On September 9, two of the frontrunners in the Vancouver mayoral race—incumbent Kennedy Stewart and ABC Vancouver candidate Ken Sim—did not participate in a debate at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church on West 12th Avenue.
It was called to focus on the Broadway Plan and the Vancouver Plan, which are two of the most significant planning documents approved by the current mayor and council.
Today (September 12), the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods announced that it is going to cancel its mayoral debate after Stewart and Sim again declined to participate.
“The message to Vancouver voters is a warning sign that Stewart and Sim do not really care about neighbourhoods and neighbourhood groups,” co-organizer Dorothy Barkley said in a news release.
The CVN debate was scheduled on September 19 at Britannia Community Centre and was going to be moderated by former NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe.
Sim and Stewart haven't ignored all debates.
They showed up along with the NPA's Fred Harding, TEAM for a Livable Vancouver's Colleen Hardwick, and Progress Vancouver's Mark Marissen for a September 7 event hosted by SUCCESS and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Ten of the other candidates for mayor were not given a microphone at the front of the room.
The optics of skipping out on mayoral debates doesn't look good on Stewart or Sim.
Ducking these public dialogues is what we've come to expect from federal Conservative candidates over the years—not those competing for Vancouver's highest office.
And Stewart, a political scientist by training, surely knows what's happened to the federal Conservatives in Vancouver since the 1993 election.
In 53 different elections in six different Vancouver ridings, the Conservatives only won once! That was in 2011 when Wai Young snatched Vancouver South from the Liberal incumbent, Ujjal Dosanjh.
Then, there's the famous quote by Kim Campbell when she was leading the Progressive Conservatives in the 1993 election campaign.
"An election is no time to discuss serious issues," Campbell, who was then prime minister, said.
In the general election, her party was nearly obliterated, falling to just two seats in Parliament, and she lost in Vancouver Centre to Liberal candidate Hedy Fry.
Three decades later, Fry remains the MP for Vancouver Centre and the Conservatives have never come close in any of the subsequent elections.
Let this be a message to any civic politician who doesn't think that participating in debates is part of their job.