Adrienne Tanner is a former senior editor of the Vancouver Sun and Province.
It would be easy to assume, given the disarray of Vision Vancouver, that the next civic election is their rival's to lose.
Vision Mayor Gregor Robertson has announced he will not seek a fourth term. And at least three Vision councillors elected in 2014 have bailed or plan to do so come October, leaving the party with no leader and only three experienced foot soldiers. Councillor Raymond Louie, a 15-year council veteran, is mulling a run for mayor. He's experienced and hard-working but his interest in the job has not lit the town on fire.
Contrast Vision's lacklustre fortunes with the Non-Partisan Association, which was buoyed by Hector Bremner's 2017 by-election win and now has expressions of interest from at least four people, including Mr. Bremner, for the mayor's chair.
Mr. Bremner is regarded as bright, but possibly overconfident for a rookie. And hours after Mr. Robertson resigned, 2014 NPA candidate Kirk Lapointe posted on Facebook that he is being encouraged to run and is weighing his options. Former Tory MP Wai Young is an ideological outlier who carries baggage from dubious endorsements she received during her last federal run. Glen Chernen, one of the prime movers behind the Cedar Party in the 2014 election, has announced he too will seek the NPA mayoral nomination.
He is litigious and not well-liked, but nonetheless someone who could use his NPA board connections to his advantage.
Still, insiders on both sides of the political spectrum say it's too early to count the left out.
To predict the outcome of Vancouver's next civic election is to understand the astronomically expensive ground upon which it will be fought. Housing affordability is the overarching concern, and the party or coalition of parties that triumphs must be seen to have workable solutions to the crisis.
Mr. Robertson's inability to bring down housing costs, or to convince voters that he was valiantly trying, likely underlies his decision to quit. Which raises the question: Which party is best positioned on the housing affordability problem?
Even some NPA insiders are not convinced that the GOP of Vancouver can prevail. They admit the NPA is seen as a party run by gray-haired men out of touch with the travails of the city's younger, more diverse, and less well-heeled demographic. And the NPA's traditionally conservative policies seem at odds with a city where federal and provincial voting patterns are trending left, particularly in the city's fastest-growing areas.
After a decade in power, Vision itself is now criticized as an establishment party too cozy with developers. That works in favour of COPE, OneCity and the Greens, smaller parties on the left and centre-left who appeal to those most affected by the affordability crisis. Neither Vision nor the NPA seem well-positioned to elect the six-member majority needed to control council. So, the key to success this time around is co-operation. At its AGM Monday night, Vision announced it is reaching out to the Greens, OneCity and COPE to work together during the election.
The hunt is already on for an independent leader palatable to everyone on the centre-left, someone such as Mike Harcourt, who won in 1980 and again in 1984. Names flying around include VanCity CEO Tamara Vrooman, YWCA CEO Janet Austin, NDP MP Don Davies, NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and Shauna Sylvester, director of SFU's Centre for Dialogue.
No star would likely take the risk without an agreement laying out how many council candidates each party on the left would run. But there is plenty of precedent for this as well.
Vision, COPE and the Greens ran split slates in 2008, and Vision and COPE made a deal in 2011. No agreement was struck in 2014; Vision and COPE each ran eight candidates, the Greens ran three, and the centre-left lost ground. Vote-splitting wasn't the entire reason, of course. By 2014, affordability was already dominating the campaign and some of the blame was falling on Vision.
As of today, the likeliest outcome in the next election is a diverse council with representatives from as many as five parties.