Never before have Vancouver’s old-time civic parties been beset by so many serious challengers in a mayoral race.
The NPA, which was founded in 1937, has produced 11 mayors, but its current standard-bearer, businessman Ken Sim, has never been elected to any public office. He has told party members that he wants to run the city like it’s a business.
On the right and centre-right, Sim will face former Conservative MP Wai Young and NPA councillor Hector Bremner.
Young’s group is called Coalition Vancouver and her campaign revolves around how much money is being wasted by city hall on a variety of initiatives—but, most specifically, on bike lanes.
Bremner’s primary focus is on increasing the housing supply and he's going to advance this as the mayoral candidate for a new party called Yes Vancouver.
Neither of them is fazed by the number of candidates running for mayor.
Vision Vancouver has held the mayor’s chair since 2008, when Gregor Robertson won his first civic election. But the party’s council candidate came fifth in a by-election last year. And that was followed by four Vision Vancouver councillors and Robertson announcing that they won’t be seeking reelection.
It’s left an impression that the ruling party is struggling, even after it nominated Squamish hereditary chief Ian Campbell as its mayoral candidate.
He’s taken a leave of absence from serving as a councillor with the Squamish Nation as he campaigns to replace Robertson. Campbell has promised to triple the empty-homes tax and speed up permit approvals at city hall.
But Campbell faces stiff opposition from centre-left and left-wing candidates who are eager to gobble up Vision Vancouver’s traditional vote.
Kennedy Stewart, a two-term NDP MP in Burnaby, has announced that he’ll resign his parliamentary seat this summer as he pursues the mayor’s chair. Stewart is on leave from his job as an associate professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University.
On July 17, Stewart secured an endorsement from the Vancouver and District Labour Council, marking the first time that this didn’t go to a Vision mayoral candidate since the party was founded in 2005. Stewart has promised to fight for affordable housing—“homes for regular people that are being pushed out of Vancouver”—and increase transparency.
He’s not the only SFU academic in the mayor’s race. Public-practice professor Shauna Sylvester is on administrative leave from the university’s Centre for Dialogue, where she serves as executive director.
She’s on the board of MEC and the founder of Carbon Talks, and has been a director of Vancity, the B.C. Assessment Authority, and other organizations. She was the lead facilitator on Robertson’s task force on affordable housing and is a long-time advocate for a low-carbon economy.
Another mayoral candidate is financial planner David Chen, who heads a new party called ProVancouver.
In a recent phone interview with the Straight, Chen said the housing problem has been “orchestrated since 1986” and, as a result, he has “watched the city fall apart”.
“When you look at our elected officials, most of them are really from the social elite,” Chen said. “If you look at literally all the candidates that are running against me, most of them actually live in downtown or in very expensive houses on the North Shore. I’m actually the only candidate that lives in the heart of the Downtown Eastside in Strathcona.”