Lone candidate hopes for OneCity direction

RJ Aquino, a former member of COPE’s executive, announced Monday he’ll run for council under a new political party — OneCity.

OneCity plans to focus on issues ranging from development and transit to social inequality and childcare.

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Aquino split with COPE a year ago over concerns about the party’s direction.

“We found that it just didn’t feel like a political home that we could thrive in anymore. We wanted to do politics in a certain way where people would be respectful and look at engaging the city as a whole and engaging all the neighbourhoods and engaging all the residents in a positive and meaningful way,” he told the Courier.

Aquino is one of several prominent COPE supporters who’ve parted ways with the left-leaning party, including Vancouver school trustee Allan Wong — its only elected politician, who switched to Vision Vancouver.

Aquino, who works for a software company downtown and lives in Renfrew-Collingwood, said Vision wasn’t a right fit for him and other OneCity backers.

“We felt that Vision wasn’t addressing the things that we’re talking about — directly addressing affordability with bold measures and talking about public transit the way we’re talking about public transit… And, we do feel very strongly about the influence that corporations and developers have in municipal politics. Feeling very strongly about that, we’re not accepting donations from developers and we feel very strongly that any new development should be of benefit to public use rather than developers’ profit.”

It’s not Aquino’s first run for council — he placed 20th with 39,055 votes when he ran for a seat under COPE in 2011.

Aquino said OneCity has no electoral agreements with other political parties and doesn’t intend to make any. Organizers are talking with other potential candidates to run under its banner, but none have been named.

“We are focused on the council race, but we’re open to fielding candidates on the park board,” he said.

Asked about his or other potential OneCity candidates’ chances on a potentially crowded ballot next November, Aquino said the party is “focused on building a movement.”

“In terms of our chances, well, we’re $2 million behind at least, so we’re going to focus on building support and asking people for their support through a lot of fundraising, through a lot of awareness campaigns,” he said. “We feel our message will resonate with a lot of voters, a lot of young people that haven’t necessarily been paying attention. Close to 70 per cent of the people didn’t vote in the last municipal election — those are the people we want to target and we want to talk to.”

Aquino earned Vancouver-Point Grey NDP MLA David Eby’s endorsement on his blog, where Eby also cites support for Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and “many Vision candidates.”

Asked what Aquino and OneCity can bring to the race that Vision Vancouver and COPE can’t, Eby told the Courier: “Vision is only running eight [candidates] and I think there’s room for a strong couple of city councillors who aren’t Vision members and that’s why I’m supporting RJ.

“He represents a community that needs a much stronger voice in our civic politics — the Filipino community. In addition to his close connection with that community, he’s also been a community leader that I’ve been watching for a while. He’s worked around affordability and concern for social issues.”

noconnor@vancourier.com

twitter.com/naoibh

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