Senator Campbell swats Gregor Robertson, praises Raymond Louie

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Former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell, now a senator, says he is not overly excited at the prospect of Gregor Robertson becoming the city's next mayor. The Georgia Straight has previously reported that Robertson, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview, has been touted as a potential mayoral candidate by elected politicians from Vision Vancouver and COPE.

"There's a big difference between being an MLA and being a mayor," Campbell told the Straight in a phone interview. "When you're mayor, you have to understand all of the intricacies of the city, and you have to be able to take a look at the big picture for the city. And you have to be able to work with the council."

These qualities, according to Campbell, are what Coun. Raymond Louie has. "Certainly he's in the top two of councillors that I can think of," Campbell said. "Vision has four councillors; every single one of them is topnotch. Raymond Louie is an excellent councillor."

A former labour organizer, Louie has been described by Campbell as a future mayor of Vancouver. Campbell added that he still holds that view, but wouldn't say if Louie should run for mayor in 2008. "That would be up to Raymond," Campbell said. "I just know that someday he'll be mayor. I don't know when that will be."

In the 2002 civic election, Campbell and Louie were elected mayor and councillor, respectively, under the COPE banner. But the two, along with councillors Jim Green and Tim Stevenson, formed an independent caucus in 2005, and later established Vision Vancouver. COPE and Vision ran separate slates in the 2005 election, which helped Mayor Sam Sullivan and his NPA win a majority on council.

Green, who ran as Vision's mayoral candidate in 2005, previously told the Straight that he's "quite impressed" with Robertson's work so far as an MLA. He also said that Robertson is someone the party would welcome for a 2008 run.

Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, says he's not surprised by early talk of potential mayoral candidates to run against Sullivan. Sinclair said that he expects more names to surface in addition to Robertson, Louie, and COPE councillor David Cadman.

"Before this is all finished, there'll be a whole lot of names floating out there," Sinclair told the Straight. "There should be. There's an opportunity to take back the city in the next election. We have an incompetent government right now. This discussion is positive."

In previous interviews with the Straight, none of the three touted as opposition bets had ruled out running for mayor next year. Robertson pointed out that it's still too early to talk about the election. Louie noted that he's open to the idea but said it was too soon to talk about his plans. Cadman stated that he's willing to run only as the unity candidate of COPE and Vision Vancouver.

COPE member Rider Cooey suspects the B.C. NDP and labour unions want to enlist Robertson in an attempt to control Vancouver's civic affairs. "They don't like the alternative," Cooey told the Straight. "The alternative is COPE or COPE–related Vision people. Cadman is a municipal person and”¦he doesn't have any particular NDP connections. That's why I think he would be a much better candidate."

Sinclair and George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, strongly disagreed with Cooey's claim that labour leaders are dipping their hands into civic politics. "The federation doesn't go in and pick candidates," Sinclair said.

Heyman told the Straight: "I don't know that to be true. I haven't seen any evidence of it."

Sullivan has already started to raise money to bankroll his bid for another term, amid persistent chatter that NPA councillor Peter Ladner is preparing to challenge him for the party's nomination. Former NPA councillor Maggie Ip told the Straight that she doesn't expect Ladner to lead the party in next year's election. "At this point, I don't see any need for a change of leadership," she said.

Ip and Sullivan worked together as members of council from 1993 to 1996, during Philip Owen's first term as mayor. "The city of Vancouver is quite a complex city," Ip said. "It [being mayor] does take experience and know-how."