By-election day in Vancouver could influence the fate of several civic parties

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      There's a great deal at stake for political parties and independents participating in today's Vancouver council by-election.

      A victory by Green candidate Pete Fry would firmly establish his party as the progressive alternative to Vision Vancouver and possibly set the stage for a mayoral run by Green councillor Adriane Carr.

      This would become more likely if the Greens elect one to three school trustees to go along with their two Green park commissioners.

      A win by OneCity's Judy Graves and one or two of the OneCity school board candidates would demonstrate that many New Democrats in Vancouver have left the Vision Vancouver tent in favour of their own civic party.

      This would leave OneCity well positioned to make advances in the 2018 general election, quite possibly backed by the labour movement and some provincial New Democrats.

      A victory by independent Jean Swanson would demonstrate how fed up Vancouverites have become over the lack of decent, affordable rental housing.

      Swanson would come to council with a movement behind her, prepared to make its presence known in the council chamber every time she advances motions to address inequality.

      Because Swanson's major planks—a rent freeze and a mansion tax—require action from the province, a win by her could create problems for NDP politicians who've been too timid to take more radical actions address housing.

      And if Sensible Vancouver's Mary Jean Dunsdon wins the seat, marijuana advocates would have their own representative inside the chamber ready to hold other councillors accountable for creating a regulatory framework that caused many dispensary workers to lose their jobs.

      For Vision Vancouver, it's important that its candidate, Diego Cardona, doesn't come fifth or sixth because that would embarrass Mayor Gregor Robertson just a year before the next election. A poor performance by Cardona could conceivably increase pressure on the mayor not to seek reelection.

      A crushing Vision defeat would also be a serious repudiation of the mayor's response to the housing crisis.

      In the midst of all of this, the NPA is hoping to elect a former Rich Coleman aide, Hector Bremner, to council. If Bremner wins, this would give the NPA four seats on council and boster its claim to be the only party capable of defeating Vision Vancouver in the next election.

      It could also revive B.C. Liberal prospects in Vancouver in the next provincial election, given the strength of its farm team in the city.

      In some respects, this by-election is also a referendum on big money in municipal politics.

      Swanson and the Greens have tried to make this an issue, so if they come first and second, it will be a clear indication that their message has gotten through about the contaminating influence of large donors.

      If one party emerges with a majority on school board, this will also be noteworthy.

      Swanson has two allies running for school board: COPE's Diana Day and independent Adi Pick. Should they be elected along with Swanson, there would be a trio of new left wing voices on the municipal political scene.

      There are nine candidates running for the one council seat vacated by Geoff Meggs.

      There are 19 candidates running for nine spots on the Vancouver school board.

      The last council by-election in 1992, which was won by the NPA's Lynne Kennedy, had a turnout of just 10 percent. So it might not take a huge number of votes, perhaps fewer than 20,000, to determine who is Vancouver's next city councillor.

      In 2014, Meggs came 10th in the race for 10 council spots with 56,831 votes.

       Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. Voting locations in Vancouver are available here.

      Residents of the University Endowment Lands can only vote for candidates for school board. 

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