In the lead up to Vancouver’s 2014 civic election, Gregor Robertson called the Non-Partisan Association the “party of angry old white men.”
Robertson is a lame duck, whose Vision Vancouver party may be wiped-off the electoral map this fall for its housing-related sins against all demographics. Unless the Vancouver and District Labour Council has its way.
The NPA is now led by a mild-mannered, Vancouver native in his late 40s from a Chinese immigrant family. Even though there are still old white men in the background.
Ken Sim entered the race in mid-April, with two weeks left for membership sign-ups, and used his business networks, as well as those of his two big backers, Chip Wilson and Peter Armstrong, to help him win the nomination on June 3. Just two months earlier, the 2014 candidate, Kirk LaPointe, surprised many by withdrawing from the race.
Sim registered his campaign domain on Friday the 13th back in April, and went public two days later. He admitted he had only a few weeks to accomplish what the other candidates had been working on for months.
Sim said that he had been pondering a run for politics for a few years, but it didn’t become a serious consideration until March. His physiotherapist and CEO at Nurse Next Door told him he’d regret it if he didn’t try. “With that entrepreneurial spirit I said let’s do this. It could be a good thing.”
Along the way, the NPA board, populated with supporters of rival Glen Chernen, gave thumbs down to Coun. Hector Bremner’s candidacy, over his perceived lobbying conflict of interest.
Park Board veteran John Coupar represented the old guard of the NPA, with endorsements from ex-Mayor Philip Owen and Suzanne Anton, the former NPA councillor who was an unremarkable attorney general in the Christy Clark administration.
Chernen drew headlines as an outspoken anti-corruption activist, but that got under the skin of Armstrong and others.
In fact, it was Armstrong that sent Chernen an email thanking him for the Cedar Party’s endorsement in 2014. Then, in the next breath, Armstrong urged Chernen to support Sim. Chernen’s campaign was turned upside down, as evidenced by the Tweeted elementary school and wedding photographs.
“Glen’s a good guy, I’ve got nothing but great things to say about him,” Sim said after the April announcement. “I don’t think it’s any different than we were in high school and having a debate in social studies. We debate issues and someone wins and someone loses. Glen’s a good guy.”
The only problem was, there was no debate. Not until less than two hours left in the voting at the Hellenic Centre on June 3 did the three candidates address membership. This was in stark contrast to 2008, when Vision Vancouver was looking for a leader. Gregor Robertson, Raymond Louie and Allen De Genova sparred at the Jewish Community Centre, in an event that was co-sponsored by 24 Hours and The Tyee. It served dual-purpose, giving the party much-needed media attention and to help members narrow their choice.
Sim will have to immediately build a profile outside the party, which has been overshadowed by the media-savvy, Bremner campaign masterminded by Mark Marissen. Sim will have the rest of summer to develop a platform.
Beyond stemming the flow of Vancouverites being lost to more affordable postal codes, two things are on Sim’s mind.
An accountant by trade, he wants to bring a team accountants to open and analyze the books at city hall.
“The budget at the City of Vancouver has gone up disproportionate to the rate of inflation, it just doesn’t make sense. We have to make it transparent, people are pissed off in the city, they don’t know what we’re spending money on,” Sim said.
Vision habitually sparred with the former BC Liberal government. Sim would have to work with an NDP government in Victoria.
“I’m an entrepreneur and all we do is we don’t pick fights, we assess situations and we see how people work together to get things done.”
In his franchising businesses, Nurse Next Door and Rosemary Rocksalt, Sim admits that head office may not always agree with franchise owners groups. “Sometimes we say yes, sometimes we say no. I believe that everyone should win. I always ask people, how can we make you win? So in business, our partners, our suppliers, we want to make them win. When they win, they’ll help us win.
“We’re going to work together, we’re going to be authentic, we’re going to tell them what the challenges are,” he said. “My focus is not going to be NDP or Liberall, it’s going to be City of Vancouver and what’s in the best interests of the City of Vancouver and we will work with our provincial government.”
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