So much for playing nice. After months of Vision Vancouver insiders talking about how an independent mayoral candidate would be key to a centre-left victory come the next election, the party is now preparing for the possibility of going it alone.
If the right person surfaces, Vision might still support an independent candidate, said Michael Haack, one of the party’s co-chairs. However, Vision, the party that currently controls council, has now decided to open a mayoral nomination under its own banner as well, he says. “We’ve been speaking and talking with outstanding candidates on all levels.”
Mr. Haack named no names. But of all those floated so far, it appears Shauna Sylvester is the only one with a hand even partway up. Ms. Sylvester, who is currently director of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, is officially still on the fence and would say only she is “giving the decision serious consideration.”
Should Ms. Sylvester decide to run, casting her as an independent might be a hard sell. She once served on the Vision executive and helped found Women of Vision, a party program designed to coach and encourage women to enter municipal politics. Councillor Raymond Louie is another possibility, but he is even more tied to Vision.
Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr, who is open about her own mayoral aspirations, also could not run as an independent. “It would be totally disingenuous,” she says. And Ms. Carr says she would give up her council seat to run for mayor only if it became clear she can win. The Greens are about to start polling to determine her chances, she says. If the numbers don’t work, Ms. Carr says she would support an independent, provided the candidate had stellar sustainability chops.
Party-to-party negotiations have been under way for weeks and the Vancouver and District Labour Council, which orchestrated similar talks during past elections, has also jumped in to help broker a deal. No one is offering many details. But since negotiations began, a few hopefuls have now bailed out, including NDP stalwarts – former MP Libby Davies, serving MP Don Davies and serving MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert.
Finding a mayoral candidate is not the only issue on the table, nor possibly even the most important. The parties are also dickering over how many council candidates to put forward. If the list gets too long, the centre-left vote splits, clearing a path for a win by the right-leaning Non-Partisan Association. A deal will require co-operation from the two biggest players, Vision and the Greens, both of which have incumbent councillors running again.
Vision’s clout is not what it once was. The ruling party has become a lightning rod for Vancouver’s rising property values which have rendered the city increasingly unaffordable. And large union and developer donations, which typically came Vision’s way, are now disallowed under new campaign donation limits. Under these circumstances, co-operation would seem prudent.
So why the talk now about running a Vision mayor? Party insiders say the executive was never of one mind about backing an independent candidate. To settle the question, the party thought it best to let members decide. Opening the field for mayoral nominations under the Vision banner is one way to do that.
There is also concern among all parties that supporting an independent candidate could hamper their own fundraising efforts. Some interpret the new fundraising rules to mean anyone donating to an independent mayoral candidate is now precluded from donating to a party endorsing that candidate.
So now the question becomes, will the other parties on the left be willing to support a Vision mayor? Ms. Sylvester has impeccable credentials on the environmental and civic consultation files. She is the executive director of Carbon Talks, an organization that aims to accelerate a shift to a low-carbon economy, and co-founded Renewable Cities, which guides cities on the carbon-neutral path. There is a decent chance she and Ms. Carr could make common cause. But Ms. Sylvester, Ms. Carr and Mr. Louie would all be a tough swallow for OneCity and COPE, who lean far further left. Still, if the choice is one of them or the NPA, they might just swallow and play along.