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What does it really mean that COPE voted to run a mayoral candidate and candidates against Gregor Robertson and Vision?

April 10th, 2013 · 105 Comments

After much see-sawing back and forth over the last seven years within COPE on co-operating with Vision, the anti group turned out in force last Sunday. They elected many of their like-minded compatriots to the executive and passed a motion that the party should run a mayor candidate and a majority slate of candidate in the 2014 election.

But how to interpret that, in Vancouver’s shifting civic politics sands. A start, in this story.

I couldn’t tell myself how hardline this decision is likely to be and whether it will get modified by the time the election rolls closers. There is definitely a group within COPE that sees Vision Vancouver as just a new face of the power elite, unlikely to do anything for the poor, working class, marginalized, non-developer residents of the city. They’re unlikely to support any kind of compromise position, even if it means an NPA resurgence.

They’re like those in the B.C. Conservative party who say, “Yes, I know we’ll split the centre-right vote if we run against the Liberals, but we’re willing to do that and let the NDP reign for a term and then the province will be ready to back us, the only real alternative, once the Liberals disappear.”

But there are lots of others in COPE, even within the harder-line group, who seem to think that some form of co-operation might be necessary, depending on the circumstances.

In the meantime, NPA types are taking great delight in this friction. I checked with Adriane Carr at the Green Party about whether this might mean a coalition with the Greens and COPE. She said her party’s position is to run independently (at least at the municipal level), since Greens tend to get votes from people voting for all of the other parties.

So, if everyone does go their own way, that could mean a COPE/Vision/NPA/Green four-way race. (I’m assuming the flegling NSV party would join forces with COPE, if it were separate from Vision, though I’m famously wrong at least 50 per cent of the time.)

COPE votes to run mayoral candidate against Gregor Robertson in 2014

Published Tuesday, Apr. 09, 2013 10:11PM EDT

Last updated Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 06:47PM EDT

The campaign for the 2014 civic election began this week, when the city’s left-wing party voted to run a mayoral candidate against Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

If that resolution holds over the next 18 months, it will end the uneasy coalition between Vision and COPE that many see as a major factor in helping the fledgling centre-left Vision defeat the long-reigning Non-Partisan Association in the past two elections.

The move is provoking glee among NPA strategists and some apprehension in Vision.

But COPE, which has had an influx of new, young members who view Vision as nothing more than a greenwashed version of the pro-development NPA, has decided it is better off on its own.

“It is a response to the results of the last election,” COPE executive director Sean Antrim said on Tuesday. “The membership has been incredibly frustrated. Now they’re very excited.”

Although COPE and Vision ran a joint campaign in 2011, only one COPE candidate was elected – school trustee Allan Wong. That was starkly different from 2008, when the collaboration resulted in solid COPE representation at council, school board and park board.

COPE’s decision to run a mayoral candidate and a big enough slate to form a majority if elected arose from an impromptu motion at the party’s annual general meeting on Sunday, which drew an unusually large crowd of 500.

At the meeting, a group that has called itself the “independents” won most of the positions on COPE’s executive.

That group, according to an article written this week by supporter Nathan Crompton, has revived the party by taking it over from the inside. It has provided people with an alternative to the “raft of neo-liberals” – former NDP MLA David Chudnovsky being one – who were too close to Vision and “preventing real change.”

But it’s still an open question how militantly the new COPE will hold to its decision and its view of Vision as the political apparatus of “an unforgiving property-owning class” in Vancouver.

A lot of variables are in play.

First is money. COPE has relied heavily on union funds to run its campaigns. The majority of unions agreed to give money to COPE in the past two elections only if it collaborated with Vision.

Mr. Antrim said not all unions are satisfied with Vision.

However, even if the party persuades more unions to give, there’s wide speculation that the NDP will change municipal election law to ban corporate and union donations by 2014 – a move that would inflict serious damage on COPE.

Then there’s the issue of what COPE’s position will be by the November, 2014, election. COPE has been split at every one of its meetings on whether to co-operate ever since a group of COPE breakaways formed Vision in 2005.

Some observers said that many of the more “moderate” members of COPE were too busy helping run provincial NDP campaigns this month to have time for organizing voters in what has become the yearly tussle at COPE meetings.

However, it’s also clear that even some who have worked with Vision are uncomfortable with the party’s recent development decisions, especially in the Downtown Eastside.

“As Vision policies have been enacted and these new developments go in, there’s a lot of anxiety in a lot of neighbourhoods,” said Nathan Allen, who was a co-director of COPE’s 2011 election campaign.

The party also faces a problem if the B.C. Liberals lose the upcoming provincial election.

“If all the Liberals move from Victoria and join the NPA, that’s going to change the landscape,” Mr. Antrim said. “The membership isn’t discounting coalitions. Even working with Vision in some way is a possibility.”

It would have to be a different way from before, though.

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