Opinion Column

Vancouver byelection results should worry all parties — but will they take heed?

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Hector Bremner is pictured at his election night party in Vancouver on Saturday. (BEN NELMS/Postmedia)

Hector Bremner is pictured at his election night party in Vancouver on Saturday. (BEN NELMS/Postmedia)

“Another such victory over the Romans, and we are undone.” — Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, 319-272 BC

Vancouver’s byelection results Saturday should scare all parties, since even those that won city council or Vancouver School Board seats still have reason to be deeply troubled by their own performance.

But will they take heed in time for the October 2018 full city elections?

As predicted in this column last week, the right-wing Non-Partisan Association’s Hector Bremner won the single council seat  but with an extremely poor margin of victory over second place finisher Jean Swanson, an independent supported by the Coalition of Progressive Electors.

Bremner, an ex-B.C. Liberal provincial candidate, only mustered 28% of the vote despite a four-way split of the left-centre/environmental vote, with Swanson close behind at 21%. And only two of the NPA’s five Vancouver School Board candidates won.

The NPA’s Pyrrhic victory should be a huge wake-up call if it wants to seriously challenge Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and his council majority next year.

Vision’s embarrassing fifth place council finish with young newcomer Diego Cardona, whom I supported, garnering just 11% of the vote, means a radical rethink is mandatory.

Vision did elect three VSB trustees — former incumbents Joy Alexander, Allan Wong and past trustee Ken Clement — but ex-chair Mike Lombardi and newcomer Theodora Lamb both lost.

That all means Robertson’s future and that of Vision’s five incumbent councillors is up in the air for 2018.

Vision has to renew and rejuvenate after nine years in power if they want to be re-elected, starting with Robertson soon deciding if he wants to try for another term by staking out new ground on affordable housing and homelessness, while bringing fresh candidates into the mix.

For the Greens, Pete Fry has become a likeable but perennial political loser, finishing third for council this time after losing in 2014 and in a 2015 B.C. by-election, though the Greens can celebrate their three VSB candidates topping the polls, albeit with a tiny turnout.

All four non-right parties have a big choice in 2018 — win together or lose separately to the still imminently beatable NPA.

They must decide whether what unites them is greater than what divides them and, quickly, act accordingly to fashion an electoral agreement for the 2018 election.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com. Twitter: @BillTieleman