Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2008 Vancouver Mayoral Race - Oh What a Race It Shall Be

Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

2008 Vancouver Mayoral Race - Oh What a Race it Shall Be

The 2008 Vancouver Mayoral race most likely will be the most open race that we have seen in quite some time. Normally, the citizens are offered up two main contenders with a bunch of no-name candidates thrown in, however, this is all about to change in the 2008 race. Already, we have the incumbent Mayor, Sam Sullivan, announcing he will be standing for re-election. Many of my readers will be aware that Mr. Sullivan squeaked by his main competitor, Jim (not James) Green in the 2005 race. James (not Jim) Green though as an independent Mayoral candidate received over 4,000 votes. Not bad considering that James Green was a relatively unknown personality in Vancouver. Mr. Jim Green believes the other Green stole many of his votes because of their sharing of the same surname.

But really, Mr. Jim Green had made many enemies in Vancouver progressive movements who to this day, have enormous mistrust of the American-born Green. Needless to say, many of these voters, most likely chose to vote for James Green and in other cases, publicly chose to support Sam Sullivan. A number of citizens may have also voted the Workless party Mayoral candidate, Ben West, who received a couple thousand votes. These circumstances all tied together, was the most likely scenario of denying Mr. Jim Green, the keys to the city.

Notables citizens voting for Mr. Sullivan included Connie Fogal-Rankin, widow of longstanding City Councillor, Harry Rankin. Ann Livingston, a Downtown Eastside activist, well known for her compassionate care of drug addicts also voiced her support for Sam as did former longtime friend of Mr. Green, Don Larsen. Of course, this blogwriter, asked many of her supporters to vote anyone but Jim Green.

So when looking ahead to the 2008 Mayoral race, it seems clear that a number of prominent citizens want the Mayor's chair. It could be that the 2010 Olympics are an enticement. Mr. James Green, states he is running again in 2008. With his name recognition being higher this time around, expect his committed vote base to be around 10,000 votes. This is the number which better-known independent candidates typically receive.

In 1999, this blogger received close to 11,000 votes in an independent run for council. In 1999, former Councillor, Jonathan Baker, ran for Mayor as an independent and received 10,000 votes and in the 2005 election, well-known news columnist, Mr. Kevin Potvin, as an independent garnered 10,000 votes.

Now couple these facts with conflict within the two dominant Vancouver municipal parties, NPA and COPE and with the emergence of a break-a-way faction of COPE, known as Vision, consequently a number of factors may significantly impact the 2008 Mayoral race.

Dr. Fred Bass, a two-term COPE Councillor, who topped the polls in the 2002 election, has already stated his intentions to run for Mayor. He hopes to be supported by COPE and the Vancouver Green party, however, this may not happen as a group called the gang of juveniles (G7) and their Nanny gained control of the COPE executive at its May annual meeting. The G7 and their Nanny are more open to Vision and actually desire an alliance with Vision. A strong majority of members of COPE, self-styled as KEEP it COPE are not open to Vision and they support Dr. Fred Bass and well respected former Councillor, Tim Louis.

Mr. Louis has already announced his support of Mr. Bass and this has upset the lone COPE City Councillor, David Cadman, who has recently articulated his hope of being the 2008 Mayoral candidate endorsed by Vision and COPE.

Mr. Cadman endorsed the G7 and so internal matters within COPE are still a long way from being settled. In regard to who the COPE or Vision Mayoral candidate may be is still up in the air. In fact, its likely that Vision, COPE and the Green party, may actually each run their own candidate for Mayor since these groups are probably not likely to broker a deal of co-operation. Each one of these parties realize if they do not run a Mayoral candidate, their chances of electing a number of from-their-party Councillors, School Trustees or Park Commissioners is extremely difficult.

On the other side of the political spectrum, many within the ruling NPA are uneasy with Mayor Sam Sullivan. The NPA traditionally has been independent in their political affiliations and this has worked to their advantage. They have been the traditional governing party in Vancouver civic elections since the 1930's.

However, Mayor Sullivan since being elected in 2005 has been snuggling up to the right-wing Conservative party lead by Mr. Stephen Harper. Plus Mr. Sullivan has gone way too far in his drug approach and this has unsettled many NPA'ers including former long-serving NPA Mayor, Philip Owen.

This unrest within the NPA ranks played out at the recent NPA annual general meeting in April when members concerned over the direction of their party, endorsed candidates to the executive board who had been encouraged to run by Councillor Ladner. These candidates, backed by Councillor Ladner beat out nominees supported by Mr. Sullivan. How this will play out in the lead up to the 2008 election is still uncertain, however, there appears likely to be a show-down between Councillor Ladner, who is being strongly encouraged to run for Mayor and those loyal to Mayor Sullivan.

Enter into the municipal fray, one very outspoken former supporter of Mr. Sullivan, Alex G Tsakumis, a longtime member of the NPA. Mr. Tsakunis is making a name of late with his sought after and very astute political commentaries. Alex G Tsakumis hails from the Greek community and I suspect this community would love nothing more than seeing their favourite home-grown son aspire to the Mayor's chair. Add to the fact that Vancouverites love characters as their Mayors and this is in Mr. Tsakumis' favour. In fact, someone has likened Alex G Tsakumis as Larry Campbell with a brain. While, this may or may not be helpful to Mr. Tsakumis, who has previously ruled out a run for Mayor, confidential sources close to this engaging man, confirm that he is still very much mulling over a possible run.

While the aforementioned political commentary is based on fact, I know my readers expect me to inject some likely outcomes to these scenarios. So here goes.

I expect that the Fred Bass/Tim Louis KEEP it COPE faction will attempt and quite possibly regain control of the COPE executive at their next AGM scheduled for May, 2008, a mere six months before the November 2008 election. If this happens, all talks with Vision are off. If, on the other hand, the G7 keeps control of the COPE executive, I suspect that David Cadman will be the Vision/COPE Mayoral candidate with an agreement that Jim Green be endorsed by COPE as a Council candidate.

The KEEP it COPE faction of COPE are acutely aware of what the return of Jim Green to council would bring and most likely, they will walk away from the party if this happens. Keep it COPE members would strongly encourage Dr. Fred Bass to maintain his announced run for Mayor so they have somewhere to park their votes, especially which they would feel ethically good about.

On the other hand, if Keep it COPE retains control of COPE, expect Vision, who could never support a Bass candidacy or Tim Louis to run a Mayoral candidate other than Councillor David Cadman. The only reason Vision is in possible agreement with David Cadman running for Mayor, according to confidential sources, is he would collapse COPE into Vision. This would allow Vision to have complete control of the municipal centre left or at least this is what they think. This same anonymous source claims that Vision, if the keep it COPEsters regains control of COPE, will drop Cadman like a fly and run a Mayoral candidate with a high profile. Councillor Cadman feeling a sense of betrayal not once but twice will pack it in and retire.

Back to the NPA. No question, Councillor Ladner will be encouraged to challenge Mayor Sullivan for the NPA mayoral nomination, but this will only happen if the NPA executive agrees to an open nomination process. If there is an open nomination meeting, the chances of Mr. Ladner winning is very real, especially if you take into consideration, how his candidates for the executive beat out those endorsed by Mayor Sullivan. Moreover, many members of NPA are quietly stating they feel more comfortable with the centrist-leaning Councillor Ladner leading the party.

If Councillor Peter Ladner is to prevail, most likely, the incumbent Mayor, Sam Sullivan, would run as an Independent, financially backed by supporters loyal to the Stephen Harper led Conservative party. If this happens, I don't think Mayor Sullivan can win as the Conservative party is not well-liked in Vancouver.

In fact, if Mr. Tsakumis enters the race as an Independent, we could potentially have six very high profile Mayoral candidates and with a limited number of votes available, the candidates would need to run very good campaigns based on policy issues. They would all need good volunteer teams since the election would have less to do with how well financed a campaign is.

And with so many qualified candidates vying for Mayor, chances are those running for Councillor, School and Parks board would line up behind their favoured Mayoral candidate. This could very well contribute to the breaking down of the municipal party system, which has historically represented special interests, rather than the average voting citizen.

And in my humble opinion, any candidate running for Mayor will need to formally stake out a position on safety for sex trade workers since the public is quite fed up with this ongoing blight on Vancouver. Three consecutive Mayors haven't adequately addressed this issue and with significant and ongoing media coverage on this matter, I suspect, citizens will place it as one of their top concerns, in the 2008 election.

With our municipal election only 17 months away. stay tuned folks for what will be a very interesting year.

Jamie Lee Hamilton