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In Vancouver politics, the left divided will always be defeated

For the first time since 2005, the Vancouver labour council has not endorsed Vision Vancouver's pick for mayor
With three months to go before Vancouverites vote for a new mayor to replace the retiring Gregor Robertson, a new public opinion poll shows the NPA’s Ken Sim and Kennedy Stewart, an independent candidate, in a tight race.

Just before I slip away for the summer, the latest municipal election news worth looking at includes last week’s poll results -- which could mean a loss for the left-of-centre ‑ and the long awaited endorsement of a mayoral candidate by the Vancouver and District Labour Council.

The VDLC endorsed independent candidate and NDP Member of Parliament Kennedy Stewart as their mayoral choice. This is not good news for Vision’s Ian Campbell. It is the first time since 2005, when the VDLC endorsed Jim Green, that the council has not thrown its support behind Vision’s mayoral pick.

In fact, there were three candidates seeking the nod from the VDLC. Aside from Stewart and Campbell, another independent, Shauna Sylvester, also hoped for the labour body’s support.

And what makes covering politics such a laugh-loaded activity was, in this case, watching Sylvester’s crew as they attempted to make a silk purse out that sow’s ear of rejection. Don’t you know, crows her campaign manager and veteran political operative Trish Webb, Sylvester is now the “only truly independent candidate.” Which is to say no party and no significant civic organization is stepping up to back her. And, of course, she will carry on right to the finish line next October.

That brings me to the latest poll by Research Co. which was conducted after COPE’s hoped-for candidate, UBC academic Patrick Condon, dropped out for health reasons and before The Georgia Straight put Hector “The Defector tm” Bremner on their cover along with a decidedly friendly profile inside.

The top line of the results has the NPA’s Ken Sim at 26 per cent and a sliver ahead of Stewart at 25 percent. (Predictably Sim has more support among West Side older men; Stewart is more appealing to East Side resident, women, and younger folks.) The spread between the two of them is well within the margin of error.

Ian Campbell is in third spot with 20 per cent, Sylvester is at 11 per cent, the former conservative MP and enemy of the bike lanes Wai Young is at eight per cent, Bremner has five per cent and pulling up the rear is David Chen with four per cent.

And, no surprise here, 82 per cent of Vancouverites think housing affordability is worse in this city than in the rest of Metro Vancouver and 57 per cent have a negative view about the influence of developers.

Of course the election is still 12 weeks away and in politics that is an eternity.

Most folks only wake up to the facts of a civic election in these parts sometime after Labour Day.

For now, as pollster Mario Canseco found, Sim is holding 70 to 80 per cent of the NPA vote and, unless Bremner can crank things up, that will continue.

On the left of centre, Campbell is only getting about 50 per cent of the votes that went to Gregor Robertson last time out. Almost as many are going to Stewart and, again, that was before the VDLC endorsement.

And you have to assume that Sylvester is nibbling away at that cohort as well.

There’s one other point: the deal over sharing the ballot worked out by the VDLC, sort of. In the past these arrangements were between the political parties. This time the deal was made directly with the VDLC. Plus there was the express understanding that the parties were free to attack each other during the campaign.

That may well happen not just among the mayoral candidates on the left of centre, but among the candidates for council, school board, and park board --- knowing full well that the left divided will always be defeated.

Understand though that Bremner and his Yes Vancouver party aren’t exactly kissing cousins when it comes to relations with the NPA. And that may be the only ray of hope the folks on the left have if they can restrain themselves from beating each other to a pulp on the way to the ballot box.

If, however, Bremner doesn’t catch fire and none of the three left-of-centre mayoral candidates takes one for the team, as it were, and steps down before the ballot is finalized on Sept. 21, well, who really knows?

Which is all the more reason to take some time off now.

See you in September.