Appeared in the North Shore News – November 21, 2014
The victors’ last drop of Spanish champagne has been drunk, the losers are taking justified consoling pride in their sacrifice to the democratic process.
Moving on, what are the top 10 problems facing West Vancouver’s barely changed council?
1. Parking. 2. Ambleside rejuvenation. 3. Parking. 4. Stimulating business. 5. Parking. 6. Competing with Park Royal. 7. Parking. 8. Restraining Metro-topping town hall – mostly staff – costs. 9. Parking. 10. Neighbourhood consultation and protection. And, if there were a No. 11, how about parking?
Pointedly, the two naysayers against the 1300-block Grosvenor project, incumbent councillors Craig Cameron and Nora Gambioli, topped the polls – finishing one-two, the only candidates above the 5,000-vote mark.
The victory party leftovers were hardly stale before Cameron revealed he had polled all councillors and “can confirm none of us will participate in the (West Vancouver Citizens for Good Government) process next election, unless the process radically changes.” So, it would seem the Weegies are finally dead, at least in their current form. Yes, the long-powerful Weegies, as I fondly call them, were mauled in last Saturday’s election. Four of their six council choices tanked.
Cameron and Gambioli speedily vault to the list of future mayoral candidates, levitating to contender status with Couns. Michael Lewis and establishment-backed Mary-Ann Booth.
Cameron and Gambioli aren’t your usual evasive politicos. Darkly handsome Cameron is something of a soul-barer. Like confessing that council duties are more demanding and incomeshaving than he expected. Which could be interpreted as a whine about something politicians quickly discover but won’t admit – inviting the retort: Like, so why did you run for office?
Gambioli spoke up about the real estate industry’s secretive pressure on council to lay off trying to limit house size and, by implication, other restraints on their deflowering our beautiful town. She also told CBC’s Rick Cluff that there were only 21 people, 16 of them directors, at the WVCGG selection meeting – a handful of Weegies wielding ridiculous influence, the norm since 1972. But not this time.
Another eyebrow-raiser: Booth, dropped from the Weegie slate and shaken – I believe truly hurt – by the rejection, finished third. Was she helped by her surprise 11th-hour announcement that her lawyer husband would no longer work for Grosvenor, a connection that forced her to abstain from the Grosvenor debate? Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made a last-minute confession too. Did both pick up the humility vote, touching hearts of a forgiving electorate?
Lewis took fifth spot, reflecting the still-potent power of the Weegies to punish candidates who refuse to kiss the Weegie ring, foot, hand, or other parts of the anatomy. He’s the revolutionary who defied the Weegies in 2008, and has won twice since. So he was the pioneer worrisome wedge in the Weegies, if you can say that without laughing.
At all-candidates meetings the Weegie name drew snickers. Getting its approval has all but guaranteed a sumptuous victory party. This time Weegie backing more likely was a predictor of Kraft dinner. Only Bill Soprovich, who has a lock on eternal re-election but slipped to fourth in the 15-candidate field, and Cameron, a bit of a puzzling Weegie choice considering his dissident Grosvenor vote, were winners among its six recommendations.
The Weegie nod may actually have been fatal to Jim Finkbeiner, nice (and improving during the campaign) Joanna Baxter, Michael Evison and Peter Lambur, the latter a potential asset to council but still lacking political chops – he ran unsuccessfully 18 years ago.
Lewis was the only candidate in my hearing – unless I was on a washroom break – who offered a concrete plan above the usual campaign pledges of accessibility, openness, inclusiveness, honesty and a promise to send cards on Mother’s Day.
He outlined his “10 and 10” plan to rein in town hall costs. He noted that from 2004 to 2013 WV’s population rose less than one per cent but its operating costs 46.9 per cent, of which 80.11 per cent are staff salaries. (CKNW business guru Michael Campbell believes bureaucrat pensions are an economic time bomb.)
The intriguing council newcomer is Christine Cassidy. At the C of C-sponsored meeting she made by far the best pitch – clear, forthright and without notes. Candidates who stand and read their spiel seem dead to how off-putting it is.
Cassidy has a knot of dedicated backers with almost religious zeal. “I sought and was offered no endorsements,” she declares. “I paid for my own campaign with the exception of four nominal contributions.” When she pledges action “in the best interests of all citizens,” even a hardened cynic hopes there’s no awakening to how utterly impossible that is.
Don’t underestimate how tough this campaign was – and the next four years too? – for the ostensible bystander, twice-acclaimed Mayor Michael Smith. No wonder he’s taken a holiday. Just look again at those 10 problems he and his council face.
© Trevor Lautens, 2014