Vision began as a protest movement, fighting against what its members saw as the radical agenda of the leftist COPE party. Many saw them as opportunists wanting re-election more than putting forward the policies they were elected on.
COPE was in favour of electoral reform, strengthening neighbourhoods and citizen participation. They were against mega-stores and big money developers. Vision has rejected electoral reform and embraced any kind of development to the point where they are now the party of choice for developers’ donations.
While they send out messages that they listen to the citizenry through public hearings and open government, they have alienated more neighbourhoods in the past seven years than arguably any other civic government since Tom Campbell.
For the past several years, media stories have been filled with individuals, community groups and whole neighbourhoods complaining that city hall has been forcing ill-conceived plans and developments on them with nothing but the most cursory of public process.
The park board has seen its fair share as well. A public meeting that went on well into the early hours of the morning with little if anything to show for it; lawsuits brought against it; and changes in the rules and process of meetings that many see as a Harper-inspired stranglehold on democracy.
Only the school board seems to have been able to keep public support; however that might be because the NPA opposition has been bizarrely linked to American far right wing/evangelical causes and seen as nothing more than fringe players.
Yet despite this growing upset and opposition, Vision Vancouver appears on the verge of a third sweep at the polls next year. Rather than solidify the opposition, the disparate groups have chosen to splinter and splutter into small movements without direction or cause.
New parties like Vancouver First and the Cedar Party appear to be little more than cults of personality or one-issue ponies while dissatisfied NPAers jumped the proverbial sinking ship for the all new TEAM that looks anything but new.
After several years in the wilderness, COPE appears to be putting its house in order, but it may be a case of too little, too late for the next electoral go-round.
Today, Vision is probably better organized and better funded than at any other time in its existence. With the deep pockets of the development community, the wealth of organizational skills of street-smart young marketers and a splintered opposition, it looks, 13 months out, to be a slam-dunk for Mayor Gregor Robertson and his group.
If an opposition to the incumbents wants to rally its forces and take a shot at wresting city hall from the ruling party, it is going to have to do some serious thinking and come up with a common front.
A strong independent candidate for mayor who is not saddled with the NIMBY or wing-nut label may be the only hope for change at 12th and Cambie. A strong candidate who could bring along five or six other independents onto council could break the electoral behemoth of Vision.
Is there such a person? A few years ago that knight in shining armour was seen as Carole Taylor, who chose to stay out. Today there doesn’t seem to be anyone waiting in the wings. On the right, former park board commissioner Ian Robertson was once seen as a solidifying force; on the left the likes of David Cadman are long lost.
Without the presence of people like these former politicians, it doesn’t seem likely at this point that there will be much change in civic politics in Vancouver.
Vision Vancouver may think that it is an ill wind that blows against their empire, but fresh air always follows the worst of storms.
Stuart Mackinnon is a former Green Party Vancouver park board commissioner.
The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at
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