Could Gregor Robertson lose the 2011 Vancouver mayoral election?

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      Last week, I ran into NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton at the Loden Hotel's third-anniversary party.

      At the time, she insisted that she is going to win the November 19 mayoral election against the incumbent, Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson.

      On the surface, Anton's claim sounds absurd. Robertson still enjoys a high personal-approval rating. And in 2008, he trounced the NPA's Peter Ladner by almost 20,000 votes.

      Robertson's 67,598 votes were the highest for a mayoral candidate since COPE's Larry Campbell received 80,772 votes in the 2002 election.

      In the past 15 years, Sam Sullivan received the most votes of any NPA mayoral candidate—61,543 in 2005. Ladner attracted nearly 13,000 fewer votes in the last election.

      Traditionally, NPA mayoral candidates can expect to receive about 50,000 votes. That's what the NPA's Philip Owen collected in both the 1996 and 1999 campaigns.

      So for Anton to win the election, she would have to improve on that total. Plus, Robertson would have to lose at least 15 percent of the votes he received in 2008. This would bring him down to about the same total as Vision Vancouver's 2005 mayoral candidate, Jim Green, who lost narrowly to Sullivan.

      How could this occur? Anton would need a lot of help. First off, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver mayoral candidate Randy Helten would have to perform exceptionally well in the race.

      The last third-party mayoral candidate to win more than 10,000 votes was former NPA councillor Jonathan Baker, who ran in 1996. Helten would probably have to improve on that, because he's certain to take some votes away from Anton, as well as any votes he pries away from Robertson.

      Secondly, Anton will probably need some freaky weather on election day. In 1996, there was a snowstorm in Vancouver on voting day, which drove down turnout. The NPA ended up winning every seat on council, school board, and park board.

      Without these two things coming together—rotten election-day weather and a stronger-than-expected performance by Helten—it's hard to see how Anton can become Vancouver's next mayor. But stranger things have occurred in the political world. It's still too early to count her out of the race.

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      Oct 31, 2011 at 12:58pm

      Isn't Anton related to Jean Quan?

      Rob Roy

      Oct 31, 2011 at 1:06pm

      Yes, he could lose -- if he botches the Occupy Vancouver situation.

      Occupy Vancouver has no endgame. They know how to start, but have no clue how to finish.

      The same is true for Gregor.

      By declaring the City of Tents "integral" to their protest, OV is wed to winter and rain and mud. Soon enough, the good guys will lose heart and most will leave -- only to be replaced by the Black Bloc and the other deranged in our city.

      By initially declaring that the protestors were welcome to squat as long as they liked, Gregor upped the ante against himself. He simply didn't understand the implications of what he was saying.

      Public goodwill is essential to the success of any public protest, especially one that hopes to endure in public consciousness. Gregor's special problem is that when, inevitably, he sends in the troops they will be up against his own electoral troops. Lose, lose.

      No one in OV nor at City Hall thought this one through. They invited the relatives -- or themselves -- to stay, but never said for how long.

      We need better chess players. Endgames count even more than opening gambits.

      Gregor is in significant trouble on this one. He may, at best, keep his own chair but lose his majority. COPE will then ally with VISION, but at a price. That price will almost certainly lead to the return of the NPA next time.

      BTW, the Black Bloc is salivating at the thought of Gregor sending in the cops. Lose, lose, lose.

      James G

      Oct 31, 2011 at 1:27pm

      Like a realtor reciting "location, location, location." or a public health nurse advising "wash your hands" three times, the answer is simple. Turnout, turnout, turnout! It depends upon who shows up at the polls. Vancouver's regular imbalance regarding east and west side turnout is legendary. The difference between Quilchena and Hasting Sunrise can stretch to nearly fifty percentage points, that is maybe twenty per cent in the east versus seventy percent in the west.

      What makes a difference even more than weather in driving turnout is the raising of expectations. Last election, we heard we could end homelessness in two terms. Sky high expectations have now fallen for those who have seen the far more limited progress that without that ridiculous pumping of expectations would have been less grudgingly noted. So which areas had higher turnout last time and were brought to the polls by a hope that now seems false? Mostly West End and East Side ones, which are therefore likely to see their numbers sag.

      The other factor still ahead of weather is money. It buys name recognition and that is central to anyone climbing into the winners circle of ten on Council. For the Mayoral race this is less significant since both main contenders are known. Nonetheless they are chasing money.

      Both factors lead the two major candidates to the same neighbourhoods and eventually to the same promises to the same people. With Robertson you get a tad more charisma, with Anton a dash more courtesy. Both put far too much faith in their handlers rather than let themselves be themselves. The policy differences are virtually null. The question really is ... have the better off neighbourhoods embraced Vision as their new political vehicle at City Hall or will they return to the NPA?

      I have only knocked on a few doors in my own area and know the turnout will be low here. There is just no enthusiasm thus far.

      Ray I

      Oct 31, 2011 at 2:09pm

      Occupy Vancouver Bike Lanes!

      Rob Roy

      Oct 31, 2011 at 2:17pm

      BTW, to add to Gregor's problems, and the likelihood of losing his majority, one other fact.

      COPE is a far more disciplined and ideologically-oriented party than VISION. This has been true since the days of Harry Rankin.

      I hear they are instructing their members to 'plump' for COPE-only. This has dire implications for a VISION majority.

      To 'plump' means to vote ONLY for the people you support. When COPE plumps for its three, it thereby denies 8 votes to VISION. This vastly magnifies a mathematical advantage for the COPE candidates.

      In this fashion, Gregor may keep his chair but lose his majority.

      His other problem is that hundreds of VISION voters will simply sit this one out. From the loss of the Pantages to the ridiculous wheat farms to the trickery of converting the promise from "ending homelessness" to "ending STREET homelessness", VISION is in trouble with its own people.

      By offending many dozens of usual VISION voters in the West End disturbed by the STIR fiasco, and by Gregor's insulting on-mike comments, this election is likely getting close.

      If COPE diehards really do plump for their three, the 8 VISION people are in trouble.

      Ergo, don't count your chickens before they are hatched in VISION coops.

      Terry Martin

      Oct 31, 2011 at 2:26pm

      Randy Helten will take as many votes from Anton as he does from Robertson. In fact we expect Randy Helten to be the next mayor of Vancouver. We appreciate your poll which shows Helton already ahead of Anton. Read more about our work at

      James G

      Oct 31, 2011 at 3:57pm

      @Rob Roy

      If you are referring to the "Plump for COPE" campaign that I tried to ignite, it had no official COPE sanction, nor could it. The party is earnest enough to keep promises, even the unfortunate one they made to continue the alliance with Vision. I was then a lapsed member of the organization but have now renewed. It was the (coincidental?) alignment of exactly 10 candidates on three slates to the left of Vision that made me pull my efforts. I can easily vote for COPE as a slate, De-Growth Vancouver as a slate and Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver as a slate. That makes ten.

      It was not for want of trying. I wrote bulletins, translated them into Chinese and distributed them door to door and at Occupy Vancouver but there was insufficient support for this approach. As a mere COPE member and with no official backing whatever, I still speak only for myself. The plumping approach is dead. Long live the trio of slates!

      Geroy Robinson

      Oct 31, 2011 at 4:35pm

      I'm the hugest fan of Gregor, but he did clean up the DTES enough so that there aren't nearly as many openly homeless people passed out in the alleys and streets.

      When I first moved into this area during NPA's reign it was the biggest gong show I've ever seen. Dozens and dozens of people wearing backpacks circling the streets all night because they had nowhere to go, and were too scared to pass out and wake up with everything gone. Haven't seen that since Robinson took over

      Donnie Darko

      Oct 31, 2011 at 4:39pm

      Anton has no platform. Her whole campaign has been to use the blame game against Robertson. She has no viable solutions for any of Vancouver's current issues.
      As for Randy Helten being the next mayor? Terry Martin, you sir/ madame, are dreaming.

      Joseph Jones

      Oct 31, 2011 at 4:55pm

      In 2008 dyed-in-the-wool NPA voters stayed home in droves, unable to stomach betrayal by their own EcoDensity™ party – and also unwilling to make a mark for Vision or COPE.

      Others believed Vision offered an alternative, and then hit a hard wall of disappointment.

      The developer-funded Vision-NPA axis now stands naked. Tweedledum is Tweedledee. No more twaddle tolerated!

      Listen to the lies that Vision told Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver in December 2008 right after the election:

      Understand why NSV is now running candidates for Mayor and four Council seats.