Kirk LaPointe's biggest obstacle to becoming mayor of Vancouver: Peter Armstrong
When the NPA gets around to announcing that Kirk LaPointe is the party's Vancouver mayoral candidate, he's going to face an uphill struggle.
First off, the former managing editor of the Vancouver Sun doesn't have nearly the same level of name recognition as the incumbent, Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson.
Secondly, the NPA has not developed party machinery or identified its potential supporters to a degree that is any match for Vision Vancouver.
Thirdly, the number of voters in the NPA's West Side heartland has remained relatively static in recent years—particularly in neighbourhoods like Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale, and Southlands.
Meanwhile, the number of voters in Vision country (i.e. Grandview-Woodland) has shot up significantly.
Densification helps Vision Vancouver because people who live in multifamily housing projects tend to vote for its candidates.
The NPA has also done a fairly dismal job in reaching out to diverse communities. Booting Sophia Woo out of caucus—the only elected candidate of Chinese descent—probably won't help matters.
But these aren't the biggest challenges facing LaPointe at the top of the ticket.
He's also handicapped by a party president, Peter Armstrong, who's at the centre of Vision's efforts to brand the NPA as a party of one percenters.
You see, Armstrong is a railway baron. He's the founder of the Rocky Mountaineer.
The parent company, Great Canadian Railtour, locked out Rocky Mountaineer unionized workers for more than a year, making it a pariah within the labour movement during that time.
Armstrong is rich and he looks rich—as you can see in the photo above.
As president, he's also overseen a process in which the NPA directors, not the members, have selected LaPointe as the mayoral candidate.
So while Vision is signing up lots of new members to support its very competitive nomination process for park-board candidates, the NPA looks like a throwback to the 19th century when wealthy railway barons selected candidates in smoke-filled backrooms.
Already, one of the commenters on this site has branded the NPA as "Not Peter Armstrong".
The cynics will say that Mayor Robertson is rich, Vision sometimes advances the interests of the rich, and two of its key supporters, Bob Rennie and Peter Wall, are bona fide members of the one-percent club.
But in politics, perception is everything. And even though all these things are true, that doesn't take away from Vision's ability to market the NPA as a Shaughnessy bogeyman ready to turn back the clock.
Today, the NPA tried to dismantle Vision's storyline by posting a long statement on its website.
The NPA outlined an extensive process in which the party tried to encourage people to become candidates before being green-lighted by a committee that was 40 percent female and 60 percent under 45 years of age. That's designed to defuse Robertson's charge that the NPA is made up of angry old men.
The NPA also insisted that Armstrong didn't take part in any of the "interview panels" with the candidates. Another wealthy member of the NPA board, developer Rob Macdonald, participated in only one interview, according to the statement.
No one in their right mind will believe, however, that Armstrong stood completely on the sidelines as the NPA chose its mayoral candidate.
And the fact that the party has issued a statement like this suggests it realizes its predicament.
Sometimes, campaigns matter and elections aren't determined until the final days. The recent Ontario election and the 2013 B.C. election are two such examples.
On other occasions, the election is over before the starting gun has even been fired.
I suspect that this is the case in the upcoming civic race in Vancouver.
It was Peter Armstrong's election to lose. And by inserting himself in such a high-profile way by serving as president in the years leading up to the choice of the NPA mayoral candidate, he's made himself a target of Vision Vancouver's masterful spin doctors.
It's amazing that he didn't see it coming a long time ago.
And the NPA's response—a technical explanation splashed on a website that few people read—is not going to do much to blunt Vision's attack.