So it is over. And the result was predictable. Predictable, that is, if you don’t pay attention to the media’s predilection to focus on the small beer like the “Occupy Crisis”.
Polls over the last year have all pointed to a significant Vision win, not because time and again they showed Vision far ahead in the horse race, but because they showed that people were happy with the way Vision handled the fundamentals.
From civic services to the green agenda and the vow to end homelessness, polls showed that Vision rated highly on the issues that mattered to residents.
That means there was no natural room for the Rob Ford style campaign the NPA ran. Crabby and small, the NPA campaign was designed to appeal to NPA activists who were unhappy not so much with Vision but with the fact that they were reduced to a powerless rump.
How angry this made the NPA: The natural governing party, not governing. Their city manager, gone. The doors that were open, now closed. It made the NPA mad when they should have got smart.
But mad won out. And the NPA campaign focused on issues that mattered to the NPA but not necessarily to residents. The NPA were mad at bike lanes, mad at kids growing wheat, mad at chickens and finally, mad at Occupy Vancouver.
Election night showed that Vancouverites were thinking about different things, like homelessness, affordable services and the environment, all issues that supported the Vision brand.
Yesterday the NPA got its core vote out and not much more. With twenty thousand more voters this election the Vision and NPA share of the electorate remained pretty much the same as in the 2008 wipeout. The final margin for Mayor Robertson was 13% not the 6% the fake NPA poll showed.
Three years of rebuilding and all the NPA have to show for it is one more Councillor? In any other year this would be called a disaster. Time for a big NPA rethink.
Besides the NPA there are two more big losers in Saturday’s election – COPE and Vancouver’s media.
One can never call COPE dead, but with the election of just one school board trustee voters pretty much pulled the plug this time. Again, a somewhat predictable result after the debacle of the nomination process and an underfunded campaign.
Replacing Cadman with Louis reminded me of the purge mentality of the seventies – a search for ideological purity that often ended with parties with a membership of one.
But purity has limited electoral appeal. Few voters see it as a good governing strategy.
In the 2005 campaign I ran, Louis’ negative numbers stood out from the crowd. And it wasn’t just the right wing who disliked him. Centrists and too many on the left shared the perception that Louis was an impediment to an effective centre left government.
I don’t believe that has changed. This time around I can’t tell you how many people told me they were voting slate minus Louis.
My only evidence is the election result but I believe that Louis’ nomination hurt the COPE slate. Louis’ nomination told voters that COPE was about opposition not governing.
But who needs two oppositions? The NPA had that covered and COPE never established its place in a governing coalition. Clearly too few people on the centre left found a reason to vote COPE. Unlike the NPA COPE has fewer options to rebuild.
And Vancouver’s media… Has there ever been a bigger gulf between what the media was interested in and what voters cared about?
If you only followed the media the last month you’d think the election was about the Occupy encampment at the Art Gallery. Before that it was about the Stanley Cup riot and bike lanes.
And of course there was always the horserace story, focusing on how close Anton was getting to Robertson. A highlight was the Sun splashing an NPA poll across the front page, showing growing momentum for Anton in the last two weeks.
The NPA poll turned out to be wrong – very, very wrong, undercutting the Sun’s decision to publish it on the front page. Anton never came close to defeating Robertson.
Like the NPA poll the media’s take on the election bore little relation to the results. What Vancouver’s media cared about apparently mattered little to the electorate.
What did matter to voters was competency, progress on environmental and transportation issues and above all progress on homelessness. But few stories appeared on those issues and almost all were buried quickly in the news cycle.
For the first time I can remember the media was almost irrelevant to this election. There’s another group that needs renewal if they want to be relevant again.