Why Vision Vancouver needs to create a legend around Jim Green
Earlier today, I posted a lovely video on our site, which was created by an admirer of former Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate Jim Green.
I pointed out that the posthumous video, which is also on the City of Vancouver's YouTube channel, highlighted Green's connection to Vision Vancouver. But it made no mention of Green's past links to the Coalition of Progressive Electors, which is the party Green ran for in two elections, including the only one that he won.
This followed an earlier column in which I suggested that Vision Vancouver was trying to "deify" Green.
In response, a commenter calling himself DavidH delivered the folllowing putdown:
"News flash for the Straight: Jim Green is dead. Get over it. You're flogging a corpse."
I, on the other hand, feel that this is a valid topic for public discussion. That's because I believe that some members of Vision Vancouver are trying to create a legend around Green to advance the party's long-term prospects.
In this regard, Vision Vancouver bears some similarity to the federal NDP, which has tried to cast new leader Tom Mulcair as a latter-day Jack Layton in TV ads aimed at Quebeckers.
But there are differences between the passing of Green and the death of Layton. In Toronto, the public spontaneously filled Nathan Philips Square with chalk-written memories and tributes to Layton. People gathered in the streets for his funeral.
There was no similar outpouring of public grief for Green beyond the very real loss felt by his large circle of political, social, academic, and artistic friends and acquaintances.
This may be due in part to Layton dying suddenly while in office, whereas Green passed away six-and-a-half years after leaving the political spotlight.
Layton was also an elected official for decades, whereas Green served a single term on Vancouver city council.
So if my hypothesis is correct—and keep in mind that there's no smoking gun here—why would Vision Vancouver be so keen to turn Green into a legendary figure?
There are several possible explanations.
First off, Vision Vancouver is increasingly perceived as an establishment party on the side of the elites. Green, on the other hand, fought evictions of poor people during Expo 86 and built housing units for those with low incomes. Having him associated with the brand will promote the image of Vision Vancouver as a people's party.
Secondly, many of Vision Vancouver's incumbent politicians may not seek reelection in 2014. If the party is running a bunch of new faces, why not capitalize on a massaged image of Green to rehabilitate the party's brand?
By then, Raymond Louie and Tim Stevenson will have each served 12 years on council. Will they want to spend another three years spending late nights at public hearings? Especially when their NDP friends will be in power in Victoria—and there will be numerous jobs available to them.
Some Vision politicians—including Geoff Meggs, Constance Barnes, and Patti Bacchus—may be preparing to run as provincial NDP candidates in 2013. Barnes and Bacchus have topped the polls at park board and school board, respectively. All three could easily be MLAs by the next civic election.
Park commissioner Aaron Jasper might decide to become the federal NDP candidate in Vancouver Centre in 2015. If he leaves Vision Vancouver, the party would lose one of its highest profile and most articulate politicians.
Losing incumbents will certainly make it tougher for Vision Vancouver to retain power after the next election because name recognition is so important in municipal politics.
The party's task will be made more difficult if there's an NDP government in Victoria. That's because when the NDP has been in power in Victoria, Vancouver voters have decided to take a right turn at the municipal level to elect a counterweight to the provincial government.
And if Gregor Robertson decides he's done as mayor after two terms, the party is going to have an exceptionally tough time retaining a majority on council in 2014.
Thirdly, the Green party (as opposed to the Jim Green party) is only going to get stronger in Vancouver now that Coun. Adriane Carr is in office. I expect that she will increasingly play to the left-wing activists who are already, for the most part, sick of Vision Vancouver's mainstream approach. There probably won't be any alliances in 2014, given that Carr got elected without Vision Vancouver's help.
Going back to the commenter, DavidH, he's correct when he writes that Jim Green is dead. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Vision Vancouver doesn't need Green to help his old party in future elections.
Just look at the photo above. Imagine airbrushing Louie, Meggs, and Robertson out of the picture. How many of those other faces—all elected Vision Vancouver politicians—do you recognize?
I rest my case.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.