What changes can Vancouverites expect to see under a new regime led by Mayor Ken Sim and an ABC Vancouver majority on city council, park board, and school board? Time will tell, but there are some important signs to watch. Monday, November 7, is a big day for this new regime, which swept into a supermajority on October 15 promising change.
On November, 7, the invitation-only 2022 inaugural ceremony and oath of office for City Council is at 1:15 at the Orpheum Theatre (link to live online video will be here).
Then to handle business, there’s the inaugural Council meeting at 5 pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall (see agenda and link to live broadcast here), to set the 2023 council meeting schedule, designate acting mayor/deputy mayor/council representatives, and make appointments to council committees (Finance & Services; Policy & Strategic Priorities; Nominations; Auditor General), regional bodies, boards, statutory committees, non-profits, and the intergovernmental UNDRIP task force.
Meanwhile, the Park Board has its inaugural meeting also on November 7, at 7 pm (link here), special this time at the Vandusen Gardens. Business includes oaths of office for 2022-2026, election of board chair and vice-chair, and establishment of the Park Board Committee.
Voters called for change, but what will change?
Dan Fumano in the Vancouver Sun quotes ABC Vancouver strategist saying, “The internal joke was: ‘We’re Vision that likes police.’” (Easy as ABC — How an upstart party took over Vancouver city hall, 19-Oct-2022).
When it comes to governance of the City, there are signs that no major changes are expected in the senior management who were installed by Vision Vancouver under Gregor Robertson (Vision 1.0, from 2008 to 2018) and maintained under Kennedy Stewart (Vision 2.0, from 2018 to 2022).
Vision Vancouver was turfed out in the 2018 election, but the civic system and culture they installed continued under Kennedy Stewart, who was turfed out in 2022. Incoming politicians make big promises. Ken Sim and ABC promised change, but what kind of change will that turn out to be?
What is the significance of Raymond Louie being the master of ceremonies at the Nov 7 inauguration ceremony? A Vision Vancouver councillor until 2018, he was hired by a developer after his years on council and became industry lobbyist. See “Why is a former Vancouver councillor bringing developers to meet the mayor? Former city councillor Raymond Louie has been advocating for some of the city’s high-profile developers and joining them in a series of private meetings at city hall with Mayor Kennedy Stewart.” (Mike Howell, Vancouver Is Awesome, 19-May-2019). If anything, his selection reinforces the impression that industry lobbyists will have direct access to the mayor, council and City Hall.
Then there is the huge influence of developer money in the past several elections.
In “Despite Reforms, Big Money Still Fuels BC Politics: Municipal election donations from 2014 and 2022 show wealthy donors continue to wield influence” (October 31, 2022, The Tyee), Jen St. Denis looks at how powerful developers funnelled huge amounts of money into both Sim’s ABC Vancouver campaign and Kennedy Stewart’s Forward Vancouver campaign.
In Vancouver is Awesome, “Systemic issues in civic elections continue: The civic election resoundingly demonstrated the public wants change in governance at Vancouver city hall,” (3-Nov-2022) Elizabeth Murphy writes: The civic election resoundingly demonstrated the public wants change in governance at Vancouver city hall. On reflection it showed systemic influences that affected the election results that may end up with no meaningful changes where they are needed the most: in affordability, land use planning, and development… Affordability is the number one issue. However, rezonings over the last decade have only increased land values, speculation, demolition, demoviction and displacement. More new expensive smaller units do not meet local needs. Yet it is these interests who have the most incentives to retain their grip on city hall… Big money continues influencing elections, especially from major developers. Campaign finance reforms in 2018 banned corporate and union donations, while adding annual maximum limits on donations per person. However, Kennedy Stewart (Forward Vancouver) raised $1.2 million and Ken Sim (ABC) $1.6 million, with final totals yet to come. This influences elections through big campaign budgets, relentless advertising and misleading polling, with an ideological narrative that leads to strategic voting. The reforms are not working as intended. Lower limits on campaigns and third parties are needed. (Article also posted in Business in Vancouver, and The Orca)
What will ABC Vancouver’s win, and its developer connections mean for the City? Will they be excessively influenced and constrained by the influence of the big money that funded their expensive election campaign? Stay tuned.