Opinion: NPA boost could come from left field

This is not your father’s NPA.

Sitting in the party’s election headquarters with their campaign manager Doug Leung last Friday, I noted the space, across the street from city hall was, well, modest.

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“This is proof,” Leung said. “We do not have lots of money.”

This comes from a party that spent $2.5 million in both the 2008 and 2011 campaigns. And outspent their Vision opponents by the way.

One difference now is that they may not have their generous sugar daddy Rob Macdonald who last time out provided the NPA with free campaign space and a cheque for $960,000.

He has since been (quietly) pushed off the NPA executive and into the shadows following a scurrilous attack on Gregor Robertson around the mayor’s split with his wife.

The other thing the NPA doesn’t have is a mayoral candidate in Kirk LaPointe with any political experience or a significant public profile.

Although he’s trying to fix the profile part. At the time of my visit to NPA’s headquarters, LaPointe was off preaching to the converted at the Arbutus Rotary Club.

Leung directed my attention to a young woman who seemed constantly on the phone. She was booking LaPointe’s time for everything from debate dates to neighbourhood walkabouts, to his “Ask me anything” session at the Terminal City Club

Yet in spite of his relative anonymity and his lack of experience, he is doing remarkably well.

In a poll by Justason Market Intelligence released this summer, among decided voters LaPointe was sitting at 41 per cent with Robertson at 59 per cent.

And that is not much different than the results of the last election when Robertson (54 per cent) beat out Suzanne Anton (41 per cent.) So at the very least, LaPointe is holding on to the NPA base vote coming out of the gate.

The question now is really a two-parter. What will cause LaPointe to grow and what will cause Robertson to shrink.

LaPointe does not seem to be getting much traction on his few policy pronouncements, which at times seem either poorly thought out or downright confusing.

His announcement to be greener than green by opposing a new garbage-burning incinerator or gasification plant to dispose of Vancouver’s garbage in opposition to what Robertson and Vision are up to was simply uninformed. Vision has opposed incinerators and is, at this point arguably no fan of gasification without considerable further study.

As for the Arbutus Corridor, if I’ve got this right, first LaPointe said it wasn’t worth the money CPR was asking, next he said the city should offer more, now he is offended because Robertson is seeking an injunction to stop any further clearing of the tracks pending a deal. He says the move is “desperate.”

It could, of course just be a negotiating tactic. And it would certainly please the well-heeled locals who would otherwise vote for the NPA.

LaPointe’s announcement this week about reducing times when parking meters have to be fed was a gift to car owners and hardly green.

The problem, as my colleague Mike Howell points out, is that LaPointe was unable to find out just what this would mean in lost revenues and therefore which city services would have to be cut as a result of this move.

As for LaPointe’s commitment to more transparency, consultation and access to information, well, even Vision says it is committed to that.

But bring it on, I say, although I don’t know that it will be such a great vote-getter.

What could help LaPointe close the gap and cause Robertson grief literally comes out of left field. That would be COPE’s mayoral candidate Meena Wong, who announced since the last poll.

She is getting oodles of positive ink for her assault on owners of empty homes and the related issue of affordability.

She is also on about the growing income disparity and raising wages in the city.

“She is definitely a factor,” according to pollster Barb Justason. Her presence on the scene could draw votes from the grumpy folks who voted for Vision in the past and are now seeking a new home.

Meanwhile, Justason has people in the field, and for what it is worth we should have new numbers next week.

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