The race to become the city’s next mayor is about to get more crowded with city councillor Colleen Hardwick expected to be acclaimed Sunday as the mayoral candidate for TEAM for a Livable Vancouver.
The first-term councillor said she is not being challenged in her bid to lead the new municipal party, which also plans to run candidates for council, school board and park board in the October election.
“If I thought there was anybody else that was running that had the background, knowledge and experience to be able to turn things around, I'd be supporting them,” Hardwick said Tuesday. “But since I don't, I feel compelled to stand.”
Hardwick said the city needs “a hard re-set,” noting she has unsuccessfully asked city staff for a baseline review of the city’s previous budgets to determine, for example, why and how the city’s capital budget doubled since 2008.
In her term on council, she has been critical of the increase in city employees, questioned the need for rezonings that lead to land value increases and asked for a recalibration of the city’s 10-year housing strategy to build 72,000 homes.
“Last year, we rezoned 8,000 units — more than any ever before in the history of the city,” Hardwick said. “When you look at the numbers from BC Assessment, you'll see that the land and the air above it — between 2010 and 2019 — increased by 2.5 times, which is by any standard, galloping inflation.”
Hardwick launched her own 50-neighbourhood tour in January 2020 to inform her of residents’ thoughts about growth and how best to accommodate it. She also led the push to hire an independent auditor general, which occurred last year with the hiring of Mike Macdonell.
'Dumpster fire of affordability'
Critics have painted Hardwick as anti-growth — a characterization she flatly denied, saying growth is inevitable. What concerns her is how the city plans for growth and in what form, with high-priced condos not the solution.
“I’ve got two kids and I’ve got grandchildren, and they can't afford to live here,” she said. “And what we keep doing is pouring gas on the dumpster fire of affordability through continuously inflating land values, particularly when we have got boatloads of existing zoned capacity.”
Hardwick has also been referred to in some media stories as right-wing, or right-of-centre on the political spectrum. She described herself as a “left-of-centre liberal, but certainly centrist, which is why I find the mischaracterization so amusing.”
How Hardwick’s entry into the mayoral race will affect the results come October is an open question in a contest heavily weighted with candidates also declaring themselves as centrists — Ken Sim of A Better City party, Mark Marissen of Progress Vancouver and John Coupar of the NPA.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who is seeking re-election, is a former NDP MP with strong ties to the labour movement. Stewart narrowly beat Sim — who represented the NPA at the time — in the 2018 race.
Hardwick was elected as a member of the NPA, but she and colleagues Lisa Dominato and Sarah Kirby-Yung quit the party in April 2021. The trio resigned because the NPA appointed Coupar as its mayoral candidate, erasing any chance of Hardwick or Kirby-Yung to seek the party’s mayoral nomination.
Rebecca Bligh was the first of the NPA councillors to resign from the party in 2019 over concerns related to views of the board of directors.
So far, Hardwick is the only woman about to enter the race — a fact not lost on Hardwick when interviewed on International Women’s Day.
Former Vancouver-Granville MP Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer recently declared they’re not interested in a run this year. Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr has not ruled out joining the race.
“It is high time we had a woman mayor,” said Hardwick, noting her grandmother was once a park board commissioner. “In our entire history, it's kind of crazy that we haven't had one.”
Her new party’s name, or parts of it, may sound familiar to longtime municipal politics enthusiasts. That’s because the original TEAM, or The Electors’ Action Movement, was founded in 1968 by Art Phillips and Hardwick’s father, Walter.
In a news release last fall, Hardwick promised the party will put Vancouverites at the centre in “tackling the key issues of our time,” noting her father’s organization united to defend neighbourhoods from demolition, stopped plans to run freeways through downtown and created the False Creek South neighbourhood, “an inspiring legacy worth fighting for.”
Over the last year, the party has developed a series of policies on housing, climate change, public safety and other issues affecting the city, which can be read here.
This Sunday’s nomination meeting will occur at The Anza Club on West Eighth Avenue in what will be a hybrid event of members attending in person and via Zoom. Hardwick said the party has 400 members.
The election is Oct. 15, 2022.