COPE sees victory in defeat

The mood at the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) election night party was surprisingly upbeat despite the once-dominant political party not getting a single candidate elected.

"The results tonight are disappointing but let's look at the whole campaign,” mayoral candidate Meena Wong told dozens of cheering supporters inside the former VIVO Media Arts building on Main Street Saturday night. “COPE exceeded all expectations… I don't believe in miracles but I do believe in good policies and hard work and that is what we have done. We put forward the strong policies that we needed in this campaign... And on this, we delivered, we have achieved something nobody dreamed of even two months ago.”

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Wong, an NDP candidate for Vancouver South who came in third place in the last federal election, did the same in her first mayoral bid, although she came in closer than polls suggested she would. After the final count, she had earned 16, 791 votes while Vision Vancouver incumbent Gregor Robertson held on to his job with 83, 529. NPA runner-up Kirk LaPointe had a total of 73, 443.

The top COPE city council candidate was former Bowen Island mayor Lisa Barrett, who came in 20th place. Gayle Gavin, a trial lawyer and the sole COPE city council candidate to receive an endorsement from the Vancouver and District Labour Council, came in 23rd place. Former councillor Tim Louis, who was too ill to attend the election night gathering, came in 21st place.

Former COPE park board commissioner Anita Romaniuk, who also received an endorsement from the influential labour board, was the party’s top finisher for park board, coming in 15th place for one of seven available seats. First time candidate Diana Day earned the most votes for school board and came in 15th place for one of nine available seats.

“We have rebuilt COPE,” said Wong of a party that swept into power with all candidates elected in the 2002 election but only saw one elected in 2011, school board trustee Allan Wong (no relation) who last year defected to Vision. “Even though we didn’t get anyone elected this time, people know about COPE. The people of Vancouver now know where COPE stands. It’s clear as crystal that we have given the people of Vancouver a true alternative in the election… We also made history, by the way. We had three indigenous women [as candidates.] ”

Musqueam city council candidate Audrey Siegl, who came in 26th place, was bursting with obvious pride as she described her campaign and what it meant for her to finally embrace her heritage rather than be ashamed of it.

“I am Musqueam and I am beautiful. I never used to feel that way before,” she said. “I was so ashamed of being Indian, I was so ashamed of who I was and everything that being Native stood for… It’s such an understatement to say I am happy to be here.

COPE executive director Sarah Beuhler pointed out a number of obstacles the left-wing party’s traditional base had to overcome in this year’s election.

“There were no advance polling stations on the east side of Vancouver,” she said. “We called it a democracy desert. It was shocking and shameful. The second one was Musqueam  people -- 1 069 of them – were left off the voter registration list, and now we are hearing today … we had voting places that ran out of ballots. Not on the west side but on the east side.”

COPE will hold its fourth and final general meeting of the year Dec. 14. Among other matters, members will vote on deciding who will be the party’s next corresponding secretary and transgender caucus representative.

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