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Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart announces Vancouver mayoral bid

Chief Bob Chamberlin, left, Vice-President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, centre and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, right, are pictured in Vancouver on April 16, 2018.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

A prominent federal New Democrat and Kinder Morgan pipeline opponent has announced he will run as an independent candidate for mayor in Vancouver’s elections this fall.

Kennedy Stewart, a Burnaby MP who has lived in Vancouver for much of his past 30 years, said he wants to pull the city’s progressive voters together to create a better city.

“I’m running for Vancouver because I believe by working together, we can make Vancouver more affordable. I want to make it a more equitable place to live, work and play,” said Mr. Stewart, a Simon Fraser University political-science professor who was involved in Vancouver politics before being elected to the federal government in 2011.

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And he said his protest activities against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which may result in a criminal-contempt charge, will likely appeal to Vancouver voters, who don’t want a pipeline or other kinds of industry in the port.

“The pipeline … made us all step back and think about who we are as a city. We don’t want to be an industrial port. We can accommodate industry but I don’t think Vancouverites want to be known as their city being a major industrial port.”

Mr. Stewart’s entry into the race as an independent is just the latest indication that Vancouver’s traditional left and right parties have been weakened ahead of this election, as they struggle to respond to the city’s housing crisis and grapple with changes to campaign-finance rules.

Mr. Stewart has chosen not to run with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), for whom he once worked as a campaign organizer, or with the Green Party, even though he has been arrested at a pipeline protest with Green MP Elizabeth May, or with the ruling Vision Vancouver.

The traditionally dominant parties on both sides, Vision Vancouver and the centre-right Non-Partisan Association, are floundering and split over candidates, who are being judged on their proposed housing solutions.

Populist groups on both the left and right are advocating for approaches that focus on either taxing the rich or keeping out foreign investors, while more centrist candidates are emphasizing the need for more housing supply and more opportunities to build multi-family housing in single-family neighbourhoods.

On the centre-to-left side, Mr. Kennedy becomes part of a mix that includes environmental advocate Shauna Sylvester running as an independent, Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr talking about running for her party, and a potential candidate from Vision Vancouver.

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But the four parties on that left-to-centre side, which also includes OneCity, haven’t been able to reach agreement on supporting a mayoral candidate. Three of the parties see anyone from Vision as too tainted by past ties to developers, from whom they raised millions during their decade in office.

A similar fracture has appeared on the right and is one of the reasons behind the decision of NPA to bar the run of its recently elected councillor, Hector Bremner. An NPA member filed a complaint with the city of Vancouver alleging that Mr. Bremner was in a conflict of interest when he voted on issues affecting a developer client, Aquilini, of the public-relations company he works for.

Mr. Bremner and his team have seen that as nothing more than a strategy on the part of another NPA mayoral candidate, Glen Chernen, to eliminate a group of new, young people in the party who were advocating for pro-density housing solutions.

Mr. Bremner has also accused some in the party of racism, saying that they constantly raised questions about the eligibility of South Asian members he signed up.

Another mayoral candidate on the right is making the same accusation. Wai Young, a former Conservative Party MP, said she tried to work with the NPA last fall in an effort to get the mayoral nomination. But she said the party refused to allow many of the Chinese-speaking members she signed up to vote in the board elections.

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