Saturday, November 19, 2011

Will it be 'independents night' in Vancouver?

One of the most vicious election campaigns in recent memory ends Nov. 19.

The Scotsman who wore a kilt to his 2008 swearing-in isn't taking the high road. Mayor Gregor Robertson originally pledged that Vision Vancouver would stay positive, but the party switched its strategy in the middle of the final week when the Non-Partisan Association closed the gap to within the margin of error according to some polling.

This is remarkable, because Vision Vancouver's own in-house polling claimed Robertson had 78 percent approval of Vancouverites at mid-term and he looked unbeatable. In Robertson's corner is Joel Solomon, the left-wing bagman from Tennessee whose intricate finances were deftly deconstructed by Vivian Krause. She calls her blog Fair Questions and reasonably wonders if the Vision Vancouver funding via various U.S. charitable foundations is legal. I discovered that the juice company Robertson co-founded moved out of Vancouver, therefore questioning the credibility of his spin that Vision Vancouver has attracted investment.

The NPA went straight for the Juice Man's jugular from the beginning, highlighting his party's backyard chickens, front-yard wheatfields, $500,000 Occupy Vancouver campsite, the million-dollar Stanley Cup riot, empty bike lanes… Let's just say Robertson provided his opponents a bounty of low-hanging fruit from which to make juice. The NPA's campaign chairman is Peter Armstrong, the Rocky Mountaineer tourist railway boss. His company got headlines for the wrong reason when replacement workers were hired because of a strike.

Vision Vancouver focussed on NPA candidate Jason Lamarche and his "Date Matrix" from his college days early in the campaign. COPE took aim at wannabe Mayor Suzanne Anton's unauthorized campaign pamphlet photograph with two Filipino-Canadian children late in the campaign. Anton quickly said sorry.

Robertson did more damage to his own cause by not acting decisively to strike a balance between the rights of Occupy Vancouver to protest with the bylaws that reasonably regulate public space. The three-day B.C. Supreme Court hearing on the city's application to tear down the Occupy Vancouver protest camp ended Nov. 18 with the city getting the court order it wanted (but didn't really need). Occupy Vancouver's pro bono lawyers Michael McCubbin and Jason Gratl scored some key points against city hall. Robertson's pet project is solving homelessness, but the court heard that the city's homeless shelters are both scarce and dangerous!

Robertson was mayor during the 2011 Stanley Cup riot. Now he faces the real possibility of a Grey Cup-week riot if Occupy Vancouver squatters resist the 2 p.m. Nov. 21 deadline to remove tents and structures from the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza.

Occupy Vancouver protested both NPA and Vision Vancouver campaign offices on the afternoon of Nov. 18, after calling into question the two parties' finances. Neither came clean on who's paying their bills by Occupy Vancouver's Nov. 17 deadline. They aren't required to during the campaign, but they really should. It comes down to the old maxim that he (or she) who pays the piper, calls the tune. Voters should have been able to know who the tune callers are of the two big parties before they go to the ballot box.

In 2008, Vision Vancouver spent $2,502,566 and its ally COPE $346,730. NPA spent $2,1101,229.

You'll have to wait to find out what the NPA and Vision Vancouver spent for their 2011 campaigns. But Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver disclosed $37,965 in donations.

NSV, led by mayoral candidate and West End Neighbours' present Randy Helten, endorsed COPE's R.J. Aquino, Tim Louis and Ellen Woodsworth, Green's Adriane Carr, independent Sandy Garossino and NPA's Bill McCreery for council along with its own slate of Nicole Benson, Marie Kerchum, Terry Martin and Elizabeth Murphy.

Helten got fed up with Vision Vancouver's pandering to developers and ignorance of neighbourhood issues, so he formed his own party. If it's as close as many believe, Helten could be the spoiler if he can draw 1,500 or more votes. I'll be watching Carr and Garossino's numbers closely. Carr is the veteran candidate of provincial and federal battles for the Greens. Garossino rose to prominence as the leader of the Vancouver Not Vegas coalition that defeated the Paragon Gaming/B.C. Pavilion Corporation bid to build Western Canada's biggest casino connected to B.C. Place Stadium.

A city council with Carr and Garossino would certainly keep Vision Vancouver and the NPA honest for the next three years. Helten would be more valuable as a councillor, but he seems to have a vision to grown NSV into the city's third party and his name on the top of the NSV slate is an attention-getter.

Speaking of Occupy Vancouver, that's where you can often find mayoral candidate Darrell "Saxmaniac" Zimmerman and council candidates Lauren (Rent is Crazy High) Gill and Chris Shaw of De-Growth. While John Furlong was boosting the Olympics for the better part of a decade, Shaw was the well-researched critic and the media's go-to-guy who a VANOC reality-check who risked his own privacy -- police spied on him -- to exercise his right to dissent.

It takes all kinds to run for office. Gerry McGuire of Vancouver Citizens Voice. Gölök Zoltan Buday has the most umlauts of any candidate and is running for the fifth time. He's "lusting" for power, that is Liberty, Unity, Sature and Trust. Dubgee is a fab rapper with the most creative mayoral campaign.

The moral of the story is that you don't need to vote for a candidate from one of the big parties. You have a choice. Whatever you do, get out and vote. It's your right.

Here's all you need to know about the City of Vancouver election.

By the way, if you notice any voting irregularities (broken machines, people voting twice, campaign signs too close to polling stations), report to 3-1-1 and then email me.


I'm watching out for Alexa Loo in Richmond and Larry Anschell in White Rock.

Loo is the Olympic snowboarder, running for Richmond city council. Mayoral candidate Anschell is an accomplished recording producer and engineer who has worked with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nickelback and Sarah McLachlan.

And, in the Olympic resort municipality of Whistler, will Ken Melamed win re-election or will the Olympic Village asphalt scandal bring him down? Will Whistlerites tell the incumbent to hit the asphalt? Under Melamed, Whistler was ranked second worst in municipal spending in B.C. by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Election day in British Columbia. Get out and vote. Then getcha popcorn ready!

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