Could it be business versus politics in the Vancouver mayoral election?

Credit: Kennedy Stewart on Twitter/ Ken Sim on Twitter

Latest polls show entrepreneur Ken Sim neck-and-neck with former MP Kennedy Stewart 

A general rule of thumb for elections: the longer the ruling party is in power, the more likely the opposition is to topple them. 

It should come as no real surprise, then, that Ken Sim of the Non-Partisan Association held the lead over the currently ruling Vision Vancouver’s Ian Campbell in a recent Research Co. poll about Vancouver mayoral candidates.

But Campbell, the former Squamish Nation hereditary chief brought in by Vision to create a new, well, vision, after 10 years of mayor Gregor Robertson is actually polling in third place.

In second is independent candidate Kennedy Stewart, who represented the federal riding of Burnaby South before throwing his hat into the mayoral race. It’s Stewart who seems to have galvanized the left side of the political spectrum in Vancouver, his 25-percent support just one point shy of Sim’s lead.

Sim was a bit of a surprise selection for the NPA nomination, beating out park board commissioner John Coupar. NPA councillor Hector Bremner was barred from running for mayor, though many had initially pegged him as the candidate to beat.

Now Bremner and his new party, Yes Vancouver, are polling under 10 percent according to Research Co. That could mean that voters on the right side of the political spectrum recognize that Sim is their only chance.

It looks like the NPA will lean into a strategy accentuating Sim’s business acumen as the co-founder of two notable Vancouver companies, Nurse Next Door, which brings health care services to people’s homes, and popular bagel shop Rosemary Rocksalt, which has six locations across Metro Vancouver.

Because Vision Vancouver appears to be in trouble, this is the rare election that might not actually be a referendum on what the ruling party has done wrong. Sure, some elements of that will be embedded into every party’s platform when it comes to issues of transportation or housing, but it’ll be more about the future and candidates’ new ideas than about the broken promises of the past.

It may come down to what citizens value more: business or politics.

Stewart is an intellectual who graduated with a PhD from the London School of Economics and has written books on policy at both the federal and municipal level. He’s currently on leave from Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy.

Sim worked as an investment banker before founding his businesses, and is seen as a local success story. Often, political candidates with business experience are portrayed as being trustworthy—after all, Nurse Next Door employs more people than the City of Vancouver.

The election will be fought on a number of issues—housing chief among them—but it may come down to which candidate can identify with the largest amount of voters.

In the process, we’ll likely learn a lot about what the city values.