After last Sunday’s dramatic NPA mayoral-nomination contest, Vision Vancouver has a tough act to follow. The NPA has benefited from enormous media coverage and a sense that the malaise of the Sullivan era will soon be in the rear-view mirror. For whoever wins the Vision mayoral nomination on Sunday (June 15), Coun. Peter Ladner will be a formidable opponent.
As a member of the city’s business elite for many years, Ladner will likely have no trouble raising buckets of money in time for the November civic election. Ladner, former publisher and editor of Business in Vancouver, also has more appeal to environmental and gay and lesbian voters than Sullivan.
Vision members may want to consider these things as they head off to the East End to choose between one of their three mayoral candidates. On the surface, Vision appears to be the favourite. The party claims to have between 10,000 and 13,000 members, dwarfing the NPA. But keep in mind that quite a few of these Vision members might be immigrants who, although eligible to vote in the Vision nomination race, won’t be allowed to vote in the general election if they haven’t obtained Canadian citizenship by election day.
At the outset of this race, it appeared as though veteran NPA park commissioner Al De Genova was the front-runner. De Genova’s daughter Melissa proved her political-organizing skills during the 2005 NPA nomination race when she helped Sullivan win a narrow victory over former deputy premier Christy Clark. Bill Cunningham, a former federal Liberal party president in B.C., and Liberal senator Larry Campbell have also assisted De Genova.
Unfortunately for De Genova, the motivation for federal Liberals has probably dissipated because a fellow traveller, Ladner, won the NPA mayoral-nomination contest. De Genova has tried to maintain momentum by claiming that Ladner is a procrastinator. The reality is that Vision Vancouver is the provincial arm of the NDP in this town. Now that Sullivan is a lame-duck mayor, you can almost hear the air coming out of the De Genova campaign.
So that likely leaves the race between NDP MLA Gregor Robertson and Vision councillor Raymond Louie. Of the two, Robertson generated more momentum in the early part of the race, immediately winning the backing of Vision councillors Tim Stevenson and Heather Deal. Louie delayed getting involved, quietly and methodically lining up support and a strong campaign team before taking the plunge.
Robertson has some real strengths. His environmental and small-business credentials offset Ladner’s primary calling cards to middle-of-the-road voters on the city’s West Side. Robertson can draw votes from across the non-NPA spectrum, including Green party supporters and those who’ve voted for COPE in the past. He might also be able to raise a lot of money in a general election.
The board of Vision Vancouver has approved a preferential ballot, which allows members to list their second choice. If nobody wins a majority of first-place votes, the candidate receiving the fewest first-place votes will be eliminated and his second-place votes will be counted. On the surface, this might appear to favour Robertson, who hasn’t made many enemies in his short political career.
However, Robertson’s campaign pushed to get the board to approve ballots that don’t list second-place choices. This was opposed by the Louie and De Genova camps. Some of Louie’s supporters worked closely in the past with former mayor Campbell, who is backing De Genova. It’s plausible that many of De Genova’s supporters would choose Louie as their second choice, leaving Robertson out in the cold.
Louie’s trump cards are his attention to detail, his knowledge of the city, the strength of his organization, and his ability to attract support from across the multicultural spectrum. He’s like the tortoise in a race against two hares: slow and steady. His growing list of supporters includes some serious NDP and labour-union power brokers, supplemented with some influential voices who are new to the municipal scene.
The vote takes place at the Croatian Cultural Centre in East Vancouver, far from the centre of Robertson’s power base in Kitsilano and along West Broadway. Many have written off Louie and suggested that Robertson is a shoo-in to become Vision’s mayoral candidate. However, I say the smart money is on Louie, because he’s most likely to collect the second-place votes of De Genova’s supporters.