For well over a year before this election, activisits on the left and centre had been discussing what to do about Vision Vancouver. There were endless discussions about the possibility of putting together an anti-Vision slate; but most of these debates bogged down as they tend to do.
Bill McCreery and others put together a revival of the 1980s TEAM party. During the winter of 2013-14 there were extensive meetings between TEAM and Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) which had run candidates in 2011. The belief and hope was that a joint-party would become the organizational base for an effective anti-Vision slate. As usual in many such cases, egos on both sides put an end to that dream, and within a few months, both TEAM and NSV had collapsed as effective mass organizations and neither ran candidates.
Their failure to come together rang loudly through the pre-election scramble for an alternative to the ruling regime. There were talks with COPE (before their nominations) and there were hopes, always likely to be dashed, that the Greens might join in. But all talks of an amalgamated opposition had quietened down by summer.
Alternatives did arise, of course. Vancouver First took the right wing position (although only on Parks Board to begin with), while the NPA got their act together and took over the mainstream right-of-centre arc; and the Greens placed themselve as centrist-progressives, I guess. That leaves COPE, OneCity, and the Cedar Party to consider.
The Cedar Party: This was very brave, for two apolitical brothers to set up a political party in order to publicize what they saw as, at least, incompetence by Vision Vancouver and City staff in the management of landuse and zoning and contracting. This was more a mission than a campaign; but both Glen and Nicholas learned quickly and by the end were able to hold their own in Town Hall and all-candidates’ meetings. Once they recognized that they could hang their hat on the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods’ “Principles & Goals” document, they were able to spread the gospel of transparent collaboration and they deserved more than the 9,000 votes they got. I’ll be interestested to see what the brothers decide to do next.
Even the Left Front must be amazed at the campaign sparkle that Meena Wong brought to her role as COPE‘s mayoral candidate. They knew well in advance that Union money wasn’t coming their way this year, and I often got the impression this campaign was going to be simply a holding action to cement their position in the DTES. But Meena Wong wasn’t having any of that. Her fierce rhetoric and obvious passion lit up the campaign and at least put COPE in a position to survive. Unfortunately, she didn’t wear well as the campaign went on and she received closer scrutiny. In the end, she didn’t seem cut out for the executive duties of civic office. She might find provincial or federal politics a better fit.
Personally I am happy to see the party do as well as it did because we need a genuine left-wing party in Vancouver. It might as well be COPE.
OneCity, the group that evolved from a COPE breakaway, and is bolstered by some solid progressives in the background, ran what was in my opinion the best campaign of any party. They produced good clean policy-oriented statements on important issues, used well-produced videos, weren’t afraid of a bit of fun. R.J. Aquino turned out to be a fine candidate who spoke well at the various meetings. I remember that even from their earliest meeting, OneCity was always aimed at 2018, and I’m sure the 30,000 votes they atracted this time will encourage them to stay in the game.
My prefered type of governance in Vancouver remains a two-member ward system with no parties and strict financial rules. In the absence of that before 2018, I suspect that one of the possible trajectories for OneCity would be to gradually replace COPE. But I don’t favour that myself, because there is a place for COPE as a left-wing alternative. I would prefer that OneCity gradually take over the labour and progressive side of Vision Vancouver, leaving Vision’s more corporatist developer-matrix to be sucked up by a revived NPA. Vision would thus be disposed of from both ends. We would then have a reasonable continuum of choice: COPE – OneCity – NPA – Vancouver First. But that begs the question: where then lies the Greens?