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Vision Vancouver looks to regain focus in 2022 election

City’s former Indigenous relations manager Ginger Gosnell-Myers ‘seriously considering’ run for council
Vision Vancouver, led by Gregor Robertson, was a dominant force for a decade in city politics until the party disappeared from city hall in the 2018 election. File photo Dan Toulgoet
A Vancouver political party that went from winning three consecutive majorities at city hall to not electing one council candidate in the 2018 election is looking to the 2022 vote to regain its once-powerful place in civic politics.

Vision Vancouver, whose only present elected official is school trustee Allan Wong, issued a public call this week aimed at attracting candidates to run for council, school board and park board.

Though no potential candidates have publicly expressed an interest, the city’s former Indigenous relations manager Ginger Gosnell-Myers said Thursday she is seriously considering seeking a council nomination with the party.

“I thought it would be fair to let people know that I am considering this because it gets the discussion going and helps me frame what can be done,” said Gosnell-Myers, who is teaching this semester at the Simon Fraser University Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

“I'm really passionate about city building, and I'm really dedicated to finding new ways to do that. I don't believe that the status quo is working for us.”

A news release from the party didn’t mention whether Vision would run a mayoral candidate, which would be unusual but not unprecedented, with its 2018 nominee Ian Campbell withdrawing from the race for personal reasons.

Party spokesperson Ange Valentini wouldn’t say Thursday whether she expects a leader to emerge as the campaign builds over the next year, adding that it was early days and an election strategy is still in the making.

“We’re looking to represent the full diversity of the city, but we haven't determined yet the number of candidates we're going to run at any one of the levels, or whether or not we're going to run a mayoral candidate,” Valentini said.

Andrea Reimer

The 2018 election was the first campaign since Vision’s creation in 2005 where it didn’t run a mayoral candidate, although then-councillor Andrea Reimer briefly considered the job when Campbell stepped down as the party’s leader.

Reimer, who ran Campbell’s short-lived campaign with Gosnell-Myers, told Glacier Media in April that she wasn’t ruling out a run in 2022.

If she were to enter the race, it will be a crowded one.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart is seeking re-election and challengers so far include former NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim, current NPA mayoral candidate John Coupar and long-time federal Liberal campaign strategist Mark Marissen.

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr also told Glacier Media in April that she wasn’t ruling out a run and current Vancouver-Granville independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould hasn’t definitively taken herself out of the conversation for the mayor’s chair.

Valentini emphasized several times during the interview the importance of building “a team,” which could include forming a coalition with another party like Vision did several years ago with COPE.

She shared that the party has been in conversations with the campaign to re-elect Stewart as mayor, but cautioned that connection shouldn’t be viewed as Vision wanting to endorse the former NDP MP in the 2022 vote.

In the 2018 race, then-Vision councillors Tim Stevenson and Kerry Jang, who weren’t seeking re-election, endorsed Stewart, who was elected as an independent. Stewart was also supported by OneCity, which elected Christine Boyle, who has been a strong ally to the mayor in the council chamber.

“We think that the mayor also feels strongly that things would be better at city hall with a team,” Valentini said. “But Vision hasn't made any decisions yet. One decision that we're super clear about is that our city can't move forward without a progressive majority at council, school board and park board.”

Fragmented council

Terri Evans, a Langara College political science instructor, said it would be crucial for Vision to run or endorse a mayoral candidate, if it wanted to grab the attention of voters and the media.

“It would be really hard for them without one,” said Evans, noting she spoke to Vision members in the previous campaign about the struggle at doorsteps of putting a face to the party — a connection easily made when Gregor Robertson was leader.

“It’s hard to do that without having a leader you can really rally behind. Who’s speaking to the media for the party? Who’s representing them at debates?”

Though the party’s dominance from 2008 to 2018 — which included a steady presence on school and park boards — is now but a distant memory, Evans pointed out Vision’s absence from city hall has only been over one election cycle.

The party, she added, has also kept a public presence since the 2018 election via online events, including one featuring Gosnell-Myers and Wilson-Raybould in June that saw 700 people register.

She said Vision could capitalize on the current fragmentation at council, where four councillors have left the NPA since being elected and now sit as independents. The emergence of Sim, Coupar and Marissen on the centre-right of the political spectrum also helps Vision.

That said, Evans continued, Vision was also viewed by some critics during their time in office as friendly to developers in a city that is increasingly unaffordable, with rents and prices of homes continue to grow at a rapid rate.

To this day, the party and Robertson continue to be pilloried on social media for the increasing gap between rich and poor in Vancouver.

The party also failed to end “street homelessness” by 2015, as promised by Robertson, who blamed the provincial and federal governments for inaction on the file. The expansion of the city’s bicycle lanes — although embraced by an untold number of cyclists — riled many motorists, businesses and even talk show hosts.

At the same time, Vision pushed forward a climate change-fighting agenda, opened shelters, started a program to incentivize the construction of rental housing, introduced an empty homes tax, advocated for decriminalization of drugs and made efforts to reconcile with Indigenous peoples.

“So there's a balance between distancing themselves from being seen as a party that's favourable to development and other aspects of their record, and then they could say, ‘We're going to continue this work and look at the good people we have that can take this on,’” Evans said.

The election is in October 2022.