NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner probably wanted to fight an election on fiscal probity. But his campaign has been derailed by his inability to recognize the public mood.
That's the problem with being born into a wealthy family. You don't always know how the average guy with a lunchbucket is going to react because you haven't spent enough time in their company.
Ladner's mayoral ambitions have probably been in place for many, many years. During his first term, he probably likened then-mayor Larry Campbell to a comet who would inevitably burn out by the end of his second term.
Ladner would be well-situated to be mayor during the 2010 Olympics, which is like catnip to any municipal politician.
However, fate got in the way when Campbell developed heart trouble in 2005 and unexpectedly decided not to seek reelection. That cleared the way for then-NPA councillor Sam Sullivan to snatch the mayor's gavel.
So what was Ladner to do? Sullivan had the support of almost all of the NPA caucus. He was developing deeper connections with Vancouver's nonwhite communities.
This year, we saw what transpired. Ladner launched his bloodless coup at the NPA nomination meeting with the support of folks like him: successful, white, well-educated business people and urban professionals.
He became his party's mayoral candidate, and he appeared well on his way to victory -- especially after it was revealed that bumbling Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson was challenging a transit ticket.
Then the approval of the $100-million loan for the Olympic Village burst into the news. Ladner, as chair of the city services and budgets committee, had to wear this.
He compounded his problems by defending the secrecy. That's the thing about Ladner. He is not a very intuitive politician, and he failed to see how the public and the talk-show hosts might react to this.
The public doesn't care about the niceties of the Vancouver Charter or the history of the Property Endowment Fund. Or the City's legal obligations because of a stupid deal it signed with the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation back in 2002.
The public only knows that Ladner secretly agreed to put up $100 million of their money for a developer when Ladner won't support using taxpayers' funds to build a single shelter for homeless people.
Because of that, the public may turn out to vote in large numbers on Saturday (November 15). People suddenly care about this election. And a high voter turnout is usually deadly for the NPA.
I'm expecting Robertson to be the next mayor of Vancouver, setting up a showdown with NPA councillor Suzanne Anton in 2011.
Because of the Olympic Village loan, Ladner may have to settle for a consolation prize--a safe B.C. Liberal seat in the 2009 provincial election.
There are far worse things to do in life than sitting in the B.C. legislature. Ladner, as a former editor of Monday magazine in Victoria, might enjoy returning to the city to hang around with his old pal, restaurateur Howie Siegal.
But for Ladner, it won't quite match being on stage in front of the world in 2010.