Hector Bremner didn’t spend his Sunday the way he thought he was going to when he announced in February that he wanted to become the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral candidate.
Bremner was supposed to be one of the NPA’s mayoral nominees and compete to be the party’s leader in a nomination race with businessman Ken Sim, park board commissioner John Coupar and self-described financial analyst, Glen Chernen.
Instead, Bremner stayed home and didn’t bother to cast a ballot for any of the competitors. Sim won, Coupar finished second and Chernen third.
“No, I committed to stay out of it,” he told the Courier Monday, while standing outside the Charles Bar at the Woodward’s building on West Cordova. “I didn’t feel that was appropriate. [The NPA] wanted to exclude us from the race, and they excluded us from the race, and I think they excluded a lot of people from the race. There were more than 3,000 people who didn’t vote.”
Bremner was referring to the well-told story that his party’s board decided not to approve his bid as a mayoral nominee. There has been much public and private back-and-forth about why he was rejected, including Bremner’s work in public relations and previous work as a lobbyist, but the rookie city councillor said he has moved on.
Monday night, he and a small crowd of people gathered at the Charles Bar to further discuss creating a new party, which is expected to launch before the end of the month. The Courier spoke to Bremner for 15 minutes during the gathering to get some more insight to his plan for this election.
I wanted to get your reaction to Ken Sim’s victory Sunday night.
It’s unfortunate 3,000 people stayed home and they didn’t feel that they had someone that they could choose. The NPA was able to finally complete this race and add some clarity about what they’re going to do. But it’s pretty clear, though, that housing isn’t on top of the agenda, not really renewal. It’s shuffling chairs. It’s more of the same.
You said in a statement that Sim has won a “poisoned chalice.” What did you mean by that?
To get attention, you need some flair I guess. I think it is true, though—you can’t win a race where the top contender was not allowed to be in the race, or a caucus member was not allowed to be in the race. The vast majority of your membership were basically told your ideas and your values and why you got involved in the party, that this is not a place for you. You win with that hanging over you, for sure. And you also have a complex situation where the most controversial individual [Glen Chernen] didn’t win out of the three. It doesn’t mean that they’re gone. They’re still there. Policy is still going to be driven by that, and you have to contend with that.
Should the media still be reporting that you are a member of the NPA?
At the moment, I am still an NPA city councillor. We’ll have more to say on that soon.
Doesn’t it make it awkward to be sitting at council with three of your NPA colleagues while creating another party?
No. Why do I have to make any move at the moment? I think [the NPA] should be clear as to what they want, too. But I will have a discussion with Ken [Sim]and the team.
As a public relations professional and strategist, why aren’t you seizing an opportunity this week to launch your party to take away any momentum from Ken Sim and the NPA?
I think we have some ground to cover still, and we don’t feel compelled to rush anything. This is a marathon. There’s so much that’s going to happen from between now and October.
When are you going to launch?
It will be by the end of the month. We’re going to have a nomination race. I don’t think anybody would question if I started a new party and made myself the mayoralty candidate. At this point, I think people would say that makes sense. But we’re in this position because there was a lack of transparency and sort of a lack of commitment to democratic ideals. So we’re going to put everything up for nomination. We’re going to have a process, it’s going to be clear and people are going to be able to participate.
So, to be clear, you’re not sticking with the NPA?
We’re committed to being transparent, we’re not playing games here. I put out a statement that said we’re looking at doing something on our own, very seriously. There’s a large movement of people. It’s not just me, it’s a big group and they want to do something and they want their values on the ballot, not just a party brand on the ballot. So people are rallying around that, it’s really exciting, it feels like a moment and we’re going to run an effort over the next couple of weeks to sort of finalize all that.
How many people are interested in this new party?
Well, 3,000 people didn’t vote yesterday. When you look at the performance of our social media, when you look at the performance of events that we have and you look at the performance of anything we put out or do, it’s large. The interest is very large.
But the centre-right of the political spectrum is getting really crowded.
Who says that’s where we’re at. The left is more crowded. I don’t really believe that there’s a right-left campaign coming up here. This is not about right or left, it’s about forwards or backwards.
I asked you a couple of weeks ago whether the name of the party would be called YesVancouver. You didn’t deny it. So, again, is the name of the party going to be YesVancouver?
(Laughs) Maybe Vancouver is what we have now and it drives people nuts because they can never get an answer. It’s always maybe. We’re considering some options and, honestly, we’ve asked people to help us shape what the name is. We really want it to be truly participatory. I don’t want to tell anyone anything. I’m not here to sell you my version of what I think it is. I’m asking, what is it?
(This interview was edited and condensed.)