In the City of Vancouver’s 2022 election, deciding who to vote for is extraordinarily difficult. Since we don’t have a ward system, we have to vote for one mayor, ten city councillors, seven park-board commissioners, and nine school-board trustees. There are six local political parties running random variations of mayoral candidates (or not) and full or partial slates for the other bodies. I just finished doing sufficient research to make my own choices; maybe my sharing it will be useful to one or two other Vancouverites.
Wards please · This process was ridiculous. I’m political and semi-retired but it is just totally not reasonable to expect ordinary people with jobs and kids and housecleaning and lives to do this much work.
Whereas I’m dubious about the ability of the population at large to be collectively intelligent about complex policy issues, I think people generally do a pretty good job of evaluating their current local elected representative. I’d so much rather vote for mayor and then one each representative on the various boards and councils, based on my neighborhood, and I think we’d probably get a better result.
Why me? · I got no credentials, folks. Well, pathetically weak ones: I’ve been living here on and off for 39 years. I read fast. I’ve attended the occasional council and school board meeting and even presented issues there. I inhabit the city intensely, as a home-owner, cyclist, driver, pedestrian, shopper, eater-out, and issues advocate. So, for whatever all that’s worth…
Resources · What I read before writing this:
The election Web site, with helpful little personal statements from all the candidates.
The CBC’s survey of where the mayoral candidates stand.
Also on the CBC, a survey of the six contending political parties.
Over at Vancouver is Awesome, Election 2022: Here's where Vancouver political parties stand on housing.
A bunch of the pieces in The Tyee’s municipal-election coverage.
Lots of Twitter threads that I mostly didn’t bookmark. Here’s a juicy one from Peter Waldkirch.
Party party party · The next city council, like the last one, will not have a disciplined majority from any party. This is bad because getting anything done means herding cats and building compromises, so it’s slow. This is good for more or less the same reasons.
Anyhow, if you’re planning to plump for any one party because you’d like to see a majority on council, I’m pretty sure that’s not gonna work, sorry. So, I spread my votes around.
For a quick briefing on Vancouver’s parties and what they stand for, CBC reporter Justin McElroy squeezed the essentials into a tweet.
Now, that’s maybe a little unfair (to start with, VOTE Socialist is kinda cheery). But to be brutally honest I think it captures the essentials.
Forward Together: Meh, just not that exciting, although a nice sound-bite in their platform: “Housing is everything.” Some OK candidates, some with little relevant experience.
Greens: Weirdly difficult to categorize. They have voted against housing developments way more often than I’d like. I expect hard-hitting environmental activism — that’s what Greens are for, no? — but really haven’t seen any.
COPE: Vancouver’s original lefties. Maybe a little ideological but there are good folks there.
VOTE Socialist: Eh, the guy is amusing but a vote for him is probably wasted.
TEAM: I have no sympathy at all with their leader Colleen Hardwick, who voted against more or less everything in the last council, and who seems permanently at war with City staff. They will hotly deny the NIMBY label, but are clearly dog-whistling for that vote. Hard no.
Progress: Once again, a platform I like. In particular, they propose creating a Civic Housing Corporation that would itself build mixed-income housing, because the developer community just hasn’t been pointed in that direction and seems unlikely to start doing so.
OneCity: I generally like what they say. Being on this slate is a plus for me.
Their platform is remarkably similar in most important respects to Progress’s. Something seems broken here; if they’d managed to band together there might have been a real prospect of a solid progressive majority. I smell egos getting in the way.
NPA: Vancouver’s ancient right wing. I loathed ’em back when they were all “Let’s run the city in the interests of the rich people on the West Side” and that was when they were competent and coherent. These days, they’re chud-infested and chaotic and just dumb. Also their slate includes Melissa de Genova, widely agreed to have been the most disruptive and least effective member of the outgoing council. Stay away.
ABC: I have often lamented the absence, in our political spectra, of intelligent conservatives, but these seem to be those, more or less. I don’t agree with their policies (no, 100 more cops are not going to move any needles in any useful directions) but they’re non-toxic and have presented a couple of ideas I like. Still almost certainly not going to vote for any of their candidates.
Vision: Eh, don’t get it. I voted for Gregor at least once but that was then. A couple decent people on the slate though.
For mayor · I’m voting for the incumbent, Kennedy Stewart. For the last year or so, the conventional wisdom was that the right-wing vote would be fragmented between ABC’s Sim, TEAM’s Hardwick, and the NPA (probably not any more) and thus Kennedy, mostly unopposed on the progressive-ish side, would waltz in. Now we’ve got Progress’s Marissen competing with Kennedy on that wing, so things are as clear as mud.
This is probably a minority opinion, but I think Kennedy (that’s how he brands himself) has been OK-ish. The mayor is only one vote on council, so the job combines evangelism and symbolism and quite a lot of administrative work. Running meetings of the highly-fractured dingbat-infested council is brutally difficult, and when I attended or watched meetings, I thought he did a fine job.
Like everyone, I was horrified at the recent revelation that he was whoring for (perfectly legal) big bucks from big developers who are definitely Part Of The Problem. But to be brutally honest, if we elect a reasonably progressive Council there’s not that much harm he could do even if he was completely in hock to Aquilini and Concord Pacific and so on.
Concretely, I agreed with most of his Council votes on controversial issues. Also, he said smart things about the supply-side problem in housing. And while everyone says they’re going to unjam residential permitting, they’ve been light on specifics. Kennedy got a decent bylaw passed removing the public-meeting requirement for developments with enough low-income and rental housing.
Also I like his thinking about diverting resources from policing into beefing up the 311 service. And the money line, for me: “We can’t arrest our way out of the Downtown Eastside problems.” No shit.
Then there’s Mark Marissen, the Progress candidate. I like their manifesto and their candidates better than Kennedy’s over in Forward. And I liked his talk about a luxury tax on mansions $6M and up; and that he generously credited Jean Swanson for the idea.
But in his interviews and all-candidates speeches, he just didn’t impress me that much, no sparks flew. And I have no notion how he’ll do with City Council meat-and-potatoes.
Then there’s Ken Sim of ABC, and I have to confess that doing all this reading warmed me up to him, and the party, quite a bit. Their position on environmental issues isn’t terrible at all: Plant trees, restore streams, phase out ICE vehicles from the City fleet, no net new GHG in any development. If he were running for Council I might even vote for him.
But an extended period as a startup CEO is, I’m pretty sure, really lousy preparation for the Mayor’s job. A startup CEO works with a small, passionate group of people, and his or her word is law; decisions are taken quickly and then the discussion is over. Running a city is just not like that.
Also, he repeatedly trumpeted a filthy lie that the Mayor was going to bring in a congestion tax, even after it had been explicitly and convincingly denied. Not really forgiveable.
It’s a pity, it’d be cool and appropriate for Vancouver have a sharp-looking mayor with an Asian face.
Council and boards (caveat) · These decisions are not final. I haven’t picked a full complement for the council or park or school boards. I may leave it that way — plumping is psephologically effective — I might get turned off some of these people, somebody new might dazzle me. But this is where I am right now.
What I’m looking for · I’m positively inclined to people from Progress, OneCity, and COPE. I’m looking for progressive attitudes, plausible practical ideas about the housing-cost awfulness, and environmental commitment.
And, you’ll have to forgive me some identity politics. First, I would like to have at least one Indigenous person on our City Council and the park and school boards. To start with, there are a lot of Indigenous people living here! Also, that population is right in the middle of our hardest housing and livability problems, and we’re not going to move those needles without (at the very least) a better understanding of Indigenous issues.
Also, look at a photo of the outgoing council. They’re all white and, in Vancouver, that is frankly just weird. Gather ten people together here, cutting along any conceivable geographic or class or professional slice, and it ain’t gonna be just one ethnic group. Nobody with Asian roots?! Gimme a break.
And then there are the intangibles: I read the candidates’ statements about their history and goals and either it resonates with me or it doesn’t: Does this person exhibit experience and attitudes that are going to equip them to make the city better?
All that said, here’s who I’ll probably vote for, in alphabetical order:
Iona Bonamis, OneCity. Currently a senior transportation planner on city staff, thus presumably familiar with important issues. First generation Chinese-Canadian, speaks fluent Cantonese.
Christine Boyle, OneCity. Has been solid on council since 2018 and has done a good job of organizing OneCity and building out a pretty compelling platform.
Adriane Carr, Green. Has been on Council for a long time and I’ve rarely disagreed with her vote. Strong environmentalist vibe.
Marie Noelle Rosa, Progress. As I said, I like the Progress platform, and the intangibles come into play here: A more interesting than average prson. Some DTES exposure, multilingual.
Matthew Norris, OneCity. This fellow is Indigenous and professionally so, has spent his life working with one Association or Initiative or another in that space, and should improve council’s insight into those issues.
Jean Swanson, COPE. I was a bit conflicted about this, because I didn’t think she was that terribly effective on the outgoing council. She tended to lectures about the evils of capitalism (which I agree with) in debates where it wasn’t helpful, and voted against way too many housing projects because Somebody Might Make Money. But I decided I wanted here there as an Overton-window mover, as a promoter of co-op housing, and as the originator of the mansion-tax idea.
Tanya Webking, COPE. Loads of Downtown Eastside and City-committee experience, is Dene/German. Got a bit of progressive edge, which we could use.
Michael Wiebe, Green. I’ve had a few conversations with him in connection with my False Creek Friends work. He impressed me with his insight and practical advice. But Mike, vote for more housing projects!
The boards · Sorry folks, I confess that I did not give these people the attention they deserved, was sort of in speed-run mode when I went through this part of the listings. First, park board:
Gwen Giesbrecht, COPE. Lots of experience and seems to care about the right things, especially the homeless.
John Irwin, Vision. He came to our door! The only politician of any stripe that we’ve seen. Strong meeting of minds on the homelessness-in-the-parks issues.
Andrea Pinochet-Escudero, VOTE Socialist. Healthcare worker, refreshingly leftist.
Tiyaltelut Kristen Rivers, OneCity. She’s of the Squamish and I’d like there to be an Indigenous voice in Park politics. Also useful business experience.
Now, off to the school board. I feel guilty here because I care about this stuff but just totally haven’t had time to educate myself properly on the people and issues. There were a few candidates running on straightforward anti-LBGT platforms, ewwww. I encourage voting even if you’re not up on the issues, if only to keep those idiots out.
Steve Cardwell, Vision. An education professional, well-chosen priorities.
Lois Chan-Pedley, Green. Very meat-and-potatoes platform, is an incumbent.
Aaron Leung, Vision. Nothing special, just liked his platform write-up, seems to care about the right things.
Jennifer Reddy, OneCity. An incumbent, with impressive platform and profile statements.
Rocco Trigueros, COPE. Lots of relevant experience, and focus on poverty-related issues, which are a big deal in Vancouver.
Well, that’s all, folks. I’ll be up late on voting night because anybody who says they know how this is going to turn out is full of it. Local politics matter, and I care a lot.