Adriane Carr is running for Vancouver City Council for the first time, but she is no stranger to campaigning. This will be Carr’s eighth attempt at winning an election.
While the positions she’s tried to secure over the years have varied, her party has not. She’s once again running on the Green Party ticket, the perpetual underdog at virtually all levels of Canadian government over the past two and a half decades.
But the ever-resilient Carr and her supporters are optimistic that this time it will be different, following the success of the Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the federal campaign earlier this year.
May, a longtime friend and political ally, recognizes the sacrifice that Carr made to ensure that the Greens were able to finally secure a seat in parliament.
“She’s extremely determined, tireless, and more focused on getting things done then getting credit for getting things done,” said May.
Vancouverties will decide on Carr’s fate when they cast their ballots on Nov. 19.
A green start
A Vancouverite who spent part of her childhood in the Kootenays and on the Sunshine Coast, Carr earned a Masters in Urban Geography from UBC in 1980, and subsequently taught courses on cultural and urban geography, as well as economic development, at Langara College for 12 years.
She co-founded the Green Party of BC, the first of its kind in North America, in 1983.
“It was so easy to get the party started,” recalled her husband Paul George, who helped co-found the party from their Kitsilano kitchen.
“All you needed was four people and a statement of intent and you got yourself a party. But getting elected — oh boy, that is a whole other story.”
Carr’s first campaign was for the 1983 provincial election in the riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, where she finished last out of eight candidates. That was followed by an unsuccessful attempt in the 1984 municipal election, when she ran for a seat on the Vancouver School Board.
She took a break from politics in the late 1980s to concentrate on The Western Canadian Wilderness Committee with George, during which time she also sat on the Canadian International Development Agency’s advisory committee for Environment and Sustainable Development.
Carr was pulled back into politics a decade later, replacing Stuart Parker as Green Party leader in 2000. This time, she based herself in the Powell River/Sunshine Coast riding.
Neither the Greens nor Carr were able to win a seat during the provincial elections in 2001 or 2005 ; she finished in third place both times, with 27 per cent and 25.8 per cent of the popular vote, respectively. She also finished third in a 2004 provincial by-election.
Ben West, Carr’s former campaign manager, said her biggest obstacle to winning a seat in Victoria was that as leader of the party she was too busy traveling the province and couldn’t spend enough time in her own riding.
Listen: Ben West on Adriane Carr as an activist and political party leader
After she resigned as provincial party leader in 2006 to run in the 2008 federal election, West was among those who suggested she move permanently to the riding of Vancouver Centre, where she would be more accessible to the media.
She finished fourth, with 18 per cent of the popular vote. She took fourth place in the 2011 federal election as well, garnering just 15.4 per cent of the popular vote.
West thinks that the Carr was unlucky with a number of convergent factors, including facing popular incumbent Hedy Fry, who ran despite ‘rumored retirement.’ “It was a perfect storm of circumstances working against her, unfortunately.”
Sacrifice and civic politics
After Carr’s most recent defeat this past spring, her supporters encouraged her to throw her hat back into civic politics.
[pullquote]To actually identify, persuade and motivate sufficient numbers of people to get out to the polls you need a significant organization, and that costs money.[/pullquote]But despite being one of their most well known names on the ballot, some of her competitors are convinced she won’t find success this time around, either.
Name recognition isn’t enough, said Geoff Meggs, a Vision Vancouver councillor.
“To actually identify, persuade and motivate sufficient numbers of people to get out to the polls you need a significant organization, and that costs money, and she has none of that so she’s probably going be unsuccessful.”
In the 2008 civic election both the NPA and Vision Vancouver each had budgets of over $2 million, while the Green Party only about spent $8,000.
Meggs goes even further, questioning the presence of the Green Party on the ballot overall.
He points to former Green Party member and current Vision councilor Andrea Reimer, as well as his party’s Greenest City 2020 plan as evidence that the Vision-led council is “the greenest in Canada, probably the greenest in North America.”
Randy Helten, a mayoral candidate for the relatively new Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, disagrees with Meggs. He sees the Green Party as an organization with a strong supporter network and Carr as a woman of integrity.
Despite the party’s lack of funding, he thinks that she actually has a good chance of winning.
“Adriane is one of a kind in this particular election. She has special qualifications that no one else offers this time and she can really make a difference in Vancouver,” said Helten.
If so, for Carr, the eighth time would indeed be the charm.