Duplicity and dirty politics could make this the most intriguing Vancouver mayoral election since 2005

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      Let's admit it. The last three Vancouver mayoral elections have been fairly dull affairs.

      In 2008, Vision Vancouver's bicycle-riding, centrist, upper middle-class small businessman, Gregor Robertson, squared off against the NPA's bicycle-riding, centrist, upper middle-class small businessman, Peter Ladner.

      Neither candidate could be called colourful or highly quotable. It was a race only made interesting by Vision Vancouver's ability to exploit a leaked in-camera report about the Olympic Village.

      Vision Vancouver's backroom boys made the NPA appear to be financial amateurs, sealing Ladner's fate just as the global economy was in the midst of a major meltdown.

      Two memorable aspects of that contest were Robertson's pledges to eliminate homelessness by 2015 and to add a bike lane on the Burrard Bridge. You can guess which one of those promises he kept.

      In 2011, the hopelessly outgunned NPA councillor, Suzanne Anton, carried the NPA banner against Robertson's extremely well-financed Vision Vancouver campaign. By then, he had become the darling of Vancouver's real-estate developers. 

      That time, a bunch of Occupy protesters on the north side of the art gallery captured most of the attention.

      For some strange reason, Anton veered sharply to the right in that campaign as her party ridiculed Vision Vancouver's environmental policies.

      It was a fairly monumental blunder in a largely progressive, green-minded city. And it ended Anton's career in civic politics, which had been very successful up to that point.

      Then in 2014, another charismatically challenged NPA mayoral candidate, Kirk LaPointe, took on the even duller Robertson in a race made interesting by a libel suit filed near the end of the campaign.

      It came after LaPointe screamed "corruption" in debates and in campaign advertisements. Robertson and then Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs responded with a notice of motion in B.C. Supreme Court.

      Robertson hung on to win, but not after facing the toughest challenge of his political career.

      More than 10 months after the election, the mayor and Meggs dropped their libel suit when LaPointe cried "uncle" under the legal pressure and issued an apology.

      All three of those mayoral races were positively boring in comparison to the 2005 contest.

      That one pitted the NPA's Sam Sullivan versus hardnosed housing activist Jim Green versus independent candidate James Green.

      Livening things up was the civil war between councillors labelled as COPE Classic and COPE Lite. The latter group broke away and renamed itself Vision Vancouver in 2005.

      The two Greens split the non-NPA vote in 2005 and Sullivan squeaked up the middle. To this day some people believe that Jim Green was robbed of victory through some sort of dirty deed.

      NPA councillor Hector Bremner is not welcome to run for mayor with his party, but he could still be a candidate under another banner.
      Hector Bremner

      NPA could implode after vetoing Bremner

      This brings us to 2018. And it's looking like another year of dirty tricks and Machiavellian scheming in the Vancouver mayoral election

      The first big surprise came when the NPA board of directors refused to green-light Coun. Hector Bremner's application to seek the mayoral nomination.

      Bremner was clean enough to run for the NPA for council last October. But perhaps because he's a public-relations executive and his employer has clients who do business with the city, he's not considered suitable to seek the party's top job.

      Bremner has suggested that he was vetoed because the NPA board of directors doesn't like the ethnicity of the people's he's signed up as new members.

      The party, on the other hand, hints that there's something wrong with him being its mayoral candidate, but won't reveal any details. And he hasn't been kicked out of caucus. At least not yet.

      However, the NPA has called Bremner's previous comments "untrue, unfounded, and defamatory".

      In the meantime, Bremner looks like he's going to mount his own campaign for mayor outside of the NPA. And that could render the NPA irrelevant, no matter who is nominated on May 29 as its mayoral candidate.

      That's because Bremner will likely have the support of the real-estate industry. Developers and agents are salivating over his focus on increasing the supply of housing, including on public land.

      Bremner's stance also appeals to young urbanists who want more of the city upzoned for multifamily projects. He's a man with a message on the most important issue of the election.

      But the NPA's bum's rush to Bremner hasn't been the only shocker.

      Squamish hereditary chief Ian Campbell is expected to announce on May 14 that he's seeking Vision Vancouver's mayoral nomination.

      Vision Vancouver double-crosses Sylvester

      In early April, Vision Vancouver announced that it was "not formally opening a nomination process for the mayoral race".

      Rather, it invited "expressions of interest" for those interested in replacing Robertson at the top of the ticket.

      Vision Vancouver told people that it was going to engage with its members to see if they wanted to run a party candidate or endorse someone who might not have ties to the party.

      But in early May, Vision Vancouver did an abrupt about-face. Its justification was that "none of the potential candidates has emerged as a consensus choice".

      NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has already declared that he's running as an independent for mayor.

      On Monday (May 14), Squamish hereditary chief and band councillor Ian Campbell is also expected to formally enter the race by seeking the Vision Vancouver nomination.

      Back when Vision said that it was going to canvass members' opinions, a senior SFU administrator, Shauna Sylvester, announced her candidacy for mayor.

      “I’m running as an independent, hoping for the support of those parties on the centre and left,” Sylvester told the Straight at the time.

      However, it looks like the public-practice professor has been double-crossed by Vision Vancouver, a party that she supported for many years.

      Her mayoral campaign is continuing and one of her foremost goals is to reconnect residents with city hall.  

      She informed the Straight that she's "disappointed" that Vision Vancouver "stepped away from their commitment to engage their members in the decision about whether or not they were going to run a mayoral candidate".

      "But engagement has never been their strong suit," she added.

      A while ago, it looked like Green party councillor Adriane Carr might also run for mayor. But so far, she hasn't obtained the support of any parties other than her own, diminishing the likelihood of her entering the race.

      Former Conservative MP Wai Young has hitched her wagon to a new group called Coalition Vancouver.

      Will Vancouverites elect a woman as mayor?

      Five weeks ago with all the buzz around Carr and Sylvester, it looked like Vancouver might elect its first female mayor in its 132-year history.

      There is one other woman who's making noises about running for mayor: former Vancouver South Conservative MP Wai Young.

      She backed out of the NPA nomination race, which means she would have to run with a new group called Coalition Vancouver.

      This organization posted a video on YouTube on May 3 under this title: "Wai Young For Vancouver Mayor - People Not Politics".

      But as of this writing, it only has 11 views, which doesn't suggest a very vigorous campaign is underway.

      Watch Coalition Vancouver's video entitled "Wai Young For Mayor - People Not Politics".

      Now, there are three men vying for the NPA nomination (Glen Chernen, John Coupar, and Ken Sim).

      One male NPA councillor is possibly going to run as an independent (Bremner), and two other men (Stewart and Campbell) will likely seek the Vision Vancouver mayoral nomination.

      That might leave some with the impression that Vancouver will elect another male mayor.

      But as things stand now, the NPA and Vision Vancouver brands are both pretty thrashed.

      If there's any doubt about that, consider that Bremner only won 27 percent of the vote as the NPA candidate in the council by-election and only two NPA school board candidates were elected. Vision Vancouver's council candidate came fifth.

      That means there could be quite a bit of room for a newcomer to civic electoral politics, like Sylvester or Young, to perform well in the mayoral race.

      In this regard, they could draw inspiration from from another newcomer and insurgent candidate, Naheed Nenshi, who came from nowhere to win the 2010 mayoral election in Calgary.

      Nenshi succeeded because he was sufficiently different from two other candidates, alderman Ric McIver and establishment newscaster Barb Higgins. Plus, he had an outstanding social-media presence and he campaigned nonstop by visiting people's homes, away from the prying eyes of the media.

      In a similar vein, either Sylvester or Young could bill themselves as bringing a far different perspective to politics than all the men who've been mayor in the past.

      Young is a conservative and keen to start a tax revolt, plus she's of Chinese ancestry.

      Sylvester has impeccable environmental credentials and would have strong appeal to professional women who are tired of men always running the show.

      That alone makes this year's mayoral race far more fascinating than the last three contests.

      Throw in a few more dirty tricks and a little bit of backstabbing, and it might even drive up voter turnout.