Dan Fumano: Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart creates new party for 2022

Kennedy Stewart, elected in 2018 as an independent, decided he preferred to have a political party around him

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Tired of being a soloist, Kennedy Stewart wants to form a group.

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The rock bassist-turned-scholar-turned-politician became Vancouver‘s first independent mayor in a generation when he was elected in 2018 without civic backing. Since then he has overseen Vancouver’s most mixed board for years, a fragmented and at times agitated group.

Stewart is proud of Vancouver’s leadership, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, and says he deserves a second term.

But the mayor expressed frustration that he was not able to move faster and do more in the first three years of the four-year term.

So Stewart has decided that when he runs for reelection in October, it will not be as an independent: the mayor and his supporters are preparing to file documents with Elections BC in a month or two to register. a civic political party. .

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Stewart has announced he will seek re-election in 2019, barely a year after starting his term. And he said earlier this year that he was recruiting candidates for the board. The mayor this week revealed the final phase of his plans in a year-end interview: a new official civic holiday.

“There will be some mark. I don’t really have time to build a full party, ”said Stewart. “But it’s going to have a name, we’re kind of brainstorming. It’s like naming a group.

Prior to being a professor of political science at Simon Fraser University, Stewart played bass in a series of rock bands in the 1980s and 1990s, the best known of which was the local State of Mind quintet.

Stewart says he didn’t choose that name and always hated it. He also didn’t particularly like the names of the Nova Scotia-based bands – Blizzard, Second Degree, The Raspberry Jam – which he performed in before moving to Vancouver in 1988, “with my bass and $ 100”.

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“Just the worst band names,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe this time I’ll be able to choose the name of the band.”

Kennedy Stewart as bassist in a locally successful 1990s band State of Mind, Tightrope.
Kennedy Stewart as bassist in a locally successful 1990s band State of Mind, Tightrope. Photo by See Notes / Management /PNG

Whichever name they choose, voters will soon learn more about Vancouver’s newest civic party. Stewart says he is selecting candidates to run for council under the party banner next year. He hopes to unveil them in January or February.

Stewart was unwilling to reveal the names of possible candidates, but said he was speaking to people Vancouverites might recognize. He wants “a very good group of people who will be cohesive, who will work together and who will have reach in different communities in the city”.

“I want a majority on the board that I can work with,” said Stewart. “If we know we have the voices on the board, we can do more. “

The party does not expect to run candidates for the park council or the school board, focusing on the mayor and the council.

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“How many pieces do we still have to determine: Are we a quartet? Or a sextet? This is partly why we are discussing with the other parties.

Stewart said he was open to supporting candidates from other parties. The most likely of them seems to be OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle, the advisor with whom Stewart seems most politically aligned this term, who is seeking re-election. OneCity recently had a surge of hopes announcing their intention to seek party approval next year.

Stewart, however, said he would not endorse council candidates from any party that is also running a mayoral candidate.

Vancouver’s most senior board member, Green Coun. Adriane Carr, said she “has received a lot of pressure to run for mayor” but has yet to decide whether she will or run for a fourth term on the board.

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Carr said Stewart had done a good job getting money from top governments for things like social housing and transportation, but criticized him for voting this year to remove the $ 45 parking fee. per year intended to finance the city’s climate emergency plan.

Vancouver faces several challenges, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Despite spending on social housing, the homelessness problem in Vancouver seems more serious than ever. Five years after the province declared a public health emergency after an increase in overdose deaths, more people than ever are dying from poisonous drugs.

There has been an increase in complaints about crime, street disturbances and people feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods, especially downtown.

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“I think there has been a change, I don’t think you can deny it,” Stewart admits. “But really, deep down, the challenge is poverty, mental health and addiction. This is what motivates a large part of this petty crime.

Victorious Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart and his wife Jeanette Ashe celebrate his election at the Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver in the early morning hours of October 21, 2018.
Victorious Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart and his wife Jeanette Ashe celebrate his election at the Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver in the early morning hours of October 21, 2018. Photo by Gerry Kahrmann /PNG

Yet Stewart is stubbornly optimistic about Vancouver’s future and is proud that “95%” of what he set out to accomplish this term is either completed or on track.

Stewart said council approval this week of policies to build more rental housing was one of the key decisions in this mandate. But many of the most important – and possibly controversial – decisions in that four-year term will be packed in the six months between the council resumes in late January and July, the last meeting before the election.

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Council will consider next steps for a potential bid for the 2030 Olympics and a proposal from Stewart to allow up to six homes on a single-family home lot. Decisions are expected on the Broadway plan and the overall Vancouver plan, a massive undertaking that was the first motion this council passed after its inauguration in 2018. These are important decisions that should help candidates explain clearly to voters what vision for Vancouver’s future they support. .

Stewart sometimes hears criticism that he is less visible than other politicians, such as his predecessor, Gregor Robertson of Vision Vancouver.

“I’m pretty private,” says Stewart. “I’ve always been the bass player, always the same. It’s weird to be the leader, it’s not natural for me.

Bass is not like the piano or the guitar. As Stewart says, “You can’t really play bass on your own. “

Governing alone, the mayor learned, is not easy either.

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