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The COPE/Vision negotiations

August 18th, 2008 · 2 Comments

The deadline has come and gone for the possibility of having Gregor Robertson listed as a COPE/Vision mayoral candidate on the Nov. 15 ballot, something that COPE has talked about wistfully as a possibility early in the summer.

And it’s not clear if the two parties are even talking about trying to have any semblance of a joint platform any more. (I hear that’s a no-go, in any case.)

So what everyone’s been waiting for in the last few weeks is to see what the two sides will come up with in terms of how to split the spots on the council, school board and park board slates. What I’m hearing in the last few days is that, rather than come up with an agreed split (say 8-2 for council, 5-4 or 4-5 for school, etc.) that what people are working on now is just an attempt to contain the overlap. The two parties have been overwhelmed by an abundance of candidates, as a lot of people anticipate the public is going to be swinging back away from the Non-Partisan Association dominance of the last three years. That makes each party (and candidate) quite disinclined to give up what they perceive to be their shot at glory. My guess is that Vision is going to run candidates for eight spots on council and at least two-thirds of the slots at the other two levels, if not more. One argument that you have to know is being made is over a comparison of the membeships. Vision is estimating its membership is going to be around 14,000, with the new sign-ups that new candidates have now brought in. When I talked to Ellen Woodsworth from COPE last week, she said the party was approaching the 1,000-member point, although not all new sign-ups were in at that point. But, still, the disparity is huge. The COPE negotiators can argue that their party has the history behind it and that everyone they talk to wants to see the two parties co-operate, but that’s only going to take them so far, faced with those numbers. What’s keeping everyone’s feet to the fire is the almost delirious optimism that the NPA is vulnerable — but not that vulnerable. So the left has a shot at victory, but they could blow it by starting to squabble.

So the word is that it’s more likely there’s going to be an overlap of one or two candidates for each board. That way, the thinking goes, the voters can make the choice of whether they like the Vision or COPE version of civic-left politics. Obviously, that’s provoking some concern that an overlap will dilute the numbers for all of the Vision/COPE candidates. The more choices voters have to spread their votes around on the left, say some, the greater likelihood that the numbers for each candidate will go down. (It’s why some parties in the past have run or contemplated running less than the full slate of candidates, in order to concentrate votes.)

But other civic strategists say that is only a concern if you believe that voters in the city vote either a complete left-wing or complete NPA slate. But history has shown that many people who vote mostly NPA are inclined to throw a few votes to the other side for candidates they think are good representatives. That’s what got Harry Rankin and Libby Davies elected time after time — those voters from Kerrisdale and Dunbar who thought they were better picks than the bottom of the NPA slate. So a few extra candidates on the left side of the scales will mean a tough slog for any new or lesser-known candidates — and that’s where the future of Vision and COPE will be decided — but those at the top may well be quite safe because they won’t be pulling votes exclusively from just one group of voters.

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