First comes the swearing in; then the swearing at.
Another municipal election is in the books, and this cycle has revealed five things that are worth thinking about over the coming weeks.
(For an in-depth look at what happened in Surrey, see my previous piece.)
- The egos landed in Vancouver – but there’s hope for the centre-right.
The backroom boys in the NPA really screwed this one up. In the final days of the campaign, independent (but, let’s be honest, kinda Vision) candidate Shauna Sylvester started picking up steam, carving into Kennedy Stewart’s poll numbers. Sylvester was the only candidate who really moved up in the polls, more than doubling her initial support.
The door was open for a centre-right mayor. Ken Sim came oh-so-close, losing by less than 1,000 votes to Stewart.
Meanwhile, fellow centre-right candidates Wai Young and Hector Bremner (a sitting NPA councillor) collected a combined 22,000 votes. If the backroom boys at the NPA could have just gotten along, buried their egos and run one candidate, Vancouver would have a centre-right mayor today.
Instead, they fumbled it away because Sim, Young and Bremner – and more importantly, their campaign teams – couldn’t find a way to get along.
But there’s hope. Five outstanding NPA women were elected to council. Let’s hope they have the common sense, collaborative ability, and political courage to work together to build their party. Get the backroom boys and campaign professionals into line. Allow leaders to emerge. (And bring Erin Shum back into the NPA fold – another stupid blunder by the NPA powers-that-be.)
What was it Ben Franklin said? If we don’t hang together, we’ll certainly hang separately? The NPA side of the spectrum proved that again.
- You can’t go home again.
Peter Fassbender was a popular mayor of Langley City, having won 75% of the vote on 2008 and 69 per cent in 2011.
But in 2013, he ran for the BC Liberals in Surrey-Fleetwood. Most expected him to go down to defeat, along with dozens of other BC Liberals. But this was the Christy Clark comeback campaign. On CTV News on election night 2013, pollster Mario Canseco watched the Surrey-Fleetwood returns and flipped his prediction of an NDP majority, noting that if Fassbender was winning Fleetwood, it would be a BC Liberal majority. And it was.
Fassbender quit as Langley City mayor in 2013. He served as Education and TransLink Minister before being defeated by Jagrup Brar in 2017.
But you can’t go home again. Fassbender returned to Langley City politics, running against a moderately-known councillor named Val van den Broek. He lost by 200 votes in a result that even van den Broek called her victory “unexpected.”
It’s a political truth that parachute candidates have a big hurdle to overcome with voters. So apparently do parachutists who return to home base.
Was this Fassbender’s last ride? He’s a mighty spry 71-year-old and there are already rumours around Langley that he is eyeing Rich Coleman’s Langley East seat, if Coleman does the expected and retires before the next provincial election.
Remember: you need six years of MLA service to qualify for a pension. Fassbender’s at four.
- Every political brand expires.
Vision Vancouver vanquished. Corrigan canned. Surrey First supremely flayed. These three brands dominated B.C. municipal politics for more than a decade (a couple of decades, in Derek Corrigan’s case).
But brands expire; everything has a shelf life (and one that is shortening due to social media). These three, because of a similar issue: they became too entrenched in power. They got arrogant and stopped listening to the people they were supposed to represent. Too often, successful politicians begin to think they can convince the public that their way is best. But voters are more sophisticated than ever before; they are suspicious when a politician sells them hard on something they find counterintuitive.
It’s a lesson all of these new mayors should think about. No matter how large or small the margin of victory in the previous election, the next day you start at zero. The age of the “political base” has washed away.
- The NDP better beware the rising Green tide in Vancouver.
Three Green councillors, three Green park commissioners, three Green school trustees. You can bet that’s the result that’s keeping NDP strategist Geoff Meggs up at night. The NDP must hold Vancouver to have any shot at a majority in 2021.
The Greens are rising – could the right candidate pick off an NDP seat in the next election?
- Defeated politicians don’t take the community’s problems with them.
This is a reminder for the voters. Derek Corrigan may be gone, but demovictions are still an issue. Surrey First may be in ashes, but gang violence is still present. Vision Vancouver may be decimated, but unaffordability is still crushing residents.
Good luck, new mayors and councillors. You’re going to need it.
Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Director of Communications for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor.