Independent candidates in municipal elections
// Claire Vulliamy

Anyone, even a peanut, can run for mayor. In 1974, Vincent Trasov ran in the Vancouver municipal election as the Planter’s mascot, Mr. Peanut, and ended up with 2,685 votes in total.

To run in the municipal elections, one must be a Canadian citizen of 18 years of age or older who has resided in BC for at least six months before “the relevant time.” In filing nomination documents, there is a fee of $100, which is refunded after filling out a campaign financing disclosure statement, to be submitted four months after the election.

Beyond that, there are no limits. And why not? Good ideas are not limited to a handful of wellestablished politicians.

Vancouver’s municipal election takes place every three years, and sees the election of one mayor and ten councillors. The incumbent Mayor is Gregor Robertson of Vision Vancouver, a party which also currently holds most of the council seats.

This year’s mayoral race has been characterized as a competition between the centre-left Vision-COPE coalition, headed by Robertson, and the Non-Partisan Association (NPA), led by Councillor Suzanne Anton. Robertson and Anton most recently debated homelessness at St Andrew’s-Wesley church. While they disagreed on issues such how to create more affordable housing, in a yes-or-no question period both answered “yes” to the Downtown Eastside being maintained as primarily a low income neighbourhood and “no” to the hiring of a mental health advocate, as reported in the Georgia Straight.

They have also argued over incident specific topics such as the Stanley Cup Riots, with Anton saying, “City council spent more time talking about homeless chickens than public safety around the hockey live sites or the final game of the series,” as reported by the CBC.

So far, this election has been particularly lively. On Oct. 25, another debate between Robertson and Anton was held, sponsored by the Board of Trade. It was interrupted by protesters., which culminated with Darrell “Saxmaniac” Zimmerman, one of the ten mayoral candidates, getting on stage to protest his exclusion from the debate, saying, “I’m a real candidate, I’m on the ballot, I’m as legitimate as they are,” while brandishing a stuffed lobster.

The lobster, which he said represented “political greed and avarice and gluttony,” was an attempt to satire Coun. Heather Deal’s tweets of a leftover lobster dinner from a Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting. He criticized the use of taxpayer money for feeding politicians when he says he is “struggling to feed” his five year-old son.

Zimmerman is just one of the many other candidates in Vancouver who receive less media attention because they are running outside of conventional party lines. While not every candidate takes it upon themselves to actively get up on the debate platform, they are all seeking to have their voices heard in various ways.

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) Randy Helten, founder of the civic watchdog websites and metrovanwatch. com, is the mayoral candidate representing the political party Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV). NSV wants to ensure that neighbourhoods across the city have all have their unique voices represented.

Terry Martin, who is running for council with NSV, says that what they found in “dealing with city hall in the last several years is that the decisions seemed to be made even before we go to speak to council.” He feels that the “council is supposed to serve the public, not rule the city.”

He makes it clear, however, that NSV is interested in finding alternatives. “People in Vancouver aren’t opposed to densification, it’s the pace and scale that it happens in,” he says.

Martin says that neighbourhoods in Vancouver have drafted community plans to find solutions for population growth. “The city spent over a million dollars on those studies, and now they’re completely ignoring them.” Moreover, Martin says, “they [the city] keep waiving the requirement for affordable housing units, and it’s something that Vancouver desperately needs right now”

“Vancouver spends more money on a civic campaign than any city in Canada, and I think that the money that goes into campaigns creates a conflict of interest for council,” Martin says. “When they receive money from the people they regulate, they cannot possibly make an arm’s length decision.”

Randy Helten says in a video on their campaign website that NSV “does not take large campaign contributions from large interests” but that they will accept small donations “in order to remain independent.”

De-Growth Vancouver
De-Growth Vancouver grew out of the Work Less Party (WLP), which ran in 2005, and most recently in 2008 with a full slate including mayoral candidate Betty Krawczyc. At the time, Krawczyc came in third, after Robertson and Ladner. This year, De-Growth has three candidates running for City Council: Ian Gregson, Chris Masson, and Chris Shaw.

Shaw, who also ran for council in 2008, explains the decision to call themselves the De-growth Party: “We wanted a term that would be very difficult to corrupt.”

He adds that the party’s main principles line up with environmental causes: “Green has been so co-opted as a term.” Shaw says when economic growth happens under the “green” umbrella, it entails “continuing what we’re doing and just bandaging it a little differently.”

One of the ways Shaw believes that Vancouver could stand to be more sustainable is to grow more of its own food. “Vancouver grows a tiny fraction of its food compared to a place like Hong Kong that grows a huge fraction of its food,” he explains.

De-Growth, like NSV, believe in more specific community representation. “Democracy, at least in our minds, is a grassroots process. It moves upwards via the downwards.” He believes that an election every three years with low voter turnout is not enough. He understands that people who vote strategically often bypass smaller candidates, but adds, “I’m no longer voting for the lesser evil, because at the end of the day you still get evil.”

While small political parties struggle to receive as much attention as their larger counterparts, running as an independent presents even more of challenge. One name only Dubgee is a single dad, youth mentor, and musician living in East Vancouver who has decided to run for mayor because he is tired of the current state of affairs. Like the people involved in Occupy Vancouver, Dubgee says that he is “really frustrated with the distribution of wealth” and government spending overall.

“I’ve got a son in elementary school, and his school all of got shut down during the Olympics,” he explains.

Dubgee believes in improving transit by adding additional express routes, and opposes the construction of fare gates. “It doesn’t make any fiscal sense to be installing fare gates at $170 million when we’re only saving $5 million a year.” He says that with maintenance to boot, the fare gates “won’t be paid off for 40 or 50 years.”

As for the current election, Dubgee says, “I find that rather odd about Vancouver politics right now: a good idea isn’t a good idea unless it’s your idea.“

Sandy Garossino is a former Crown prosecutor who has been heavily involved in Vancouver’s arts community, and additionally, co-founded Vancouver Not Vegas, an organization which successfully opposed the expansion of Edgewater Casino at BC Place.

“I think that there are a lot of advantages to running as an independent, especially in today’s era,” she says. “With social media being such a powerful driver, it’s really possible for a strong independent candidate to differentiate themselves from the pack,” Garrossino recently told the Vancouver Observer.

Amy Fox, who is a finance director for web design company Sublime Conception, is running as a super-villain. “My hope is by coming across as a clown, I’ll be non-threatening, and people will actually take those ideas and run them … [so that] they won’t view them as the politics of the enemy,” she explains.

Despite her adopting a humorous persona, she emphasizes that “every policy that I have on my candidate profile is something that I really strongly believe in, and I not only believe in, I can think of a precedent.”

Something that troubles her is the lack of participation and general ignorance in municipal elections. “If we care enough to vote, but don’t care enough to be informed, that’s really scary,” she says. “I hope to run to at least get people to remember that municipal elections exist.

The affordability of housing is also of concern to her. In particular, “people who have specific needs regarding housing,” such as accessibility by mobility devices, “are often really out of luck,” she says.

Similarly, and like most in Vancouver, councilor candidate Aaron Spires agrees that the “Rent Is Crazy High”. In fact, that’s the name of a collective, R.I.C.H., which he is part of, along with other council candidate Lauren Gill.

“In most major cities, [and] Vancouver is no exception, we’re facing an affordability crisis,” he says.

Spires lives in East Vancouver and believes that what is happening in the area is that “tax breaks [are being] given to developers in order to build up condominiums that end up remaining vacant.” He adds, “It’s the direct result of policies that were started by the NPA and carried out by Vision.”

Spires brings up the STIR Program, an initiative which aims to increase the amount of rental units in the city. Spires believes this program is problematic because, once the units exist, “there’s no cap on the amount that developers can charge.”

Spires urges “anybody who is considering voting in the upcoming municipal election to not put their vote into the hands of developers, and they do that by voting for Vision or the NPA,” he says. “We need a moratorium on condo development in the DTES, and we need to house the people that live within the city.”

North Vancouver’s municipal elections also take place every three years. On Nov. 19, one mayor and six councillors will be elected. The incumbent mayor Darrell Mussato has been in the mayor’s office for two terms, since 2005. In his first year, he won by approximately 500 votes over Rod Clark, and in his second year he won by acclamation.

The North Shore News reported in an editorial on Nov. 6 that there was “no credible threat” to Darrell Mussato in the current elections. In response, mayoral candidate Ron Polly wrote a letter to the newspaper.

“When I threw my hat into the ring, the first official email I received was from the North Shore News detailing your advertising rates,” he wrote. “It would seem that credibility only lies with those who have the biggest war chest to finance their campaign.”

Chris ‘Kit’ Nichols

Kit Nichols is a student of the Business Administration program at Capilano University. He runs his own business, a home design and drafting service, and is running for mayor in the upcoming North Vancouver election. He ran for council in Burnaby in 2002, and at that time, “being an independent, you’re pretty much considered nobody,” though he did manage 4,200 votes in spite of this.

Nichols feels that Capilano University has great potential for development. “In 20 years, this college could be double the population.” He believes that investing in infrastructure such as a pool, a residence, a fitness centre, and an expanded gymnasium would not only develop the university community, but the local residents as well.

Nichols is also interested in the possibility of a streetcar system stretching from Lynn Valley to Park Royal Mall, saying that it would be “a great opportunity for something that’s just North Shore.”

He envisions that Lonsdale could be the “new Granville,” that is, an area with more focus on buses and pedestrians: “Maybe for three blocks, no cars at all.”

He also wants to support small business and “create that locked-in little community” so that people don’t feel the need to come and go from the city as much. Nichols is also a strong proponent of urban gardening, and feels that there is plenty of space for gardens around this city. “You don’t need an acreage to feed a whack of people. My wife has only got a little plot … we’ve had fresh vegetables all season.”

Overall, Nichols says, “I’m not expecting to particularly win. I’m expecting to make Darrell fight for his job.”

Carson Polly

Carson Polly studies at Capilano University in the Arts and Sciences program, and is running for councillor. His father, Ron Polly, is running for Mayor in the election, but Carson Polly says that his decision to run came “really separately.”

“I’ve always had an interest in politics,” he says, “[and I] decided I might as well put that into motion.”

Carson Polly wants to increase youth representation. “ I believe that the current council doesn’t really care about the youth, and that really angers me, because we will eventually be the one’s living here … the ones owning businesses, having jobs; why don’t we matter?”

“The North Shore is a great place to live, but on a Friday night, there’s not really much to do.” Polly wants to see more local music venues: “I want to make it a place where young people don’t have to go Downtown in order to enjoy themselves.”

In terms of housing, he says that there is “definitely a bias against younger people.”

“I know plenty of people who’ve wanted to get an apartment,” he explains, “and they’ve always had to have, like, four months rent pay in advance because the person who’s renting out believes that young people can’t be trusted.”

Ron Polly
Ron Polly, who is running for mayor, has lived in North Vancouver his entire life. He has four dogs, and is a strong supporter of animal welfare.

Polly takes task with the way real estate development happens on the North Shore, saying, “What I would like to see is more amenities before we put in population. We always put the cart in front of the horse. We put in a project, and then we go, ‘Oh gee, we have to put in a playground now’.”

He says that campaign contributions play a large part, pointing out that a sizable portion of Mussato’s donors are part of the development community. Therefore, “when they [developers] come for a project … they don’t put in enough for amenities, so we have to catch it later on.” Ron Polly says that he “will not take a contribution from anyone who will profit from a decision if I’m in office.”

“There’s a move to put a slate on our council … to have people who are going to vote the same way for the next three years.” Ron Polly says while it happens in Vancouver, “that does not work in local politics. It should be seven individuals, all with their own talents working for the best of the community.”

Polly highlights the importance of voting. He says that if everyone at Capilano University “pledged that they were going to go out and vote … they would change the elections on the North Shore.”

Furthermore, he says, it would give more power to the student voice. “It would make everyone stand up and look … The people who contribute to these politicians would fall by the wayside, they’d give their money, but they wouldn’t control the elections.”

He concludes, “The only way we’re going to get that is if people vote.”


In 2008, voter turn out in Vancouver’s municipal elections was 30.78 per cent of the eligible population, in North Vancouver the rate was even lower, at 17.67 per cent. This year, elections take place on Nov. 19, with advance voting days for Vancouver from 13 to the 16.

In North Vancouver, advance voting opportunities stretch until election day. Residents who wish to vote must ensure their name is on the voters’ list and that they have their “Where to Vote” card, or bring two pieces of ID.

The North Shore Outlook recently ran an editorial about the ways in which the City of North Vancouver is trying to engage voters in creating a Civic Engagement Task Force. They concluded with, “Truth is, it’s never been easier to get informed about the issues and candidates. So there really is no excuse not to make your vote count."

// Claire Vulliamy, Arts Editor
// Photo by Natahsha Prakash

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: