My colleague Dan Fumano over at Postmedia let me know about this when I picked up the Vancouver Sun at my front door Friday morning.
The news shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, since Stewart announced in a June video message to supporters that he was searching for council candidates to run with him “under a common organizational name and agreed-upon set of policies aimed at leaving no resident behind as Vancouver moves forward.”
I should have written about that bit of news then, but instead tweeted out details from a "Team Kennedy Stewart" email that Stewart was seeking like-minded candidates for the 2022 campaign; I didn’t mention anything about a party because that information was buried in a five-minute video attached to the email.
I didn’t watch that video until today.
Anyway, here we are.
Caught up with the mayor Friday to find out what I could about his party, which he cautioned was more of an electoral organization than a large membership-driven party; Team Kennedy Stewart, by the way, is a non-profit society he and his crew established last September.
First question: Have you got a name for your new party?
Stewart: “We've got it down to three finalists. It's something I want to work on with the potential candidates, as well. I want to include them in that because people have to have [the party name] beside their name. So I don’t want to blow the launch [in telling you the potential party names].”
So you’ve already found some candidates?
“I’ve already secured two people.”
Would the general public know who they are?
“Oh yeah, you’ll know who they are.”
Stewart went on to tell me the two candidates are not current councillors and that his goal is to get enough people interested to run that he could form a majority at city hall. That could mean five or more newcomers to politics, or a mix of newcomers and candidates from other parties that he endorses to achieve that majority.
He said he’s talked with the Greens, Vision Vancouver, COPE and OneCity, whose current councillor Christine Boyle he endorsed in the 2018 campaign. Stewart has made it clear he will not endorse any candidates whose party will run a competing mayoral candidate.
None of the parties he’s met with have decided on whether they’ll run someone for mayor, although Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr told me earlier this year that she hasn’t ruled out a bid for the mayor’s chair.
Whatever unfolds, Stewart said he would be interested in a post-election deal with other parties, as the provincial Green Party did with John Horgan’s NDP in 2017 in signing a confidence and supply agreement.
“I think people want a more stable, civic government and I'll try to bring that to them any way I can, whether it's through my own candidates or having formal agreements with other progressive parties,” he said. “The goal, though, is to make things a little bit more predictable in council.”
Added Stewart: “I need a majority on council so that you don't get too many more white-knuckled rides through the budget process, and burning endless staff time with minutiae. I think that all has to end.”
If — and it’s a big if, as I write this in December and the election isn’t until October and Omicron is presently wreaking havoc on the world — Stewart gets re-elected and he wins a majority, Vancouverites can expect he will push to bring a ward electoral system to the city.
“That's really important to me, and that's an example of what will have to be negotiated prior to the election and prior to any endorsements,” he said.
Stewart, a former NDP MP, ran as an independent in the 2018 election and was backed by the Vancouver and District Labour Council, which this week endorsed him again for his run in 2022.
Libby Davies, Raymond Louie
Interestingly, he’s got former NDP MP Libby Davies and former Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie helping coach his two new candidates about what to expect on the road to city hall.
Stewart said he’s interviewed 20 people interested in running for council. He’s sought them out when at events and meeting with non-profits and other organizations.
He mentioned former Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Constance Barnes is interested in running with OneCity. I mentioned the city’s former Indigenous relations manager Ginger Gosnell-Myers is considering a run with Vision Vancouver.
“Either one of those folks would be great to work with,” he said.
In the meantime, other parties and mayoral candidates continue to mobilize and gather enough public support to dump Stewart and some of the councillors, many of whom are seeking re-election.
Only 10-and-a-half months to go.