Former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart elected mayor of Vancouver

Click to play video: 'Kennedy Stewart gives victory speech after winning Vancouver mayoral race'
Kennedy Stewart gives victory speech after winning Vancouver mayoral race
Watch the full victory speech of Kennedy Stewart, the newly elected mayor of Vancouver. – Oct 21, 2018

Kennedy Stewart has been elected the next mayor of Vancouver.

The former NDP MP has emerged from a crowded field of 21 mayoral candidates to take over the job Gregor Robertson vacated after 10 years in power.

The election finished in a nail biter, with Stewart defeating Non-Partisan Association (NPA) mayoral candidate Ken Sim by 984 votes, in a competition that ended up much closer than many analysts had expected.

Stewart won 49,812 votes, Sim won 48,828, and independent Shauna Sylvester finished a strong third with 35,537.

Sim says he may request a recount, and is consulting with his team as to next steps.

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Stewart emerged as the front-runner when the campaign officially kicked off in September. He is the first independent candidate to be elected mayor of Vancouver since Mike Harcourt left office in 1986.

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The defining issue of the election campaign was addressing housing affordability. Stewart has promised to triple the empty homes tax and build 25,000 new non-profit, affordable rental homes over the next 10 years.

Stewart has also pledged to build an additional 35,000 new condominiums, coach houses and townhouses over the next decade.

In anticipation of Saturday’s victory, Stewart rolled out his priority areas for his first 100 days in office. He has promised to take immediate action to begin clearing the permitting backlog, hire a renters advocate and launch a Downtown Eastside Emergency Task Force.

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Kennedy Stewart greets supporters after being elected mayor of Vancouver. Sarah MacDonald / Global News

Stewart has also promised to launch a small business review, create a new lobby registry and introduce new conflict of interest rules.

Saturday’s election creates a refresh at city hall. Vision Vancouver has controlled Vancouver city council for the last 10 years under Robertson’s leadership. During that time, rental vacancy numbers went down to almost zero, and detached home prices exploded across the region.

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Stewart was criticized in the election for the use of unionized employees. During the campaign, the Vancouver District Labour Council (VDLC) endorsed Stewart and distributed thousands of flyers to Vancouver homes, urging voters to select him as mayor. The VDLC also had four full-time employees working to promote its favoured slate of “progressive” candidates.

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This use of campaign workers is not against the province’s election rules.

Questions were also raised during the campaign about Stewart’s connection to Vancouver. He lived in Burnaby from 2011 to 2015 while serving as an MP in Burnaby South before moving back to Vancouver in 2015, even though he continued to serve as an MP in Burnaby.

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NPA comes close, but not close enough

For much of Saturday night, it appeared the NPA was within striking distance of a majority on Vancouver’s council.

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Sim handily outperformed recent polls, which had him at a distant second place. At one point he briefly led Stewart, and the party managed to land five seats on council.

As the results rolled in, Sim stayed within a 300 to 2,000 vote margin of Stewart, and with the final polling place yet to be counted, trailed by just 750.

However, it wasn’t to be.

If Sim had been elected, it would have given the party a majority.

By the time all the ballots were counted, the party had the largest slate on council, but without Sim’s vote it won’t be able to control the council agenda.

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Green breakthrough

It was a big night for the Vancouver Green Party.

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The Greens built on their one 2014 council seat, landing three seats on council. Adriane Carr repeated her 2014 feat of winning the most votes overall, and was trailed by Pete Fry in second place. Former Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe landed in the middle of the pack.

The Greens’ David Wong almost managed to snag the final seat on council after see-sawing all night with Sarah Kirby-Yung, however as the final ballots were counted he slipped into 12th place.

The Greens also made gains on the park board, where they upped their number of seats from two to three. Dave Demers, Stuart Mackinnon and Camil Dumont finished in first, second and third place.

And on the School Board the party won three seats on Saturday repeating its performance in the 2017 byelection. Board chair Janet Fraser was re-elected, joined by Estrellita Gonzalez and Lois Chan-Pedley.

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Left turn

Vancouver’s smaller left-leaning parties also had a good night.

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The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) saw a return to relevance, with Jean Swanson winning a council seat, Gwen Giesbrecht and John Irwin winning seats on the park board and Barb Parrott winning a seat on the school board.

COPE failed to win a single elected position in 2014.

Upstart left-leaning party One City also managed a breakthrough of sorts, electing its first ever city council candidate, Christine Boyle.

One City’s Jennifer Reddy was also elected to the school board, however sitting school trustee Carrie Bercic was defeated.

Vision wipeout

One of the biggest stories of the night is the virtual wipeout of Vision Vancouver, the party that dominated Vancouver politics for a decade under Mayor Gregor Robertson.

None of the four Vision Vancouver candidates for council were elected, including four-term incumbent Heather Deal.

Vision was also shut out of the Park Board, with its highest placed finisher, Shamin Shivji, coming in 12th place.

The only Vision Vancouver candidate elected on Saturday was School Trustee Allan Wong, who earned the fewest votes of any elected trustee.

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Independents fail to launch

One of the biggest questions of the night was whether Vancouver would see the historic election of an independent candidate.

With new spending limits in place, some analysts had predicted the conditions were ripe for the city to elect its first independent councillor since Carole Taylor in 1988.

It didn’t happen, despite several high-profile names appearing on the ballot.

Anti-overdose activist Sarah Blyth — who spearheaded Vancouver’s first overdose prevention sites — had the best performance of the independent crew, but finished eight slots out of a council seat.

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Ex-NPA Park Commissioner Erin Shum, housing supply advocate Adrian Crook, Wade Grant and Rob McDowell all finished with under two per cent of the vote.

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