Marking a massive shift in local governance, voters in Vancouver, Canada, have elected center-right candidate Ken Sim mayor with an impressive margin of more than 36,000 votes (out of about 135,000 votes cast) over the incumbent, progressive mayor Kennedy Stewart. Sim’s new ABC party also won seven out of ten city council seats and a majority of the school board and park board seats. His crime-focused platform echoes those of other public-order-focused local candidates in U.S. communities.
Sim is the first Chinese-Canadian mayor of Vancouver, where a third of the population is of Chinese descent. He successfully appealed to voters, particularly Asians, with plans to improve Vancouver’s notorious position as the “Anti-Asian Hate Crime Capital of North America.” In 2020, Vancouver recorded 98 anti-Asian hate crimes, dwarfing the total of the city with the second-highest tally, New York City, which recorded only 25. Vancouver’s figure is especially disturbing given that New York City’s population (8.5 million) is more than twelve times larger than Vancouver’s (675,000).
Notwithstanding myriad issues with data collection of hate crimes, Vancouver has clearly seen a surge in attacks against all residents, not just Asians. Recent Vancouver Police Department statistics show that serious assaults and robberies surged more than 20 percent in the first quarter of 2022, compared with the baseline average between 2017 and 2019. Recent violent attacks in downtown, including a “stabbing spree” that seriously injured three local residents a week before the election, have become a major concern for voters.
Sim’s campaign offered a rational response to the surging violence. He promised to expand public-safety resources by hiring 100 new police officers and 100 mental-health workers. Moreover, he pledged to restore the School Liaison Officer program, which the progressive school board had voted to end amid anti-police sentiment following the death of George Floyd in 2020. “We knocked on over 78,000 doors in Vancouver, and we spoke to tens of thousands of residents, and a big concern from the majority of parents who had kids in the school system was they were concerned about safety,” Sim told Global News.
Meantime, the incumbent mayor Kennedy Stewart has been hostile to the police department, calling for it to be investigated in 2020 for institutional racism: “I believe [the province] will take up this call to ensure this review includes an investigation of systemic racism and disproportional violence experienced by Black and Indigenous community members,” he said.
Newly elected city council member Brian Montague, an ABC party member who recently retired from the Vancouver Police Department after 28 years of service, said, “In the last 3½ years of my career, the current mayor created a climate of hostility between council, the police department and the public. . . . I never felt like the mayor had my back.”
Though liberal activists on Twitter have complained about the rise of a “police state” and “fascist government” in Vancouver, a strong return to common-sense solutions is a promising outcome in a city that has seen public order deteriorate under years of progressive leadership. For Sim, now comes the hard part: delivering on his promise to restore safety.
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