COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong seen as “wildcard” in Vancouver election

New Westminster, Port Moody, and Surrey cited as cities with intriguing races

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      Two civic-election observers suggest that although Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson is favoured to win another term, he doesn’t have a lock on it.

      Part of the reason is Meena Wong, who pollster Mario Canseco described as the “wildcard” in the November 15 election.

      Canseco, vice president for public affairs at Insights West, and Patrick Smith, professor of political science and urban studies at SFU, were being asked about which contests they’re paying closer attention to in the Lower Mainland.

      Among the bigger cities in the region, only a handful appear to be interesting if one were to look at elections as horse races.

      Mayor Derek Corrigan of Burnaby and Mayor Malcolm Brodie of Richmond are expected to cruise to new terms. That can be said as well for Mayor Darrell Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver.

      Three mayors didn’t have challengers, and were acclaimed. These are Mayor Michael Smith of West Vancouver, Mayor Richard Walton of the District of North Vancouver, and Mayor Lois Jackson of Delta.

      Port Moody is among those that interests Smith.

      Mike Clay, who was elected mayor of Port Moody in 2011, is facing a challenge from Gaetan Royer, who has extensive experience in managing city affairs. Royer was a former city manager in Port Moody, and has worked as a senior manager in Surrey, Metro Vancouver, and Whitehorse.

      “It’s not very usual that you get senior bureaucrats running for the same job that they were reporting,” Smith told the Straight in a phone interview.

      The SFU academic also mentioned New Westminster, where four-term mayor Wayne Wright is fighting a challenge from councillor Jonathan Cote. “We have a current councillor who had thought he understood that the current mayor is not going to run,” Smith said.

      Smith and Canseco agree that Surrey is going to be an exciting one.

      “We got an old ex-mayor, we got the popular current mayor departing for federal politics, and her handpicked version seems to have some challenges that will play out in a rather interesting way,” Smith said, referring to Doug McCallum, mayor Dianne Watts, and her endorsed candidate, councillor Linda Hepner.

      If it were just a contest between Hepner and independent councillor Barinder Rasode, Smith suggested that Hepner would have the “inside track”.

      “Benefits of incumbency,” the SFU professor said. “She [Hepner] has a little bit of the Dianne Watts slipstream still working for her.

      “But the re-introduction of former mayor McCallum, I think if he took 15 or 20 percent of the vote, that could turn things upside down,” Smith also said.

      As for Vancouver, Smith talked about some of Robertson’s “vulnerabilities”.

      One is how Robertson and his Vision Vancouver caucus angered neighbourhoods by the way they handled issues like development and bike lanes.

      Then there’s Meena Wong, who is running for mayor with the Coalition of Progressive Electors, a party that was the sidekick of Vision in the last two elections.

      “One of the things that my former colleague—now member of Parliament—Kennedy Stewart would always remind me was that it doesn’t take a very big switch in a small size electorate to have a rather dramatic change in the outcome,” Smith said.

      Smith also said: “Collectively, there may be, you know, two or three places where there’s bleeding [on Robertson and Vision’s side] that goes on, and if Meena Wong did take some, then that, combined with some of the errors that I think the Gregor administration has made, makes him a little more vulnerable. You have to say he’s the...frontrunner though.”

      For Canseco, there are a couple of issues at play in Vancouver.

      One is that a big number of residents feel that city hall under Robertson and Vision hasn’t been transparent, and it’s something that the incumbent party’s main rival, the Non-Partisan Association, seems to be handling well.

      “That definitely plays into the hands of what the NPA has been talking about as far as making it a much more transparent city,” Canseco said.

      However, Canseco also said that given the NPA’s branding and what it represents to the city historically, “it’s going to be tougher for some of those who may have supported Gregor in the past two elections to go to the NPA”.

      Then there’s Wong of COPE.

      “Robertson never had to face a candidate from COPE in his first two mayoral races,” the pollster said. “You could have conceivably some of those votes that would go to Gregor in any other election without a COPE candidate suddenly going to COPE, and that could turn into a much closer race as we get closer to the election date.”

      Canseco is reminded of the 2006 federal election, recalling how then Liberal prime minister Paul Martin told voters that a vote for Jack Layton of the NDP would let Stephen Harper of the Conservatives win. “It’s kind of a similar scenario,” he said.

      According to Canseco, the past two elections have been essentially a two-party contest. “We have a two-party system, and you have a lot of independent candidates who are running, but they were never going to get anywhere near the level of support that the NPA and Vision have,” he said. “Now COPE has a candidate who’s been very vocal about what she wants to do particularly when it comes to unoccupied houses, the one-dollar-a-day proposal for transit, which is very problematic in a way, but it appeals to the kind of voter who usually goes to Vision, and if they [COPE] continue on this trend, if she [Wong] starts to climb the charts, then who knows where it’s going to go.”

      Canseco said the extent to which Wong is going to eat votes from Robertson is a question that many are asking.

      “Ultimately,” Canseco said, “it will show that there is a high number of residents who are going to have to ponder their options.”




      Oct 21, 2014 at 5:59pm

      Carlo pls ask your "experts" why then with the addition of Wong to the race, Lapointe's vote has dropped (see Justason) also why Wong's vote share is so low, given the 50 year history of their party.

      Generally Agreeable

      Oct 21, 2014 at 6:06pm

      What Jim said.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 7:37pm

      I don't know. According to the latest October 20, 2014 Vancouver mayor poll by Justason Market Intelligence, Roberston has 46% support, LaPointe 32% and Wong 16%. It looks like Vision Vancouver will win with the mayor's seat at least with Robertson unless something changes in the next 3 weeks.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:18pm

      Once upon a time city hall actually did something to raise awareness about an upcoming municipal election. Something even came in the mail. I guess that was cut in their budget. Nobody I ask seems to be aware or care in the slightest that there is an election less than a month away. Is this going to be a yawn all the way to Nov 15th or what? If it wasn't for the stories in the Straight there wouldn't be much of anything at all.

      James Garrett-Chen

      Oct 21, 2014 at 8:50pm

      Sure, let's leave it all to the pollsters. That has worked out *so well* lately.

      In fact, there is room for a vibrant COPE candidacy that spins ideas without making much of a difference to Vision's prospects versus the NPA. If I would look at a map of the front lines over the years, the front line has moved from the traditional Main Street, then to Cambie Street and now as far west as Arbutus. I can sense the desperate sweats of the NPA spin doctors for a solution but all I can ask is if they are trying to dampen down turnout by boring us to death?

      Earl Richards

      Oct 22, 2014 at 2:47am

      Wong, no tar sands tankers for Vancouver Harbour. The toxic, tar sands are bad for your health.


      Oct 22, 2014 at 6:39am

      I would not underestimate the level of civil anger against Vision, nor the considerable appeal of Mena Wong, who has been offering thoughtful policy options almost daily. We should keep in mind that the pollsters completely failed completely predicting the provincial election. For the municipal election I suspect questions asked by the pollsters are locked far too rigidly into a Vision vs. NPA mindset to detect that the citizens of Vancouver have a full on mutiny against both the developer parties. As evidence, keep in mind that we have a mayor so afraid of the electorate he is afraid to even appear in an all candidates meeting.


      Oct 22, 2014 at 7:17am

      I'm almost tempted to vote for her just to see what she can do. She's not short of confidence that's for sure.


      Oct 22, 2014 at 9:35am

      i would just like to say that Gregor's progress on homelessness in this city has been tragically disappointing. he's totally ignoring the issue, and it was a pillar of his campaign platform. he's lost my trust.

      Stanley Q Woodvine

      Oct 22, 2014 at 10:46am

      I just have to echo James Garrett-Chen. Meena Wong IS a vibrant Mayoral candidate. I really appreciate how positive and enthusiastic she is. And I like how her COPE team has delivered a clear, detailed platform, heavy on specifics.

      Even people who do not as a rule support COPE should acknowledge and approve of COPE's positive campaign of solutions.

      In contrast, the NPA, by not releasing a proper platform, by having the most uninformative Internet presence I have seen from an "experienced" political party and by campaigning on platitudes and generalities rather than anything more specific than "we will study it" -- well the NPA is running as a blank sheet of paper.

      Which does nothing to dissuade people inclined to write the NPA off as a right-wing party which will have oil tankers steaming down West Broadway (in a counterflow lane) come January.

      Vancouver deserves better -- something both COPE and the Green Party are sincerely trying to offer. But I'm afraid Vancouver will probably wake up November 16 to Gregor Robertson and more of the same.