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Politics

‘A real sea change’: Vision Vancouver virtually wiped out after decade of power

WATCH: One of the biggest stories of election night in Vancouver was the virtually complete wipeout of Vision Vancouver, the party that has dominated the city's politics for the last decade.

There’s a saying among political scientists and analysts: it’s hard for a government to outlive a decade in power.

This is the fate that befell the B.C. Liberals last year and the federal Conservatives in 2015. This time, it was Vancouver’s political dynasty, Vision Vancouver, that fell.

With all the votes counted early Sunday morning, the once-dominant force had been reduced to a single school trustee, Allan Wong, who slipped into the last-place slot on the school board.

It’s a long fall from Vision’s breakthrough 2008 election, in which the party captured the mayor’s office, seven of 10 seats on council, a majority on the park board and four seats on the school board.

READ MORE: Former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart elected mayor of Vancouver

“Although this is not the outcome we wanted, we accept the voters’ decision and will support the new council during the transition process ahead,” the party tweeted on Sunday.

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“There has been significant progress over the past 10 years, and we still face immense challenges in housing affordability that will not be solved any time soon. As we do the work to rebuild our party, we remain committed to being a voice for positive change.”

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Kennedy Stewart gives victory speech after winning Vancouver mayoral race
Kennedy Stewart gives victory speech after winning Vancouver mayoral race

So what went wrong for the party?

“We’re seeing a real sea change,” said former Vision Vancouver school trustee Patti Bacchus.

“I think seeing councillors like Heather Deal, (a) long-time, quite popular former park commissioner, three times in council — seeing her not make it into those 10 (elected) spots is a big change and a pretty strong message that, clearly, the voters really want change,” she said.

Cracks began to show in the Vision armour as far back as 2014, when the party slipped to six council seats, none of them among the top four vote-getters. In 2017’s byelection, candidate Diego Cardona was soundly defeated, coming in fifth place.

READ MORE: Ken Sim not conceding Vancouver mayoral election, amid talk of recount

Then four-term mayor Gregor Robertson announced he would not run again, and one by one, Vision Vancouver’s incumbent councillors, save Heather Deal, announced they would not seek re-election.

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Vision even opened the door to supporting another left-leaning candidate in the spring before eventually announcing it would run Squamish Nation hereditary Chief Ian Campbell as its mayoral candidate.

That plan came crashing to a halt in September, when Campbell pulled out of the race following questions from a Global News reporter about a stayed domestic assault charge from 2010 and an unsafe driving conviction.

The party was further rocked on the eve of the election when it broke ties with council candidate Wei Qiao Zhang over unspecified “recent events.”

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Christine Boyle on new voices at Vancouver city hall
Christine Boyle on new voices at Vancouver city hall

Mike McDonald, political strategist with Kirk & Co., said the Campbell episode may have been the final straw for Vision.

“Vision didn’t run a mayoralty candidate, Ian Campbell pulled out at the last minute, and that probably set up Kennedy Stewart’s win,” he said.

Others pointed to Vision’s record after a decade in office as the factor weighing it down.

As mayor, Robertson famously failed to achieve his promise to end homelessness in the city, and the affordable housing situation in Vancouver has deteriorated to among the worst in the province during the party’s decade in power.

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READ MORE: Voter turnout fails to crack 40% across most of Lower Mainland

Some critics had also accused the party of steamrolling opposition to its agenda and engaging in consultation in name only.

“It’s a report card about performance. At the end of the day, I think there’s a lot of people in Vancouver who have been very unhappy about a lot of things,” said former Surrey city council candidate Barinder Rasode.

“Consultation, the bike lanes being done too fast. Whether you agree or disagree, I think the mandates were judged, and we’ve seen a collapse in a number of municipalities, and one of the messages in all of those municipalities is that government isn’t listening anymore.”

Vision’s electoral defeat came despite strong support from the Vancouver District and Labour Council, an umbrella labour organization that endorsed three Vision council candidates, three of its school board candidates and both of its candidates for park board.

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