No mystery to Sullivan’s defeat: it was Vision’s work

Sam Sullivan supporters and media commentators, shocked and amazed by Peter Ladner’s narrow victory June 15, seem unable to draw one obvious conclusion: Sullivan’s dismal approval ratings were driven by the hard work done by Vision Vancouver’s councillors in opposition.

George Chow, Heather Deal, Raymond Louie and Tim Stevenson held the NPA’s feet to the fire for two and a half years, offering positive solutions to the city’s problems and highlighting the NPA’s failures. Peter Ladner marched in lockstep with the mayor every step of the way.

During the firing of public advisory bodies, the gutting of affordable housing in Southeast False Creek, the growing housing crisis, the disastrous mismanagement of the civic labour negotiations and the seamy Dobell scandal, Sullivan led aggressively and Ladner followed. It was the Vision councillors, defeated in countless 6-5 votes, who challenged Sullivan’s direction. (Councillor David Cadman normally votes with Vision.)
Sullivan was never popular among the NPA’s ruling circles. During 10 lacklustre years on council, he never won an important appointment or handled a major file. He proved unable to work collaboratively with Ladner in opposition in 2002. His turning point came when he made himself the effective leader of the NPA by leading the No forces against wards. With that victory under his belt he shouldered aside Christy Clark’s challenge to win the nomination.

But Sullivan’s election victory was tainted by allegations of dirty tricks — notably the “James Green” affair — and his relentless negative campaigning. He did not offer a progressive vision for the city and the NPA membership did not unite around him. NPA stalwarts like Lynn Kennedy were indignant at his shameless ability to take credit for their work on council. Sullivan ignored the NPA membership. His private fundraising, which will now never be disclosed, funded his own war chest, not the NPA’s. Sullivan’s decision to take a personal patent on the term “ecodensity” proved to any who cared that his focus was himself, not the city.

The massive increase in Vision Vancouver memberships since January – now more than 13,000 according to executive members last week — is proof that Vancouver voters know which party has the values, vision and energy to take the city forward. It’s not that voters “just don’t like him,” as one of Sullivan’s senior aides told Globe columnist Gary Mason. It’s that his policies, all supported by Ladner, were bad for the city. That’s what voters want to change.”

It was a testament to the rot at the heart of the NPA that Sullivan’s aide, whose role requires total personal loyalty, offered Mason this crushing and ill-considered comment as epitaph: “Think about what people think of when they think of a leader. You think of someone who will stand strong in the face of adversity. Someone who shows spine when faced with a challenge. Well, Sam’s not that person.”