I was reading Mike Howell’s interview with Mayor Kennedy Stewart in the January 7 Courier, and I was struck by the extent to which our new mayor appears to be genuinely interested in collaboration with all members of Vancouver city council, no matter what their party is.
The interview got me thinking about how differently things would have unfolded after COPE’s historic victory in 2002 if our mayoral candidate had not been the divisive and combative Larry Campbell, but instead someone with the positive temperament of our current mayor.
COPE would have remained united. Vision Vancouver would never have come to be.
For those of you who don’t know, or perhaps don’t remember, in 2002, Vancouverites elected COPE’s mayoral candidate, Larry Campbell, along with COPE candidates to eight of the 10 city council seats.
The nine COPE council members quickly divided into two camps: COPE “Lite” made up of Larry Campbell and councillors Jim Green, Raymond Louis and Tim Stephenson; and COPE “Classic” made up of councillors Fred Bass, David Cadman, Anne Roberts, Ellen Wordsworth and myself. COPE Classic adhered to longstanding COPE policies like following an election platform determined democratically by the party’s membership. However, COPE Lite councillors voted contrary to COPE’s election platform at times, and even espoused accepting developer and casino donations — which COPE’s policies prohibit.
The COPE Lite faction, while only a minority of four within the nine-member COPE caucus, was able to have its motions passed due to the support of the two remaining members of council — the NPA’s Sam Sullivan and Peter Ladner.
One of the first and most divisive issues to come up was the expansion of gambling in Vancouver. Former Mayor Philip Owen had been firm: Gambling, particularly slot machines, were not welcome within city limits. Larry Campbell, however, reversed all that and opened the city up to casinos.
An application by the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. for slot machines at the Hastings race track was one of the first to be approved. As soon as Larry Campbell’s three-year term as mayor was up, he accepted an appointment to the Gaming Corp.’s board of directors, where he has remained to this day. (According to an earlier report by Global News, now-Senator Larry Campbell has received more than $800,000 in cash and about $2.1 million in shares for his role on the board.)
I suspect that if Kennedy Stewart had been COPE’s mayoral candidate in 2002, instead of Larry Campbell, he would have been elected and he also would have supported COPE’s original platform of a casino-free Vancouver.
In 2005, towards the end of Larry Campbell’s term, COPE Lite left COPE and, with multi-million-dollar funding from the development sector, officially became Vision Vancouver. In 2008, 2011 and 2014, Vision outspent all other political rivals, and won each of those elections. What a different city we would be living in today had Vision never existed!
While we’ll never know for sure, I will venture to say that if Kennedy Stewart had been COPE’s mayoral candidate back in 2002, the culture at city hall would also have been much more positive over the past 16 years. Not only that, the people of Vancouver would be enjoying a fairer and more equitable city today, along with zoning prioritising affordable housing over profits.