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Vision sees a glorious new era unfolding but for COPE, a difficult conversation ahead

November 21st, 2011 · 31 Comments

There are so many tea leaves to read in the election results and many of you have been busy at doing that through this blog and many other outlets.

Here are two of the stories I wrote in the last couple of days. One is about Vision supporters seeing this solid second win for the new party as a sign that there has been a permanent shift in the city.

The other is about the unpleasant side of that win for Vision’s ally, the Coalition of Progressive Electors, which now has to assess what went wrong and what to do about it in the next election. That’s not going to be easy, because there are so many explanations of why they trailed their Vision partners by enough of a margin that NPA candidates got in ahead of them.

As I note in my story, there’s the Tim Louis explanation: COPE didn’t sound independent enough.

There’s the David Cadman and Bob Penner explanation: Knocking off David and replacing him with Tim gave many people the impression the whole party had turned left and made more centrist Vision voters less likely to vote COPE. Cadman was like COPE’s mayor, with tails that could bring others along.

And there’s the Ellen Woodsworth and Nathan Allen explanation: COPE couldn’t compete with the Vision and NPA spending. (But they both spent like crazy last time too. So the corollary here is that the Occupy Vancouver circus took up so much of the media’s attention that none of the parties could get any attention for their announcements. But the NPA and Vision could compensate by spending on advertising. COPE, with a budget of only $341,000, couldn’t.)

A few bits and pieces that I didn’t manage to squeeze into these two stories but have been thinking about or had observed.

– Although the vote for Robertson went up by 10,000 votes, the votes for three of the six incumbent councillors went down (for Raymond Louie, by 3,000 votes). And, for those who went up (Kerry Jang, Andrea Reimer, Geoff Meggs), it wasn’t by anywhere near the same numbers as the mayor.

Bob Penner says that’s because people tending to vote Vision/COPE included Adriane Carr from the Green Party and tried to spread their 10 votes for council around among 11 people, so many people eliminated one of the other 10 in order to give her a vote.

– Still, Carr only got 48,000 votes. Spread among 10 people, that’s 4,800 each. That still doesn’t boost those councillors by the same amount the mayor got. So there appears to be a gap opening up between the mayor and his party, something that will have consequences when he moves on.

– Although Coal Harbour seems to have shifted to Anton, in fact the votes there are fairly close between Anton and Robertson, indicating there are still lots of people in those condo towers who like the green mayor.

– Last time, the mayor got his highest number of votes — 886 — from the Fairview poll (#142). That dropped this time and, instead, the single poll that brought him the highest number of votes was #32, the heart of the Republic of Commercial Drive around the VanEast Cultural Centre. It was also, not so coincidentally, the strongest poll for Ellen Woodsworth. He got 1,023 votes there; she got 757.

– Like everyone, I’m trying to assess the impact of Randy Helten’s Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver. The last time a party ran that promoted a “not so much density, the neighbourhoods are being trampled” line, it was vcaTEAM in 2002. Valerie MacLean got about 8,000 votes in the mayoral spot — about double Helten’s 4,000 — and the other candidates on her team topped out at about 18,000, the same as what Helten’s slate did. That means support for an alternative dropped slightly, since there more overall voters in this election than in 2002.

But you have to wonder about those 20,000 votes and what they mean. COPE identified 20,000 core supporters for its party. If COPE were to work independently from Vision, would those 20,000 stay with them? That’s got to be something that Vision strategists are thinking about. Bob Penner says no. He believes that most of the people who supported the co-operative slate would migrate to Vision if the parties were to run against each other.

But perhaps, if COPE separated, the supporters it loses to Vision could be picked up among the NSV crowd. Or is there an NSV crowd?When each person has 10 votes, it’s so hard to figure out who was throwing votes to those NSV candidates.

– Speaking of NSV, another observation I got from UBC poli sci prof Richard Johnston was that there may be a permanent place for a small group of anti-density voters.

Most people have signed on to accepting density, he says, in a city full of new, young professionals for whom that’s the new norm.

“I do have the sense the city has a working consensus on that.” The question for them becomes, who benefits from the creation of that density. Do the benefits just go to the private developers? Or do some of the benefits get spread down the “ladder of social structure,” as he put it?

Presumably, the Vision concept is that some of the benefits are turned back to working families in the form of below-market housing units that the city creates by demanding that developers build some in return for some sort of incentives in the form of extra space.

And the COPE concept is that even more of the benefit should be filtered downstream by demanding that developers build below-market units and turn them over to the city, just for the privilege of building in Vancouver.

But, Johnston says, there will be for the foreseeable future a core of people who don’t accept the consensus that the city has density. That core could include people from the right and left: those who feel as though they’re being priced out of a city that once was working class meeting up in some ideological full circle with people from nice single-family-home neighbourhoods who don’t want to see change.


Categories: 2011 Vancouver Civic Election