3 min

Searching for the bright side

Sam Sullivan and the NPA take back council and school board

It could have been worse, I guess.

The Non-Partisan Association (NPA) could have swept to power completely, obliterated Vision Vancouver and pushed our allies out of office altogether.

But it didn’t.

The end results show an even split between Vancouver’s new city councillors: five NPA councillors to four Visions plus a COPEr. And the five NPA candidates who did grab seats may be more moderate than some of their teammates who were denied.

Take Suzanne Anton, who topped the council polls with more than 60,000 votes. She may turn out to be a potential ally, party affiliation notwithstanding. Former NPAer Alan Herbert tells me Anton called him immediately after Xtra West’s candidate comparison grid hit the streets two weeks ago to ask about The Centre, St Paul’s and the Davie Village.

That’s reassuring, especially since Anton’s grid answers included such statements as: “I don’t think it matters where St Paul’s goes;” a lukewarm lack of commitment on the city supporting Pride; and an admission that, like many of her NPA runningmates, she’d never set foot inside The Centre.

I hope she’ll keep seeking more information about our community and our needs, now that she’s on council.

“They’re more middle-of-the-road,” Herbert points out to me, studying the new NPAers now headed for council. “I can live with that.

“My worst nightmare,” he notes, “would have been three Vision candidates, no COPE and the rest NPA. Because I know the NPA. They’re not friendly to the things I hold most dear.”

My worst nightmare would’ve been complete NPA control over council.

It’s not that bad, I keep reminding myself. Vision got seats too; in fact four of the five candidates they ran won seats, including my top pick and our community’s top advocate on Cambie St, Tim Stevenson.

Add David Cadman, the sole survivor of COPE’s sadly squandered opportunity to take over and maintain control of our local government, and that’s half of council. Plus some of those new NPAers might support our community on at least some issues.

Of course if they don’t, and council divides down party lines, we could be left with a five-to-five split on such things as licensing new gay spaces and subsidizing Pride.

A five-to-five split with Mayor Sam Sullivan poised to break the tie.

Now there’s a chilling thought.

“I’m concerned about the progress we’ve made,” says Vision supporter Ron Stipp. In the last three years, city hall has accepted our community as a part of this city, has acknowledged our gay Village, has begun listening to our concerns about inadequate policing, and has even turned its steps into a rainbow for Pride, he says. Now what?

“I honestly don’t think Sam understands the issues of our community. I am concerned about turning back the clock.”

That makes two of us.

Still, Stevenson says he won’t let Sullivan turn back the clock without a fight. “If I feel the clock about to turn back, I will get on top of the clock tower and yell as loudly as I can possibly yell,” he assures me.

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

I just wish Jane Bouey and more of her COPE colleagues could say the same.

They couldn’t hang onto their seats on the Vancouver School Board, trading in almost complete control for just three out of nine seats. Bouey lost the ninth seat by just 286 votes.

When I saw we’d lost Bouey, my heart sank. She’s been one of the driving forces behind that board’s passage of the most groundbreaking, comprehensive anti-homophobia school board policy in the province. And now she’s gone.

Thank god the last board entrenched the policy in its official policy manual. I just hope the new board doesn’t ignore it or, worse yet, attempt to repeal it.

Now more than ever, we need MLA Lorne Mayencourt to keep his promise and introduce his safe schools bill requiring codes of conduct outlawing homophobic harassment in school districts across the province. He said he’d introduce it this winter; let’s see what we can do to support him.

Even as we raise our voices to demand that Vancouver’s new elected officials don’t turn back the clock on our community in the next three years.