Sean Antrim, a self-described artist, historian, economist, political analyst and co-founder of The Mainlander website, has been named COPE’s new executive director.
Antrim has been involved with the Residents Association of Mount Pleasant (RAMP) and the Vancouver Renters’ Union and has worked for the Greater Vancouver Community Credit Union.
“[My goal] is to increase [COPE] membership, to engage groups of people that we haven’t been engaging, to reactivate our committees and start talking about arts and culture, the environment and housing,” Antrim told the Courier Tuesday.
The 25-year-old Vancouver-born activist graduated from Kitsilano secondary school and has been a member of COPE for about three years. Antrim, who replaces Alvin Singh, ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the party’s executive in February as part of a faction dubbed “Independent COPE,” which opposed alliances with Vision Vancouver.
RJ Aquino, COPE’s external chair, said Antrim was the best person for the executive director position and that his position on alliances with Vision played no role in being selected for the job.
“We hired Sean on the basis of his ability to organize, to help build capacity and build our membership base,” Aquino said. “He’s a very smart, very articulate. I personally vouched for him and I felt he would be a great asset to help COPE build its capacity moving forward.”
The party needs rebuilding. It was all but eliminated from Vancouver’s political scene last November—only Allan Wong won a school trustee position. Some critics blamed COPE’s close ties with Vision Vancouver. The two parties ran a coordinated campaign, but only Vision elected all of its candidates. COPE’s Ellen Woodsworth lost her council seat by fewer than 100 votes.
Antrim insists COPE can rebound.
“COPE’s done it before. It’s going to be an uphill battle—I think that’s why they chose me, because I have experience over the past few years working across the city on campaigns,” he said.
“The reason I’m so excited about getting chosen for the position with COPE is because it’s rare for a political party to have all of their decisions being made by the membership, so what we need to do is make sure we have as diverse a membership as possible.”
Aquino said a potential city byelection is definitely on COPE’s mind since Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs announced plans to seek the NDP nomination to run in Vancouver-Fairview.
“We haven’t talked in depth about it but we certainly want to be involved. COPE has a lot to bring to the table at council and we feel the things we’re fighting for and advocating for are not being talked about, so COPE should definitely play a role [if a] by-election comes.”
Tim Louis, who also ran unsuccessfully in February for an executive seat with the so-called Independent COPE faction, said he’s “very pleased” with Antrim’s appointment and optimistic about the party’s future.
“He brings a lot of enthusiasm and high energy to the job, but more importantly a track record of working with the community on community issues from tenant rights to densification, or should I say protecting neighbourhoods against densification—a proven track record that makes it very clear that he is a progressive,” Louis said.