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Vancouver’s two heavyweight civic parties gather the faithful

April 27th, 2010 · 24 Comments

On the off chance that you’ve decided that you’d rather be inside a small room with a bunch of diehard political junkies talking about party governance  than channel-surfing, tonight (Wednesday, April 28) is your lucky night.

Both of the two main civic parties in Vancouver are holding their annual general meetings. The Non-Partisan Association, which has seen itself reduced to near oblivion in two elections since Y2K, is going through yet another struggle to figure out if it should re-brand itself and change the modus operandi it’s had since the 1930s, when it was formed to ensure the more organized socialists didn’t take over.

At that time, and for 60-some years since then, it’s seen its role as getting together a group of good candidates and supporting them to run for office under a common name. No party policies, no platform per se, which made it relatively easy for federal Liberals and Conservatives to work together in the non-party party. But the NPA brand, formerly seen as gold, has taken a beating and it’s also been difficult for its politicians to articulate exactly what they stand for, especially as city politicians have gravitated more and more to the centre. The party’s hard times were evident in the fact that no one could get it together to organize a fundraiser last fall, something that’s been a traditional time to rally the forces even in dark times.

The meeting tomorrow is to talk about changing the name but to something with the same NPA initials — a rather confusing proposition. I’m sure I don’t need to invite my inventive readers to come up with suggestions. But there will be a more meaty discussion about going out and talking to the membership about developing new policies that would help define the party better. I personally can’t see that working. People who are members are the choir. Someone needs to set out a new vision that can attract potential voters besides the party faithful.

At any rate, we wish them luck because I don’t think anyone in Vancouver is excited about the prospect of decades of one-party rule by Vision Vancouver.

And, speaking of VV, they’ll also be having their AGM, which party types have faithfully sworn to me is going to be very boring and just procedural. How tame. Why don’t they round up some of those disgruntled Vision voters who are forever signing their names to angry emails these days and have a discussion about how VV went off the rails? No hope, I guess.

I try not to join the howling media masses who are always wringing their hands about the faults of the recently elected administration, whoever and wherever they are. It’s so adolescent, this falling in and out of love at every election. But I do get a sense of genuine deflation and confusion from many, for whom the excitement and euphoria they felt two years ago, as this party was picking up steam with the mayoral-nominee race, has evaporated.

It’s not just the usual naive disenchantment — oh, they promised to change the world and now they’re acting so cautious, just like everyone else! Instead, the party feels like it’s disconnected and withdrawn from the public, hunkered down and not venturing out to say anything without direction from the strategists.

That’s why it would be interesting if someone kicked off a real discussion at the meeting and brought that underground dissatisfaction into the open. Then at least it could be addressed, painful as it was.

For those wanting to join the festivities:

The NPA is meeting at the Museum of Vancouver starting at 6 p.m.

Vision Vancouver is meeting at the BCIT downtown campus on Seymour starting at 6 p.m.

You can cycle on the new bike lane on Burrard Bridge to get from one to the other.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • spartikus

    My superficial 2 cents: VV has successfully positioned itself into the “centrist-right” territory the NPA, who disasterously tacked right into Fraser Institute territory*, used to occupy.

    The don’t really have much territory to go to: Either continue to stake out the right-wing – which might have appeal in, say, parts of Calgary but not broadly speaking in Vancouver – or, LOL, move left.

    The reverse of the coin, as Frances mentions, is the deflation some on the “left” feel about VV, apparently, being the new NPA. So to speak. Count me in that department…but the jury is still out.

    Personally, I think the party that has growth potential as bonafide opposition party is COPE – if they can get their act together and stop expending considerable energy on things like the plight of workers in Nicaragua and so on. But that’s just me.

    * (Yes, they never got the chance to implement a bonafide FI agenda, but you could certainly hear it spoken in Sullivanite land)

  • spartikus


    NPA: Non Performing Asset.

  • Joe Just Joe

    Not sure VV could be classified as Centre Right on any scale, Centre Left sure.
    The NPA seems to have stolen the playbook from the BC Conservatives, do nothing and hope the voters come to them. I imagine they will have the same success. The party needs a popular leader desperately. Maybe Carole Taylor could be tempted but I doubt it.

  • Le 25 Brumaire et le 25 Thermidor . . .

    Whoooo . . . ah! Watch out for the Les Sanscullotes barricading the B-Line or whatever the hell we’re gonna call it after everyone has had their fun . . .

    The NPA was supposed to be non partisan until Councilor Puil brought his scrum-half techniques into the council chamber and pretty well buggered-up any semblance of good government!

    He was the guy, back in 1992, who insisted the city delay decisions locating “cones of vision”, view corridors, until Concord decided were to put its chunks of stuff . . . errrrr . . . ummmm . . . shouldn’t it be the other way around?

    Anyway at least we knew, then, who was in the drivers seat!

    Well so much for the NPA and the Fraser Institute: a more barren coupling is unimaginable!

    That is until Vision Vancouver and Cortes got coupled up.

    And unfortunately it’s still the same guys in the driver seat!

    “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

  • spartikus

    Not sure VV could be classified as Centre Right on any scale, Centre Left sure.

    Glass towers will still be built in quantity. But then, these terms are a bit silly to use on the municipal scale. Or even, in Canada, at higher levels – most parties these days being blurred and bastardized versions of each other – another reason for voter apathy across the land.

    Big business friendly, and big business friendly-lite.

  • Very good assessment by Frances.

    Older parties need to renew themselves in order to remain relevant. New parties need to deliver on expectations. Neither is easy.

    We’re living in interesting times politically in this city, and what’s certain is they are about to get even more interesting in the months to come.

  • Joe Just Joe

    Which meeting will Frances be attending? The one with the better catering or the one with the better juice?
    What a great idea to hold the NPA meeting at the musuem at least they still have their sense of humour.

  • MB

    Maybe most of us will shift from block voting to voting for individuals who actually have a modicum of talent, integrity and scruples irregardless of party affiliation.

    Trouble is, what would you call a coalition?

    The New Vision Association?

    The Committee Of Partisan Electors?

    The Non Vision Committee?

    Room Full Of Bums?

  • P.M.

    I’m not sure there would be enough interest in the debate if VV opened the floor to discussion of how they’ve “gone off the rails”. The so-called disgruntled are likely small in number.

  • Please understand, when you look at photographs you are not looking at architecture. Architecture is to be experienced.

    The Vancouver Special is folk architecture at its best.

    The house, uniquely evolved to fit the 33′ Vancouver lot.

    Over many years it adapted to off-the-shelf building materials . . . builders were able to cost and site-organise to precision: they made money!

    Building departments facilitated a familiar icon acceptable to the neighbourhood.

    The Vancouver special is an east Vancouver family home and a mortgage helper.

    You wont find one anywhere else in the world . . .

  • Higgins

    What a complete JOKE! MOST OF the people showing up at these “PARTY” meetings are people that for the past 18 months, voiced NO OPINION WHATSOEVER on what’s going on. But they are all crowding now at the nomination trough, making lists of possible candidates, board, executives… Excuse me, I just puked in my mouth. OK, they concoct strategies, exchange opinions, prepare fundraisers… maybe, just maybe they could sucker again a few thousands of apathetic and ignorant Vancouverites so they could advance their private agendas! Because that’s what they are. Private agendas benefiting a group of shmucks. Period. I am voting INDEPENDENT! Based on the character/ experience/ knowledge of the person and not based on his/ her party affiliation or his/ her appeal. COPE are spineless. VISION are a bunch of two faced liars, NPA are lost at sea.
    In fact, there is no need for more liars, cowards or demagogues! These seats are already taken. Right now. In both Vancouver and Victoria!

  • Bill Smolick

    Municipal politics shouldn’t have anything to do with political parties. We need a functional ward system.

  • jesse

    NPA right wing? That’s a good one. It’s all relative I guess.

  • While I look forward to Frances’ account of the NPA meeting, here are my observations of what was a surprisingly interesting and invigorating meeting.

    What I discovered is that the NPA is not a party…in the sense that a party has policies and platforms. It is an association with the mandate to select good, independent candidates and help them get elected.

    Of course most Vancouver voters don’t see it that way. They see a tired old party which oftentimes seems to resemble the Republican Party. That’s why the discussion at last night’s meeting, which attracted a good number of high quality attendees was so fascinating. It reminded me of the movie ‘My Dinner With Andre’

  • spartikus

    It is an association with the mandate to select good, independent candidates and help them get elected.

    When was the last time the NPA had a candidate for councillor or mayor that came from a labour background?

    I mean, really, the party was founded to prevent that.

    You might be able to point to one or two exceptions over the decades, but come on…you have to admit that the vast majority of the NPA’s slates come from a, cough, certain background. I’d say the “Establishment”, but I’m sure that word will produce eye-rolls…

  • J R Wares

    My 2.5 cents worth.

    My observation is that the NPA was always a superb example of an ensemble organization, which is a particular way of organizing people as well as a particular way of doing things. It was successful until it started to see itself as a municipal political party rather than a moving target.

    That said, VV appears to me to have grasped the idea of the resilience and adaptability needed at the municipal level.

    Unless there is some unexpected disaster (always possible), I can see VV filling the broad philosophical ground once occupied by the NPA as well as carrying the left centre of the political spectrum.

  • @Spartikus, while there’s truth in your cough, and no human endeavour is without flaws, the NPA has a long history of running a broad array of candidates, including members of the NDP, the first openly gay candidates on council and park board, many strong women as leaders, etc.

    Last night’s town hall style meeting was exemplary – true democracy in action, with one speaker after another rising to reason with one another in articulate, respectful but quite passionate remarks. In the end the result was the opposite of what was expected – look at the name but leave policy to the candidates and elected officials that are closest to the voters – but everyone had their say, everyone’s right was respected, and the people in the room changed the expected outcome.

    I left feeling proud to be part of that association, and gained greater respect for the intelligent individuals involved that care passionately about their city.

  • spartikus

    Of interest?

    “The Origins of the NPA: A Study in Vancouver Politics 1930-1940” [PDF – 101 pg.]

    The author’s thesis is the ideological foundations of the “non-partisan” philosophy is a myth – the NPA was born as a reaction by provincial and business elite to the depression and real or perceived rise of the CCF. Etc.

    Parties can change over time, true, but still…you don’t wander from your origins that much.

  • spartikus

    “With the introduction of an at-large system in 1936, the idea the city was a business and businessmen made the best representatives attained even more popularity.” pg. 47

    Heh…if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed on this board the last year or so.

  • Vanman

    Spartikus,hmm, talking about squeezing juice. In your post #19, are you referring to Robertson and Solomon?

  • Micheal, “high quality attendees” Oh dear that sound dangerously like a eugenics’!

    What is your criteria for making such a judgement . . .

    What do “low quality attendees” look like? Do they look different to you and I? Do they smell?

    And would the NPA allow them in the room!

    I have a suspicion, Michael, high and low grading depends upon whether or not they agree with you . . .

    Huh scary . . .

  • PS . . .

    This political self congratulating glee club is nauseating. Candidates manoeuvring for power describes anything but “high quality attendees.”

    Vancouver despite its paid flackery has a natural setting that, is being and has been, abused.

    The city is up to its eye balls in debt.

    It has no wealth producing or job sustaining economic activity: it relies on floggin’ real estate to off shore interests.

    Like just about every speculator driven conurbation on the Pacific Rim it has no attractions and must rely on very expensive flack to convince itself.

    It has pricing its own citizens out of town.

    No person, or political party can take credit for anything other than bungling thru.

    And worst of all you have to put up with self serving puffery from the likes of the smooth Mr. Geller and the ambitious Mr. Bickerton: both are ridiculously transparent!.

    Their “needy” for a seat on council is so patently transparent that alone should disqualify them from public office.

  • landlord

    The people of Vancouver could do a lot worse the Michael Geller on Council. They have done a lot worse.

  • Glissando Remmy

    The Thought of The Day

    “It must be the gun blast after effect. One must not complain about ringing in the ears after they had left their fingerprint on the trigger.”

    Urbanismo, hats off!
    Unfortunately, you are talking to people sitting too close to the mirror; they are unable to see themselves. Or to be more precise, they have too much ringing in their ears. They could always make a good case for why they don’t get it. If misleading, speculating, being obnoxious would be judged as felonies, most of the people here would be on parole. Guaranteed.

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.