The Vancouver Public Space Network along with Simon Fraser University’s City Program and the Architecture and Landscape Architecture Programs at University of British Columbia sponsor this every election fast paced debate which allows candidates for mayor and council for the City of Vancouver a chance to meet their audience.
The format brought out about 29 different candidates that were asked questions by an elite group of journalists, the Vancouver Sun’s Dan Fumano, the Tyee’s Jen St. Denis, and CTV’s Penny Daflos.
Firstly brought up in randomly chosen groups of five, the candidates responded to previously prepared questions read out by the elite panel. In the first round, the groups were asked a question and each candidate was asked to speak for exactly 60 seconds on the topic. You would be surprised at who displayed knowledge of city policy and work, and who could think quickly on their feet. And no, it was just not the current councillors who so gracefully participated in the event.
Questions included how to increase housing stock and affordability, how to increase park space, and how to get more public washrooms in Vancouver.
There were some surprising stand outs including Francoise Raunet who is running for mayor but had a clear grasp of the policy and issues and would make an excellent city councillor.
Amy “Evil Genius” Fox despite her moniker also provided some thoughtful ideas on housing policy and transportation. This is what can be achieved at an event like this, where people can learn directly from each candidate.
There were also some gaps, including candidates and sitting councillors not referencing existing policy as part of their answer, and the answers appearing individualistic and not team based. A question that might be posed next time is how best to work together in a Council that may not have a majority of leadership.
After the lightning rounds the remaining candidates chosen by the journalist panel to go forward (all three judges were marking up aggregate scores based upon the answers) people were given one and half minutes to answer a question related to the city.
The finalists were two sitting councillors: Councillor Christine Boyle, (who won this debate four years ago and brought her trophy up to the stage in post celebratory fashion) and Councillor Michael Wiebe. After a warmup on stage, the final two candidates were ready.
An applausometer was used to ascertain who best answered the final question on which cities in the world did the candidates admire and why. Councillor Boyle chose Montreal for its walking and biking policies, while Councillor Wiebe chose three cities, including Vienna for its housing and Milan for its businesses and spaces. The winner this year was Councillor Wiebe.
Sadly there was no one here from one political party, who felt the event was a bit undignified. They would not be wrong, as in 2018 several candidates were asked to do a dance off, including the last two candidates who were women. It could be construed as a bit cringeworthy as can be seen in the video below.
Happily this year the event (although at three hours a wee bit long) was less dance and more substance, and did allow a glimpse into each candidate. It’s a concept that can only get better.
The enthusiasm and caring of the 29 people running for municipal election that came to the event was inspiring. It is well worth attending the next one to learn more and chat with the candidates.
Here’s the last part of the Last Candidate Standing event from 2018 on YouTube.