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4 min

‘Don’t turn back the clock’

NPA win sparks concern among queers

THRILL OF VICTORY: Sam Sullivan, surrounded by other members of the NPA slate, takes to the stage to deliver his victory speech moments after being elected the next mayor of Vancouver, Nov 19. Credit: Matt Mills

With a less than 4,000-vote spread, Vision Vancouver’s Jim Green lost the Vancouver mayor’s seat in a tight race against new Non-Partisan Association (NPA) mayor Sam Sullivan on election day.

“Okay folks. I wish it had been different results but look at what we did,” said a visibly disappointed Green in his concession speech. “A party that’s only five months old and yet” we’ve been able to put four people in.

“Raymond Louie, George Chow, Tim Stevenson, Heather Deal-that’s the future of the city of Vancouver.

“I really wanted to be your mayor with all my heart and soul,” lamented Green, “and I love this city.”

It was an especially tight race not only for the mayor’s seat, but for control of the entire city council. If Green had been successful, his vote in combination with those of the elected Vision Vancouver councillors and the lone returning Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) councillor, David Cadman, would have been a majority on council. The outgoing council was the most queer-friendly in Vancouver’s history. As it is, it’s not clear how the new council is likely to treat the gay community.

It’s “bittersweet,” said re-elected councillor Tim Stevenson moments after Green’s speech. “I feel quite sad because I think the city missed a big opportunity with Jim Green. I think he would’ve made a wonderful mayor.”

But win or lose we have to respect the outcome and make the best of the situation, he added.

Stevenson says he admires Sullivan’s work with the disabled but is surprised voters responded to Sullivan’s campaign for mayor. “Right now, it’s a bit of a kick in the head,” said Stevenson. “I just didn’t think people would turn to Sam Sullivan.”

But Stevenson remains committed to representing the queer community in city council.

“As a person in opposition,” he said, “whenever [Sullivan] makes motions or decisions that are contrary to the community, I’ll point that out to him as loudly and clearly as I know how, no matter what.

“I’m still there,” he continued. “I’ll still have a voice and a presence and still be bringing issues forward from the community as clearly as I possibly can.”

Stevenson noted that the Vision Vancouver councillors and David Cadman represent “a good, solid block of people” on the 11-member council.

But former NPA councillor Alan Herbert is still concerned about the new mayor.

“There’s no one to run the ship of state,” he says. Sullivan “does not understand the process. He thinks that policy is carved in granite. He doesn’t understand that policy is just a guideline.”

Herbert worries Sullivan won’t stand up to Providence Health Care on any proposal to close St Paul’s Hospital in the West End.

He says Sullivan has the potential to be the worst mayor ever.

“I honestly don’t think Sam understands the issues of our community,” says Vision Vancouver supporter and West Enders Against Violence Everywhere (WEAVE) co-founder Ron Stipp. Sullivan “has never shown that. So I guess it’s up to our community to reach out to Sam so he can understand what our issues are in the West End. And I hope he’s open to that.

“Sam, come into the West End,” urges Stipp. “Take a tour around and listen to people who know our community, like Tim Stevenson. Just going into the gay Pride Parade means nothing. Let’s see some action.

“And don’t turn back the clock,” warns Stipp. “We won’t let you turn back the clock.”

The mood was decidedly more celebratory at the NPA party a few kilometres away.

“You have said you want leaders to spend their energy working together for the best interests of the city,” said a jubilant Sullivan in his acceptance speech. “You want a government characterized by civility and decorum in which everyone’s opinions are respected. You agree that political leaders should govern, not manage and that city staff should manage, not govern.”

Sullivan congratulated his opponents on running passionate campaigns and promised “to do his best” to make a success of Green’s Woodward’s project.

But, barely seconds after Sullivan left the stage to face the media, he was hit with a barrage of questions about independent mayoral candidate James Green (not to be confused with Jim Green of Vision Vancouver).

James Green scored a surprising 4,273 votes on an anybody-but-Jim-Green platform, enough to affect the outcome of the mayor’s race.

Initially, Sullivan was under the impression he’d won more than enough votes to beat both Greens combined, saying, “My understanding is the difference between me and Jim Green is bigger than the numbers James Green got. So, I don’t think it played a factor.”

But when he was told that, in fact, he wouldn’t have won the election if James Green’s votes had gone to Jim Green, he said: “That is a little disappointing I must say. I know he was a very credible candidate. He went out there and he got his own votes.”

Also in the crowd celebrating the NPA victory was Vancouver-Burrard Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt, who himself won his seat in Victoria this year by a tiny margin in a hotly contested battle with Stevenson who ran under the NDP banner.

“I think the biggest surprise in this election is James Green’s turnout,” Mayencourt told Xtra West. “That’s just one of the issues that people are going to have to reconcile themselves with, but in this game it’s whoever wins on the top that gets it.”

Sullivan says he’s never met James Green and that James Green declared his candidacy for mayor long before Sullivan and that James Green has no affiliation with the NPA.

One member of the media asked Sullivan how he felt about the Chinese community’s support for “anti-gay leaders.”

“I have no opinion on that,” he replied. “I work with everyone. The election is over and now I want to be the mayor of the whole city.”