Euphoric is how former COPE city councillor Tim Louis described his mood Monday after winning the partys internal chair position at its April 7 annual general meeting. Six of 12 executive positions were up for election.
Louis was part of a six-person Independent COPE slate that opposes alliances with Vision Vancouver. All were successful, including Stuart Parker, a former leader of the B.C. Green Party. A motion also passed at the AGM to have spots open for a COPE mayoral candidate and for majority slates on council, school and park board at the partys 2014 nomination meeting. As well, a notice of motion was tabled, to be voted on at the next meeting, to prohibit party members from holding memberships with other civic political parties.
Im elated, Im joyous, Im relieved, Louis told the Courier Monday. I now believe COPE has a good, realistic chance of not only electing folks that will make a difference, that will stand COPE as distinct from the developer parties, but who will once again give the 99 per cent a voice on council. Whats the point of being elected if youre just going to stand up for the one per cent?
Vision and COPE ran a joint slate in 2011. COPE fielded three city council, four school board and two park board candidates. It didnt run a mayoral
Vision elected all of its candidates, while COPE elected only one Allan Wong to school board.
Louis, who placed 17th for a city hall seat, has spent years campaigning within the party to sever ties with Vision. He sought a COPE board position under Independent COPE in 2012 but lost to RJ Aquino by four votes.
Louis maintains Sundays turnout and results reflect a move to COPEs practical roots.
The 600 people at the [AGM], these are the folks that are going to lead COPE back onto council, back onto school board in addition to the [seat] weve got and back onto park board, he said.
It is a recommitment to the very reason COPE was formed in 1968 and not to go into partnerships with developer parties, but to act as an alternative voice, a voice for folks that arent represented by developers.
Its COPEs membership, however, that will ultimately determine what happens at the 2014 nomination meeting, so agreements with Vision cant be ruled out.
COPE executive director Sean Antrim said his guess is that the reason the motion states leaving nominations open for majority slates on council, school and park board, and not full slates, is to leave open the possibility of running coalitions.
But it seems that Independent COPE has their position and they have a mandate now from the members, Antrim said, adding, A lot of the discussions inside the organization have been tactical and not necessarily political. Obviously, we had one of our worst showings in history in the last election and theres been a lot of discussion about strategy since then about why that happened. But the policies are decided by the membership and the membership is very big.
I dont have a crystal ball, he said. I would hope that we put that chapter firmly behind us, but thats always up to the membership. The membership will decide election by election. Nothing is permanent.
COPE trustee Allan Wong said its too early to speculate about the next election, adding hes focused on how a decision might affect the school board. Wong said hes never favoured running full slates and noted city council appears more polarized than school board, pointing out hes worked well with Vision trustees, as well as NPA trustees such as Eleanor Gregory and Carol Gibson.
Vision managing director Stepan Vdovine said his partys mantra is to build coalitions around issues.
[The election] is 16 months away. Thats a very long period of time, but weve always had a great relationship with COPE. Weve had a great relationship with their elected officials when they were elected on council both Ellen [Woodsworth] and David [Cadman]. COPEs only elected official now has a solid working relationship with the Vision caucus at school board, Vdovine said. Well always be willing to work with COPE and other progressive voices in the city.
Independent COPE members elected to its board include incumbent Kim Hearty, a member of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council whos been in the news recently for picketing PiDGiN restaurant, incumbent Tristan Markle, an anti-poverty organizer and a founding editor of The Mainlander blog, and incumbent Wilson Munoz, a self-described community organizer and social activist. Paul Houle, a former member of COPEs executive also ran under Independent COPE and earned a seat.
Independent COPE now holds a majority on the board eight of 12 seats. Anita Romaniuk and Ifny Lanchance round out the group.
RJ Aquino, David Chudnovsky, Kate Van Meer-Mass and Donalda Greenwell-Baker, whose positions werent up for election, also sit on the board.