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.