A punter's guide to Vision Vancouver's choice in the upcoming council by-election

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      The left has fielded most of its candidates in the upcoming Vancouver council by-election.

      Antipoverty activist Jean Swanson decided to run after a bunch of young people got on her case. She's an independent.

      Another Vancouver housing activist, Pete Fry, is going to be the Green party's candidate in the October by-election.

      Meanwhile, the city's former advocate for the homeless, Judy Graves, is running with OneCity.

      And the left wing Coalition of Progressive Electors is planning on naming its candidate on August 29 at St. James Community Square.

      It's already looking like a crowded field even without candidates named for the centre-right NPA and the centrist Vision Vancouver.

      Kirk LaPointe and Bob Kasting both ran for mayor in 2014—but Kasting threw his support behind the NPA standard bearer late in the campaign.
      Yolande Cole

      Who will run for the NPA?

      Today, NPA councillor George Affleck sent out an email urging recipients to take out a one-year membership for $10.

      This will enable them to vote at the party's nomination meeting in early September.

      In the last civic election, the NPA's Ian Robertson came 11th, barely missing making it onto council. But he's out of the running now that he's the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

      There's always the 2014 NPA mayoral candidate, Kirk LaPointe, who attracted the most votes by a runner-up in Vancouver history. However, he's pretty busy working for Glacier Media and hosting a radio show.

      Former NPA councillor and former attorney general Suzanne Anton is waiting in the wings, as is Gregory Baker, who came 12th in the race for council in 2014.

      Baker's sister Nathalie, a municipal lawyer, might also be encouraged to run, as might another lawyer, Bob Kasting.

      Kasting and LaPointe wouldn't exactly present a fresh face for a party that's desperately in need of appealing to millennial voters.

      This is why I would keep an eye on park commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung and former Vancouver-Fairview B.C. Liberal candidate Gabe Garfinkel. Either of them is more likely to be the NPA candidate if the B.C. Liberals are viewing this by-election as an opportunity to grow their farm team in Vancouver.

      That's because Garfinkel and Kirby-Yung are both possible B.C. Liberal candidates in the next provincial election—and a term on council would boost the winner's profile substantially.

      Another possibility is Hector Bremner, who ran for the B.C. Liberals in New Westminster in 2013. He later worked as an executive assistant to B.C. Liberal deputy premier Rich Coleman before joining the Pace Group as thevice president of public affairs.

      Former B.C. Liberal candidate Gabe Garfinkel's name recognition would shoot up were he to be elected to council.

      Bookmaking on Vision Vancouver

      The city's ruling party, Vision Vancouver, hasn't uttered a peep on its website about the by-election.

      So who will run for Vision? Here are some things to keep in mind.

      Vision Vancouver is a hybrid of federal Liberals and provincial New Democrats.

      The previous occupant of this council seat, Geoff Meggs, is a New Democrat with strong ties to the B.C. Federation of Labour.

      The Fed is going to want a union-friendly candidate this time around.

      The federal Liberals are also not nearly as popular with some Visionistas because of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

      Council is going to be seeking favours from the provincial government, which increases the likelihood of a New Democrat being nominated.

      With that in mind, here's my take on who might get the nod.

      Wei Qiao Zhang might be ready for a run for council.

      Wei Qiao Zhang: 3-2

      Zhang is a director of Vision Vancouver and a constituency aide to labour-friendly NDP MP Don Davies. Zhang also escorted Premier John Horgan to the Chinese New Year parade earlier this year. That tells you something about his position within the NDP.

      In addition, Zhang hosts a popular Mandarin-language web TV show and he previously worked as an employment consultant at S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson needs to regenerate his team with young blood after all of his candidates under the age of 45 were defeated in the last civic election.

      Zhang offers the hope of providing generational change and reinforcing Vision's appeal with voters of Chinese ancestry.

      Even if Zhang lost the by-election, his profile might increase to the point where he would have a better chance in the 2018 municipal election. And from there, Horgan might consider recruiting him to run in a future provincial election, perhaps in Vancouver-Fraserview, should George Chow decide to retire.

      Patti Bacchus is a proven vote-getter for Vision Vancouver.
      Charlie Smith

      Patti Bacchus: 5-2

      If Vision Vancouver wants to win this by-election, Bacchus might be the best name to put forward on the ballot.

      She attracted a stunning 73,551 votes in the 2014 school board election. That's puts her in third place for any local government candidate in Vancouver history.

      Robertson collected the most votes in 2014 and in second place is former mayor Larry Campbell, who received more than 80,000 votes in 2002. Robertson's also exceeded Bacchus's total when he received more than 77,000 votes in 2011. 

      Many Vancouver residents came to love Bacchus for her uncompromising stance in favour of LGBT equality in schools, opposition to school closures, and refusal to kowtow to the B.C. Liberal government.

      She also demonstrated financial smarts by fighting the province's attempt to force the school board to sell the Kingsgate Mall.

      Bacchus knows a great deal about land-use issues, which would be very helpful in addressing housing.

      Vision Vancouver also needs at least one more woman on council to balance the slate.

      But my guess is that the party's desire for generational change in advance of the 2018 Vancouver election will outweigh everything else.

      If I'm correct, it means Bacchus won't get the party's council nomination and she'll then give serious thought about running for the school board again.

      Vision's justification will be that Bacchus is a political liability because of a WorkSafe B.C. report into the Vancouver school board when she was a trustee.

      But the real reason will be Vision's reluctance to have someone as strong as Bacchus inside the council caucus.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson likes Naveen Girn, who ran for park board in 2014.

      Naveen Girn: 3-1

      Girn, a cultural historian, attracted 51,659 votes when he ran for the park board in 2014. He's director of community relations to the mayor and would represent generational change for Vision Vancouver.

      Girn is a terrific storyteller and would be a gregarious candidate. And for many years, Vision has wanted to have a councillor of South Asian ancestry. But Girn is already helping Vision with its outreach to the South Asian and other communities in his current role. 

      The untapped voting pool is the growing number of Mandarin speakers, which is why I think Zhang is a better bet for this by-election. Robertson speaks some Mandarin too, so with Zhang at his side, he'll be in a good position to make inroads over the next year and possibly save his own job in 2018.

      Niki Sharma (second from right) was named as Vision's council candidate in 2014 after Catherine Evans (far right) had expressed an interest.
      Yolande Cole

      Niki Sharma: 7-2

      The former Vision park board chair and lawyer is on the board of Vision Vancouver.

      She's also on the board of Vancity, which doesn't leave as much time to sit on council. 

      Sharma suffered a bruising defeat in the 2014 election when many thought she was going to sail onto council.

      Like Zheng and Girn, Sharma represents generational change. 

      But my bet is she'll sit out the by-election and give serious thought to running in 2018 when she has a better chance of being elected.

      Catherine Evans: 8-1

      Evans, a lawyer and former Vancouver library board chair, was going to run for council in 2014. But she eventually decided to run for the park board so that Sharma could be Vision's council candidate.

      We all know how that turned out: Evans was elected and Sharma was defeated.

      The Vision brass trusts Evans and she has a deep understanding of homelessness and the types of housing policies that are needed for the city.

      But Evans has one big liability from the NDP's perspective: she's a federal Liberal. And that might doom her chance of receiving a council nomination in this by-election.

      Besides, she might be happy to remain on park board, where she has considerable influence following Comm. Erin Shum's decision to quit the NPA caucus.

      Evans has worked with the two Green commissioners, Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe, to bring about real changes, such as banning the display of whales and dolphins in the Vancouver Aquarium.

      If she won a council by-election, would that then lead to a park board by-election? I expect that Evans will spare us the thought by staying where she is—for now.

      Theo Lamb (with son Sagan) has twice been elected to the board of Vancity.

      Theo Lamb: 12-1

      Lamb, a sustainable-food advocate, recently won election to her second term on the Vancity board.

      She has also worked closely with environmental entrepreneur Joel Solomon as a producer of Hollyhock's Leadership Institute. It's worth noting that Solomon was something of a father figure to Robertson before he entered politics.

      Lamb will emerge as a Vision Vancouver candidate at some point, possibly this time for school board.

      Keep an eye on her. She represents generational change and fits into the whole environmental zeitgeist of Vision.