Analysis: Hector Bremner is the man to beat in Vancouver's upcoming council by-election

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      If this was London, England, and not Vancouver, you can be sure that bookies would be placing odds on the upcoming council by-election.

      But for now, at least, the B.C. Lottery Corporation has not gotten into the business of taking bets on political races.

      So in the absence of anyone else doing it, here is my assessment of the various candidates' chances.

      NPA: Hector Bremner (3:2)

      Normally, the NPA wouldn't have a chance by running a former aide to Rich Coleman in a town full of latte-loving cyclists. But this time, the left is fragmented, ruling Vision Vancouver is running an unknown 21-year-old, and the B.C. Liberals are out for blood after losing control of the legislature.

      Bremner's focus on increasing the supply of housing will sit well with the development industry. This means there will be lots of money flowing into the NPA campaign to elect him. 

      He also showed good organizational ability in signing up lots of members in his campaign to win the nomination. This demonstrates that he's already proven himself to be a decent retail politician.

      Bremner has also been mentored by right-wing political backroom boy extraordinaire Norman Stowe at the Pace Group. And Bremner's wife Virginia and his kids' Philippine ancestry will help him win votes in Vancouver's growing community of Filipino Canadians. All of this makes him the favourite, notwithstanding the battered NPA brand.

      Pete Fry ran a respectable campaign in 2014, but this time he hopes to get elected to council.

      Green: Pete Fry (3:1)

      Environmental crises have been staring us in the face this summer with horrific hurricanes, fearsome wildfires, and near biblical floods. Fry already has a good base of support with neighbourhood groups and the Green brand might be enough to push him over the top. But his biggest problem will be vote splintering on the left.

      The Greens have a political machine. It's not nearly as revved up as those of Vision Vancouver or the NPA, but it was sufficiently well-oiled to give Adriane Carr the most votes of any council candidate in 2014. Because of that, it's far too early to rule out Fry's chance of success.

      Besides, his mom, Hedy Fry, has never lost an election since entering politics in 1993. Surely, some of those political survival skills have been passed along to her son.

      If the NDP machine gets behind Judy Graves, she could pull of an upset.
      Yolande Cole

      OneCity: Judy Graves (4:1)

      The city's former homeless coordinator should be taken seriously as a candidate. But vote-splitting on the left is not going to make it easy for her in her first run for political office.

      Her best chance of winning is if Vision Vancouver and the provincial NDP machine get behind her candidacy and use their party lists to identify potential supporters. If Graves were to be elected, it would thwart the NPA's momentum going into the 2018 municipal election and set the stage for a Vision–OneCity alliance to block the NPA. Hell, they could even leave one spot open for Carr so the Greens could keep a position on council.

      But right now, it seems like a longshot for Graves to get elected unless she starts generating a lot more media attention and boosts her name recognition with voters from across the ethnic spectrum.

      Rabble-rouser Jean Swanson has a chance if the vote splinters in ways that benefit her.
      Charlie Smith

      Independent: Jean Swanson (5:1)

      Swanson has high name recognition dating back to the time she ran for mayor in 1988. The antipoverty activist's volunteers are incredibly dedicated and she has the backing of the Coalition of Progressive Electors. But it's exceedingly difficult for an independent to get elected in Vancouver's at-large system—the last one was Carole Taylor, whose campaign had a lot more money than Swanson's.

      It's not out of the question that Swanson could pull off an upset. Left wing candidates have been elected to council in many other cities, including Seattle. The winner might only need 30 percent of the votes, given the number of candidates and the way the vote could split.

      But at this stage of the campaign, it looks like a very uphill battle for Swanson in a city as wealthy as Vancouver. She'll do well with tenants, but history has shown that homeowners are far more likely to show up at the polls on voting day.

      Diego Cardona might help rebrand Vision, but Gregor Robertson knows that his party is not running a candidate with much name recognition.

      Vision Vancouver: Diego Cardona (7:1)

      Vision Vancouver has the most potent voter-ID system in town and it has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to get out the vote for its candidates. But ruling parties often lose by-elections. Also, the wind has been sucked out of Vision's sails to a certain extent when the B.C. NDP government hired some of its savviest political operators.

      Cardona is only 21 years old, which will make voters wonder how much depth he has around everything from the Vancouver Charter to rezonings to preserving heritage. Normally, youngsters make their first stab at elected office at the park-board level.

      It looks like the mayor put him forward to rebrand Vision for the future in recognition of the growing Latino population—and to remind voters that Vision isn't completely made up of old fogeys.

      Mary Jean "Watermelon" Dunsdon went from being a Wreck Beach activist to a Commercial Drive candy seller.
      Amanda Siebert

      Sensible B.C.: Mary Jean Dunsdon (15:1)

      Vancouver's weed diva will light up the enthusiasm of marijuana dispensary workers, whose jobs have been jeopardized by the Vision Vancouver–controlled council. But history has shown that single-issue marijuana-legalization candidates have not come close to getting elected running for various levels of government in our town.

      Dunsdon, a.k.a. Watermelon, will dispute that she's another one of these single-issue candidates. She's long been an advocate for environmental sustainability and she values human rights and diversity. But in the public mind, she's still the marijuana candidate. And that could doom her chances.

      But hey, she's the only one of the six candidates who's ever been on the cover of the Georgia Straight.

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