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Vancouver Election 2014: Expect The Unexpected

01/16/2014 04:02 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT

In 2012, I correctly predicted the re-election of Christy Clark as B.C.'s premier as well as NDP Leader Adrian Dix's rejection of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, both based upon my perception of the political realities in play. In retrospect, I wish I had made better use of this prescience by picking winning lottery numbers instead.

As a former NPA (Non-Partisan Association) city council candidate who now works for an avowedly non-partisan, non-profit organization, I will not be endorsing any party or candidate in the upcoming election. However, it is always enjoyable to calculate what will happen in November given today's "political realities."

While Vision Vancouver has -- as governments often do -- upset more than a few folks over the past five years, polls indicate that these troubles have not affected the mayor's own popularity. Therefore it is hard for me to fathom how Vision Vancouver will lose its grip on the levers of power with incumbent Mayor Gregor Robertson as their leader.

People said the same thing about the NPA months prior to the 2002 election, of course. Philip Owen's three-term government was on track for another victory that year. That is, until an internal revolt split the mayor from his caucus and a charismatic mayoral challenger came along in the form of COPE's Larry Campbell. In the end, the NPA only hung onto two seats each on council and on park board, and one on school board.

The lesson in this is that presumptive political victories are sometimes vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -- or internal squabbling. This is probably why Vision is taking some of the most extraordinary measures lately seen in Canadian municipal politics to hang onto city hall.

Despite the election being almost year away, Vision has executed several strategies to identify supporters in recent months, including their widely publicized telephone town hall. The party recently acknowledged it is using "neighbourhood cells" as eyes and ears around the city. And if you're on Twitter and run afoul of Vision's ubiquitous watchdogs, be prepared to be challenged hard by friends of the mayor's office.

Then there is the persistent rumour that a senior advisor to the recent BC Liberal campaign has been contracted by Vision to help guide their re-election efforts. Taken as a whole, you get the sense that Vision is not so supremely confident of victory that it's taking it for granted. Nor should it.

Through the recent recession, candidates at all levels of government have banked on the power of their incumbency, as voters wanted a "steady hand" on the country's economic affairs. As the economy improves, is it possible we will see more political change? Maybe, but only if voters see a viable alternative.

In Vancouver, no tangible opposition has yet formed to challenge Vision in November, but there is still time for that. COPE has announced their intention to nominate a candidate for mayor in June. Expect the NPA to follow suit, and the Green Party to make its moves not long after. Keep in mind that genuine public interest in the election will not happen until well after Labour Day.

In 2014, I think we can all safely predict that voters can expect the unexpected in the run-up to Election Day. After all, this is Vancouver politics, and it is always entertaining.