next council, Campbell embraces the idea even though it could be the political equivalent of a grenade with the pin pulled.

Meanwhile, as I write this, the four centre-left mayoral hopefuls — Campbell, former NDP MP for Burnaby South Kennedy Stewart, Shauna Sylvester and Patrick Condon — are sitting down with a Vancouver and District Labour Council screening committee seeking the VDLC’s endorsement heading into October’s election.

The committee will make recommendations to their organization’s executive as well as recommendations about which candidates for park board, school board and council they will endorse. Those recommendations will then be passed on to the VDLC membership for approval next Tuesday.

The front runners for the mayor’s spot would have to be Campbell and Stewart. If Campbell fails to get it, he will still have Vision to back him up in the race. If Stewart fails to secure the endorsement, I’d say he would be done.

Independents have won the mayor’s spot in the past. But you would have to go back to Tom Campbell and Mike Harcourt, both council veterans when they ran.

When Stewart announced he was thinking of running for mayor, he was contacted by a senior Vision operative and told it would be suicidal. Vision was already courting Campbell at that point.

And then there is the small matter of those folks on the centre-right pushing for change and transformation.


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