Dan Fumano: Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart to Form New Party for 2022


Kennedy Stewart, elected independent in 2018, has decided he would rather have a political party around him

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Kennedy Stewart is tired of soloists and wants to start a band.

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The rock bassist turned academic and politician became Vancouver’s first independent mayor in a generation when he was elected in 2018 without the backing of a civic party. Since then, he has overseen Vancouver’s most mixed council in years, a fragmented and sometimes raucous group.

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

But the mayor has expressed frustration at not being able to act faster and do more during the first three years of the four-year term.

So, Stewart has decided that when he runs for re-election in October, it won’t be as independent: The mayor and his supporters are preparing to file papers with Elections BC over the next two months to form a civic political party. to register .

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Stewart announced that he would be re-elected in 2019, barely a year after his nomination. And he said earlier this year that he was recruiting candidates for the council. The mayor revealed in an end-of-year interview this week the final phase of his plans: an official new citizen party.

“There will be some kind of brand. I don’t really have time to build a full party,” Stewart said. “But it will have a name, we’re kicking around some ideas. It’s like naming a band.”

Before becoming a professor of political science at Simon Fraser University, Stewart played bass in a string of rock bands in the 1980s and 1990s, the most famous of which was the local quintet State of Mind.

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

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“Only the worst band names,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe I can choose the band name this time.”

Kennedy Stewart as bassist in a 90s band, State of Mind, which had a local hit, Tightrope.
Kennedy Stewart as bassist in a 90s band, State of Mind, which had a local hit, Tightrope. Photo by See comments/direction /PNG

Whatever name is chosen, voters will soon learn about Vancouver’s newest bourgeois party. Stewart says he is researching candidates to run for city council next year under the party’s banner. He hopes to unveil them in January or February.

Stewart declined to disclose names of potential candidates, but said he is talking to people who may recognize Vancouverites. He wants “a really good group of people that will be cohesive, that will work together and have reach across different communities in the city.”

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

The party does not expect candidates for the park board or school board, with an emphasis on mayor and aldermen.

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“How many pieces we have is yet to be determined: are we a quartet? Or a sextet? That is why we are also in talks with the other parties.”

Stewart said he is open to endorsing candidates from other parties. Most likely those appear to be OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle, the councilor with whom Stewart seems most aligned politically this term, is seeking re-election. OneCity has recently had a flood of hopefuls announcing their intention to get party approval next year.

However, Stewart said he will not support council candidates from a party that also has a mayoral candidate.

Vancouver’s most experienced board member, Green Coun. Adriane Carr, said she has “been under quite a bit of pressure to run for mayor,” but has not yet decided whether she will do so, or run for a fourth term on the council.

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Carr said Stewart has done well to get money from higher governments for things like social housing and transportation, but she criticized him for casting the casting vote this year to pay $45 a year in parking fees to help fuel the climate emergency plan. to finance the city.

Vancouver faces several challenges, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Despite spending on social housing, the homelessness problem in Vancouver seems as bad as ever. Five years after the county declared a public health emergency following a spate of drug overdose deaths, more people than ever are dying from poisoned drugs.

There is an increase in complaints about crime, street disorder and people who feel unsafe in their neighbourhood, especially in the city center.

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“I think there has been a change, I don’t think you can deny that,” Stewart admits. “But when it comes down to it, the challenge is poverty, mental health and addiction. That is what drives so much of this petty crime.”

Victorious 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 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

Still, Stewart is stubbornly optimistic about Vancouver’s future, saying he’s proud that “95 percent” of what he wanted to accomplish this term has been completed or on track.

Stewart said the council’s approval this week of policies aimed at building more rental housing was one of the most important decisions of this period. But many of the most important – and probably contentious – decisions of this four-year term will be wrapped up in the six months between the council’s resumption in late January and July, the last meeting before the election.

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The Council will consider next steps regarding a potential 2030 Olympic bid and a Stewart proposal to allow up to six homes on a one-house lot. Decisions are expected on the Broadway plan and the overall plan for Vancouver, a massive undertaking that was the first motion this council passed after its inauguration in 2018. These are important decisions that should help candidates communicate to voters what vision they support for the future of Vancouver .

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,” Stewart says. “I was always the bass player and always kept it together. It’s weird being the front man, it’s not natural for me.”

Bass is not like piano or guitar. As Stewart says, “You can’t really just play bass.”

Self-management, the mayor has learned, is not easy either.

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