Vancouver’s ruling party is keeping all of its options open as it scrambles to deal with the bombshell announcement that its mayoral candidate pulled out of the race four days before the deadline to file papers to run.
The Vision Vancouver board needs to decide by Friday how – and if – it will replace Ian Campbell, who withdrew from the race on Monday. Their decision could change the course of this year’s election, but could also have long-term ramifications for the future of the party that has been in power for the past decade.
Among the board’s options are appointing a new mayoral candidate, offering some kind of support or affiliation to one of the two declared independent candidates running on the left end of the political spectrum – policy analyst Shauna Sylvester and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart – or letting individual party members to endorse whomever they wish.
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Some party members have already made their views known. Vision councillors Kerry Jang and Tim Stevenson, both with strong links to the provincial NDP, told CBC News on Tuesday that they support Mr. Stewart – something that isn’t the party’s official position.
“The interesting thing about the Vision family is that there are people who like Shauna and there are just as many who like Kennedy, and there is also a strong belief in the Vision brand and values,” said Ange Valentini, Vision’s executive director. “There’s a wide variety of views – you’ll see more of that in the next 24 hours.”
Both Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Sylvester say they plan to continue running as independent candidates and they aren’t looking for an endorsement from Vision, although both say they’d like to get as much support as possible from all the left-of-centre parties.
“I didn’t want to be a Vision mayor and I don’t want to be one now,” said Ms. Sylvester, who says she was approached by the party last October to do that and turned it down.
Mr. Campbell stunned the city’s political world when he issued a statement late on Monday saying he was withdrawing from the race as he reflected on his “complicated personal journey.”
According to sources, Vision campaigners found out late last week that Mr. Campbell had issues in his background that were not disclosed. Mr. Campbell hasn’t spoken publicly since his statement on Monday. Campaign organizer Ginger Gosnell-Myers said Mr. Campbell “is taking some time for himself and family and does not want to engage any further.”
Vision Vancouver has received criticism for its handling of the housing crisis, among other files. Losing its mayoral candidate means losing the most public face of the party and its biggest draw for voters.
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“It’s definitely a sign of the imminent demise of Vision Vancouver. Vision was only able to succeed when it had Gregor Robertson as a figurehead,” said political commentator Mike Klassen, who has previously run as a candidate with the centre-right Non-Partisan Association (NPA), Vision Vancouver’s main opponent.
But one of Vision’s founders said the party is far from dead and still has a lot of appeal for voters. Marcella Munro, who is now a communications consultant in Alberta, said both Vision and the NPA still have assets they can draw on to win the mayor’s seat as well as spots on city council. The parties each have a big database with the names of previous supporters.
“What Vision needs to focus on now," Ms. Munro said, "is taking advantage in terms of their ability to talk directly people who supported them in the past.”