Cycling
September 20, 2019

Talking NIMBYism, Populism & Campaign 2022 with George Affleck

One thing is proven without a doubt in this wide-ranging, deep political dive with Gord, Rob, and return guest George Affleck — these guys don’t know their Tolkien.

And while there was no cranky, right-wing guy in Middle Earth, there is a central character whose very rigid way of thinking begins to soften. If that seems to be the case with Affleck, it may be with the benefit of retrospect, especially with an eye to the performance of current council, and specifically in contrast to its predecessor.

That’s because Affleck’s behaviour while serving in opposition to Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver juggernaut was largely the result of him seeing the majority votes walking into the council chamber every day, “knowing exactly what they were going to do”. Idealogical alignment can be like a wall; in the form of a political caucus, it’s a brick wall.

Contrast that with today; by Affleck’s count, there are just two parties in Vancouver Council, the NDP and the BC Liberals (and 1 or 2 predictably dogmatic, even irrelevant votes). So these decisions should be, well, decisive — consistently predictable and relatively quick. But, as he notes, “it’s 100% not working like that.”

Affleck talks about the splintering sound coming from the NPA corner. He talks choo-choo trains. And he talks bike lanes (remember, he’s not anti-bike lanes, just pro-process).

Lastly, Affleck makes a startling admission, perhaps revealing that aforementioned soft spot, one which may represent the rotting core of traditional NPA preservationist ideology — that the current political trend towards framing the decision-making process around community consultation (rather than incorporating and contextualizing it into decision-making) is a great way to give anti-growth, naysay perspectives platform and influence. And that it’s probably incorrect.

He sees it in West Vancouver, in White Rock, in Surrey, and even in PoCo. He sees pragmatism, he sees populism, and it seems he has a pretty clear view of the line to be drawn between the two.

Which leads to some interesting speculation on the nature of political campaigns of our not-too-distant future — those of Kennedy Stewart, the NPA and, yes, Affleck himself.

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In George Affleck’s world, the only thing worse than the politician who tries to please everyone is the politician who only focuses on the base.

So you can understand why the only thing to possibly vex him more than last council — in which he withstood endless punishment from a neo-leftie Vision Vancouver majority — could be this council, the least experienced in…possibly forever.

The two-time former NPA councillor, alongside friend of the podcast Rob McDowell, joins Gord to dissect the goings-on at City Hall. And if there’s one common theme, it’s that this NPA caucus is very, very different from past NPA caucuses.

No surprise — Vancouver’s favourite artisanal-partisanal political party apparently tends to shape and reshape itself every election cycle (at least according to this particular trio, who would know); the last reshaping led not only to Affleck stepping back, but resulted in a party unable to attract enough voters from the “mushy middle” to elect a mayor, and thus plunging the city into uneasy, unpredictable coalition territory.

So why *did* Affleck extract himself from the last campaign? Who’s shaping the NPA today? Is the 2022 election already looking like  slam dunk, or a problem….or both? And how many NPA councillors have an eye on the mayor’s chair. (Hint: all of them.)

Most importantly, what would he have done about the 420 coughuffle? (This is the discussion that earns us our first E for explicit content.)

We hope to have him back; in the meantime, you can hear more via his UnSpun podcast on The Orca media network with Jody Vance.

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If you follow Vancouver politics, you don’t need an intro to Melissa De Genova.

In just her second term as Vancouver councillor, De Genova suddenly has the second-longest tenure of anyone in council chambers, and has also become (surprisingly, to some) one of the more credible authorities on policy, staff relations, and council protocol. Maybe even one of the adults in the room.

Falling on the heels of three consecutive Vision Vancouver council majorities — in which De Genova was a favoured and frequent combatant — it all still seems so…off. De Genova? The voice of reason? Champion of affordable housing? Responsibly wielding the gavel…as deputy mayor?!?

Yes indeed. In this new era of Vancouver Council, black is white, up is down, and everything is slightly batshit crazy. Yet, MDG (as she’s affectionately and slightly obviously known, duh) is quite possibly the throwback NPA leader we’ve all been waiting for.

In this snappy interview, in which Gord is joined by friend of the podcast Rob McDowell of The Independents, MDG talks about the past, present and future of Vancouver’s political scene. What did she learn from her 5-term Park Board commissioner father? What coercive, even threatening, tactics did past Vision councillors use against her? What’s Kennedy doing right?

And most importantly, who’s having lunch?

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“We came within an eyelash of running the table.”

And he’s not wrong. Ken Sim, founder and CEO of homecare provider Nurse Next Door and bagel chain Rosemary Rocksalt, is just two months removed from having come within 957 votes of being the mayor of Vancouver. With five NPA Vancouver councillors, Sim would have led a majority, and thus the face of municipal (and perhaps regional) politics might look very different than it does today.

Having returned to regular family and business life, he goes deep with Gord in this revealing conversation. They discuss the day he got the call from NPA leadership, the big names he spoke to as he mulled his decision (and who finally convinced him to run), his experiences on the campaign trail, his thoughts about the downtown eastside, and what he believes are the major policy priorities for the city.

And more importantly — what does the future hold for Ken Sim?

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In the opening op-ed, Gord blends some historical context into the current debate over renovictions and the state of Vancouver’s mid-rise rental stock, in a profile of West End icon The Berkeley.

Then, a deep-dive interview with former diplomat — and independent council candidate in Vancouver’s recent election — Rob McDowell.  A professional adjudicator and mediator, Rob talks about his entry into the political world over three decades ago, his decision to run for council for a third time, first as an independent, and the challenges to come for the city’s divided leadership.

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Hot on the heels of Price Tags’ post on the basics of what CAC actually is, here’s a Vancouver civic election party promising to enable, collect and spend CAC-like proceeds in a voter-friendly way.

Yes Vancouver“Public policy changes to build the new housing we need will also create new wealth… We are going to capture part of that value for the direct benefit of the public so no one is left behind.”

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It’s almost completely an NPA news day in the upcoming 2018 Vancouver civic election.  But the party scene is getting more interesting than that alone.

As a break from these routine lists, how about this goofy and completely made-up item:

Fantasy Headline:   Independents Form Affiliation to Govern City:

There are so many people running, splitting votes into sliver-thin segments, and so many as Independents, it’s remotely possible that Independents could dominate Council and take the Mayor’s chair.  Starting with credible, well-polling mayoral candidates Shauna Sylvester and Kennedy Stewart, and continuing to seven Council candidates (so far) including Adrian Crook, Rob McDowell, and 5 others.

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