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Vancouver's 'Anti-Everything' Mayor May Not Be 'Right Kind' Of Leader

10/13/2014 02:24 EDT | Updated 12/12/2014 05:59 EST
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At a recent Vancouver Board of Trade speech, Premier Christy Clark discussed her government's plan to strengthen B.C.'s economy through support of our natural resources sectors, expanding international trade, and by building partnerships with aboriginal communities.

Clark also told the audience that to ensure economic growth they had to help elect the "right kind of leaders" in the upcoming municipal elections. It was a message clearly meant to infuse the campaigns currently happening in Vancouver.

The premier had a positive take on the recent Supreme Court ruling in favour of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation, claiming it would provide a framework for future settlements. Clark recalled a time when early settlers and natives sparred over how to divide gold claims, and drew a parallel to today.

"Interesting, isn't it, how that debate still happens," said Clark. "That work -- all that wealth that was created along the Fraser River all those 150 years ago -- that is still the wealth that sustains so many people in this big, metropolitan, cosmopolitan city. Not just this one but all the other cities that surround us."

Political observers are already alive to the fact that Clark's government has put municipalities on notice. Between appointing a municipal auditor-general, requiring the transit referendum in Metro Vancouver, defending ferry service changes to coastal communities, and leaking an audit of skyrocketing municipal salary increases, the provincial government is driving home the message that local governments must practice new restraint and get behind their economic growth initiatives. With a six-year teachers' settlement signed, Clark was ready to refocus on cities.

"And so a quick reminder before I leave this topic -- municipal elections are underway. And it is very easy in politics to run against something, to say what you don't like," Clark mused. "It is very easy in politics to say you're just not going to let it happen."

In 2013, her party branded their NDP opponents as the party of "No." Now Clark is saying that municipal politicians are avoiding the tough decisions needed to make life better in their communities.

"Urban politicians just like rural ones already know -- need to remember -- that the wealth that the mining business creates, the wealth that forestry creates, the wealth that the liquefied natural gas business will create, is what's going to keep taxes down in Burnaby, it's what's going to make it possible for us to have the highest standard of living that we enjoy in Vancouver today."

Had the mayors of Burnaby and Vancouver been in the room, they like everybody else would have clued in she was talking about them.

"Each of us has a job to do to educate our children, our family and our friends about how important it is that municipal politicians stand up for economic growth," the premier continued.

"I believe that municipal politicians that have the courage to stand up for that should be rewarded. And they will be if every single one of you decides that you want to get involved and you want to elect the right kind of leaders in communities where you live."

Like many, I wholeheartedly agree with the premier. But here's the rub -- there are folks who think they can throw their support to Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson at the same time.

In Vancouver, there are many who campaign for a provincial government that is avowedly pro-resource development and for a city administration that is firmly opposed to it. It is a paradox that I think is unique to B.C. politics. Divided loyalties, however, are all too common.

Someone who opposes B.C.'s natural resources economy at every turn -- like Vancouver's anti-tanker, anti-fracking, anti-logging, and anti-mining mayor -- is by Clark's definition a leader incapable of making tough choices.

By contrast, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have both given their conditional support for Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project without affecting their base support.

Former B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix chose to oppose the project, and paid dearly for it in the last provincial election.

Politics, they say, makes for strange bedfellows, and that holds true within Vision Vancouver. With Clark making her growth priorities clear, perhaps many will rethink their support for our city's anti-everything mayor in this election.

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