Vancouver’s independent mayor has started telling supporters publicly that he will run for re-election in three years because, he says, the city’s significant challenges with housing, drug overdoses and transit need a leader who is around for more than one term.
“I’d like to provide some certainty to our partners. We’re having some good early success [with the key issues] but that’s a two-term job. I’m willing to do another four years if people will have me,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart told The Globe and Mail.
Mr. Stewart, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University and former NDP MP who turned 53 this month, planned to tell supporters his decision at a small, non-fundraising dinner in downtown Vancouver on Thursday night and in an e-mail on Friday. He said he doesn’t plan to form a new party.
Some observers, particularly in the development community, have been dismayed by what feels like an erratic council whose decisions, especially on housing approvals, are unpredictable. Mr. Stewart has been criticized by some for being too weak and conciliatory, by others for appearing to be too pro-developer and similar to previous mayor Gregor Robertson.
But Mr. Stewart said he feels like there is a majority of councillors, representing different parties, that is solidly voting in favour of needed changes. One of those changes, a new initiative to open up more land in the city to apartment construction, passed this week with only two councillors opposed. It was a decision that showed that the multiparty council is working well, the mayor said.
“We mainly agree on the issues and, for the most part, the solutions,” Mr. Steward said.
The city council dynamics of the past year, with four different political parties represented but no majority, stand in sharp contrast to the previous 10 years of government at Vancouver city hall, where the Vision Vancouver party under Mr. Robertson dominated all decisions. The few Non-Partisan Association councillors on each council and later Green Party representative Adriane Carr acted as the opposition, with many decisions split along party lines.
Unlike most Canadian cities, political parties are an essential part of local elections in Vancouver and other municipalities in the region.
Mr. Stewart’s announcement comes unusually early, barely a year since he was narrowly elected for his first term as mayor after serving as an NDP MP in Burnaby for not quite two terms.
It’s not clear yet what all the other parties now represented on council might do in the next three years and who Mr. Stewart’s challengers might be.
In the 2018 election, Mr. Stewart won with 49,705 votes, less than 1,000 more than the NPA’s mayoral candidate, Ken Sim. That came as another independent candidate from the left, Shauna Sylvester, made a strong showing with 35,000 votes.
The NPA just had a board election this week that saw some unusual candidates elected, including David Chen, who ran against Mr. Sim after forming his own party; Ryan Warawa, the president of the B.C. Conservative Party; and Chris Wilson, a former bureau chief for Rebel Media who earned public attention for mocking then-federal environment minister Catherine McKenna by calling her “Climate Barbie.”
The NPA has struggled in recent years to bring together the coalition of federal Conservatives and federal Liberals that helped it dominate city politics for decades, with some feeling it has swung too far to the conservative side.
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