While Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver didn’t secure any seats in the civic election, mayoral candidate Randy Helten is encouraged by the inroads the electoral group made during its debut campaign.
The elector organization secured thousands of votes during the election, including 4,007 for Helten. Elizabeth Murphy led the group’s four council candidates with 19,644 votes, while the second candidate Nicole Benson was not far behind at 17,893 votes.
But it wasn’t just the poll results that Helten sees as positive, but some of the issues that became part of the discussion at all-candidate meetings and other campaign events.
“Considering the odds against us in this election, we feel we’ve made a significant achievement, both in our election voting results, and in our ability to introduce the topics of election campaign financing, and also respect for neighbourhoods and decision-making,” Helten told the Straight by phone.
“I think that we were a major factor in bringing the issue of developer funding and the need for campaign finance reform into the discussion.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters on election night that he intends to focus more on community engagement and on “working with neighbourhoods” during the next term.
Helten said NSV is taking Robertson’s comments with “a very large amount of cynicism”.
“It’s almost exactly what he said after the last election,” he claimed. “And what we found was that there were huge problems with the way they were consulting with neighbourhoods.”
Helten said the acknowledgement of neighbourhood concerns follows opposition from community groups at city hall during recent years.
“A lot of neighbourhoods have created a lot of push-back, including the West End, so I think they’re responding to that,” he said.
NSV plans to continue to advocate for “better neighbourhood representation” in Vancouver during the next term, according to a statement released by the group today. Members of the group have provided policy analysis and input on council decisions during the last five years. Helten, who has been a frequent speaker at public hearings and council meetings, also intends to persevere with the municipal watchdog websites he founded.
“I feel more than ever that neighbourhood-based decision-making is important, and through Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver and CityHallWatch and MetroVanWatch, I’m planning to re-double my efforts to make change happen,” said Helten.
“With NSV we’re still discussing how we can be most effective, but I think that we’ll be really trying to reinforce the strength of the grassroots level, and also to put a bit more energy into empowering neighbourhoods so that they can be very alert to what’s going on at city hall, and to have an influence on decision-making there.”
Helten added that the group is “very happy” that Green candidate Adriane Carr got elected to city council. Carr was one of six candidates NSV recommended, in addition to the three COPE candidates, the NPA’s Bill McCreery, and independent Sandy Garossino.
But he noted that NSV is also concerned that the new council will be dominated by Vision and the NPA.
“One asks how can they possibly look at all the interests of all stakeholders when they have such a huge debt to those who paid for them to win the campaign,” he claimed.
A central aspect of NSV’s platform was a push for campaign finance reform. In a statement released today (November 24), the group argues that “regulators should never be funded by those they regulate”.
Helten also expressed disappointment at the departure of COPE from city council after none of their candidates were elected.
“We’re very sad that they’re not in there now, and we hope that they re-gain some strength,” he said. “Even during the next three years, we hope to still be in touch with them and have a good relationship with COPE.”
Helten added that it was “almost miraculous” what NSV achieved in terms of votes next to the city’s major parties, on a budget of just $40,000 for five candidates.
“If you look at the size of the budget and the length of the campaign, the amount of media coverage and so on, it’s quite amazing that we achieved that much, almost really through word-of-mouth,” said Helten.