Profiling Vancouver's political parties: Forward Together, led by Kennedy Stewart

Mayor Kennedy Stewart is pictured in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Mayor Kennedy Stewart is pictured in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Kennedy Stewart knows this isn't the type of campaign where the incumbent can talk about how much better the city has been since they were elected four years ago.

"I wouldn't say the last few years are pretty good. I think COVID has been very hard on people, and in fact, I think we're [in] kind of an aftershock of COVID right now."

Running for re-election as mayor of Vancouver, Stewart acknowledged a level of frustration toward city hall, particularly around issues of housing affordability and homelessness.

But he puts more of the blame on actions stemming from the pandemic and the difficulties of creating a cohesive policy with an unpredictable minority council, Vancouver's first in 32 years.

It's a big reason Stewart says he's not running as an Independent like in 2018, instead starting a new party called Forward Together, which along with the mayor is running six council candidates: Dulcy Anderson, Jeanette Ashe, Hilary Brown, Alvin Sing, Tesicca Truong and Russil Wvong.

"To have six people with me, it's going to make a big, big difference on accelerating the stuff that I really wanted to do but just could not. Council, they're really stuck in a lot of the details and not looking at the big picture."

But what does that big picture look like?

Stewart's platform (which you can read here) doesn't contain many surprises if you've been paying attention to his time as mayor.

It includes approving and enabling 220,000 new homes in the next decade — more than half of which would be rental, social housing or co-ops — moving forward with the goals of the Vancouver and Broadway plans, centred around much more density around rapid transit sites.

It also includes changing rental laws so that demovicted tenants can move back into the new building at the same or lower rent than before and developing sites like the current St. Paul's Hospital, old Molson brewery and the Expo Lands.

"We pretty well have ruled out demand as as as a problem in housing. It's really supply and the right kind of supply," said Stewart, while arguing again that the current council impeded his process.

"There's huge potential there to build the kind of housing that we need. But they haven't gone forward [from developers] because frankly, they're scared of the council."

Courtney Dickson/CBC
Courtney Dickson/CBC

Election about 'poor bashing'?

On crime and mental health concerns, Stewart promises to create a group of counclilors and wellness teams that can help those causing issues, instead of people calling 911.

"To think that you're going to send a police officer over to that person and somehow things are going to get better. It's not going to," he said.

While Stewart promises 50 new public washrooms across the city and expanding access to safe supply, he defends the city's current approach, while being critical of how his opponents have talked about the issue.

"I think in parts of the city you have had increases in folks living rough on the street and criminal activity in some cases with violent crimes. So I totally acknowledge that," he said.

"But what's so weird about this election and what makes me so mad is that I've got four folks with me on stage, and they're all trying to say we're going to arrest our way out of what's going on on our streets. And I just completely disagree ... this election has really been about poor bashing."

 

Among Stewart's other promises are accelerating lobbying for rapid transit along 41st Avenue, 6,000 new child-care spaces and continuing to pursue the goals of the climate emergency policies — mobility pricing excepted.

It's a platform that assumes people like the values of Stewart and city hall generally over the last four years and want a council that can deliver on those ideas more efficiently.

Whether Vancouver decides to move forward with Forward Together will be seen on Oct. 15.

CBC News is profiling all 10 political parties in Vancouver ahead of the municipal elections in October.