Outgoing Vancouver mayor and Langara grad Sam Sullivan encourages political involvement

by Marelle Reid, The Voice/Langara College

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan’s term has ended and will be replaced after the civic election on Nov. 15.
Sullivan initiated numerous social movements during his time in office, and said he is proud of the contributions he and his government have made to the city.

He believes one of the most important achievements the completion of 3,800 social housing units that were built during his term.

Many people will be sorry to see him go, including councillor Tim Stevenson, who feels that Sullivan should have been nominated once again.

“Those in the party who did not vote for Sullivan to be nominated for re-election made a big mistake,” he said. “They… will pay for their betrayal of Sam on Nov. 15. The one who stabs the prince to death never gets to be prince themselves.”

Despite his many public accomplishments, Sullivan, 48, said that he had no political aspirations when he began his studies at Langara in the late 1970s.

He was working toward a degree in business when he was in a skiing accident at the age of 19, which left him paralyzed. When he was able to, he finished his courses and transferred to Simon Fraser University to complete his degree. It was there that he realized his potential as a political leader.

“I started a group called the Disabled Students Association,” he said. “It enabled me to see how powerful, what an impact you could have by organizing and getting a group of people together, and presenting a case to the people who could make the difference.”

After university, Sullivan kept himself busy with countless volunteering positions and other social initiatives, which eventually lead to his political involvement and election to Vancouver city council, first as a councillor, and then as mayor.

Sullivan said that he got into politics by volunteering for non-profit groups, but believes there are many ways young people can get involved. The most important thing, he said, is that people do get involved.

“We need people involved to make democracy work. Choose the political party that you think represents your ideals best and jump in there and help,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan’s term as mayor began on November 19, 2005 after a close defeat of Vision Vancouver.