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Mike Howell: Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s new party is called ‘Forward Together’

Slogan used by federal Liberals, Greens and Richard Nixon when he was U.S. president
Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s campaign team unveiled Thursday the name of the electoral organization that will be attached to Stewart’s name on the Oct. 15 election ballot — Forward Together.

Forward Together.

It’s the name of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s new party, or electoral organization or whatever you call a group of like-minded people who want to get elected and serve on council.

The name, or slogan, isn’t exactly original, as any politics watcher would concur.

“Moving forward together” was the title of the federal Liberals’ throne speech in 2019.

That same year, the Green Party of Canada launched its new slogan: “Not left, not right. Forward together.”

In 2020, Canada’s labour movement launched a campaign called…forward together.

Heck, back in 1969, the theme of U.S. President-elect Richard Nixon’s inauguration was…forward together.

'Not just about Kennedy'

I’ll stop there and let Mark Hosak, executive director of Forward Together, explain why the name was chosen.

“We chose the idea of going ‘forward together’ because that's what this project has always been about — to make a Vancouver that works for all of us, and not just a few,” said Hosak by telephone Thursday.

“It's not just about Kennedy, it's about the mission for the city, which is to move forward on the issues that we care about, and doing so together.”

At the same time, Hosak acknowledged the widespread use of the slogan in politics.

“It's incredibly popular,” he said. “Having it used for an electoral organization that is new, I think it's a good thing to rely on two of the most enduring words in this political space.”

The name was unveiled Thursday via a news release, which I found kind of odd.

Maybe it’s just me being me, but wouldn’t a sitting mayor launching a new party want to hold a news conference, say, on the steps of city hall?

Or at Helena Gutteridge Plaza, with the downtown cityscape in the background?

The sun was shining, after all.

Video, website launched

The explanation given by Hosak is that public health restrictions related to the pandemic were a concern when considering a launch date and potential news conference.

Fair enough, but a bunch of us reporters were inside city hall a few weeks ago for a media availability with Stewart.

“We decided this is the best way to do it because we can control this,” he said, referring to a video and website address included in the news release.

“There's no public health order that can stop us from releasing a video, or launching the website.”

Hosak didn’t mention it, but I’m sure having Stewart take time out of his day to launch his new party wouldn’t sit well with some taxpayers who believe he should be taking care of the business of the city instead of tending to his political future.

Which he was, according to Hosak, and the reason why he wasn’t available to discuss his new party.

Even if I got Stewart on the phone, I'm sure he wouldn't have much more to say than what he told me in December 2021.

Anyway, other things you need to know about Forward Together is that it replaces Team Kennedy Stewart, a non-profit society that the mayor and his crew established back in September.

You also need to know that candidates have been picked by Stewart, but they have yet to be named.

“We won’t be keeping things a mystery for much longer,” said Hosak, noting the party wants to run up to six council candidates, although it could be fewer but mean endorsing candidates from other parties.

Could the video Hosak referred to provide a clue or two of who some of the candidates might be?

Stewart told me in December that he had secured at least two candidates, whose names would be very familiar to citizens.

Tom Davidoff, Sarah Blyth

Tom Davidoff, director of the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate at the UBC Sauder School of Business, is seen on the video boosting Stewart’s ‘making home’ housing proposal.

Sarah Blyth, executive director of the Overdose Prevention Society, appears on the video and praises Stewart for his leadership on his commitment to reduce overdose deaths.

For the record, I checked with both of them and they’re not running.

Davidoff via telephone: “I really like what he did on ‘making home’ and I wanted to say ‘I agree with him.’ But if you notice, I was careful not to endorse. I really try not to endorse local politicians. My goal is to outsource the good ideas to professional politicians.”

Blyth, via direct message on Twitter: “No — no running for me.”

The addition of Forward Together brings yet another new party to this year’s race.

Progress Vancouver led by mayoral candidate Mark Marissen and A Better City led by Ken Sim are new. So is TEAM for a Livable Vancouver led by Coun. Colleen Hardwick, with the Greens, COPE, NPA and Vision Vancouver also in the mix.

The election is Oct. 15.