Frances Bula header image 2

Municipal-election drama kicks into high gear as campaigns really get going

September 12th, 2018 · No Comments

So, as everyone in Vancouver who cares anything about local politics knows, Vision Vancouver’s campaign turned into chaos this week after the surprise announcement that mayoral candidate Ian Campbell was withdrawing from the race.

As I’ve said multiple times, it’s not because the polls were showing him trailing and he was going to lose anyway. Vision insiders tell me repeatedly that he was showing up strong, tied with the NPA’s Ken Sim. He quit over a personal issue that surfaced from his past, something Vision vetters hadn’t picked up because it was buried in paper-only court docs and because charges in the eight-year-old incident had been stayed. (But someone knew and was telling local media about it, as the season of election surprises is upon us.)

So now, what to do. The first round of reporting and reaction in my Globe stories here and here. (Full text posted below)

There is a core group in Vision Vancouver that believes the party is still strong, still has a solid voter base, and, very importantly, is not able to raise money without a mayoral candidate. So there is lots of chatter about finding another mayoral candidate by Friday.

I got this email message from Andrea Reimer, who, after saying she was quitting politics altogether, is now considering running as the mayoral candidate. It illustrates the views of some in the party who believe having a candidate is key.

The last thing I thought I would be thinking about at this point in the 2018 election is running for mayor but it’s been anything but a predictable election. I supported Ian Campbell, and it’s been a hard week.

But now Vision is without a candidate and friends and colleagues have contacted me and urged me to reconsider my decision and become visions nominee for mayor.

I owe it to them, and the city and agenda I have worked hard for almost two decades now to seriously consider, so that’s what I am doing.

Vision is the best bet to stop the NPA. The internal polling is pretty clear: an independent can’t win and there is too much at stake to not take that reality seriously.

That view is, of course, frustrating to the campaign people for the two independent candidates on the left — Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester — who think that Vision is alienating the other left/progressive parties (Green, OneCity, COPE) by, as they see it, sticking to an arrogant view that it is the natural governing party.

Lots of phone calls and persuading going on as people debate whether Vision should just stay out of the race and support one of the two independents or let various Vision reps decide on their own who to support or what.

SEPT. 10, 2018

The mayoral candidate for the party that has ruled Vancouver for a decade dropped out of the election campaign abruptly Monday, a move that prompted new calculations in the complex calculus of this fall’s municipal election.

Squamish hereditary chief Ian Campbell, who had been touted as Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate since June and the city’s first-ever Indigenous candidate for a major civic party, issued a vague statement to accompany his decision.

“With the deadline quickly approaching to formally enter the race, I’ve reflected on the political landscape and my complicated personal journey,” said the statement. “When I put all these pieces together, it seems clear that the best choice is for me to withdraw as candidate for Mayor of Vancouver.”

Vision spokesman Michael Haack, in the same statement, said: “Ian Campbell informed the party this afternoon of his decision to withdraw from the race. We have accepted his decision and support his choice to not move forward.”

There were no stated public reasons for his withdrawal from the race, but Mr. Campbell faced a bleak electoral scene.

It’s a move that some say means the death of the 13-year-old party that was created when a group of politicians split off from the city’s traditional left-wing party, the Coalition of Progressive Electors. “This means the party is in the twilight of its days,” said former Vision executive director Ian Baillie. “It’s clearly going to be a party that had a good run but wasn’t able to transition. It’s definitely the end of an era.”

Vision Vancouver advertised itself as a party that could be home to labour unions and developers, left-wingers and centrists.

After 10 years in power, the Vision Vancouver party and Mayor Gregor Robertson had provoked a lot of anger and disappointment among residents for not having grappled with the city’s housing crisis soon enough, among other things.

Mr. Campbell, a previously little-known councillor with the Squamish Nation on Vancouver’s North Shore, was showing up as only third in local polls as voters’ choice for mayor. The local labour-union association, which had previously always endorsed Mr. Robertson, declined to do the same for Mr. Campbell.

Instead, the Vancouver District and Labour Council endorsed federal NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who is running as an independent, saying that he wants to unite the city’s progressive parties.

The campaign for the Oct. 20 civic election has already proven to be one of the strangest in many decades, as anger over the city’s housing problems has dominated conversations at the same time that parties no longer have the ability to fundraise without limits.

In a city where the two major campaigns easily spent $2-million apiece on campaigns that included intense phone-banking and big media ads, there’s a palpable sense of change in the air as they now struggle to raise enough to pay for a few billboards.

That has prompted a surge of new parties and candidates, several of them independent, to a race that suddenly feels open. But it has meant that both the right and the left are watching their votes fracture.

Mr. Campbell’s departure is good news for the remaining mayoral candidates on the left, Mr. Stewart and policy adviser Shauna Sylvester, who now only have two on their side, while there are at least four mayoral candidates competing on the right.

Mr. Campbell’s abrupt departure is a new blow for Vision Vancouver, whose organizers had hoped that, even if Mr. Campbell didn’t win, his candidacy would give the party a positive glow that would pay off in the 2022 election.

Parties without mayoral candidates typically get less media attention, so Mr. Campbell’s departure is bad news for the council, school-board, and park-board candidates running with Vision.



Vancouver’s ruling party is keeping all of its options open as it scrambles to deal with the bombshell announcement that its mayoral candidate pulled out of the race four days before the deadline to file papers to run.

The Vision Vancouver board needs to decide by Friday how – and if – it will replace Ian Campbell, who withdrew from the race on Monday. Their decision could change the course of this year’s election, but could also have long-term ramifications for the future of the party that has been in power for the past decade.

Among the board’s options are appointing a new mayoral candidate, offering some kind of support or affiliation to one of the two declared independent candidates running on the left end of the political spectrum – policy analyst Shauna Sylvester and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart – or letting individual party members to endorse whomever they wish.

Some party members have already made their views known. Vision councillors Kerry Jang and Tim Stevenson, both with strong links to the provincial NDP, told CBC News on Tuesday that they support Mr. Stewart – something that isn’t the party’s official position.

“The interesting thing about the Vision family is that there are people who like Shauna and there are just as many who like Kennedy, and there is also a strong belief in the Vision brand and values,” said Ange Valentini, Vision’s executive director. “There’s a wide variety of views – you’ll see more of that in the next 24 hours.”

Both Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Sylvester say they plan to continue running as independent candidates and they aren’t looking for an endorsement from Vision, although both say they’d like to get as much support as possible from all the left-of-centre parties.

“I didn’t want to be a Vision mayor and I don’t want to be one now,” said Ms. Sylvester, who says she was approached by the party last October to do that and turned it down.

Mr. Campbell stunned the city’s political world when he issued a statement late on Monday saying he was withdrawing from the race as he reflected on his “complicated personal journey.”

According to sources, Vision campaigners found out late last week that Mr. Campbell had issues in his background that were not disclosed. Mr. Campbell hasn’t spoken publicly since his statement on Monday. Campaign organizer Ginger Gosnell-Myers said Mr. Campbell “is taking some time for himself and family and does not want to engage any further.”

Vision Vancouver has received criticism for its handling of the housing crisis, among other files. Losing its mayoral candidate means losing the most public face of the party and its biggest draw for voters.

“It’s definitely a sign of the imminent demise of Vision Vancouver. Vision was only able to succeed when it had Gregor Robertson as a figurehead,” said political commentator Mike Klassen, who has previously run as a candidate with the centre-right Non-Partisan Association (NPA), Vision Vancouver’s main opponent.

But one of Vision’s founders said the party is far from dead and still has a lot of appeal for voters. Marcella Munro, who is now a communications consultant in Alberta, said both Vision and the NPA still have assets they can draw on to win the mayor’s seat as well as spots on city council. The parties each have a big database with the names of previous supporters.

“What Vision needs to focus on now,” Ms. Munro said, “is taking advantage in terms of their ability to talk directly people who supported them in the past.”


Categories: Uncategorized