Five months out from the Vancouver civic election, candidates from new parties appear to be the top challengers for current Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
A new Research Co. poll shows Stewart, with the power of incumbency, chosen by 41 per cent of respondents as the mayoral candidate they’re most likely to support. Ken Sim, running with the new ABC Vancouver party, was the top choice of 26 per cent of respondents, followed by Coun. Colleen Hardwick of the upstart TEAM for a Livable Vancouver at 19 per cent.
Two other mayoral candidates tied as the top choice of eight per cent of respondents: Mark Marissen of Progress Vancouver and the NPA’s John Coupar.
Sim emerging as a top challenger is perhaps not surprising considering he has name recognition after losing to Stewart in the previous election by fewer than 1,000 votes.
But Research Co. president Mario Canseco said: “The biggest story for me, looking at the data, is how well Colleen Hardwick did.”
Hardwick was the top choice for more respondents than Sim on the west side of the city, Canseco pointed out, and also performed well among voters age 35-to-54.
Respondents were asked to rank the five declared mayoral candidates, from who they were most likely to support to least likely. While Stewart has a decent lead when looking only at respondents’ top choices for who they were most likely to support, the race looks closer when combining both first- and second-ranked choices: Stewart is at a combined 56 per cent, ahead of Sim’s 49 per cent and Hardwick’s 42 per cent. Marissen was in fourth at 29 per cent and Coupar at the bottom with 25.
The low level of support for Coupar and the NPA is also noteworthy, Canseco said.
The NPA is Vancouver’s oldest and most historically successful civic party, and held the mayor’s office and council majorities for much of the past century. But this new poll suggests a lot more people are inclined at this stage to support former NPA candidates who quit the party, rather than the party’s actual candidate this year, Coupar.
Hardwick ran for council and won with the NPA in 2018, and Sim was the NPA’s mayoral candidate that year. Since then, both have publicly voiced concerns about the conduct of the NPA’s board and have quit the party to get in on the ground floor of their own new electoral groups.
Among respondents age 55-and-over, only one per cent chose Coupar as their top choice, a result Canseco called “just astonishing.”
Stewart was more popular among voters between 18 and 54, while Sim was slightly more popular with those over 55.
The data is based on an online study conducted from April 13-16 among 419 likely voters in Vancouver. The poll was commissioned by the Vancouver and District Labour Council (VDLC), a union group that supported Stewart and a slate of council candidates in 2018.
The labour council and its affiliates represent about 60,000 unionized workers who live Vancouver, said VDLC president Stephen von Sychowski. The VDLC has already endorsed Stewart for re-election this year as well as five incumbent councillors — Green councillors Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe; OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle and COPE Coun. Jean Swanson — and are expected to announce five more council endorsements next month, choosing out of the candidates nominated by those three parties as well as Stewart’s new party, Forward Together.
Von Sychowski said the VDLC was pleased with the results, including the response to a question about which “scenario” voters would prefer after the election: 44 per cent of respondents said they would like to see a coalition municipal government with two or more parties sharing a majority of council seats and working together, as compared with 33 per cent who wanted a single-party majority.
Voters might be open to the idea of a coalition after seeing how the B.C. NDP’s arrangement with the Greens functioned at the provincial level, von Sychowski said, as well as the federal Liberals and the NDP.
“These opportunities can do a lot of good for those who are able to find common ground and move their agenda forward,” von Sychowski said. “There’s also probably a sense it allows for more different voices to be heard and to hold everyone a bit accountable.”
Forward Together’s Mark Hosak called the results “encouraging … It shows that people are approving of what we’ve accomplished, but we know there’s much more to do.”
ABC campaign director Kareem Allam said: “We’re encouraged by the support we’re getting. We’re five months away from the election, and we’re closing the gap.”
For Allam, one “big takeaway” from the poll is that while Stewart was the first-choice candidate for 41 per cent of respondents at this early stage, that suggests many voters want change.
“A lot of people are unhappy with the mayor,” Allam said. “The Labour Council just put out a poll that says 59 per cent of the city wants their guy gone.”
Representatives for the NPA and TEAM didn’t immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.
Marissen said the new data showed a positive trajectory for him, compared with a poll conducted last year by Abacus Data showing him at one per cent support. With the new poll showing Marissen as the top choice for eight per cent, he said, “That’s progress.”
The election is set for Oct. 15.
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