Vancouver mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart speaks to the Cambie Report. It’s another in a series of hour-or-so-long interviews by these well-informed folks, who are doing great work keeping us all informed and entertained as the October 20 civic election rolls ever closer.
My precis is, as usual, incomplete, idiosyncratic and rearranged somewhat. It’s also supplemented by other material from Mr. Stewart.
Kennedy Stewart is the most experienced politico running for mayor of Vancouver. He’s not a candidate of either of the two major civic political parties, but his affiliation could not be clearer.
His background includes 5 years of poverty in childhood in rural Nova Scotia, then playing bass and singing in a band in Vancouver, driving a beer truck, getting academic degrees in urban politics and policy, and a Ph. D. on world cities from the London School of Economics. He’s co-author of “Local Government in Canada” (with Tindal, Tindal and Smith).
This is his 4th major political campaign, and he’s been a Federal MP since 2011. He trades heavily on this experience, and his ability to work within government for results, to take criticism and broker compromise. These would seem to be handy skillsets, given what one interviewer called “. . . the adhoc, rainbow, fruit salad council . . . ” that we may elect on October 20th.
He loves Vancouver and cities in general, and sees a need that he can fill. He’s quit as an MP to signal his seriousness.
He won’t disguise his Federal NDP alignment, as if this were possible, and mentions (Saint) Jack Layton several times, as well as mentor Libby Davies. But as an independent, he says he has a better chance to bring parties and sub-groups together.
The Race: It looks good for him so far, he says. His polling mirrors Canseco’s. Sim and Stewart are head-to-head. Shauna Sylvester (pfffft) is Vision Vancouver, a nice drive-by diss. The right is more split than the left, with Bremner, Young, Chen, Sim and Harding in the running. His voters are drawn from NDP supporters, plus no-to-the-pipeline and small-g green people.
Housing: the biggest issue
- Low wages: affordability means appropriate housing for 30% of income; he’d propose using gov’t land to build rental and operate it for a profit; then recycle the profits into low-income affordable housing. He notes the market currently builds only for above-median income.
- Senior Gov’t’s: in other places, senior gov’t’s invest 15-25% into housing. We are at 8% and the stock is deteriorating.
- Demand and supply both need work. Demand-side has seen 3 new taxes to help control speculation: empty homes (city), school tax and speculation tax (both provincial). Supply-side will involve city property (including school board’s), and a sharp focus on “worker housing”.
Opioids: a second-level concern to housing. Vancouver needs to continue aggressive risk-taking policies
Kinder Morgan: he’s opposed it since day 1, based then on a survey of his Burnaby constituents, who called it their top issue. This includes being arrested for contempt of court. He thinks the federal Liberals are in trouble over this pipeline, and that it may be impossible to build. He sees no payoff for Canada in terms of risk/reward. He’ll use city resources to fight against it being built.
Burnaby’s Demovictions: Says Stewart — “I know a smear campaign when I see one”. Especially when Mike Klassen is involved. [See the steel?]. These occurred before he was MP for that area; he’s always supported renters; he’s not hearing from his constituents about this issue.
A Class Divide That Seems Familiar: Stewart is proud of his working people and union focus. Note the intent to build “worker housing”. NPA’s Ken Sim, he says, has signaled intent to try to break civic unions. It seems like a resurrection of classic old worker-boss, or union-business, class warfare, so prevalent in BC’s politics and their parties.
Transportation: oddly muted and bland, for an area with big civic involvement, so full of big impact, big money projects and sharp political divides. He spoke of increasing small local city buses for seniors, mostly. Skytrain to UBC? Meh. The words “bicycle” and “subway” are either missing or very hard to find on his web site.
Mr. Stewart is confident and likeable in a bland sort of way. There is steel in his backbone, however, even if his fists are clothed in velvet. He thinks, and speaks, in paragraphs, as you’d expect from a former tenured SFU professor — possibly to his detriment in a sound-bite world. And he doesn’t seem to live in the same world as hot-button yowling (bike lanes!!!) or click-bait stunts (call the cops).