To coincide with the Georgia Straight's annual Best of Vancouver issue, I decided to post one of those unscientific "polls" on our website.
The question was pretty straightforward: who was the best mayor of Vancouver over the past 50 years?
I had no idea how it would turn out because Vancouver has had many popular mayors, including Philip Owen, who was honoured in a November 13 memorial service.
It turns out that the leader in this poll—by a substantial margin—is Mike Harcourt, who was mayor from 1981 to 1986.
He was in office during fairly turbulent times after B.C. endured a deep recession in the early 1980s. The restraint program initiated by the Social Credit government following the 1983 election led to significant social unrest. And there were intense labour disruptions in the lead-up to Expo 86.
Through it all, Harcourt remained an upbeat, friendly mayor who was largely supported by his council.
In the Straight's poll, as of this writing, Harcourt has the support of 26 percent of those who voted.
Gregor Robertson is in second place. He oversaw a wide range of climate initiatives during his tenure from 2008 to 2018, even as some residents became increasingly enraged about rising home prices. Robertson has 17 percent of the votes as of this writing.
Tied for third place are Owen and a 1970s-era mayor, Art Phillips, at 14 percent.
Phillips modernized city planning as the leader of TEAM. Owen's greatest legacy was supporting a four-pillars approach in addressing drug addiction.
Not far behind them are two of the Campbells—Larry and Gordon—at nine and eight percent, respectively.
Larry Campbell's tenure was marked by civil war within his party, the Coalition of Progressive Electors, before he bolted as part of a group that eventually became Vision Vancouver.
He oversaw the introduction of slot machines at Hastings Park and the Plaza of Nations, cleared the way for the approval of the Canada Line, and fought hard in a plebiscite to ensure that Vancouver would host the 2010 Games. In the process, his council left taxpayers vulnerable to cost overruns at the Olympic Village, which was cleaned up by a subsequent Vision Vancouver-led government.
Gordon Campbell's tenure in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted in the development of the North False Creek and Coal Harbour neighbourhoods. This contributed to the densification of the downtown, breathing life into the arts and cultural and downtown business sectors. However, it displaced some low-income residents to other areas as buildings were demolished to make way for expensive condos.
After leaving the mayor's office, Gordon Campbell and Harcourt each later become premier of B.C. Phillips was elected as a Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre in 1979, serving only one term in a short-lived minority Parliament before being defeated by Progressive Conservative Pat Carney.