COPE moves further to the left

Tim Louis hung onto his job as the Coalition of Progressive Electors co-chair at the struggling municipal party’s annual general meeting held in a Mount Pleasant church hall on Sunday (July 6) but the party added plenty of new faces to the executive board.

The former city councillor faced an internal challenge from the Left Front, a group of COPE members who come to municipal politics with backgrounds in activism.

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The Left Front ran two candidates — Herb Varley and Heather Gies — against Louis for one of the two co-chair positions.

“I am not running against Tim, I am running for myself,” said Varley, an aboriginal youth worker and recent co-chair of the Downtown Eastside Local Area Planning Process. “There is a difference. He’s done a great job and we want him for council.”

The long-serving Louis, 55, nonetheless earned the most votes overall with 102, 20 more than runner-up Varley, but the second co-chair position instead went to Gies due to a party policy that prohibits two men from serving as chairs.

“I want to push on the executive and as co-chair to be more rooted in the grassroots and to truly reflect where the centre of gravity is for progressive politics in the city and that is from the social movements,” said Gies, who has served previously as the party’s corresponding secretary.

Varley instead accepted the position of membership secretary. Other members elected to the executive board were Maria Wallstam as recording secretary and Maureen Bourke as fundraiser.

Six members-at-large were also voted in: Kombii Nanjalah, Alex Mierke-Zatwarnicki, Karen Gilchrist, Charlene Sayo, Allison Mcdonald, and Anita Romaniuk.

Representatives affiliated with the Left Front from five equity caucuses were also elected to voting positions on the executive board: Rosanne Gervais (aboriginal caucus), Stephen Lytton (disability caucus), John Yano (LGBTQ caucus), Imtiaz Popat (racialized caucus) and Jamie Lee Hamilton (transgender caucus).  

Members also formally adopted a campaign platform that would see COPE declare a state of emergency on housing if returned to power and create a special municipal authority to build more affordable housing.The goal would be to build 800 units of city-owned social housing annually.

“We are challenging Vision Vancouver, the developer party, and I’m thrilled to see that COPE, the people’s party, is more united than ever,” said Louis.

The election is Nov. 15.

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