Will the real Suzanne Anton please stand up?

Vancouver municipal election 2011: A while back I predicted that for several reasons a Rob Ford “get off my lawn” campaign would never work for the NPA in Vancouver.  A new poll by Justason Market Research bears that out.   In spades.

Suzanne Anton, the NPA standard bearer and therefore the person required to channel the angry old guy yelling at each and every person messing with his lawn, is losing to Gregor Robertson by an enormous gap of 36 per cent.  Robertson is the pick of 68 per cent of Vancouver residents to Anton’s 32 per cent.

How bad is this?  Really bad. 

To get a read on the miserableness of Anton’s campaign check out the 2008 results. Robertson took only 55 per cent of the vote to Peter Ladner’s 40 per cent. Robertson is currently running 13 per cent ahead of that result, while Anton is running 8 points behind where Ladner ended up.

Now factors like turnout affect this and because the NPA is supported by more older, wealthier voters than Vision, Anton will likely do a bit better than her standing in this poll. But not 80 per cent better which is what she has to do to win. 

2008 was the NPA’s worst showing in a couple of decades.  And Anton is on track to match or fall below that low score. 

Why is Anton doing so poorly despite big spending in negative advertising and the backing of the BC Liberal organization and many of its biggest donors?

I have a number of ideas about that:  Vancouverites like Vision’s greener, alternative transportation agenda; they’ve seen real change on the homelessness and housing front and they feel the city is pretty well run when it comes to providing the services they expect.

The Justason poll tracks most of these issues and Vision preforms pretty well to extremely well on all of them. 

But I feel the real reason for Anton’s failure so far in this campaign is something a poll can’t really pick up on.  And it’s this:  The Anton running in this campaign is a fraud. 

The real Suzanne Anton isn’t a Rob Ford manqué.  She isn’t a whiny old grump who can only say what she doesn’t like.  She isn’t the candidate her eastern advisors have tried to create.

No, the real Anton is someone much different.  She likes the bikes.  She favours a good social safety net.  She supports libraries, and the arts.  And deep down Anton even supports young people growing wheat and raising chickens in their back yards.  

It's the dichotomy between the real Anton and the campaign Anton that is behind all the flip flops.  Like Mitt Romney on steroids she’s constantly having to re-align her positions to fit the campaign her advisors have forced her into. 

The real Anton is a candidate who broke the NPA mold in 2008, finishing 7th,  out performing her nearest NPA running mate by almost 25 per cent.  How did the real Anton do this?  She was herself, someone who could almost be at home on a Vision Council slate.

It’s probably too late to go back and fix this disastrous campaign.  Anton is going to get whomped, but what about the rest of the NPA slate?  Will the poor campaign choices doom them as well?

After all the Rob Ford image seems to be a much better fit for someone like Mike Klassen than Anton.

Based on her numbers Pollster Barb Justason doesn’t think the NPA will fare as poorly as Anton.  I think she’s wrong and should take a fresh look at her own numbers.  More on that next time.

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