Yes Vancouver names its candidates to run with mayoral candidate (and future MP?) Hector Bremner

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Today when I saw the list of candidates running with councillor Hector Bremner's new civic party, two things crossed my mind.

      First, I felt it was crafted with an eye to gaining Yes Vancouver a foothold in civic government in the October municipal election.

      Secondly, I wondered if Yes Vancouver is part of a larger game plan to help Justin Trudeau's Liberals in the 2019 federal election.

      Let's start with the slate. None of the five candidates seeking council seats with Bremner has ever run for public office in Vancouver.

      But they have sufficiently impressive résumés for Bremner to mount a credible mayoral campaign.

      But he has one major challenge: winning the support of the city's large number of voters of Chinese ancestry.

      The NPA's Ken Sim and another mayoral candidate, former MP Wai Young, are each hoping to become the city's first mayor of Chinese descent.

      They're going to be targeting right-wing and centre-right voters fed up with Vision Vancouver's mania for more separated bike lanes and rising expenditures at city hall. 

      Bremner is chasing the same types of voters. And he needed to do something dramatic to appeal to the significant number of residents of Chinese ancestry in Vancouver who feel this way.

      Many of them might be inclined to vote for Sim or Young to try to make history.

      Here's Bremner's response: one of the Yes Vancouver council candidates, Phyllis Tang, is a researcher for UBC's access and diversity staff.

      She studied at the Sauder School of Business, is active in her Chinese Baptist Church. And her Linkedin profile states that she speaks five languages, including Cantonese, Mandarin, French, and German. She's also deeply involved in music and wants to promote Vancouver as a cultural hub.

      Tang has also worked in public relations, like Bremner, so you can expect her to stay on message.

      Another Yes Vancouver council candidate, Glynnis Chan, is president of Happy Times Travel & Tour. It's been in the city for more than three decades. She's going to have a lot of contacts in Vancouver, in part because she hosts fundraising events on the side.

      Chan is not the only small-business person on the Yes Vancouver council slate.

      Stephanie Ostler owns the Devil May Wear boutiques on Main Street and on Granville Island. Brinder Bains owns three Cobs Bread franchises and has been on the board of the West End Business Improvement Association.

      If Sim and the NPA felt they had a lock on small business owners, they're probably going to be surprised by whom Bremner was able to recruit.

      The fifth Yes Vancouver council candidate is South Vancouver pharmacist Jaspreet Virdi. He's a volunteer with Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen, which serves food to the homeless.

      Bremner's opponents are going to paint him as being in the back pocket of developers. But there's not a single developer on his slate, which will give him an easy rejoinder to this charge in any mayoral debates.

      SFU program assistant and competitive coach Leo Heba is Yes Vancouver's only park board candidate. Mathematics whiz and former Sam Sullivan campaign Jorge Julian Prieto is the only school board candidate.

      Prieto was born in Colombia and grew up in Vancouver.

      Meanwhile, Bremner should do well with Filipino Canadians given that his wife Virginia is from the Philippines.

      So in sum, Yes Vancouver has a diverse and multilingual group of candidates, none of whom appear to be going into the election with serious liabilities.

      Two are of Chinese ancestry, two are of Indian ancestry, one is a turbaned Sikh, and one is a data cruncher with experience in political backrooms and who speaks Spanish.

      Yes Vancouver is well-positioned to win votes in South Vancouver and the East Side, in particular. And if the north side of the city splits between the NPA, Vision Vancouver, the Greens, COPE, and OneCity Vancouver, then it's conceivable that Yes Vancouver candidates could get elected to council.

      One of the smartest moves was only running one candidate for school board and park board. Voters might cast one vote for the Yes Vancouver names in these races just to mix things up, enabling Prieto and Heba to squeek in.

      At the same time, this lack of names lower on the ballot frees up the possibility of some voters (who often don't even know the biographies of first-time candidates) putting an X beside the name of more Yes Vancouver people running for council and mayor.

      And with five council candidates, Bremner can claim that he's seeking a majority, even if others doubt that this is possible.

      There was some speculation that Musqueam councillor and former Christy Clark adviser Wade Grant might run with Yes Vancouver but that isn't happening. He's already set up a website announcing his council run, so we can probably expect to see him vying for a spot on the NPA slate.

      Bremner also didn't manage to recruit park commissioner Erin Shum to run for council with his party. Shum quit the NPA caucus in 2016 and gave birth to a baby girl in June.

      About 100 people showed up for today's Yes Vancouver event to announce acclaimed candidates. This was far fewer than the number who attended last month's contested NPA mayoral-nomination vote.

      Trudeau could be the ultimate beneficiary 

      Bremner has some other experienced hands in the backroom, including Mark Marissen, who managed Stéphane Dion's successful campaign to become federal Liberal leader in 2006.

      This brings me to the second thing that crossed my mind when I saw the Yes Vancouver slate.

      If Bremner runs a decent campaign and still falls short of winning the mayoral race, he may be recruited to join Justin Trudeau's team in the 2019 federal election.

      The Liberals would sorely love to defeat veteran New Democratic Party MP Don Davies in Vancouver Kingsway.

      Davies has done an extraordinary job as a constituency politician. He knows that all politics, even federal politics, are ultimately local. And he's extremely popular with the riding's large number of Filipino Canadians.

      Bremner might be the only centrist or right-of-centre politician in Vancouver who can match him and NDP MLA Mable Elmore in reaching out to this community. It can swing federal elections in Vancouver Kingway.

      That's because the old white lefties who've lived there for decades tend to vote NDP. The large number of Chinese Canadians in Vancouver Kingsway have, at times, skewed Liberal in federal elections.

      This makes the large number of Filipino Canadians the kingmakers. It's a point not lost on Davies and others who pay attention to demographics.

      If you're Justin Trudeau (or Mark Marissen) and you want to win the federal riding of Vancouver Kingway, you would choose someone like Bremner.

      He's not likely to raise a fuss about the prime minister buying the Kinder Morgan pipeline. He's young and ambitious. And he can hold his own in rough-and-tumble political campaigns.

      Even if Bremner wins the mayoralty, there's a potential benefit for the federal Liberals in the Yes Vancouver camopaign.

      Politics these days is about data mining, which involves gathering information about voting households.

      In any municipal campaign, political operatives recruit new campaign volunteers and gain insights into key issues of concern to individual voters, which helps parties hone their ground games.

      The 2014 Surrey mayoral campaigns of Barinder Rasode and Doug McCallum may have paved the way for the federal Liberals' stunning success in that city in the 2015 federal election. Rasode and McCallum lost, but their candidacies helped federal Liberals identify pockets of support in the city. 

      And this municipal election in Vancouver could be about the NDP gaining enough insights to win Vancouver Centre and the federal Liberals trying to gain an edge in Vancouver Kingsway.

      Just as Bremner could emerge as the federal Liberal candidate in Vancouver Kingsway, Kennedy Stewart could morph into the federal NDP candidate in Vancouver Centre should he fall short of winning the mayor's race.

      Of course, this is not what these two mayoral candidates want to talk about on the campaign trail.

      So I would advise tucking the second half of this article away until after the October 20 Vancouver election.

      Review it a year from now when the federal campaign becomes the biggest political story in the city. Don't be too surprised if Bremner emerges as the Liberal standard-bearer in Vancouver Kingsway in 2019.

      Keep an eye on Stewart, too, because the pipeline-loving federal Liberals may be more vulnerable next year in Vancouver Centre than at any time in the past quarter century.