From his condo high above Yaletown, Sam Sullivan points out the perfect view of Vancouver City Hall, where he was a councillor for years, then mayor for a term before being ousted by his own party.
Mr. Sullivan is done with municipal politics, but came to realize that politics was the best place to work on issues of interest to him, so he is trying to get elected next month as the Liberal MLA for Vancouver-False Creek.
“I have a long history in this riding,” says Mr. Sullivan, a resident for a decade of the area, which covers most of downtown Vancouver. Ten years is one thing, but Mr. Sullivan notes he has had a longer impact on the riding through his decisions as city councillor and mayor.
The riding was created in 2008 from pieces of four others – the largest from Vancouver-Burrard, which had swung between the NDP and the Liberals since its 1991 creation. In 2009, Mary McNeil, eventually family-development minister, won Vancouver-False Creek by about double the number of her NDP rival’s votes – 57 per cent to 27 per cent.
But Mr. Sullivan is taking nothing for granted, partly because he says about 9,000 new residents have moved into the riding since 2009, affecting the political dynamic. Also, he admits he’s mindful of polls suggesting the NDP has a massive lead across B.C. “I have to believe that these polls are right. It would mean that I would be possibly behind, so I have to work. I am actually very comfortable coming from behind.”
There’s also the challenge of connecting with voters. The abundant condo towers are daunting for a campaigning politician to penetrate for door-knocking given their level of security. Mr. Sullivan has tried hanging around lobbies, but many residents drive straight in, go up to their units and lock their doors. His NDP rival, Matt Toner, a digital-media executive who entered politics out of alarm about affordability and hard times in the digital media and creative sector, has resorted to handing out dog jackets emblazoned with the NDP logo to connect with the many dog owners in the area. Even Mr. Sullivan, who has taken to carrying dog biscuits to help bond with owners, admits that was a clever idea.
“It’s a big challenge as to how you reach out to these people,” Mr. Sullivan said in an interview in his living room.
Both candidates agree political salesmanship hinges on a good social-media strategy that uses Facebook, Twitter and other tools to connect with voters on issues that concern them. They have been honing their skills in ways they are wary to discuss in detail for tactical reasons.
Fern Jeffries, co-chair of the False Creek Residents Association, is exasperated by the candidates’ bunkered vision of the area. “We certainly agree it is not a traditional suburban neighbourhood, but the sense we’re lonely, isolated gamers is not correct,” she said, citing the vibrancy of the association.
The group has organized an all-candidates meeting this month, and its board has drafted questions reflecting members’ concerns. Among other things, they ask about securing enough schools, hospitals and quality child care for the growing population.
Mr. Toner says the NDP team led by Adrian Dix is an asset against a formidable, smart guy who is well connected and has a great personal story. “These are all the things that stand in his favour, and I am sure Sam would like to make this a one-on-one campaign between him and me. Heck, I’d probably vote for him.”
Riding Snapshot: Vancouver-False Creek
Sam Sullivan B.C. Liberal
Matt Toner B.C. NDP
Ian Tootill B.C. Conservative
Daniel Tseghay Green Party of B.C.
2009 election: Liberal Mary McNeil won the riding with 56.4 per cent of the vote; NDP candidate Jordan Parente came in second with 27.53 per cent; Green candidate Damian Kettlewell was third with 13.11 per cent.
Seniors, 65 and older, in private household: 9 per cent (B.C. average 14 per cent)
Average household income, before tax: $73,201 (B.C. average $67,675)
Source: Elections B.C. and B.C. Stats