The mayoral candidate for the party that has ruled Vancouver for a decade dropped out of the election campaign abruptly Monday, a move that prompted new calculations in the complex calculus of this fall's municipal election.
Squamish hereditary chief Ian Campbell, who had been touted as Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate since June and the city’s first-ever Indigenous candidate for a major civic party, issued a vague statement to accompany his decision.
“With the deadline quickly approaching to formally enter the race, I’ve reflected on the political landscape and my complicated personal journey,” said the statement. “When I put all these pieces together, it seems clear that the best choice is for me to withdraw as candidate for Mayor of Vancouver.”
Vision spokesman Michael Haack, in the same statement, said: “Ian Campbell informed the party this afternoon of his decision to withdraw from the race. We have accepted his decision and support his choice to not move forward.”
There were no stated public reasons for his withdrawal from the race, but Mr. Campbell faced a bleak electoral scene.
It’s a move that some say means the death of the 13-year-old party that was created when a group of politicians split off from the city’s traditional left-wing party, the Coalition of Progressive Electors. “This means the party is in the twilight of its days,” said former Vision executive director Ian Baillie. “It’s clearly going to be a party that had a good run but wasn’t able to transition. It’s definitely the end of an era.”
Vision Vancouver advertised itself as a party that could be home to labour unions and developers, left-wingers and centrists.
After 10 years in power, the Vision Vancouver party and Mayor Gregor Robertson had provoked a lot of anger and disappointment among residents for not having grappled with the city’s housing crisis soon enough, among other things.
Mr. Campbell, a previously little-known councillor with the Squamish Nation on Vancouver’s North Shore, was showing up as only third in local polls as voters’ choice for mayor. The local labour-union association, which had previously always endorsed Mr. Robertson, declined to do the same for Mr. Campbell.
Instead, the Vancouver District and Labour Council endorsed federal NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who is running as an independent, saying that he wants to unite the city’s progressive parties.
The campaign for the Oct. 20 civic election has already proven to be one of the strangest in many decades, as anger over the city’s housing problems has dominated conversations at the same time that parties no longer have the ability to fundraise without limits.
In a city where the two major campaigns easily spent $2-million apiece on campaigns that included intense phone-banking and big media ads, there’s a palpable sense of change in the air as they now struggle to raise enough to pay for a few billboards.
That has prompted a surge of new parties and candidates, several of them independent, to a race that suddenly feels open. But it has meant that both the right and the left are watching their votes fracture.
Mr. Campbell’s departure is good news for the remaining mayoral candidates on the left, Mr. Stewart and policy adviser Shauna Sylvester, who now only have two on their side, while there are at least four mayoral candidates competing on the right.
Mr. Campbell’s abrupt departure is a new blow for Vision Vancouver, whose organizers had hoped that, even if Mr. Campbell didn’t win, his candidacy would give the party a positive glow that would pay off in the 2022 election.
Parties without mayoral candidates typically get less media attention, so Mr. Campbell’s departure is bad news for the council, school-board, and park-board candidates running with Vision.