I am more convinced than ever that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will not run again. Expect an announcement in the next few months.
And it is likely that, given the departure of so many heavy hitters in the back rooms and longtime councillors deciding not to run, Vision may well collapse as a political force.
Vision’s electoral strength has declined from their first time out of the gate almost 10 year ago. In the 2014 battle, Vision lost the majority on park board, school board and just about lost council.
In this term, the slide has continued. It was not quite two years ago that Robertson’s first chief of staff Mike Magee bailed out after segueing to four months as a “special advisor,” presumably cementing connections with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in Ottawa. The current guy, Kevin Quinlan, lacks the street smarts and connections Magee had.
Geoff Meggs leaving behind his council seat was part of a brain drain of centre-left apparatchiks drawn to the newly formed NDP government in Victoria. Then, a few weeks ago one of the sharpest knives in the Vision council drawer, Andrea Reimer, said she would be cutting her ties at the end of this term, removing a potential mayor candidate once Robertson is gone.
The new election funding legislation passed by Victoria has seriously impeded the kind of big money campaigns of which Vision took advantage. (Their traditional foes, the NPA, will be equally disadvantaged.) But Vision, which at one point had four full time staff, now has none. And they have packed up their offices; I’m told the last person out tiptoed around the boxes of files to scoop a picture of the iconic Vision councillor and one-time (unsuccessful) mayor candidate Jim Green off the wall before the movers turned up.
Much may have been accomplished on Vision’s “greenest city” agenda. But Robertson’s highest priority on first running for office — homelessness — has simply gotten worse. As impressive as the “housing reset” might be to finally deal with the affordability crisis, it will take years if not decades to have any profound effect.
In actual fact, the needle has hardly moved on the affordability issue during Robertson’s time in office. The empty home tax and restraints on short-term rentals have been more symbolic than significant.
This fall has been one bad news story for Robertson after another. Vision got waxed in the byelection to replace Meggs. One Vision insider said when he saw that Vision put up the youthful political rookie Diego Cardona as their candidate it seemed they were raising a white flag. The centre-left vote was split four ways allowing the NPA candidate, Hector Bremner, to come out ahead with a paltry 27 per cent of the ballots.
More recently Robertson got booted out as the chair of the Mayor’s Council on Transportation. As if they smelled blood, he’s been replaced by Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, no friend of Vancouver’s ambitious Broadway SkyTrain project.
The recent Vision city budget shenanigans seems further proof we will soon see Robertson bow out. I cannot recall a government heading for an election that would bring in a budget with a property tax increase that is more than double the rate of inflation; further burdening homeowners, would-be home-owners and tenants alike, all of whom will feel that sting.
And on a pet peeve of mine: For some time I have been asking for a statement from Robertson regarding the Gay Pride Society dumping uniformed police from their annual Gay Pride Parade because portions of the gay community feel “uncomfortable” in their presence. Given this slight to the reputation of the VPD, and the $50,000 civic subsidy, you would think the mayor as chair of the Police Board would have something to say. Not surprisingly, he has chosen to remain mute. He has also, incidentally, failed to turn up for the promised year-end sit down with my colleague Mike Howell.
Finally, if it is any gauge of public sentiment, a recent piece in the Courier went viral when it speculated on the possibility of a Green Party mayor, including a photo of Adriane Carr. Whether Carr would risk her secure council seat is beside the point.
But Robertson’s days certainly seem numbered.
Editor's note: The original version of this column said that Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner had decided not to seek a second term. Mayor Hepner contacted the Courier to say that, to the contrary, she has publicly announced her intention to run as mayor in the October 2018 municipal election. The Courier sincerely regrets the error.