Instead of taking steps toward sweeping the clunky, vegetable-oiled machine that is Vision Vancouver out of office for good, the opposition NPA is paving the way for Gregor Robertson’s party to control 12th and Cambie into the fall of 2022.
The liberal-conservative party with the monogrammed grape logo met Sept. 6 at the Italian Cultural Centre to nominate a candidate for the by-election caused when Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs skedaddled to a $195,000-a-year job as NDP Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff.
Showing a lack of depth in its candidate-recruitment, only three people put their names on the NPA ballot: ex-School Board trustee Penny Noble, former Cedar Party leader Glen Chernen and Hector Bremner, a failed 2013 BC Liberal candidate from New Westminster. The race was Bremner’s to win, but not because of any policy magic. What was the final tally? The NPA did not announce it and nobody from the party responded to theBreaker’s query.
Bremner assembled a team that can stack nomination votes and raise money faster and better than anyone in this race, and maybe even in the province. It is not known how much was in Bremner’s kitty, but his crew went on a membership spree in and around the Ross Street Sikh Temple. A typical strategy employed provincially and federally to much controversy.
Bremner is vice-president at veteran BC Liberal backroomer Norman Stowe’s Pace Group and has Mark Marissen and Mike Wilson in his backroom. Marissen is the ex-husband of ex-Premier Christy Clark and was on the inner-circle of the party’s disastrous 2017 campaign. Wilson is the former business partner of veteran BC Liberal and Vision message maker Don Millar at the FD Element advertising agency, which scored several no-bid contracts from Robertson’s office and set-up a pro-Vision blog called Civic Scene.
Bremner parlayed his 2013 election loss into lucrative fart-catching gigs, first with International Trade Minister Teresa Wat until fall 2014, and then with Rich Coleman, the Deputy Premier, LNG and housing minister, until he joined Stowe’s shop in early 2015. Bremner almost immediately signed-up as a lobbyist for Steelhead LNG, the Vancouver Island natural gas play that includes Geoff Plant on its board and had startup help from a pre-BC Hydro Jessica McDonald. Bremner exploited the one-year cooling-off loophole for public servants by not naming his former boss, Coleman, as a target. Instead, he told the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists that the only cabinet minister he would try communicating with would be Finance Minister Mike de Jong.
Somehow, Bremner failed to tell the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists about his jobs as executive assistant to cabinet ministers. Former public office holders, including political staffers like Bremner, are required to do so. theBreaker confirmed Aug. 29 with the ORL that deputy registrar Jay Fedorak took the first steps toward an investigation. It could end with a fine.
The low-hanging fruit for Vision to retain the seat Meggs vacated, or for the Greens to win it, gets lower and juicier. Bremner’s wife, Virginia, was paid to answer Christy Clark’s office phone for six years. She organized a June 2016 event in New Westminster attended by Coleman.
Anti-Clark Clique sentiment was alive on May 9 and it could play a key role on Oct. 14.
In the 11 Vancouver ridings, the NDP outpolled the Liberals 134,241 to 87,470 in the popular vote on May 9 and knocked-off Attorney General Suzanne Anton, a former NPA city councillor, in Fraserview. The Greens had 34,357 votes.
The NDP won eight of the 11 seats, but it could have been worse for the Liberals. Had all Green votes gone NDP in False Creek and Langara, it would have been a different story: Andrew Wilkinson in Quilchena would have been the only Liberal left in the province’s biggest city.
The left is further fragmented entering this by-election — OneCity’s Judy Graves and the COPE-endorsed, Bernie Sanders-inspired Jean Swanson anti-poverty campaigns cancel each other out — and a by-election tends not to reward the ruling party. That may be why Vision is putting-up unknown Diego Cardona as less-than-formidable opposition to Green Pete Fry. Fry earned name recognition after finishing 19th in 2014’s council election with 46,522 votes and his party earned many votes provincially from disaffected Liberals who wanted an end to the Clark Clique.
After Bremner’s coronation, Fry can run his campaign on auto-pilot, by simply reminding voters at every turn of Bremner’s recent past and who is pulling his strings from the shadows.
Meanwhile, former South Vancouver Conservative MP Wai Young is already planning a fundraiser Sept. 19 as she begins a quest for the NPA mayoral nomination next year.
Vancouver has never had a female mayor, much less one born in Hong Kong. But Young, like Bremner, has baggage that may be too much to shake away in a centrist city like Vancouver. She served a term with the Stephen Harper Conservatives and was one of those turfed from office in the 2015 federal election. In her case, by Liberal Harjit Sajjan.
An NPA loss in 2018 would mean 14 years without power at city hall. A Vision win in 2018 would mean 14 years in power at city hall.
Let that sink in for a moment.