There was a lively debate at SFU Harbourside last night, with the four main mayoral contenders. The sold-out meeting was packed into a small and hot room, but it was a good chance to review the candidates’ performances over the weeks of campaigning and to see how much they have learned in that time.
If anyone was seeing Meena Wong (COPE) for the first time last night, they would have been deeply disappointed. She was the least disciplined of the candidates and proved to be the least likely to actually answer the question before her. It also became clear that she was supporting some unsupportable policies. All in all this was a shame because, whether or not one agreed with what she was saying, during most of the campaign she has shown the most passion for the job. It was her performance over the last few weeks that has saved COPE from obscurity. But it was her performance last night that placed her fourth out of four.
Gregor Robertson (Vision) repeated Vision’s pre-written talking points almost by rote, though he was still cheered loudly by the many Vision supporters in the room. What I hope the audience, live and online, saw was his habit of rolling his eyes and shaking his head whenever he was criticized. Those of us who have faced him at Council hearings have seen that same arrogant why-should-I-bother expression so many times. You would have thought that Magee and his handlers would have smacked that out of him long ago. But there it was again last night. Nothing new. He came third in my opinion.
Bob Kasting (Independent) is the best mayor we shall never have. He won the debate hands down last night, and not only because he had all the best lines. He showed, by his common sense, by his moderation, by his clear grasp of what is wrong with the City today, by his considered non-ideology, that he would make an exceptional manager of the City’s business. This is especially true if there were to be — as many of us hope — a Council without a one-party majority. He would definitely be the best man to pull those threads together and make them work. Last night he showed everything about why I endorsed him the day he announced. Unfortunately, in our system, he cannot win against the organized parties and their money. And we need someone to win to ensure that Vision’s one-party dictatorship doesn’t go on for another four years.
Which brings us to Kirk LaPointe (NPA). He didn’t do badly last night; I would place him in second after Bob. He seemed a little weary, and he needs to lighten up his tone a bit and smile more. But he answered well even against Robertson’s heavy-handed attacks. I have become convinced over this campaign that he has revived the NPA back to its classic neighbourhood-friendly position of the early and mid 1990s when they brought in CityPlan and the Four Pillars strategy. I agree the NPA is still the party of the businessman, big and small — but that is so much more workable for community activists than Vision, which has become the tool of a single industry. It is definitely more progressive to go forward with a revised CityPlan than to plunge into a future dominated by the greed of realtors, developers, and their Vision Party cronies.
Therefore, I will be voting Kirk LaPointe for Mayor of Vancouver.