Vision Vancouver members did the expected Sunday and endorsed Mayor Gregor Robertson and his seven city council incumbents to represent the party's core of candidates seeking re-election in November.
That means the same city council team — Tony Tang, Tim Stevenson, Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer, Heather Deal, Kerry Jang and Raymond Louie — that won a majority in the 2011 campaign will again be on the ballot.
“I’m honoured to get that high level of support from membership and know how fired up everyone is for the election campaign,” Robertson told the Courier after learning 99 per cent of 279 voting members endorsed him as the party’s mayoral candidate.
Members also gave the nod to park board commissioner Trevor Loke and incumbent school trustees Cherie Payne, Mike Lombardi, Allan Wong, Rob Wynen, Patti Bacchus and Ken Clement.
Ballots were cast for the 15 incumbents at the party's Annual General Meeting inside the SFU Segal School of Business building on Granville Street, where about 400 people attended.
Prior to the vote, Robertson urged members to endorse his colleagues, saying it was “a mayor’s dream” to have so many of Vision’s elected officials willing to seek another term. The party won majorities in 2008 and 2011, both with Robertson at the helm.
In his speech, in which he uttered a few phrases in different languages, Robertson made it clear the NPA is Vision’s competition in the 2014 campaign. He warned his members not to “take anything for granted” in what is expected to be another multi-million dollar battle for power at city hall.
Robertson, however, got a few laughs when he said he’s heard “the arm-chair commentary” that suggested the NPA are “too old, they’re too angry, they’re too busy holding protests against bike lanes to see the big picture.”
While Robertson spoke of achievements including paying off “the NPA’s debt” on the Olympic Village project, following through on an affordable housing plan and edging towards Vision’s goal to have the “greenest city” in the world by 2020, the mayor acknowledged his party has made mistakes and moved too fast on some issues.
He pointed to the proposed community plan for Grandview-Woodland to have towers built at Commercial and Broadway and how that set off residents.
“That was a mistake that was made that immediately got turned around,” he said, noting a so-called citizens’ assembly will now help plan the future look of the neighbourhood. "That's one example of where we learned from our mistake and we accept that we're not always right or perfect."
Vision will add an eighth candidate to its city hall roster, one more for school board and four for park board at a June 22 nomination meeting. Once complete, the party will run a 21-person roster, the largest in its history.
So far, the battle for the remaining council nomination is between outgoing park board commissioner Niki Sharma and lawyer Catherine Evans, who is chairperson of the Vancouver Public Library Board.
The most new faces for Vision will be on its park board slate. With Sharma seeking a move to city hall, colleagues Aaron Jasper, Sarah Blyth and Constance Barnes (seeking a federal nomination with the NDP in Vancouver-Centre) have said this is their last term on the board.
Nominees for park board include West End activist Brent Granby, community organizer Coree Tull, food policy advisor Trish Kelly, businessman Mark Mitchell, youth settlement worker Sammie Jo Rumbaua and former Vision board member Naveen Girn. School trustee hopefuls include school psychologist and teacher Joy Alexander and architect Ian Ross McDonald.
Sunday's meeting was billed as a leadership review of the party's incumbents. The event was more a formality than a competition, with the lowest approval rating of an incumbent at 90 per cent; the party declined to provide a breakdown of the votes, only to say the mayor received 99 per cent support.
Vision’s executive director Stepan Vdovine defended the party's decision not to hold a nomination meeting for incumbents, a rare occurrence in the party's decade-long history.
The only time Vision hasn’t held a nomination meeting is when the party ran Jim Green for mayor and a slate of council candidates in the party’s inaugural campaign in 2005.
“The party feels very strongly about the slate of incumbents we have and we think they’re doing a fantastic job and this is an opportunity for the membership to say yes or no,” Vdovine said.
In previous elections, Vision has run “cooperative campaigns” with COPE and purposely didn’t run a full slate to allow for what they once called “a progressive voice” at city hall.
COPE and Vision have since severed ties.
When asked whether leaving two spots open at the 10-person council table was a subtle endorsement of the Green Party, Vdovine replied “no, it’s not.”
Added Vdovine: “Look, Vision Vancouver is the green party of Vancouver. We are the party that’s committed to making Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020. So we have an incredibly strong commitment to the environment.”
The Greens will run Coun. Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Cleta Brown for council and decide in June how many candidates the party will nominate for school board and park board, or whether it will run a mayoral candidate. COPE's nomination meeting is scheduled for Sept. 7.
The election is Nov.15.