Mayor Kennedy Stewart still has three years to try to get rid of Vancouver's at-large voting system

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      The one-year anniversary of the election of Kennedy Stewart as Vancouver mayor has come and gone.

      And so far, he has not moved the needle a millimetre on one of his key campaign promises: to dump the city's at-large voting system.

      Under the at-large system, voters cast ballots for 10 councillors, seven park commissioners, nine school trustees, and a mayor.

      In September of last year, Stewart told the Straight that if voters rejected proportional representation in a provincewide referendum (which they did), he would try to persuade council to support a ward system.

      In a ward system, councillors are elected in neighbourhood constituencies.

      Politicians who seek office in a ward system don't need big money to advertise their candidacies across the city.

      Rather, they can focus their efforts in a more concentrated geographic area.

      "Think about when Vancouver gets to 800,000 people," Stewart said last year. "How can you run as a park commissioner with no money? It really dilutes your opportunity to talk to people in an election. But if you're in a neighbourhood—whether that's through PR or whether it's through just neighbourhood constituencies—then you can. It's all about improving democracy and reinforcing democracy."

      Stewart also cited how the at-large system discriminates against concentrated minority communities. 

      In addition, he said it was "weird" that he had to be elected mayor to change the voting system, which he's studied in detail as a political scientist.

      That was then.

      Now, there's no talk of a ward system.

      And there have been virtually no efforts to educate the public about the shortcomings of the at-large system through the media since Stewart was elected mayor.

      Keep in mind that multicultural Vancouver has never elected a Punjabi, Tagalog, or Spanish-speaking councillor. There's nobody on council who's primarily of South Asian, East Asian, African, Indigenous, or Latin American heritage. 

      It's an almost entirely white council in a city that takes pride in its diversity.

      Stewart knows about a several court rulings, including Rogers v. Lodge in the U.S. Supreme Court, declaring that at-large voting systems discriminate against concentrated minority communities.

      But so far, nothing has been done apart from a motherhood motion being introduced last summer by Coun. Christine Boyle. It sought council's support for a wide-ranging examination of historical discrimination against South Asians.

      Even that didn't pass—it was referred to the racial and ethno-cultural equity advisory committee for recommendations.

      Stewart still has three years in office to try to address the blatant racism embedded in Vancouver's at-large voting system.

      The election won't take place until October 15, 2022.

      But if he sits on his ass and does nothing, he's not going to get a free ride in the next campaign.

      Too many people in this city took him seriously when he pledged to try to bring about real change. He can't go back on that now without paying a political price.