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Internal war breaks out among Vision candidates

September 8th, 2008 · 10 Comments

The situation is ugly and tense, according to just about everyone I’m talking to, as Vision Vancouver members and candidates head towards the Sept. 20 vote for their slates. People are threatening to quit; Vision women are demanding a meeting with Vision leader Gregor Robertson; and there’s just a lot of unhappiness. What’s going on?

1. Robertson started calling candidates this weekend to tell them about the likely numbers negotiated for slate splits with COPE and Green Party. The multitudes of Vision candidates are supremely unhappy because it appears that COPE will get the majority of spots on the nine-spot school board slate, while Vision will only get a bare majority on the park board. That means even rougher competition than is already going on for the fewer spots now available. The numbers being put out: 8 Vision/2 COPE for council; 5 COPE/4 Vision for school board; and 4 Vision/2 COPE/1 Green for park board.

2. A coalition of Kerry Jang, Andrea Reimer, and Kash Dhaliwal is sending out a mailer that urges their supporters to vote for themselves, the four incumbents and, I’ve heard, Geoff Meggs. According to several sources, that same group — which has access to several valuable lists of members — is bargaining hard with two other smaller coalitions at school and parks to get them to include candidates in exchange for the big coalition’s support.

So the Vision education group, who would like to have their long-time core activists go forward as the four for the slate — Mike Lombardi, Helesia Luke, Patti Bacchus, and Stepan Vdovine — is being pressured to drop one person (Patti’s is the name I heard) for Narinder Chhina. That’s in exchange for being endorsed in a mailer going out from this group to their extensive list of members. At park board, the pressure has been put on the small coalition of Sarah Blyth, Aaron Jasper and Constance Barnes to accept Raj Hundal and Tony Kosovic. Since that’s one too many, again, the pressure is on to drop Constance.

Both of those situations have been going white-hot all weekend and there are emails and cellphone calls jamming the lines in every direction. I should add that neither Andrea Reimer nor Geoff Meggs seems to know anything about this and that, according to both, Meggs’ name is not on the mailer. (But he is cross-endorsed with Jang and Dhaliwal, which may be why is name is being circulated as part of this increasingly byzantine story.)

Heather Harrison, who was on Raymond Louie’s endorsement list along with almost all of the other Big Bloc candidates, didn’t get included in the Dhaliwal/Jang/Reimer mailer-endorser. [For those who missed the previous post, Louie said he is endorsing his fellow councillor George Chow, Dhaliwal, Meggs, and Harrison, with a possibility of Rey Umlas if there are enough spots on the slate. He is also endorsing Chhina for school board and Kosovic and Hundal for park board.]

As well (and now I understand all the mutterings about the need to elect women on the board), people have figured out that if the Big Bloc candidates get the votes, it will mean that there are only two women of eight candidates nominated for council, only one of four for school board, and only one of four for park board, for a total of four women for the 16 positions. If Harrison and/or Catherine Evans were nominated, and Patti Bacchus and Constance Barnes were added to the list, that would bring it up to half of the candidates — a gender balance that the Non-Partisan Association seems to have managed. But the NPA helped solve some of its problems by having a couple of women from ethnic minorities running (Sophia Woo at school board, Wai Sin at parks), which helps avoid the ethnic male/white female split that seems to be happening at Vision.

To add to this confusing tangle, apparently Joel Solomon — the social-enterprise venture capitalist who has been hyper-present in the Robertson camp — has asked for David Eby to be put on the Big Bloc slate in place of Geoff Meggs. (Although if Meggs isn’t on the slate, is this a possibility? Who knows at this point?) Solomon, who helped launch Happy Planet with start-up funds, was notable by his presence, with camera to record the event, at Eby’s announcement of his candidacy. And, even though some in the business community might see Eby as a radical from the Downtown Eastside, those who know him appreciate the fact that he’s a moderate and constructive broker in that community. He’s also signed up a solid little list of members.

This whole process has been made structurally difficult by a couple of things. First off, candidates say they were led to believe that Vision would negotiate for a “significant majority” on each slate with COPE. That hasn’t happened, likely because Vision leaders are trying to give COPE and Green enough to placate them so they don’t run mayoral candidates. So now everyone has to deal with lowered expectations.

Second, because no candidates have access to the master list of the 16,000 members except through a mass mailer handled by the party, candidates who have (or claim to have) access to lists of some members have enormous clout. The trick, as in poker, is to calculate how many people those potential allies can really bring in and/or influence.

It’s a lesson to everyone in politics about the pitfalls of creating a big-tent, popular party without a lot of rules in place. This kind of internal politics says a lot to potential voters, members and volunteers about what kind of party they’re joining.

But it’s also a lesson in how people can get their shirts in a knot over some very marginal stuff. For all the kicking, clawing and scratching to get on the council slate, Vision is likely to get only one new councillor elected besides the four current councillors. COPE’s David Cadman will probably be re-elected; so will the NPA’s Suzanne Anton. Kim Capri could get knocked off but maybe not. And Elizabeth Ball, who’s been relatively low-key at council meetings, is vulnerable, but voters looking for a change might prefer an NPA replacement for her, like Michael Geller or Leanore Copeland, over a Vision candidate.

So maybe we could all just go have a big cup of herbal tea everyone, have a good sleep, and wake up tomorrow morning with a global perspective.

Categories: 2008 Vancouver Civic Election

  • Wouldn’t this be a whole lot more orderly ( at least in terms of Council nominations ) if we had a ward system? =)

  • It is, unfortunatley, a sell-out to keep the Vision Majority and control over council. It is too sad as despite all of the talk, it would appear that Vision exec and the backroom politicains are really only concerned about council. Their decision reflects both their focus on power and their disregard for issues around schools and parks. If they felt those were ‘serious’ boards they would have given up a seat or two on council to keep the spaces for schools.

    It is, I suppose another good reason to keep the UEL/UBC area out of Vancouver.

    Charles

  • Dawn Steele

    I’m pleased to see that Vision looks to have reached a deal with COPE. While the final allocations will sorely disappoint the hordes of wannabes who won’t make it, they had to know it was coming. The eventual Vision candidates all stand a better chance of actually getting elected in November – (the only vote that really counts, Hello!?) if we avoid a senseless split among voters on the centre/left. Isn’t that why we chose Gregor?

    And when you look at what it actually means for school board — i.e. allowing space to re-elect trustees like COPE’s Al Wong, Al Blakey or Jane Bouey, whom we know have done a stellar job over previous terms, and who see eye to eye on pretty much every education issue with Vision , what is there to cry about (apart from extending sympathies to the newbies who would have liked to be there too)?

    What I can’t understand is why Vision would even consider dropping someone Patti Bacchus of all people for their school board line up in favour of people who have no experience whatsoever at Vancouver school board and/or no background in public education advocacy. Of all Vision’s school board candidates, she’s the only one who’s actually sat through all the mind-numbing local committee & sub-committee meetings and spent years connecting with parents and staff to grasp the full complexities of key issues facing the district, whether it’s seismic upgrades, playground grants, facilities planning, class size, provincial under-funding or the crisis in special ed (Helesia Luke’s the only other trustee candidate with a proven local track record).

    Patti went out as the DPAC rep in the controversial facilities review and showed she can keep a cool head and skilfully negotiate her way among irate groups of parents ready to rip each other apart, working patiently and sensibly with trustees of all political stripes and competence levels and/or staff to build the broad buy-in needed to generate momentum towards sensible solutions.

    I think the Vision folks all need to take a day off and do some deep breathing and meditation to remind themselves about why we’re doing this in the big picture and to put the “vision” and the objectives above personal/political ambition. If Vision needs to include more ethnic candidates, they will need people like Patti and Helesia there who can show them the ropes and connect them with COPE to form a productive joint caucus.

    This is supposed to be positive and inspiring, folks – please don’t let the petty stuff make it disintegrate into the ugly, vicious, same old business as usual. That’s what 14,000 people joined Vision hoping to get away from!!

  • Any alienated Visioners go ahead and seek independent nominations or other parties as well; I’ll swap signatures with you, when my pages are full I’ll still sign; ballot access is a right and I strongly believe that and say good things for anyone else who agrees so far Reimer and other partisans don’t one Gregor supporter has in the PAL building understanding it is not an endorsement of my win or a vote and she’s an honorable supporter of voter’s choice.
    I am glad to be part of the creative world frankly. They seem to care more than most about the binder I carry and voters having choices.

    Best,

    Gölök “LD Taylored” Buday
    “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” — Thomas Paine

  • Dawn Steele

    Oops, sorry – Mike Lombardi and Sharon Gregson have also done their time at VSB to understand the issues – apologies for the omission above.

    I do hope Vision will make every effort to keep the focus on the issues, to take education seriously for a change, and to provide opportunities that support the selection of trustee candidates who really get public education and what needs to happen to restore confidence in our public schools.

    It’s what the candidates do or don’t say at the debate Tuesday night – not which in-crowd they manage to join – that should count on Sept 20th

    It’s starting to sound like Vision is in danger of falling into the old trap of treating school board as nothing more than an appendage or training ground for their city council B team. It’s exactly such neglect that has allowed the Province to slowly suck the life out of what was once one of the world’s finest models of public education and we’re counting on you folks to turn that around, please!

  • Thanks for adding my name as someone with experience Dawn. I’d like to think that the last almost 3 years of verbal wrestling with Ken Denike and the NPA has not been totally in vain !!

  • There are many fine candidates running for the Vision School Board nomination, some which are mentioned above. However, one nomination candidate that has been overlooked, is Anastasia Mirras. Anastasia has worked tirelessly for over 36 years for the children of Vancouver as a Registered Psychologist and Area Counselor for the VSB, been a member of the VESTA executive, has worked on countless committees at the VSB and has been a representative for the Vancouver District Labour Council.

    We forget that in all this politicking, the children are the only thing that matter, and this is something that Anastasia has always stayed true to and fought for. Throughout her career, she was known as a child advocate in the school system and she has a mile-long list of parents and children whom she has helped and supported that are grateful to her. Belonging to an ethnic minority herself, she understands and relates directly to the issues that English as a Second Language families face, especially with children in the school system. Additionally, Anastasia recognises the complexities facing Aboriginal students, having worked with Aboriginal populations in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

    My apologies for plugging another candidate (and my mother-in-law), however, I feel that the public needs to be made aware of this EXCEPTIONALLY QUALIFIED ETHNIC WOMAN. Did I mention that she’s an ethical woman at that?

  • I think both Vision and COPE have an abundance of amazing representatives of the diverse communities in Vancouver. In my mind this speaks to our need for positive energy in our leadership and I feel hope that we have so many positive people willing to step up in an attempt to fill the leadership void in our city.

    Personally I still haven’t come to terms with having to chose sides when there are people I admire and respect in both camps. It would be nice if they could all role model playing in the same sand box to teach others what cooperation looks like.

    However, a divide is what we have. But a united progressive voice is still possible!…isn’t it?

    The new slate numbers give me some hope (though with COPE’s record on education I feel they were deserving of the 5 on this slate), a set number of seats sadly close doors to some fine folks getting elected as well. The choices aren’t easy ones.

    I’m sure once the nominations are over and final candidates have been selected (and we will not suffer no matter which names they turn out to be in my mind really), those whose names will not be on the ballot will then turn their much needed energies to getting candidates elected so we see a progressive majority on both boards and council. 😉

    On the Vision side of things…there are 2 women I wholeheartedly believe deserve a place on the Board of Education and those ladies are Patti Bacchus and Helesia Luke. These women have been such a huge source of information and inspiration for me as a parent and an advocate of public education.

    Their tireless efforts to work with others in rallying the public over education issues, and vocally advocating for the needs of our own district, and the needs of ALL learners, deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded with the opportunity to add their voice and skills as trustees for Vancouver.

    I have deep admiration for many other Vision/COPE/Green folks (and will do my best to see ALL the candidates I believe in get elected once they are on the ballot)…but Patti and Helesia have always been amongst the people whose opinions I trust the most.

    They are approachable, well informed and have also proven they can build castles with others if given the chance – our school board needs them!

  • Julianne Doctor

    I had the good fortune to be able to attend both the Vision School Board candidates meeting as well as the NDP nomination meeting for Jenn McGinn in Vancouver Fairview Tuesday night. It was quite a surprise to see Gregor at the NDP event, but not at the School Board event.
    While I can certainly understand his desire to show support in his former provincial riding, it’s my opinion that he really should have been at the Vision event first and foremost.
    This is a chance for Gregor to show that he’s a strong leader and that Vision is about putting forward the most qualified and credible candidates. If someone like Patti Bacchus can get pushed off the school board slate as a result of dealing making and someone else getting better access to membership lists, then it says that Vision isn’t a new and better kind of party after all. The school board group ended up getting the short stick on the Vision/COPE agreement so it’s all the more important that Gregor show support for the candidates who need to be on the ballot on November 15.

  • Julianne Doctor

    I had the good fortune to be able to attend both the Vision School Board candidates meeting as well as the NDP nomination meeting for Jenn McGinn in Vancouver Fairview Tuesday night.

    It was quite a surprise to see Gregor at the NDP event, but not at the School Board event.

    While I can certainly understand his desire to show support in his former provincial riding, it’s my opinion that he really should have been at the Vision event first and foremost.

    This is a chance for Gregor to show that he’s a strong leader and that Vision is about putting forward the most qualified and credible candidates. If someone like Patti Bacchus can get pushed off the schoolboard slate as a result of dealing making and someone else getting better access to membership lists, then it says that Vision isn’t a new and better kind of party after all.

    The school board group ended up getting the short stick on the Vision/COPE agreement so it’s all the more important that Gregor show support for the candidates who need to be on the ballot on November 15.