Adrienne Tanner is a former senior editor of the Vancouver Sun and Province.
It's been a big couple of weeks for Vancouver's Non-Partisan Association, as one serving councillor firmed up his intention to seek the mayoral nomination and another potential candidate dropped out.
First, Kirk LaPointe, who ran for the centre-right party last time and was contemplating another run, waved goodbye on Facebook and wished the NPA well in finding its next nominee.
His decision almost certainly has everything to do with Hector Bremner, the NPA's rookie councillor. Mr. Bremner announced this week that he will seek the mayoral nomination, but appears to have had his eye on the mayor's chair ever since his October by-election win. He has spent the past few months signing up hundreds of new members, attending community functions and small meet-and-greets with prospective moneyed supporters.
So far, his only competition comes from Glen Chernen, a party outsider who blames the housing crisis on foreign investors and has filed a string of unsuccessful court challenges against developers and politicians. He did not return calls.
Mr. Bremner, the clear front-runner, appears to be lining up a slate to run with him. He has endorsed Adrian Crook, a video-game consultant, who plans to seek an NPA council-seat nomination. Mr. Crook is well-known for sharing his story about raising five children in a 1,000-square-foot Yaletown condominium.
At 37, Mr. Bremner, who lives with his wife Virginia and two children in a rented West End apartment, cuts a youthful figure compared to the party's last few middle-aged candidates. His wife is Filipina and, judging by congratulatory notes on his Facebook feed, he stands to draw substantial support from Vancouver's large Filipino community.
His campaign will focus, as will everyone's this coming election, on increasing the city's affordable-housing supply. He resists blaming the foreign-buyer "bogeyman" for the crisis and believes the answer is a rapid increase of supply of the right type of housing, including rental.
The supply-side argument has been the development industry's mantra from time immemorial and its efficacy as a solution to high prices is debatable. But Mr. Bremner's youth and own status as a renter may enable him to sell it afresh, particularly to younger Vancouverites desperate for relief from the city's astronomical housing prices and rents. As one seasoned NPA member put it, "to be a politician these days, it's better not to be an old, grey-haired white guy."
What is new for the NPA is Mr. Bremner's stated acceptance of the city's ongoing role in building social and co-op housing. Traditionally, NPA councils pinned this responsibility on higher levels of government, but the severity of Vancouver's housing and homeless crisis has pushed politicians of all stripes to reconsider.
Mr. Bremner will be most vulnerable to criticism for his inexperience and ties to the currently unpopular BC Liberal Party. He was a housing ministry staffer under former minister Rich Coleman and his by-election campaign was backed by Liberal strategist Mark Marissen.
It would also be surprising if members of the current ruling party, Vision, which has been slammed for growing too cozy with developers, did not raise Mr. Bremner's associations in that same world. Mr. Bremner is a vice-president with Pace Group Communications, whose client list is replete with developers. He says he's only worked directly on one development file and that was in White Rock.
Mr. Bremner says he'll set himself apart from his Vision rivals by listening to constituents, a claim many who meet him say seems aspirational. During a lengthy introductory coffee, it can be hard to sneak in a question. Still, he is well-spoken and delivers his talking points with such confidence that he makes the business of running the city sound positively easy. It isn't of course, a truth he acknowledges when pressed.
By far Mr. Bremner's biggest challenge is to convince his party – and voters – that he is ready to be mayor. The NPA old guard is not convinced, and many feel he lacks the necessary depth of knowledge. But this election may not be won or lost by old-guard voters. Just like Mayor Gregor Robertson before him, Mr. Bremner, should he win the nomination, will be banking on his ability to refashion his party and capture the imagination and votes of a new crop of supporters.