I've never really thought of civic election campaigns as containing many surprises. They are generally predictable, and in Vancouver this one is playing out pretty much as I had imagined.
But there have been several – well, I won't call them revelations, that's too strong. Let's call them teachable moments. Here's what I've learned so far:
1) Park Board candidate Jamie Lee Hamilton feels very strongly about fish 'n' chips.
This week, Ms. Hamilton issued a news release "demanding action on why the Cactus Club refuses to put the affordable fish n chips on their take out menu." The Cactus Club in question is the English Bay location, which, as part of its lease agreement with the Park Board, was required to operate a take-out window. While the menu offers relatively affordable burgers, fish tacos and the famous Feenie Weenie, it does not serve fish 'n' chips. Ms. Hamilton claims the restaurant is "displaying a reckless disregard for Park Board governance" by omitting the menu item. A search of city records yielded no specific mention of fish and chips, fish & chips or fish 'n' chips. In its operating agreement with the Park Board, approved in June, 2010, the only reference to specific menu items is that the Cactus Club intended to offer "a far greater selection than traditional concession food." To Ms. Hamilton, however, the absence of fish 'n' chips amounts to the denial of a public benefit.
2) There are people who put "Ken Denike and Sophia Woo for School Board" signs on their lawns.
You may recall that both Mr. Denike and Ms. Woo were punted from the NPA after issuing a news release suggesting that the Vancouver School Board's new policy to accommodate transgendered students was not going over well with west-side realtors and could negatively affect the enrolment of international students in Vancouver public schools. At the time, Mr. Denike said realtors were primarily concerned about the quality of education, but finally conceded that property values may also be a concern. Clearly, the two former NPA trustees aren't the only ones to draw the connection between barrier-free washrooms in schools and the value of west-side homes. I counted close to a dozen signs along a short stretch of King Edward Avenue.
3) The city's elections office could do a better job of vetting online candidate profiles.
Yes, I know, the profiles are submitted verbatim and published without the content altered in any way and the views expressed are not endorsed by the City of Vancouver. And yes, we have a long tradition of many colourful candidates running for mayor. And I'm not even complaining about Cherryse Kaur Kaiser who, according to her profile, lives in the "udder bliss of my Milky Way Universal breast vortex." No, I'm thinking more about mayoral candidate Meynard Aubichon, who is not a stickler when it comes to punctuation, and whose anti-Asian and anti-Chinese comments remain on the city's website. Surely there are limits when it comes to allowing candidates to describe themselves.
4) It is possible to be too calm.
I have interviewed NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe several times since the campaign began, and also spoken with him casually off the record. As far as his delivery goes, there is little difference in his level of animation, which, on one hand, I appreciate. I get that he is trying to be the opposite of hysterical or hyperbolic. I also get that he is a serious runner and that his resting heart rate is like 18 beats per minute or something. But even on the radio you can hear the sport jacket slung over his shoulder, held casually with two fingers. I don't think I'm alone in saying that your key policy points shouldn't be outlined in the same tone you might describe what you just got in your last handful of Bits & Bites.
5) Gregor Robertson has not mastered the Jedi mind trick.
As the campaign wears on, it seems that Mr. Robertson has given up on even trying to sound like he's answering a question before sliding sideways into the safety of his message box. Avoiding a question is an art. You know, "That's a great question and let me begin by saying, blah blah blah …" That sort of thing. It's not supposed to sound like you've deflected the question and changed the subject, even when you have. No, Mr. Mayor, despite you waving your hand and talking to me in that reassuring tone, these are exactly the droids I'm looking for.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver. @cbcstephenquinn