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NPA down but not out for fall election

Starting this week, Michael Geller joins us as a columnist.
Vision Vancouver
Mayor Gregor Robertson shoots a selfie with the rest of his party at Sunday's Vision Vancouver AGM. Columnist Michael Geller isn't surprised incumbents were endorsed, but he was surprised about the mayor’s reference to the NPA as “a party of angry old white men.” Geller argues many people are angry at Vision at the moment. photo Matt Desouza

Starting this week, Michael Geller joins us as a columnist. An architect, adjunct professor at SFU, former council candidate in the 2008 election and a force in social media, Geller brings four decades of experience in Vancouver planning and civic affairs. We look forward to his observations in this election year. — Editor

Two weeks ago, at a press conference on Olympic Village finances, Mayor Gregor Robertson brushed aside my question following his self-congratulatory remarks with a terse “Hey, you’re not media!”

It is therefore with some delight that I can now let Mayor Robertson know I will be offering my perspective on Vancouver civic affairs in the Courier on a weekly basis.  

Since the Nov. 15 municipal election is just over six months away, it seems only appropriate that we start here.

Last month, Barb Justason’s Market Intelligence asked 357 decided voters which party should form a majority on Vancouver city council. The choices were Vision, NPA, COPE and Green, since they were all known to be running candidates. However, at least three other parties, TEAM, NSV (Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver) and the Cedar Party (rooted in democracy) will likely run candidates, just to further confuse things.

Justason’s poll revealed 38 per cent support for a Vision Vancouver majority, five points less than in January 2014. Support for a Green party majority increased to 24 per cent while only 18 per cent of poll respondents supported an NPA majority.

Justason noted this was the lowest level of support ever recorded by her firm. COPE’s support was also at an all-time low 10 per cent.

I found the poll results surprising, and told Justason so on Twitter. She responded that she was sorry about the numbers. I told her not to apologize, adding I was happy to see the Greens doing well, and planning to support incumbent Carr and newcomer Cleta Brown, the daughter of the late Rosemary Brown.

Coincidentally, another Green candidate Pete Fry is the son of Liberal MP Hedy Fry.

While I am sure the NPA is disappointed with their numbers, if they can put together a slate of good candidates covering a broad political spectrum, they will significantly increase their percentage of the vote.

With the right mayoral candidate, they could win. With half a year to go, a lot can happen in politics, as we have seen in many recent elections across Canada.

I should add I am not a member of the NPA and my decision to run as an NPA councillor in 2008 was attributable to the fact they asked me first, rather than any particularly strong party allegiance.

Indeed, if it was up to me, I would change Vancouver’s political landscape so that good candidates do not have to belong to any party to get elected. That way Sandy Garossino would be elected to council, rather than a lesser candidate who simply belongs to the winning party.

Another thing I would change is the ballot. While I support politicians whose names begin with A, B, C and D, listing candidates in alphabetical order is unfair to those whose names begin with K or P. I would like to see multiple ballots with all candidate names equally on top, middle, and bottom.

On Sunday Vision held its AGM. Not surprisingly, all incumbents were endorsed and the final slate will be selected June 22. What was surprising, indeed quite shocking, was Mayor Robertson’s reference to the NPA as “a party of angry old white men.”

The fact is, there are a lot of people angry with Vision at the moment. While many NPA members are old white men, many are young men and women, and even transsexuals. They are white and of colour. They are as ethnically diverse as those attending the Vision AGM. This will be evident at the May 7th NPA sold-out fundraising event at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre.

Perhaps the key question for NPA is who will be the mayoral candidate. Sadly, it will not be Carole Taylor.

But is anyone talking to Surrey mayor Dianne Watts? After all she has proven herself to be a most capable municipal leader and adept at bringing together people of various political persuasions.

Alternatively is the NPA considering former park board commissioner Ian Robertson? While he’s not as handsome, and may not have the name recognition as Gregor Robertson, the confusion over their last names might be sufficient to elect him Mayor Robertson.

After all, the late Jim Green was convinced independent candidate James Green cost him his mayoral victory.