Best of Vancouver: Politics
Here are a few observations by two Georgia Straight journalists
Best undeclared candidate for mayor
Kennedy Stewart can’t be complacent in the face of a potential challenge by a First Nations women with a huge social-media following and a reputation for straight talk.
Jody Wilson-Raybould hasn’t declared whether she’ll enter the increasingly crowded mayoral race, but if she decides to run, it could be lights out for Stewart’s political career. Fortunately, he has a good job to fall back on: a cushy position as an SFU professor of public policy. He’s been on leave for more than a decade as he’s pursued his political career.
Best evidence that the B.C. government is no friend of pet owners
Despite popular demand, the B.C. government isn’t moving to change legislation related to keeping pets in strata and rental properties. Strata corporations and landlords can ban pets, and if they allow animals, they can say how many, what kind, and what size these companions will be.
Best sign that B.C. Filipinos are getting politically assertive
Filipino Canadians in B.C. raised a howl when the B.C. NDP won a second term in 2020 and again ignored half-Filipino Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, for a cabinet post. The community is typically meek, but not this time around. Leaders came out in the open to denounce what one person, Bert Quibuyen, described as a “slap in the face”.
Best federal election result for Filipino Canadians in 17 years
Filipino Canadians from coast to coast toasted the election in September 2021 of Rechie Valdez as MP. She is the first Filipina to sit in the House of Commons.
Valdez, who won the Ontario riding of Mississauga-Streetsville, became the second Canadian of Filipino ancestry to be elected as MP. (Rey Pagtakhan—who represented the Liberal Party in Winnipeg North, later renamed Winnipeg North–St. Paul, from 1988 to 2004—was the first Filipino elected to Parliament Hill.)
Valdez’s victory ended the 17-year political drought that had beset the Filipino community in Canada.
Best move by the mayor
As Kennedy Stewart celebrated his third year at Vancouver City Hall, he was facing no fewer than four potential opponents on the centre, centre-right, and ride sides of the political spectrum.
Mark Marissen, Ken Sim, and John Coupar—all of whom have had or have ties to the NPA—all think that the unassuming Stewart is vulnerable. And a Vancouver councillor who was elected with the NPA, Colleen Hardwick, might also take a run at him.
It takes real genius to be the catalyst for such divisions from people who all used to support the same centre-right party. Make them underestimate you. It just might put Stewart on a path to reelection.
Best sign that this mayor differs from the others
Kennedy Stewart, backed by many members of council, is the first mayor in a generation to stand up to the Vancouver Police Department’s Hooverlike desire to suck up as much funding as possible. (You can make your choice here: Hoover vacuum cleaners or J. Edgar Hoover.)
In addition, Stewart called out fellow members of the Vancouver police board by claiming that there was an “indefensible lack of action on systemic racism” at the VPD. Stewart emphasized that acknowledging systemic racism does not mean that individual officers are racist. It simply means addressing systemic issues so that everyone in the community can feel safer in their encounters with the VPD.
But even that was enough to get the chief to blow a gasket in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. To even suggest this was "offensive", according to Adam Palmer.
What's actually offensive is not the suggestion that systemic discrimination exists in our public institutions. It's that Palmer made his comment after two of his uniformed officers handcuffed a 12-year-old Indigenous girl and put her in the back seat of a squad car when she tried to open a bank account at a downtown BMO branch. It also came after a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruling awarded an Indigenous mother $20,000 for how she was treated by officers as they were arresting her son.
Best Black manifesto
Former UBC creative-writing prof. Ian Williams presents readers with an utterly compelling series of essays in his new book, Disorientation: Being Black in the World. They touch on everything from the “look” that Black people must endure to the harassment that some young Black males face from police while driving around town.
Williams, a Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author and University of Toronto English professor, writes passionately in the book about the emotional energy that Black people must expend every time they’re reminded of their race when going about their day-to-day business. “Already, I’ve had to toughen up because some people disagree with things in the book,” Williams told the Straight earlier this year in advance of his two appearances at this year's Vancouver Writers Fest.
Best case for Vision Vancouver to fold its tent
The Vancouver and District Labour Council plays an influential role in Vancouver municipal elections. In next year’s election, VDLC will not endorse mayoral or council candidates for the once mighty Vision Vancouver, which ruled the city for a decade, from 2008 to 2018.
Here’s what VDLC president Stephen Von Sychowski said in a release: “Vision was resoundingly rejected in 2018 and vanished from the political scene for most of this term. The progressive political spectrum is already well represented by an array of parties. We don’t see an attempted return for Vision being constructive to our objective of ensuring a strong, cohesive progressive majority.”
Best reason not to have held a federal election
Not a single incumbent was defeated in West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster in the recent federal campaign. It was a whole lot of hoopla that led to no changes on the North Shore and where the SkyTrain runs north of the Fraser River.
Best reason to have had a federal election
Four Conservatives who didn’t want to ban conversion therapy were defeated in Metro Vancouver suburbs. Kenny Chiu, the defeated anti-abortion Conservative candidate in Steveston–Richmond East, blamed voters from mainland China for his loss.
Others with more liberal attitudes toward the LGBT community might be inclined to think that Kenny Chiu defeated Kenny Chiu. But not Kenny Chiu.
Best freedom fighters
Many Vancouverites have been heartbroken and outraged as they’ve watched how Chinese president Xi Jinping and his cronies have mercilessly crushed the desire of Hong Kong residents for democracy and freedom of expression and association.
Ties between Vancouver and Hong Kong go back to the 19th century, and the bonds remain very deep. Yet it takes tremendous courage for people of Hong Kong ancestry, in particular, to speak out. That’s because by doing so, they face the prospect of being arrested if they ever return to the city that they love.
So let’s tip our hat to local freedom fighters such as Vancouver East NDP MP Jenny Kwan, former Sing Tao editor Victor Ho, writer Gabriel Yiu, theatre artist Derek Chan, Vancouver Society for Democratic Movement spokesperson Mabel Tung, and Canadians for Reconciliation Society founder Bill Chu.
This list is far from complete because there are many others worthy of similar recognition. We salute all of them so they know how much their efforts are appreciated in the local community and by their many friends in Hong Kong.
Best explanation for divergent paths of China and Taiwan
At this year’s TAIWANfest, UBC professor of Chinese intellectual history Josephine Chiu-Duke delivered an enlightening talk about the differences between “official Confucianism”, as espoused by the ruling elite in the People’s Republic of China, and “classical Confucianism”, which is embedded in the Taiwanese psyche.
Whereas official Confucianism prizes order at all costs, classical Confucianism, as espoused by the earliest scholars, supports challenging authority. Chiu-Duke’s talk went a long way toward explaining why the Taiwanese embrace democracy and free speech so fervently whereas the Communist rulers in China are so quick to throw dissenters in jail.