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Tech entrepreneur eyes run in Vancouver mayoral race

Photo of Leonard Brody to accompany a Frances Bula story.

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Leonard Brody is the kind of entrepreneur who has put this city on the map in the digital-technology world – someone Mayor Gregor Robertson might normally point to as the future of Vancouver.

Mr. Brody is a just-turned 43-year-old tech entrepreneur who created the news site NowPublic.com and who has been nominated for two Emmy awards. He's an investor in several other start-ups and he's thinking about challenging Mr. Robertson for his job.

Why?

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Mr. Brody is one of three candidates on the Non-Partisan Association shortlist for their mayoralty spot on the slate. He wants Vancouver to become an international leader in creative businesses but also in new ways of talking and listening to citizens.

"I think this is truly one of the great cities of the world. I truly believe we are entering this era on the planet where everything is being rewritten from the ground up," Mr. Brody said in an interview.

"And when you look at Vancouver, we are punching a little bit below our weight."

One of the areas where he believes Vancouver can become a real pioneer is in public engagement.

"The one ambition I care about the most is that Vancouver is a global leader in how a government engages its citizens," said Mr. Brody, who talked at length about the need to be more transparent, to provide the public with maximum information, and to take the feedback they provide. "In my work life, the more engaged people you have in a decision on a large scale, the better those decisions become and the more understanding they are of the outcome."

That philosophy speaks to an often-heard complaint by many resident groups in recent years who say the Vision Vancouver council makes too many decisions without showing much interest in community concerns about their actions.

Although Mr. Brody is on the NPA's shortlist, he said he is still considering whether the party, described as centre-right, is a good move for him.

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The party's board interviewed two other candidates for the job the week before last, including former CBC ombudsman and long-time journalist Kirk LaPointe, and Ian Robertson, a former NPA park-board commissioner who worked for the Rocky Mountaineer company founded by NPA board chair Peter Armstrong.

NPA officials have said they'll announce their choices for all their candidates within a week.

Mr. LaPointe has declined to talk about why he is considering running or what he'd like to do as mayor until the decision about a candidate is made public. Mr. Robertson has said he doesn't like the way the city has been going under Vision Vancouver, which is why he is considering re-entering politics.

Mr. Brody's name was the last to surface publicly, as details of the NPA's board meeting have leaked out slowly. But he has been the most forthcoming about what he'd like to do and how he'd approach it.

"I have a lot of respect for Gregor. He's a good guy. He cares about the city," Mr. Brody said. "But I really believe it's time for more here. It's time to be ambitious."

He said he the NPA could be a good fit for him because he likes the fact that it tries to be non-partisan. "I've never understood the ideological split between parties," he said.

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The NPA, founded in 1937, dominated Vancouver politics for decades, but has struggled since 2002 to attract enough votes to get a majority on council.

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About the Author
Urban affairs contributor

Frances Bula has written about urban issues and city politics in B.C.’s Vancouver region, covering everything from Downtown Eastside drug addiction to billion-dollar development projects, since 1994. More

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