As someone who disapproves of municipal political parties and who prefers wards over at-large voting, Jak King would love to see 10 independents on Vancouver council.
Since that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, the spokesperson for the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods will settle for the second-best thing: no party getting a majority on the next city council.
“I think that gives us in the neighbourhoods, to be honest, a bit more leverage,” King told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver party won back-to-back majorities in the past two elections. According to King, that only led to neighbourhoods losing their say about community plans.
“Vision can simply swamp anything that we put forward with their majority,” the Grandview-Woodland resident said. “So if there is no majority in council, then I think that will give us a significantly better chance at influencing decisions.”
King doesn’t care who wins as mayor on November 15, but he said he’s going to support council candidates outside Vision, starting with Adriane Carr, Cleta Brown, and Pete Fry, all of the Green Party of Vancouver.
King said he’ll wait to see the September nominations for the Coalition of Progressive Electors, and he may consider candidates from the Non-Partisan Association if the NPA pledges to restore grassroots power in neighbourhood-planning processes.
Like Vision, the NPA is running eight candidates for council in the fall.
King admitted that he likes the people with OneCity, although there’s one thing about the new party he’s uneasy about: “I still see them as a bit too close to Vision for my comfort.”
Rafael “R J” Aquino is OneCity’s only candidate for council so far. When asked for his opinion about a minority council, Aquino told the Straight by phone: “The city will benefit from a council where there is a variety of opinions represented, where the voices of the city are represented.”
Pressed on whether or not communities will have a bigger influence with a minority council, Aquino responded: “It’s not necessarily a domination by one party but it’s about whether or not that party genuinely cares about listening to neighbourhoods.”
King’s desire for no dominant party has appeal for Fern Jeffries, cochair of the False Creek Residents Association. Jeffries’s group is nonpartisan and doesn’t endorse parties or candidates. But it has tangled with city hall on a number of occasions. In May this year, the FCRA filed a court petition questioning the city’s authority to allow commercial use of a property zoned for a park.
“I can say that, in our experience, having different perspectives on council makes for more balanced debate,” Jeffries told the Straight by phone. “I can say it is often discouraging to speak at council when the overall impression is that the decision has already been made in the Vision Vancouver caucus room.”
Erik Whiteway is the president of the Vancouver General Hospital Neighbourhood Association. In a personal capacity, he joined 10 other petitioners from across the city in asking a court last June to unseat Vision councillors Kerry Jang and Geoff Meggs for alleged conflict of interest in a property-rezoning matter.
The VGHNA has not decided if it will take sides in the fall election, but Whiteway said there is a sense in many neighbourhoods that Vision largely ignores their concerns. “I’ve heard that from a lot of people,” Whiteway told theStraight by phone.
Last May, the Community Association of New Yaletown filed a petition for a judicial review of the city’s action in connection with a rezoning and a land swap it made with a developer.
Although association president Jon Green maintained that CANY is nonpartisan and intends to stay that way, he noted that its members want a “change of government, whatever that change may be”.
Green told the Straight by phone: “In any level of government, when one political party has been in power for more than two or three terms…they become like, you know, ‘Oh, well, we have the mandate of the people. We’ll kind of do what we want to do.’ ”