Gregor’s departure triggers discussion of political legacy and best before dates

In my last post of 2017, I predicted a number of things would come true over the course of this year. One of those predictions was that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson would be announcing his departure from civic politics. Well, check that one off the list!

One could easily argue that bit of political prognostication wasn’t much of a stretch given Robertson’s unpopularity of late with voters and a general sense of fatigue with his activist agenda – which all too often only served to further polarize civic politics and the city itself from the rest of the region.

Robertson also seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time delving into matters which fall under provincial and federal jurisdiction – rather than taking care of basic civic items such as sewers, parks, traffic congestion and litter.

Mayor Gregor Robertson calls in quits after a decade in civic politics

If you recall, it was only a few months ago Robertson was adamant about running a fourth term – which clearly he had second thoughts about after a walk in the sand over the holidays. Therefore his departure is considered by many to be a bit of a surprise.

Earlier this week, I publicly acknowledged and thanked Mayor Gregor for his time in office and for attempting to make his city a better place. I truly do think it’s important to recognize politicians when they step up to the plate and put their name forward to run for public office – regardless if you agree with their brand of politics or not.

Over the coming months Vancouver’s lame-duck Mayor will naturally become fodder for political writers who will either want to shore up his legacy or bring him down a peg or two.

Two good examples of that include columns by Gary Mason from the Globe and Mail and Mike Klassen from the Vancouver Courier.  Each of the writers take a markedly different approach when it comes to assessing how Robertson will be judged when he’s packed up and gone.

In his statement posted on Facebook to announce his retirement from civic politics, Robertson states:

“Ten years is a long time in politics. An important part of leadership is recognizing when to step aside to make space for new leaders” Mayor Gregor Robertson

That statement got me thinking about New Westminster politics and which of our local politicians could/should be having a similar walk in the sand like Robertson.

Without a doubt, topping that list would be School Trustee Michael Ewen. By the time the next civic election rolls around on October 20th, he will have served 38 years as an elected politician. If he runs again and serves out his term, he will have been in office for 42 years.

Surely Ewen must have accomplished what he set out to do by the 30 year mark…why does he need another term in office? Is there still work left to be done? Isn’t it time for him to step aside and make way for fresh new leadership? One would think so…and I am anticipating he will be announcing…like Robertson, that he is calling it quits. The only thing that would keep him on the ballot is his desire to be at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the long-awaited opening of our new secondary school.

I’m still waiting to read an editorial on this subject in our local newspaper…but alas after all these years, I’m not holding out much hope.

I recently tweeted about Ewen’s long term in office and got an interesting reaction from Kelly Slade-Kerr, Vice-Chair of the School Board.

When I jokingly posed the question as to whether the city should pass a new by-law imposing 30 year term limits on civic politicians – Slade-Kerr responded by saying:

“I’d second that motion”

Read of that what you may, but it would appear, at least on the surface, that even folks like Slade-Kerr [who benefit from support of the DLC/NDP] think it’s time for renewal in our civic politics.

Michael Ewen (l) has been on the School Board for 38 years.

City councillor Lorrie Williams is also a member of the DLC/NDP caucus and has been in elected office for 16 years. If she runs again and serves out a full term, she will have been in public office for 20 years.

Bill Harper, who also is part of the DLC/NDP caucus, has been in office for 13 years. If he runs again, he will have served 17 years in public office.

Every single member of the current city council form part of the DLC/NDP endorsed slate. All independent candidates were defeated in the 2014 election.

Another DLC/NDP caucus member is Chuck Puchmayr who has been in public office both at provincial and municipal since 1996 [NOTE: he did take a brief break when he transitioned back from provincial to municipal politics]. If he runs and wins again this October, he will have been in public office for almost a quarter of a century!

While having experienced politicians at the helm can have its benefits, there is such a thing as a “best before date”.  As Robertson so aptly noted this week, 10 years is a long time in public life. But when it comes to New Westminster civic politics, it appears few are willing to take a page out of his book.

PS The opinions posted on my blog are my own – full stop!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *