No one did a public poll for Vancouver's municipal election, and neither party leaked its private polling to Gary Mason. So predicting the results was a bit of a mug's game, particularly in a contest with a perpetually meagre turnout. Polls, schmolls. Who would get the vote out?
We now know the answer. For the first time in the city's history, the so-called left triumphed - and by a thumping margin - over a low turnout, which has always favoured the NPA, with its large bloc of supporters on the affluent west and south sides. They vote, while Eastsiders - except on rare occasions - don't. That's why, shamefully, Vancouver still does not have a ward system.
But on Saturday, the political face of the city changed, perhaps permanently. The shift was clear at Vision Vancouver victory headquarters in a downtown hotel ballroom, where wine was $8.50 a glass and a bottle of water put you back $4.50 (There's a recession?)
The room was full of fresh-faced political operators, many staring at CrackBerries or hunched over computers, assessing the latest returns. Combined with the skilled backroom boys who called the major shots, the youngish newcomers were able to tap into the city's desire for change in a manner that left the world's most partisan Non-Partisan Association eating dust. Unless Vision really screws up, the once-dominant NPA could be in the political wilderness for a long time.
Still underrepresented One of the sad notes from the election was the continuing reluctance of supposedly tolerant Vancouverites to embrace South Asian candidates at the polls. Election after election, whenever a South Asian makes it onto a party's slate for council, the candidate runs last among other members of the slate, always by a large margin.
No exception this time. Kashmir Dhaliwal was the only Vision candidate who failed to win a council seat, finishing 4,700 votes behind the party's next lowest candidate, Geoff Meggs, who made it. Daljit Sidhu of the NPA was also at the bottom of his party's council slate. Raj Hundal of Vision was elected to the Park Board but still trailed other party candidates by nearly 8,000 votes. In fact, all six South Asian hopefuls running for the city's three municipal parties finished last on their party's slate. Vancouver still has a ways to go.
In other election news, Walter Despot has been elected to another term of iron-fisted rule (just kidding) in the fief of Keremeos. Stan Pottie finished at the bottom of the three-person race to govern lovely Lake Cowichan. Duck (Donald) Paterson waddled to the top of the council polls in historic Ladysmith. Democracy was the big winner in Zeballos, where my dad taught school in 1939. More than 10 per cent of the village's 78 eligible voters ran for office, and an astonishing 81 per cent voted. Kudos, also, to idyllic Nakusp, where civility reigned on the hustings. Asked by the local newspaper what he would like to share, Len Heppner, vying with eight others for four spots on village council, said humbly: "I'd like to wish the other candidates good luck." Mr. Heppner came third.
Candidate Cliff Woffenden, meanwhile, suffered a late bout of ill health and asked Nakuspers not to vote for him. No one did.
Still a legend
At the storied Russian Hall on Sunday night, there was a rousing ovation as the curtain rang down on Bruce - the Musical, the charming tribute to crusty Bruce Eriksen by my former Vancouver Sun colleague Bob Sarti (I thought the only notes Bob could carry were in his back pocket).
The production was a reminder of the great debt Vancouver owes to Mr. Eriksen, who, with help from partner Libby Davies and the heroic Jean Swanson, did so much to change the Downtown Eastside and improve the quality of life for its residents. (He would be appalled to see how drugs and mental illness have ravaged the neighbourhood since his death in 1997.) Before Mr. Eriksen began his tireless quest in the early 1970s, the area was known as "skid row," beer parlours regularly served drunks, rundown tenements were deadly firetraps without mandatory sprinklers and the miraculous Carnegie Centre was a boarded-up heritage building earmarked for demolition.
Few can claim to have left as large a mark on Vancouver as Bruce Eriksen, and we hope Mr. Sarti's musical has not closed for good.