It’s been quite a week. Archie Andrews is dead, Thor is now a woman, Weird Al Yankovic’s latest album has been lauded as “brilliant” by critics, and Kirk LaPointe is the NPA’s candidate for mayor.
Yes, to the surprise of literally no one, the former managing editor of the Vancouver Sun and former CBC ombudsman made the announcement on Monday.
Anyone with even a passing interest in what goes on at Vancouver City Hall has known for months that Mr. LaPointe was in talks with the NPA. But now that it’s official, I find myself slightly confused about the choice. Mr. LaPointe is generally regarded as a decent, intelligent, progressive, thoughtful and pragmatic guy. My own dealings with him have led me to draw the same conclusion.
So why would a person like that want to sully themselves in the area of civic politics in this city? And why would they want to do it under the banner of the NPA, a political brand that (for me anyway) conjures images of backroom deals and grey-haired men in top hats lighting cigars with hundred-dollar bills. Not a fair image, I’ll admit – the NPA in recent history has twice put a woman on the ticket as its mayoral candidate, and no one has actually seen them burning money.
By way of explaining his decision, Mr. LaPointe says he’s at a stage in his life where it’s time to move from asking questions to finding solutions – which is pretty much what you would expect a journalist-turned-politician to say. He wants more transparency at city hall but at the same time notes that lack of transparency in the selection process that made him the NPA’s candidate.
Outside of the murky back rooms, the NPA, which spent $2.5-million fighting the last civic election, has cast itself as the underdog in this contest, battling the deep-pocketed and well-organized Vision Vancouver, which it asserts is beholden to developers and an ideology that dances on the fringes of day-to-day civic issues. The NPA is David to Vision’s Goliath, who is not nearly as lumbering or as near-sighted as Malcolm Gladwell would have us believe.
Many years ago, long-time NPA city councillor George Puil told me that the NPA wasn’t a political party at all, but rather, a like-minded group of individuals who came together before elections to identify and support worthy candidates, then retreat until the next election. Since then, there have been moves to transform the NPA into a proper political party, but none of those efforts have taken hold. As it stands now, the NPA bills itself as an electoral organization dedicated to keeping party politics out of elected civic boards.
The perception, however – fair or unfair – remains that the NPA puts business and development ahead of social issues, and holding the line on property taxes ahead of spending money on bike lanes. It is seen as centre-right.
In the little that we know about Mr. LaPointe’s platform so far, we have learned that he is intent on reforming the way neighbourhoods are consulted when it comes to community plans, that he would like the city’s budgeting process to be more transparent and understandable, and that he thinks the mayor is overreaching in his demand for a $2-billion subway line through the Broadway corridor. We know that he would like a campaign free from personal attacks and instead focus on the meaningful debate of ideas. He would also like city-wide free WiFi.
None of that really defines or distinguishes him – he has promised the more detailed and specific planks of his platform will be revealed over the marathon of the campaign.
In the meantime, Mr. LaPointe says he is not receiving any financial support from the NPA during the course of the campaign. He told reporters during a coffee meeting that preceded his official announcement that the party indicated early on that if he decided to run he would play a major part in shaping policy. How much of the campaign will be up to him? “I believe that in accepting the nomination as the mayoral candidate that I am in charge of the NPA now,” he said.
This is going to be interesting.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver. @cbcstephenquinn