History could be on the side of Vision Vancouver council candidate Tony Tang
If history offers any lessons, there's a good chance that rookie Vision Vancouver council candidate Tony Tang may draw more votes than some other members on his slate in the November 19 civic election.
And if Vision puts in a strong showing, he'll be catapulted onto city council, even though the semiretired engineer doesn't have particularly high name recognition in comparison to Vision's political veterans.
Tang recently dropped by the Georgia Straight office for an interview, and stressed his desire, if elected, to create more affordable housing in Vancouver.
He suggested that the city could leverage its land bank to negotiate with higher levels of government to get more housing built for seniors. He also said that young single mothers are in desperate need of decent homes for their children.
"I'm looking at the next generation," Tang insisted.
Prior to becoming a candidate, he was on the board of Vision Vancouver, and council appointed him to chair the board of variance. It's a quasijudicial body that deals with appeals of planning department decisions.
Tang, a youthful-looking 61, was born in southern China and moved to Hong Kong at a young age. He came to Canada in the late 1960s and studied in Toronto. His family immigrated the next year to Victoria, and later they moved to Vancouver.
"It was a tough time," he said. "Like all the new immigrants [at that time], I started working in grocery stores."
Eventually, Tang obtained a master's degree in chemical engineering from UBC, and went to work in the energy business in Calgary. He's been back in Vancouver for more than two decades.
"I can relate to the struggle of immigrants," he noted. Tang quickly added that he believes that if he's elected, he can help communicate Canadian values to recent immigrants from China.
He speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, and he thinks it would be helpful if at least one councillor is elected who can communicate in these languages. He also emphasized that he has been promoting COPE candidate RJ Aquino, who is of Philippine heritage and speaks Tagalog.
"I want Vancouver to be an open, inclusive city," Tang stated.
Even though Tang faced a lot of hardship in his younger days, he could, in a curious way, be the beneficiary of his heritage when voters go to the polls.
In the 2008 election, Vision's council candidates with Chinese surnames—Raymond Louie, George Chow, and Kerry Jang—took three of the top four spots. In 2005, Louie and Chow took two of the party's top three spots in the race for council.
As far back as 1993, there was a sign that a Chinese surname could be beneficial for left-wing civic parties when Jenny Kwan was the only COPE candidate elected. Some civic watchers have a theory that most first-generation Chinese immigrants tend to vote for most of the NPA slate. However, they might throw a vote to candidates on the left if there is a perception that they might speak a Chinese language.
This hypothesis will be tested in tomorrow's election. Six of the seven Vision council candidates are incumbents: Louie, Jang, Heather Deal, Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer, and Tim Stevenson.
Tang pointed out that Mayor Gregor Robertson is popular with some Chinese immigrants because of his connection to Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who went to China and became a national hero. Robertson is a distant relative, and his middle name is "Bethune".