Would Stuart Mackinnon's Green Party slate stand a chance in "green" Vancouver?
It took him a while to get his feet wet, but Canada's only elected Green Party official Stuart Mackinnon seems to be hitting his stride lately. As a Vancouver Park Board Commissioner, Mackinnon has increasingly found himself as the lone voice holding the government's feet to the fire.
When it came to Vision slashing the budget for parks and recreation programs in Vancouver, it was Mackinnon that spoke out the loudest in opposition to the cuts. I happened to be in the council chamber when he made a presentation to the elected officials begging them to protect funding for Vancouver's parks. They didn't. Rather, the Vision representatives peppered him with a series of petty questions which were greeted by jeers and "boos" from the audience.
Just last week Mackinnon voted against his Vision/COPE/NPA colleagues to oppose what he called the corporatization of city parks. He was the sole commissioner to say nay to the proposal to open up a new Milestones restaurants on English Bay. Although I don't happen to agree with his position, Mackinnon speaks for a lot of people who simply don't support putting any additional corporate presence in city parks. I know from experience he represents a large portion of the electorate in Vancouver who support this view.
With Mackinnon standing up for traditional "left" issues and COPE regularly voting in unison with their Vision brothers and sisters, he is cleverly carving out a niche for himself with voters. This has some wondering if Mackinnon has bigger plans to either run for Council, or to perhaps run for the top spot himself. It's not that inconceivable (based on his voting pattern) that Mackinnon could make an argument that Vision has moved too far to the right and no longer represents Green Party values. Afterall, planting a vegetable garden on the front lawn of city hall and installing a bee hive doesn't qualify you as green. If the Green Party were to run seven council candidates in 2011 and put Mackinnon as their top council candidate (perhaps even their mayoral candidate), they stand a real chance of making a breakthrough at Vancouver Council.
Admittedly the Green Party's chance of winning all seven seats would still be slim, however, with the right candidates, they could elect one or more people to council. Given that COPE is a spent force (even Vision and some COPEsters would agree with me on that), perhaps it's time for a fresh face like Mackinnon to come on the scene and bolster the profile of the Greens in Vancouver. Most political scientists agree the only chance they have at breaking through provincially or federally is if they begin winning seats on the municipal scene. This certainly isn't going to happen if they hang back in the shadows of corporate-friendly Vision.
Now before everyone in Vision sets their hair on fire claiming that I'm trying to split the vote in order to get the NPA re-elected in 2011...think again. I've already stated quite publicly that Gregor Robertson has this one locked up and nothing short of a MAJOR scandal is going to knock him off his perch. Not even an independent Green slate would knock off an incumbent mayor as long as both COPE and Vision continue to remain as one party. I'm merely commenting on how effective Mackinnon has been and how he could translate this profile into something bigger...if he were interested. And I'm not convinced that he is.
Mackinnon is certainly acting as a very effective voice for the moderates on the left who are not comfortable with Vision's budget slashing and "corporate agenda" for the city parks. The big question is whether the Greens will be prepared to hop back into bed in 2011 with the very politicians that implemented the agenda they opposed.