The year is 2020, according to environmentalist Helen Spiegelman, and the world is reinventing itself after the Crash of 2015.
A decade earlier, Spiegelman went on, British Columbia implemented measures like food security, social housing, and waste recycling that later enabled the province to withstand the impact of the impending crisis.
At the head of this initiative, continued the coordinator of the Zero Waste blog, was “a bizarre political alliance that included Vancouver Mayor Suzanne Anton, MetroVancouver Chair Peter Ladner, the new B.C. Premier Gregor Robertson and his Minister of Finance Raymond Louie”.
That was Spiegelman writing down her vision in late 2007 for Dream Vancouver, a project by the Think City Society, wherein citizens were invited to project their ideas on future public policies.
Three of the four municipal politicians she identified survived last year’s Vancouver’s civic election. Robertson is now mayor, Louie is on his third term as councillor, and second-term councillor Anton is currently the lone opposition voice in council. Anton’s party mate and ex-councillor Ladner was defeated by Robertson in the mayoral contest.
Spiegelman was amused when reminded by the Georgia Straight about her piece, particularly on the notion of Robertson becoming B.C. premier.
“That was prescient wasn’t it?” she joked, noting that she could have picked a politician other than the former rookie NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview and cofounder of the Happy Planet juice company.
SFU public-policy professor Kennedy Stewart believes that talks about Robertson eventually going after the premier’s seat will persist, particularly if NDP leader Carole James fails to lead the party to victory in this year’s May 12 provincial election, in which case a leadership contest would likely ensue.
“I’m sure that Gregor, if he hasn’t been approached already, will be approached, and it would be something he would seriously consider,” Stewart told the Straight.
“Gregor is a bit different than other left leaders, in a sense, because he comes from the business community,” Stewart explained. “And what I think about business people, especially entrepreneurs, is that they”¦always have their eyes open for opportunities. So they don’t feel bound by particular institutions, like parties, for example.”
Robertson has also proven he can be a winner. Stewart said that he wasn’t expected to beat Judy Darcy, a former national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, for the NDP nomination in Vancouver-Fairview in 2004, but he did. A newcomer to Vision Vancouver, the party cofounded by Louie, he took on Louie and then parks commissioner Allan De Genova for the mayoral nomination and he triumphed convincingly.
Stewart also said that Robertson has an “ambitious team behind him”. He cited Mike Magee, former Vision Vancouver party cochair and currently the mayor’s chief of staff. There’s also businessman and Robertson financier Joel Solomon. “I think they probably also have bigger plans for him,” the SFU professor added.
Robertson has pledged to end street homelessness by 2015, four years beyond his first term, which ends in 2011. “Somehow I doubt that he plans to be there that long,” Stewart said. “Philip Owen is a three-term mayor, but I see Gregor’s perhaps a bit more ambitious.”
The Straight caught up with Robertson on February 20 after he played in a charity hockey event for the homeless at UBC’s Thunderbird Arena.
Still in his jersey and skates, the mayor was asked about his thoughts on the provincial election. “I think it’s going to come down to hard-fought campaigns, and there’s a lot of passionate politicians in the province, and I think it will be a tough election across the board,” he said. “It’s impossible to say what will happen. I look forward to working with whoever wins.”
Is he contemplating a return to provincial politics? “No, it’s not on my mind at all. I’m focused on being the mayor and making sure that we get things right here in Vancouver. I’m not thinking anything beyond that.”
A second term as mayor? “I’m thinking about a second term,” Robertson confirmed.
Vancouver’s growing population
> 2001 population: 545,671
> 2006 population: 578,041
> Number of new residents: average of 6,000 a year
> Projected 2021 population: 635,000
> New dwellings that can be built by 2021: 50,000 to 60,000
> Share in the downtown peninsula: 23,900 new dwellings
> Share in commercial-zoned areas: 6,100 to 21,900 new dwellings
> Expected additional population of the downtown peninsula by 2021: 37,000
> Expected additional population of commercial-zoned areas by 2021: 10,600 to 36,200
Source: City of Vancouver