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Will Vancouver elect Canada’s first Green mayor?

Political climate is favourable for Adriane Carr and co.
Adriane Carr
Adriane Carr would be wise to throw her hat in the mayoral ring next year, says Mike Klassen. Photo Dan Toulgoet

It is nearing the end of 2017, a year that saw unprecedented upheaval in Canadian politics and more than ever back home in B.C. This is a good time of the year to look into Vancouver’s political crystal ball and to what 2018 — a municipal election year — might bring.

When I stare into the glass orb, I see a lot of green. Not the lid of your “Greenest City” emblazoned garden waste container green but the political kind, as in the Green Party. Specifically, it is the Vancouver Greens who appear to be on the rise, and their leader Adriane Carr in particular.

A Vancouver Green representative chairs both the school board and the park board today. And if two recent elections are any indication, a big Green political shakeout is on the horizon for our city.

In October, the Vancouver Greens became, for the first time ever, a true force to be reckoned with when their candidates for the Vancouver School Board ran away with the top three of nine spots in the byelection. Incumbent Janet Fraser would later be elected VSB chair by her fellow trustees.

Last May, the B.C. Green Party became the spoiler for the incumbent B.C. Liberals, and sided with the B.C. NDP in a “confidence and supply agreement” that formed the basis of a new minority government. It is widely believed that the Greens were the big beneficiaries of disaffected B.C. Liberal voters.

That phenomenon of parking your vote with the Green candidate is precisely why Carr and her colleagues could come up big in next fall’s civic election. And if she were to run for mayor against Vision Vancouver and the NPA, her name recognition alone could put the chain of office within her grasp.

Carr is clearly politically ambitious. She ran eight times in a variety of contests at the federal, provincial and municipal level before taking office on Vancouver city council in December 2011. She was not the first or even the most prominent Green politician (Elizabeth May was elected to the federal Parliament in May 2011), but she is today among the most influential.

In 2014, Carr topped the ballot for city council, earning more than 5,000 more votes than the second runner-up. This in spite of the fact the Greens’ campaign budget was a tiny fraction of the multi-million-dollar efforts of Vision Vancouver and the NPA.

Under new election finance rules recently passed by the B.C. government, the established elector organizations will run campaigns with far fewer resources to promote their candidates and platforms.

This means that incumbents and labels like being “green” will appeal to so-called “low information voters,” who show up at the polling station and check off the names they already know.

City hall observers are resigning themselves to the idea that Mayor Gregor Robertson will run again. He joins the leagues of the Corrigans and Brodies who want to hold the title of mayor in perpetuity.

With his political promises on homelessness, housing affordability and carbon emissions targets up in smoke, Robertson must be calculating that another four years will somehow allow him to leave on a high note.

The Vision Vancouver brand, however, is looking stale and the mayor has become a lightning rod for public frustration on a range of issues. Add the fact that organization laid off its entire staff in November — presumably to save money for their 2018 campaign — and that its youngest council caucus member, Andrea Reimer, announced she will not seek re-election.

With George Affleck, Reimer and others likely to announce they are not running, Vancouver city council will have its biggest refresh in a decade. So-called progressive voters who have become skeptical of Vision will be comfortable casting their ballot for a Green candidate.

Robertson’s campaign will surely unload its arsenal on the NPA mayoral candidate, branding that person as too conservative or anti-environment to lead our city. That scenario leaves the field open to someone politically competent and well-known like Carr.

There is little doubt Carr is now seriously weighing her electoral options for 2018. Will Vancouver elect Canada’s first Green mayor? The conditions have never been better for that to happen.

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