October 17, 2018

An Election Like No Other

This is an election like no other. While “unprecedented” is an overused word, it seems true for this campaign more than any other since the late 1930s:

  • Only three incumbents from the previous council.
  • More new parties than most of us can distinguish.
  • Credible independents, with a receptive electorate.
  • Campaign finance rules that, with some breaking of their intentions, changed the way the game is played.
  • A tumbled ballot.

Throw in a low turnout, split voting on left and right, along with a shift to densifying neighbourhoods and a decline of voters in aging communities (thanks, Andy Yan, for that data), and you have an outcome that no one can credibly predict.

I thought for awhile that this may be an election which changes the direction of Vancouver in a way that happened in 1972 when the NPA lost to TEAM.  That marked the end (and beginning) of an era.  But my sense now is, maybe not.  While there will be some momentous decisions to come, particularly with respect to neighbourhoods that haven’t seen much change in generations, the City will continue on as it has, with Council adhering to the foundational assumptions which all previous councils, regardless of ideology, have held:

  • Large and continued investments in basic infrastructure and maintenance.
  • Reliable emergency services.
  • Gradual but not dramatic increases in property taxes, still heavily weighted to the advantage of residential over business.
  • Ongoing commitment to local-area planning – but in the context of a city-wide strategy.
  • Opportunistic levering of senior-government funding, especially for housing and transit.
  • Continued immigration but less concentrated ethnicity.
  • Disproportionate support for arts, culture and social services, providing regional-scale programs, supports and institutions.

Because we’re a rich city, we can do all that and not have much political division on the basics.  Our politics may seem extreme (and shifted to the left), but in fact we have the luxury of debating and dividing over social issues and relatively trivial interventions (bike lanes!) that keep Vancouver’s reputation for leadership and controversy intact.

After attending numerous candidates’ forums (at least for mayor and council), I’m impressed by the overall level of competence and concern among those running.  These are mostly good, sane people running for office, who care sometimes passionately, but seem capable of getting along with others.  While there are certainly characters and outliers, we’re going to be in good hands.


So who am I going to vote for?  I was avoiding a commitment, ostensibly maintaining an ‘objective’ persona for purposes of commentary.  But who am I kidding?  Already in this space I have profiled candidates I think worthy of office, and have been reported on the donation I made to a mayoral candidate (thanks, Charlie Smith).So here are some of the people I think would serve us well.

For Mayor:

Shauna Sylvester. 

She impresses everyone who hears her, and undoubtedly has a grasp of policy with articulated positions.  Her main asset is her ability to listen to others with the intent to forge consensus.  We’re going to need that.


For Councillors, in order of appearance on ballot, whom I’ve heard on the stump or interviewed:

CROOK, Adrian  (Independent)

FRY, Pete  (Green)

EVANS, Catherine, Vision

COOK, Graham  (Independent)

PAZ, Tanya  (Vision)

GRANT, Wade  (Independent)

MCDOWELL, Rob  (Independent)

YAN, Brandon 甄念本  (One Vancouver)

WIEBE, Michael  (Green)

DEAL, Heather  (Vision)

A few others for consideration: Barinder Bains, Christine Boyle, Diego Cardona, Colleen Hardwick, Abubakar Khan, Erin Shum.


As I’ve said to others, despite all the credible Independents, we could conceivably end up with a majority on council from one party, maybe the NPA – depending on the voter turnout, a good ground game, and an electorate who use party affiliation as a way to navigate the ballot.  Though Vancouver since the war has never voted for a mayor without an accompanying council majority, this election could be (wait for it) … unprecedented.


Here’s what I’ll be watching for:

  • Hidden voting blocks, particularly from the South and Southeast Vancouver.
  • Changes from past voting patterns (though I’ll leave the details to Andy Yan).
  • Resiliency of the slates, and whether any new party has a chance of survival.
  • What difference money (or lack of it) has made, and where it came from.
  • Generational differences.
  • Push-back from the conservationist status quo.
  • The emergence of a consensus on city direction, if any.


Firnally, an observation on the one thing we always hear in every campaign: “Let’s get the politics out of City Hall.”


Politics is the way we govern and allocate resources, including power.  That ain’t going away, unless we choose (as others seem to be) an authoritarian alternative.

Secondly with all the newcomers, there will be more politics going on at 12th and Cambie than we’ve seen in awhile, especially if there’s not a clear majority of interests capable of governing.  For those who ran on the illusion that they won’t be ‘political’ when elected, I look forward to your education.

We’ll do our best to document it in Price Tags and (soon to come) Price Talks, our upcoming podcast.

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  1. It took me two days of touring candidate and party websites looking for policy, then cross-checking them with my preferences, to derive virtually the same list, with two exceptions who were on my Second Choice tier. I boiled it down to a total of 16 possible candidates where 10 need to be elected to council. I did the same with the Park Board and School Board, and forwarded all three lists with First Choice and Second Choice rankings to friends and relatives who were very appreciative to have a somewhat flexible guideline of sorts, though most will tweak them to suit their own preferences.

    I agree completely that Shauna Sylvester is the superior choice for mayor, and that we need more intelligent and articulate women in leadership in the Age of Trump. But the cold, hard winner-takes-all math indicates that only Kennedy Stewart maintained a steady lead over all other candidates over two polls taken a week apart (37% and 36% respectively) while Sylvester dropped by eight points in a week (from 27% to 19%) and Ken Sim (NPA) gained by three to 23%. Polls are dynamic and often off, but when taken in sequence they indicate trends. The results are disappointing, but still positive in that a progressive candidate is still in front who pulls the right chains on housing, transportation, social policy and so forth. It’s very important that progressive voters support the lead to stave off a last-minute rush from the right.

    We went to the advance poll and voted for Stewart and largely the same array of candidates Gord listed above for council.


    A word of caution to those who have not voted yet: GO EARLY! The ballot is long and will take 10 minutes to fill out if you’re lucky, likely 15 even with a handy list. It takes another few minutes to stand in the lineup for the machines, and 30-45 seconds for the machine to read the ballot and confirm it was done correctly. A number of people ahead of me voted incorrectly and had to do it all over again (always for marking too many candidates … hmmm). Anticipate long lineups and lots of people making errors. But please don’t be discouraged because this is a watershed election, probably one for the history books.

  2. That someone as intelligent and engaged as Mr Botta has to work this hard to discover supposed platforms of the wannabes underscores the lunacy of this process; where there is even argument over alphabetical order on ballots; where idiot signs litter the streets with names and, blech, portraits, some with full body shots, and not a word about policy.
    How hard would it be to have a sign that says: Joe Blow, I pledge to … If I fail, I’ll return my salary. That’s someone worth voting for.
    Wannabes say anything to get elected. Once in …
    In the movie “The Candidate”, Robert Redford plays the part of a someone who speaks his truth, but when he starts getting traction, and gets handlers, plays the populist game like the rest.
    Sortition, aka Lotocracy, aka Random Selection, like the jury selection process, is better than this.

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