Reviewing What We Know
Casting strategic votes in Vancouver is going to be tough this election. We cannot tell much from the polls but this is what we can tell. To review what I have said in previous posts and what has been reported in the media,
- The NPA is close enough to Vision Vancouver in popular support that its top candidates are almost certain to place ahead of Vision’s bottom candidates.
- Adriane Carr continues to enjoy enough popular support to place in the top ten spots again and it is possible, though not likely, that her running mates, Pete Fry and Cleta Brown could place as high and ninth or tenth place.
- RJ Aquino, the sole candidate for One City enjoys substantial financial support from trade unions and key members of the civic left, including some working on election day turnout operations for their union and for Vision Vancouver. Nevertheless, he does not register in any poll measuring voter intention.
- The Coalition of Progressive Electors, sitting at about 10% of the vote, has prioritized injuring Vision Vancouver over any serious attempt to elect any candidate. For this reason, even its most credible candidates, with experience in government and strong media profiles, do not register in polling or, if they do, are at the very bottom of the pack, with less than half the votes they need to reach tenth place.
- Surrey First, One Surrey and Safe Surrey are neck-and-neck in the polls but, given the larger and more established election day turnout machine and Surrey’s appalling 24% turnout rate, this likely means Surrey First is leading.
- A Chinese name delivers a 5-10% bonus in votes, coming primarily from white voters who subscribe to Rob Ford’s theory of East Asian people as embodiments of thrift and hard work.
- A name near the beginning of the alphabet delivers a 5-10% bonus in votes, coming primarily from voters choosing a mixed slate but running out of votes before reaching the bottom of the ballot.
- A South Asian name delivers 10-20% penalty, coming from primarily from white voters who have nativist sensibilities and an inchoate sense that people with above-average rates of political party participation and brown skin are a source of “corruption.”
- There is no possibility of delivering a progressive majority on either Vancouver or Surrey city councils.
With these nine points in mind, I am making my recommendations.
Meena Wong (COPE): Meena Wong is a far better mayoral candidate than COPE deserves. And she has put on a tremendous campaign without money or elite support. She is almost certain to score better than any third-party mayoral candidate in living memory. Her platform, emphasizing compassion, duty and affordability is the best platform. It has been my pleasure to work with her in the NDP, COPE and the proportional representation movement. She is not just a great candidate but a great person of unimpeachable character.
Risk: Casting a symbolic vote for Meena in this election could result in the election of Kirk Lapointe and the defeat of Gregor Robertson.
Reward: Casting a symbolic vote for Meena in this election could result in the election of Kirk Lapointe and the defeat of Gregor Robertson. Let me elaborate: whether or not Vision is returned to office, it is clear that our current mayor is one of the forces that is most influential in dragging the party to the right and placing it in the hands of developers. Vision will be a better, more progressive caucus without him, less likely to be at the beck and call of developers. A vote for Meena is strategic because it doesn’t just symbolically show that there are hard-core progressive voters in two; it runs the risk of making Vision a better party.
Adriane Carr (Green): Adriane is currently the only progressive opposition voice on council. To lose her would be a major blow to our city. As I predicted in 2011, she was the perfect person for the job of one-woman opposition, doing the work of four councillors and making it look easy and fun while she skewers Vision time after time.
Risk: In an election that is so close, it is highly likely that, at most, one progressive opposition councillor will be elected. If you want RJ Aquino, Tim Louis or Lisa Barret to win, casting a vote for Adriane makes that harder because they won’t be able to gain on her in the rush for ninth or tenth spot. A vote for Adriane could defeat Tim, RJ or Lisa if electing them is your priority. The other risk is, of course, that Adriane is a ruthless, autocratic dictatorial leader; some of the passion that animates her animus towards Vision is a slash and burn politics that will not tolerate apostate Green Andrea Reimer, her protégé, wielding power in this city. While Adriane is the best choice to oppose and stymie Vision, she will stand as an obstacle to the formation of any open, democratic progressive alternative in this town.
Reward: The reward of electing Adriane is that there is a committed, implacable opponent of Vision Vancouver calling for transparency, sustainability, equity and accountability on council. We will have a watchdog, a gadfly, a passionate advocate. Ultimately, I believe that the danger of empowering Adriane to prevent the formation of a big tent progressive party is massively outweighed by the service she will perform as a progressive councillor. In my view, taking stock of the actual situation before us, Adriane Carr is the best and most important vote you can cast.
Tim Louis (COPE): Tim is the only COPE candidate who is registering in the polls. Eight places back, it is highly unlikely he can win but Tim is a brilliant man, and a fighter. I would never count him out. Like Adriane, he has treated me horribly, engaging in slash and burn political overkill to drive me out of COPE, if not as bad, certainly in the same league as the kind of politics Adriane used in her dealings with me in the late 90s. Both Tim and Adriane have ruined my day many times. I believe that, if both are elected, they will, together, be able to ruin the day of Kerry “affordable housing is something that somebody can afford” Jang, and infuriate our city council’s development industry shills. If the determination and ruthlessness Tim and Adriane have shown in their dealings with me are anything to go by, I think that, as a two-person opposition team, they might well cause some Vision councillors to quit even before their terms end.
Risk: As with Adriane, the things that will make Tim a great councillor will make him an obstacle to the creation of any big-tent left party capable of governing. After all, he was a key protagonist in driving moderates out of COPE in the first place, sending good people like Tim Stevenson and Sharon Gregson into the arms of the developers.
Reward: If we don’t elect people like Tim and Adriane, how many low- and middle-income people will be left in this city to vote for a better party in 2018? Possibly not enough. Ultimately, the reward of returning Tim to council vastly exceeds the risk because, without a strong, implacable, determined opposition, Vision and the NPA will annihilate this city’s affordability.
Lisa Barrett (COPE): I wish that COPE had run a different campaign and featured the two-term mayor of Bowen Island, former Green candidate, dedicated organizer and all ‘round fine human being Lisa Barrett was, like Meena, slumming it on their slate. My hope is that despite the absence of this, appearing as close as she does to the beginning of the alphabet, that 10-20% bonus might just push her up into a level of support where she could compete for tenth spot.
Risk: The only risk of voting for Lisa is that your vote will probably be wasted.
Reward: With Lisa on council, there is a chance that we could have a representative there who is willing to begin the long, arduous work of building a big tent progressive party.
RJ Aquino (One City): RJ Aquino is a solid candidate, a good activist and a person with many respected members of the civic left standing behind him who could neither abide the corporate toadying of Vision nor the dysfunctional madhouse politics of COPE. Sadly, his support base is so enmeshed in an inward-looking trade union culture that consistently overestimates how effectively it is reaching non-unionized people, I worry that polls are right and RJ doesn’t have a hope in hell. Nevertheless, with his name at the top of the alphabet, a solid vote concentration strategy, great allies in the Public Education Project and CUPE, he has a shadow of a chance of winning.
Risk: I worry that RJ’s backers spent so much time fighting Tim and crafting greasy deals with Vision that their immediate instincts are not openness, inclusion and transparency. Certainly my attempts to even communicate with One City seem to bear that out. I worry that, like Tim and Adriane, RJ may also turn out to be more of a hindrance than a help in creating a big tent progressive opposition. Some of his backers’ promises and plans have reduced my fears but not entirely.
Reward: It would be great to have the candidate with the best, smartest team and the best, smartest policies on council, advocating affordability strategies that don’t require magic, corporate largesse or mind controlling Christy Clark, not to mention a candidate who has a policy to make sure my pint is really a pint.
What? Nobody Else?
There are a lot of good candidates that I do not recommend people vote for because of the way multi-member plurality voting works. Because I am encouraging people to cast votes for candidates based on their heft in a minority situation and not pretending we’re choosing a government, which is what I advise voters to do for Parks and School Board, I am reluctant to recommend votes that could displace one of these four individuals who are desperately needed on council. Strong cases can be made to vote for Pete Fry (a Strathcona community leader and a second Green), Tim Stevenson (the conscience of Vision and a global leader and pioneer for queer equality, who could pull a Gregor-less Vision left), Niki Sharma (a needed single-parent and South Asian voice with a stellar track record for equity on Parks Board) and Cleta Brown (a great black leader in our city and another potential second Green). But any of those candidates could potentially displace Adriane, Tim, RJ or Lisa for the one or two non-NPA, non-Vision spots on council.
Our civic opposition has to face into major headwinds for the next four years. They must be dogged, determined and implacable, willing to put everything on the line to stop the agenda of dispossession that both the NPA and Vision support. A single councillor must have a voice as powerful as that of half a dozen ordinary members of council; they must be incorruptible; and they must be willing and able to stand alone, relishing the fight they must bring to the council majority every single day. We cannot allow sentimental attachment and genuine affection for the most progressive Vision candidates to cloud our judgement, nor dare we elect Greens who are not battle-tested and ready not just for the onslaught but for the charm offensive that seduced Andrea Reimer and placed her on their front bench.
I have known all of the four council candidates I recommend. Three of them dislike me, perhaps even loathe me. But they are the right people for the job before us.
As in Vancouver, the hope of a progressive council majority in Surrey is out of reach. Instead, city council voters need to vote strategically to maximize the progressive voices on council.
Barinder Rasode (One Surrey): Even if Barinder is really the law and order conservative she presents herself as, something very important will be achieved with her election. For many years, South Asian people in Surrey have been vastly underrepresented relative to their demographic strength. While in single-district first-past-the-post elections at the federal and provincial levels, racially biased voters have held their noses and voted for candidates of South Asian extraction out of party loyalty, the multi-member plurality system at the municipal level has allowed a racist minority to keep sterling candidates out of office, based on geographic origin of their family lineage. For this reason, a Rasode victory would turn on its head decades of embarrassing underrepresentation for an important group of people who have contributed much to Surrey.
More importantly, Barinder Rasode has been the best sort of Blue Dog centrist pragmatist, signaling through candidate selection, endorsements and organizer recruitment that her new party, One Surrey is ready to be a big tent that offers a better deal and more prominent place to progressives than Surrey First does with its aging, champagne socialist token, Judy Villeneuve. If left and progressive Surrey residents choose to make Barinder mayor, we may see the kind of civic renaissance, at the level of senior civil service appointments and issue leadership that Calgary has enjoyed under Naheed Nenshi. While it is possible that she will not rise to the occasion as mayor, she is a far more compelling choice than Linda Hepner or the disaster that Doug McCallum presents.
Risks: It is possible that, in a close race, Rasode may draw enough votes away from Hepner to elect McCallum. If the council race were not so close to being a draw, this might not be a concern because, as Toronto proved under Norm Kelly, sometimes progressive changes happen faster when there is a conservative troglodyte for mayor, whose mere existence drives council to be more civilized and equity-focused in its policies.
Rewards: Not only would thousands of young, South Asian people in Surrey have a mayor who reflected their portion of the community, Surrey would have the most progressive mayor it could reasonably elect and a beachhead for a better deal for progressives and leftists within a big tent.
Michael Bose (One Surrey): Michael doesn’t just make this list because he is the nephew of the last NDP mayor, Bob Bose. But it doesn’t hurt. In his own right, Michael has a solid NDP pedigree, sitting on the Agricultural Land Commission and demonstrating a progressive record on the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation. And near the top of the alphabet, with a recognized family name, he is the One Surrey candidate most likely to win.
Risks: With so few progressive candidates running for major parties, there is little danger that a vote for Michael will displace other progressives in contention for a council seat.
Rewards: It is highly likely that the One Surrey caucus will be small. As such, which candidates end up on council will make a huge difference with respect to the character of One Surrey as a party. If the party does not win a majority but does elect Michael, he will play a crucial role in setting its direction and establishing its character as a new political formation.
Gary Hoffman (Independent): As my friend and Surrey resident and long-time NDP activist Chris Green observes, very few candidates have had the courage to break out of the white flight moral panic discourse that has enveloped this campaign. For courage alone, Gary is to be commended. Not only that, he has campaigned on key equity issues: affordability and accessibility. Gary’s campaign and that of Nicole Joliet have been the only progressive campaigns in Surrey this cycle. They should be rewarded with votes, even if Gary has, according to polling and lawn sign presence, little chance of victory.
Risks: The only risk of voting for Gary is that it will be wasted.
Reward: On the remote chance, Gary wins, he could act as a major beachhead on council. And, if he loses, a decent vote count could still help to embolden those thinking of mounting a genuinely progressive in 2018.
Judy Villeneuve (Surrey First): Judy has been an important voice for the progressive minority in the Surrey First coalition. Originally elected on the SCE slate with Bose, she has survived a series of political shifts in Surrey, in large measure by not reliably sticking to progressive principles publicly. While she is, no doubt, a voice of moderation in the current regime, she is not a councillor likely to courageously take a position in favour of marginalized or low-income communities, as evinced by her silence in the current effort to throw recovery house occupants into the streets in the hopes that they migrate to Vancouver, where the local health authority has more plentiful resources for homeless people.
Risks: It is possible that, in this highly crime-focused election and, with all parties so close, Villeneuve might dislodge a more progressive independent or One Surrey councillor. While such a chance is not highly likely, it is certainly within the realm of possibility.
Reward: It is entirely possible, that, as in 2011-14, Villeneuve will be the closest thing to a progressive on council and, even if there is more than one progressive or left councillor elected, she will be the only one in the probable governing caucus, that of Surrey First.
No One Else!?
Yep, as in Vancouver, I am recommending a very small slate. In my view, the most likely election outcome is that Surrey First will win a majority of council seats and Safe Surrey and One Surrey will have, at most three council seats to divide amongst themselves. With that understanding, it is simply too dangerous to throw votes at vaguely progressive centre-right. One Surrey candidates like Narima dela Cruz or Kal Dosanjh, based on the danger that they will displace Michael or stand in the way of Gary’s longshot candidacy.
Well, that about wraps it up. Happy voting tomorrow. And stay tuned for my post-election analysis on www.LosAltos.Ca