VANCOUVER — As Vancouver’s next mayor, Ken Sim says he and his ABC-majority council will focus on running city hall more efficiently and improving public safety.
It was a commanding victory for the new party. Not only did every one of ABC’s candidates win on council, school board and park board, but the party topped the polls in every race. No candidate from any other party beat any of the 19 ABC candidates.
With that resounding mandate, Sim said his new council will give top priority to the issues ABC campaigned on, including immediately requisitioning the hiring of 100 more police officers and 100 mental health nurses to improve public safety, and speeding up permitting processes at city hall.
Sim unseated incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart, to whom he lost a nail-biter by fewer than 1,000 votes in Vancouver’s last civic election in 2018. This year’s rematch, however, was not a close one: Sim took a commanding lead early in the night and held it until he was declared the winner. With all 106 polling stations reporting, Sim had 85,732 votes, well ahead of Stewart’s 49,593.
In his acceptance speech at the South Hall in South Vancouver, Sim called the four-year stretch between his 2018 electoral loss and Saturday’s win the “longest job interview ever.”
Several times in his speech, Sim repeated: “You can’t lose if you never give up.”
Sim also acknowledged the historic significance of the occasion, as he becomes the first Asian Canadian mayor in Vancouver’s history.
Vancouverites should not expect any dramatic changes of direction on some of the biggest city-building decisions of the past council term, including the Broadway plan, the citywide Vancouver plan and proposed SkyTrain extension to the University of B.C., all of which were supported by three incumbent ABC councillors on council and by Sim in public statements.
Speaking Saturday night after his victory, Sim said he does not plan to pursue major changes on those policies.
The only mayoral candidate pledging to reverse course on those policies was Coun. Colleen Hardwick, who was elected to council with the NPA in 2018 and ran this year as the mayoral nominee for new party TEAM for a Livable Vancouver. Hardwick finished third in the mayoral race Saturday, with 16,769, followed by Mark Marissen with the new party Progress Vancouver, who had 5,830 votes, while the NPA’s Fred Harding was in fifth place with 3,905 votes.
Among the victorious ABC councillors were Sarah Kirby-Yung, Lisa Dominato and Rebecca Bligh, all of whom ran alongside Sim with the NPA in 2018 and won council seats, but quit the party during the term, sat for a time as independents, and then joined ABC. Rounding out the ABC slate are first-time councillors Brian Montague, Lenny Zhou, Mike Klassen, and Peter Meiszner.
Council will be rounded out by incumbent councillors Adriane Carr and Pete Fry of the Green Party, and OneCity’s Christine Boyle, who were re-elected. Three incumbents failed to win re-election: the Green’s Michael Wiebe, COPE’s Jean Swanson, and the NPA’s Melissa De Genova.
ABC was also successful in electing all of its candidates to park board — which Sim once talked about abolishing before deciding to run a slate — and the school board.
ABC’s dominance marks the first time a single Vancouver party won a majority on council, school board and park board since Vision Vancouver accomplished the feat in 2011.
In his concession speech from a downtown Vancouver hotel ballroom, Stewart acknowledged he was “sad” to give up the mayor’s seat but insisted the city had made progress on the housing file over the past four years.
“I think we’ve really turned the tide on the housing crisis we have in the city,” he told supporters, citing a shift away from building primarily condos for investors to rental and social housing. He also noted Vancouver was the first major city to decriminalize drugs and deliver safe supply.
Stewart, a former NDP member of Parliament, ran and won in 2018 as Vancouver’s first independent mayor in a generation, and this year sought re-election with a new party he started called Forward Together, along with a slate of six council candidates. None of the Forward Together candidates were elected.
At Saturday night’s party, ABC campaign manager Kareem Allam said, “This is a real strong mandate, a supermajority for ABC. People in the city want change.”
Allam said he will co-chair, along with former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, the transition team as ABC takes over the city government in the next few weeks.
— With a file from Douglas Quan