Posted By: Jackie Wong
11/20/2008 12:00 AM
When it was announced last Saturday night (November 15) that Gregor Robertson would be Vancouver’s next mayor, a group of West End residents jumped for joy, joining hundreds of victorious supporters that packed a ballroom in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, where Vision Vancouver held its election party. “I feel fantastic!” Melissa Mewdell said of the win. “Gregor Robertson is the only candidate that fought for renters’ rights in this election.”
Mewdell lives in the Seafield Apartments, a heritage building on Pendrell Street that was purchased this past summer by a pair of former internet gaming executives. As was previously reported in WE, Seafield residents were told in September that upcoming renovations to the building would render rents so high that current tenants likely would not be able to afford to stay. Since then, those tenants have been making efforts to raise public awareness of what they call unfair ‘reno-victions’ — renovations that are seen to justify mass evictions.
Gregor Robertson met with Seafield tenants during the last weekend before the municipal election to address their situation. “The City can use the tool of scrutinizing and withholding a permit, if necessary, to make sure tenants are protected,” he told them.
Inspired by the help that Robertson and his Vision Vancouver colleagues seemed to offer to their cause, Mewdell and her neighbours spent election day canvassing on behalf of the Vision/COPE team. “We were promoting Gregor Robertson, Aaron Jasper, Heather Deal, Andrea Reimer, Geoff Meggs, and David Cadman,” said Brian Broster, who also lives at the Seafield. “They’ve all helped us.”
To the Seafield residents’ excitement, Vision and its centre-left allies won majority seats on council, the park board, and the school board, leaving the centre-right NPA with one of its most crushing defeats in years. Unofficial election results showed that Robertson finished with 67,598 votes, beating out the NPA’s Peter Ladner by 18,804 votes. Ladner ended the night with 48,794 votes. “We worked very hard; we stayed on the high ground,” Ladner told supporters after the results were revealed. “We never resorted to lies or smears.”
Only a few NPA-ers scored elected seats. Ken Denike and Carol Gibson took the last remaining spots on school board, and Ian Robertson is the only NPA representative on park board. Suzanne Anton held her spot on city council as the NPA’s one remaining councillor.
“I guess it’s safe to say, I’d somewhat seen that coming,” Anton said of Robertson’s victory. “I do congratulate Gregor and his team, but it will be hard being the only NPA. I know Gregor has promised an end to non-partisanship, an end to bickering. By the way, most of the bickering came from his colleagues on council.”
Anton expressed disappointment at not seeing more of her colleagues gain elected seats. “We had people with integrity, principle, and accomplishment,” she said, adding that she would have liked to see councillors Kim Capri and Elizabeth Ball re-elected, with Daljit Sidhu and Michael Geller taking new council seats.
Anton’s priorities for the next three years include the environment, land use, and the Olympics, for which she pointedly noted that Vision has not shown its support. “The Vision councillors have shown no interest whatsoever in the Olympics up ’til now,” she said. “What’s very important to me is that every citizen in Vancouver feels that it’s their Olympics and that they have a part in it.”
Vision board member Am Johal counters that the idea of an Olympics for everyone went out the window during the NPA’s reign. “Over the last three years, that idea of an inclusive Olympics went off the table,” he said. “There’s not going to be a honeymoon period for the new mayor. He really is going to have to jump in and start implementing his agenda in a fairly quick way, because there isn’t really a chance to stop, given the fact that there are so many issues happening in the next 14 months.”
Johal pointed to civil-liberties clash points, the need for a social-housing legacy, and tenancy protection as only a few of the Olympic-related issues that Robertson will need to start dealing with immediately.
Despite the message of unity that marked Vision’s race to victory, one of Robertson’s biggest challenges as mayor will be keeping his council together. “The challenge of leadership is going to be, how do you implement your agenda, and how do you keep the house together over three years?” said Johal. “There’s going to be an incredible amount of scrutiny on the new council — unprecedented in the city’s history.”