Kennedy Stewart, NDP MP for the riding of Burnaby South, announced today that he will be running for mayor of Vancouver in this fall’s municipal election.
Stewart made the announcement at Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver this morning.
“Today I’m kicking off my campaign to become mayor of Vancouver,” Stewart said, announcing he will be running as an independent.
“I will be resigning from parliament. This will be my last session in Ottawa.”
His announcement follows speculation that he was seriously considering a shot at the mayor’s seat.
I’m running for mayor of #Vancouver. Big challenges need bold action–building housing, protecting the environment, supporting an equitable economy, stopping drug overdose deaths. I want to work with all progressive voters to make Vancouver even better. #vanpoli #Kennedy18
— Kennedy Stewart (@kennedystewart) May 10, 2018
Stewart first ran for federal office in 2004, as the NDP candidate for Vancouver Centre. Though he failed to win in that general election, he secured the party’s nomination again in 2011 and went on to win the seat for Burnaby-Douglas. He was re-elected in 2015 in the new riding of Burnaby South.
As an MP, Stewart is the NDP’s Science Critic and BC Caucus Chair. He has a PhD in government from the London School of Economics and is currently on-leave as an associate professor from SFU’s School of Public Policy.
Before entering politics, Stewart was a West Coast Music Award-winning musician and has worked as a printing press operator, waiter, and clerk at the Metrotown Radio Shack.
Academically, Stewart has published books, articles, and newspaper columns and advised municipal, provincial, and federal governments as well as the United Nations.
Stewart said he’s running as an independent “to bring all the progressive forces together and keep the NPA out of City hall, and that’s what I’m working on right now.”
Stewart said he’s running for mayor because he believes “that by working together, we can make Vancouver more affordable.”
Noting that he moved to the city in 1989, Stewart said much has changed in the city’s housing scene, and not for the better.
“Everybody knows that Vancouver is in a housing crisis – but it doesn’t have to be like this,” he said. “When I moved here… I was still able to rent a place in the West end, in Kitsilano, or in East Vancouver. But now, that’s impossible.”
Not only is homeownership out of reach for many, he continued, “but just living here is a fading dream.”
And while his bio on his MP lists him as a resident of Burnaby, Stewart noted that he and his wife have rented an apartment downtown for almost three years, where he pays “too much” in rent, “just like everyone else.”
Stewart said the time has come to “work together to reverse this affordability crisis, and I hope the people of Vancouver will give me the mandate to take bold action.”
Asked just what “bold action” he had in mind, Stewart noted that he was tenured professor at SFU’s school of public policy where one of his specialties is urban policy.
“I’ve advised local, provincial, federal, the UN on housing policies, so I have some great ideas on how we can move forward, but I did look at Vancouver’s plan that they put out to build 17,000 units over the next 10 years, which I think is a very good start… but they have to be more ambitious.”
Stewart also mentioned ideas such as rent-to-own, stand-alone rental building, and co-ops.
In addition, “we should try to cooperate more with other municipalities to see if we can ease some of the pressure on workers.”
On his arrest at the Burnaby pipeline protest
A staunch opponent of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion plans, Stewart was arrested earlier this year, alongside federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May at a protest in Burnaby.
When asked about how the incident would play into his mayoral bid, Stewart said “I think people know that I stand up for them.”
He admitted it was “an unusual” action to undertake, “but I have been fighting against that pipeline for seven years…and I’ll continue fighting the pipeline.”
At this stage in the game, Stewart said he believes people are supportive of his actions.
“It shows that I’m genuine – perhaps different – than other politicians, and I’m very proud to stand up for my community.”
As to where things are currently at legally, said he thinks the “big misunderstanding in this is that this is somehow an indictable offence, and it isn’t, under the criminal code.”
A special prosecutor has been assigned to his case, he said, and will report back to him next Monday, at which point he’ll find out what the actual charges are. “They’re trying to decide between criminal and civil contempt,” he said.
As to whether he’d have more influence as mayor, rather than an MP, Stewart responded his influence would be “different.”
On Vancouver’s ‘Greenest City’ goals
Stewart spoke to goal of making Vancouver the greenest city on the planet by stating that “stopping Kinder Morgan is a very good start.”
The one good thing about the pipeline though, he continued, “is it has made us all step back and think about who we are as a city, and I think we’ve decided that we don’t want to be an industrial port – that being the next Rotterdam is not in our cards.”
When reminded that Vancouver is in fact, a large port city, Stewart noted that he was comparing it to Rotterdam, “a major, major industrial port. That’s what it’s known for and I don’t think Vancouverites want their city to be known as a major industrial port.”
That said, Stewart noted that he thinks the city can continue to accommodate industry, “as long as we do it in a way that’s acceptable to the people who live here.”
Stewart joins the list of over a dozen people who have thrown their hat into the ring for the mayor’s seat, including Shauna Sylvester (independent), John Coupar (NPA), and Ken Sim (NPA).