NPA faces uphill battle with their future Mayoral candidate

With former electeds like Chiavario, Cowie and Rogers, vcaTEAM had a respectable group of candidates back in 2002. The party's Achilles heal was the lack of a viable Mayoral candidate.

Back in 2002, I became involved with a group of municipal activists who had the the notion that the polarized politics of COPE and the NPA could use a dose of moederation, and as a result formed a new party named vcaTEAM.

The tried to take a middle of the road approach.  They had established candidates (Nancy Chiavario and Alan Herbert was were both former NPA Councillors, Art Cowie was a former TEAM Councillor and Liberal MLA, and Stephen Rogers was a six-time Cabinet Minister and former Speaker of the House).  They had a platform that spoke to many of the issues that are topical today (biking corridors, opening up the city to fun, adding social and affordable housing and a push to increase support for alternative forms of transportation other than the car).

At the time the NPA was in total disarray.  Councillor Jennifer Clarke had organized a coup against popular former Mayor Philip Owen, and the party was divided down the middle as a result.

So it sounded like a recipe for potential success – the elements certainly were there.

And then the party introduced their Mayoral candidate very late in the game, and everything changed.

For weeks, the party brass told me that they had lined up an individual who would blow everyone away in terms of profile and capability.  Managing a joint campaign for established stalwarts like Cowie and Rogers, I was excited by the prospect of this mystery figure making us competitive.

Then, the oft-talked about and hyped person was introduced.  It was Valerie Maclean.

Who you might ask?  Well, I had the same reaction at the time.

At the time, Maclean was the face of the Better Business Bureau here in BC, and so from time to time she would pop up on the news warning consumers about a new scam or company to steer clear of.

One supposes that this occasional TV time was why certain members of the recruiting committee were excited, although as an avid news watcher I didn’t know the name or face off hand.

Now Maclean was a very nice and pleasant woman.  And in regards to the issues, she was more than intelligent to speak about them at least on a peripheral basis.

But when facing off against a political pro like Jennifer Clarke or a personality like Larry Campbell, she seemed over-matched.

And ultimately, she did not have the profile that drew people to the party, if nothing else for curiosity sake.  That lack of drawing power, as opposed to a guy like Larry “Da Vinci” Campbell, was a death knell for those running under the vcaTEAM banner.

And this is the fate the the NPA faces within its current situation.

I refer to an uphill battle for two reasons.

First, finding a person with enough profile, cachet and connections to take on Gregor Robertson is not going to be an easy task.

I notice that this evening Global is going to do a puff piece on John Furlong and his potential political future.  I also notice how the biggest anti-Vision Vancouver members of the press gallery put Furlong shaking hands with Robertson as the image for the promo hyping the piece.

The likelihood of someone like that stepping up to the plate – particularly after saying this last week to Gary Mason:

I’m both moved and flattered by the number of people who are urging me to consider taking a run at the job, but honestly I just don’t think I’m cut out for the sacrifices of a politician’s life.  It seems like there is no bottom to how cruel we can be to each other. I believe very much in people and in service and the power of a compelling vision to bring people together, but I just cannot imagine being effective in an environment that has become so terribly unforgiving and openly hostile.

Once again – this polling is a powerful deterrent to anyone considering a run, in spite of what the usual suspects of anger have to say.

Why would a Furlong, or a Christy Clark, or a Carole Taylor, or even a Tung Chan for that matter, put their name into the mix of such a tough, uphill battle?

They would give up salary and/or business opportunities, their private time and family lives, and most importantly, put everything they have built in their careers on the line in what can only be considered a huge gamble.

The NPA is downtrodden, and does not add anything to the equation.  Fundraising, political support in the polls and profile would all have to come from the candidate, who would be bequeathing the party with a boost rather than the other way around.

The second reason the NPA faces an uphill battle is that there is no palpable anger against Vision Vancouver like there was in Toronto, for example, to propel a groundswell of support for who will eventually become the face of the party.

Vision Vancouver, much like the administration of David Miller in 2006, is in a good place to repeat their 2008 victory.  The pockets of opposition to bike lanes, as an example, do not constitute an uprising of backlash as the media loves to try and portray.

Changing governments happens when one of two factors comes into play.  Either a) the incumbent is a disaster and there is a growing disdain amongst the electorate (the majority of administration changes can be traced to this) or b) the alternative comes in and captures the public’s imagination (a phenomenon that is far less common, with Nenshi in Calgary becoming the new exception to the rule).

Neither of these factors are in play in the upcoming Vancouver election, which makes me think that no one that is outside of the municipal sphere of self-importance like Suzanne Anton or Ian Robertson will be idiotic enough to risk their reputations on a race like this.

I keep hammering away at this point, but that comes from an acquired understanding of how civic politics in Vancouver’s at-large system works.

The bottom line is that from the Mayoral candidates, all results for Council, Park Board and School Board flow.

And on that front, it seems as though the NPA machine is a little…or maybe A LOT…backed up.

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