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Vancouver’s NPA: Why it’s dominated city politics for so long and expects to do so again

October 25th, 2011 · 50 Comments

The real election season has finally arrived. Contradictory polls are multiplying and candidates are jousting over various issues that make not one whit of difference to the lives of most people in this city.

It’s also when voters are starting to think seriously about whether they’ll cast a ballot at all and, if so, who for. The reality is that about 70 per cent of eligible voters in this city won’t, because the choices will seem too daunting or they won’t feel strongly enough about any of the candidates. It may be even more than 70 per cent this election, as some political strategists I’ve talked to say that turnout will likely be lower than 2008’s 30 per cent.

That leaves it in the hands of the rest of us to decide. (It’s not actually the worst way to go. That 30 per cent is a relatively well educated lot. I don’t mean in terms of post-secondary schooling, but in terms of people who follow the news and learn something about the candidates.)

What many are waiting to see is whether Vision, a party cobbled together out of some people who migrated from the more-left COPE, some Greens, and some Liberals who migrated over from the more-right Non-Partisan Association, can hold together. There isn’t a strong history of that kind of centrist party being able to hold out in this city or this province, where people tend to polarize into right and left.

My story about the NPA in this month’s Vancouver magazine looks at the way this 74-year-old party has been able to survive many political revolutions over the years. Things are looking very mixed for the NPA in this election. Both public polls and polls inside the parties indicate Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has a strong lead.

 (Today’s Postmedia poll has to be taken with a grain of salt. Although it has a good sample size, it was a robo-call — i.e. an automated calling system that simply dials anywhere in the city, not even checking whether the person responding is a voter — that only measured who would vote for the mayor and who would vote for anyone but him. That’s closer to an approval rating and isn’t that far off the 52 per cent the mayor has been holding at for a few months. That’s different from asking people who they would vote for against a known candidate, as the recent Justason poll did, and eliminating the undecideds to get 68 for Robertson vs 32 for Anton.)

The bigger question is whether the NPA can establish a strong beachhead on council with some effective councils, to rebuild the party for 2014. And the even bigger question is whether Vision can hold its coalition together over a long term or whether this is a brief revolutionary moment that will become part of history, after everyone reverts back to the old pattern of an unmistakably left-wing party versus a sort of middle, sort of right party.

Categories: 2011 Vancouver Civic Election · Uncategorized