Local Politics, by Fellini

The fog lift­ed briefly today, and then returned. I picked up some of the local papers, includ­ing the free ones. The Geor­gia Straight is good for the arts, and I sus­pect that the Van­cou­ver Couri­er, which is pub­lished just a few streets away from here, sees itself as the paper of record for the neigh­bour­hood. The big sto­ry for this week’s edi­tion is the results for the local elec­tions.
Since Pam and I can­not vote, we did not spend much time and/or ener­gy fol­low­ing the elec­tions for may­or of Van­cou­ver, the City Coun­cil and the Park Board. The Couri­er, how­ev­er, ran quite a few sto­ries about what took place, who won, who lost and why. The oth­er rea­son we didn’t pay much atten­tion to the elec­tions is that there were so many can­di­dates — over 35, and with so many views and groups behind them that it was dif­fi­cult to keep it all straight. Not to men­tion all of those the acronyms. Let’s see: The NPA (that’s the Non-Par­ti­san Asso­ci­a­tion) were the big win­ners of the may­or and city coun­cil. This took the gov­er­nance of the city away from COPE (Coali­tion of Pro­gres­sive Elec­tors). There were no hang­ing chads that I know of, but it was appar­ent­ly a tight race. The win­ner was the NPA’s Sam Sul­li­van, who will no doubt have some per­son­al inter­est in mak­ing the city friend­ly to peo­ple in wheel­chairs as he cam­paigned in one. His moth­er Ida is report­ed to have said at his vic­to­ry “It’s awe­some. Who would have thought at the time of his acci­dent that a thing like this could hap­pen? As one friend said, ‘He may be sit­ting down on the out­side, but he’s sure stand­ing up on the inside.” On the NPA web page, Sullivan’s smil­ing face is next to a Thank You mes­sage that includes:

You have told us you want a gov­ern­ment char­ac­ter­ized by civil­i­ty and deco­rum in which everyone’s opin­ions are respect­ed. You have said that you want a gov­ern­ment that makes deci­sions by pol­i­cy, not pol­i­tics. You want a city coun­cil that is social­ly, envi­ron­men­tal­ly and finan­cial­ly respon­si­ble. And you share our enthu­si­asm and opti­mism for this great city!

I have to admit, that this sounds pret­ty good (and awful­ly lit­er­ate com­pared to the speech I hear from US politi­cians) . I hope he can achieve this. Civil­i­ty and deco­rum fled the US (pol­i­tics and every­thing else) years before I did.
That’s the clear part of the sto­ry; the win­ner. The rest, as Jon Stew­art would say, uh…not so much.
The only non-acronym based group I heard or read about was ‘Vision Van­cou­ver’ (which frankly sound­ed like a chain of local opti­cians). If the acronyms sound con­fus­ing, the names of can­di­dates were pret­ty con­fus­ing as well. Run­ning for COPE was Jim Green, who had been a close ally of the cur­rent may­or, Lar­ry Camp­bell. COPE seemed to be very pro-busi­ness and was favored by peo­ple who I sup­pose called them­selves con­ser­v­a­tive (although in the US I sus­pect they’d be accused of being flam­ing lib­er­als, but let’s for­get that for the moment — I’ll get back to it, I promise). Jim Green was not to be con­fused with James Green, an inde­pen­dent also run­ning for may­or. Some peo­ple think that he was one of the rea­sons that Green (Jim, not James…oh well, both of them) lost to Sul­li­van.
Besides those par­ties, there were a bunch of oth­er, small­er groups involved. There was the Work Less Par­ty, who’s elec­tion night dance par­ty took place at the Mar­itime Labour Cen­tre near Hast­ings and Vic­to­ria. Many of their sup­port­ers attend­ed in cos­tume (why not; less work, more danc­ing and cos­tume par­ties!). Their may­oral can­di­date was Ben West, who (as one would expect) didn’t work very hard on his cos­tume, wear­ing a T-shirt and jeans. He nev­er­the­less end­ed up in fourth place with near­ly 2,000 votes (Imag­ine if he had worked hard!) The bar­tender and pro­mot­er of the Asto­ria pub (also known as the Asbalt ) on East Hast­ings was also a can­di­date for city coun­cil. Her name was wendythir­teen and she looks like… well it’s hard to find any pic­tures of her online, so I’ll say that she looks tough enough to beat all of the oth­er can­di­dates to a pulp, and then go on to do a set as Punk Rock­er, which she is also. wendy was quot­ed in the Couri­er as say­ing “We need more wolves to take care of the sheep prob­lem.” If you think wendythir­teen is an inter­est­ing name, she said she was inspired to run by Joey Shit­head of the punk band DOA. I’m not mak­ing this up; it was in the paper.
Anoth­er group that had an acronym I didn’t get until lat­er was VANDU. That stands for Van­cou­ver Area Net­work of Drug Users. Final­ly, anoth­er inde­pen­dent can­di­date for city coun­cil was trans­sex­u­al Jamie Lee Hamil­ton, who’s been an activist in the sex work­er com­mu­ni­ty. Her cam­paign but­tons read “Vote for Jamie Lee. She’s dif­fer­ent.” Well, not as dif­fer­ent as you’d think. Remem­ber when I said that I’d get back to the COPE peo­ple? About 2 weeks ago, one of the city coun­cilors in COPE, Tim Louis, backed a plan to have the city run a non-prof­it broth­el, so that pros­ti­tutes can work in a safe envi­ron­ment with bet­ter health care. (I did not know that in Van­cou­ver, pros­ti­tu­tion is not ille­gal, but ‘com­mu­ni­ca­tion in a pub­lic place for the pur­pose of pros­ti­tu­tion’ is. So I guess that means that call girls are tax­pay­ing cit­i­zens, but street­walk­ers are not.)
I don’t think that Louis’s ideas are going to get much trac­tion, for bet­ter or worse. The same arti­cle in the Van­cou­ver Sun about those broth­el state­ments has this:

Sam Sul­li­van, the may­oral can­di­date for the cen­tre-right Non-Par­ti­san Asso­ci­a­tion, said he was appalled by Louis’s com­ments.
“The goal should be to help these women get out of the sur­vival sex trade, not keep them in it,” he said. “I’m run­ning to be may­or to help peo­ple, not to get into the busi­ness of being a pimp.”
He said Louis, whom he once described as hav­ing warped prin­ci­ples, is giv­ing vot­ers a taste of what he’d be like if elect­ed to anoth­er three-year term.
“It doesn’t sur­prise me that he is say­ing these things. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to these kinds of crazy ideas for three years, and it’s only dur­ing a gen­er­al elec­tion that peo­ple get to appre­ci­ate what I’ve been going through,” Sul­li­van said.

The quote that seems to sum up this bizarre and colour­ful elec­tion is this one by NPA cam­paign direc­tor Michael Hill­man: “There’s a say­ing in pol­i­tics, ‘You don’t elect a gov­ern­ment, you defeat a gov­ern­ment.”
Con­grat­u­la­tions to the van­quish­er, I sup­pose, are in order. As for me, I’m a lit­tle relieved that I sat this one out. I have no idea how I would have fig­ured out who to vote for.