NPA council candidate focused on affordability

Hector Bremner, 36, once ran for B.C. Liberals in New Westminster

A former candidate for the B.C. Liberals in New Westminster in 2013 and one-time assistant to then-housing minister Rich Coleman will now see if he can boost the NPA’s numbers on city council from three to four as he represents the party in the Oct. 14 byelection.

Hector Bremner, 36, won the NPA’s nomination battle Wednesday, beating out former NPA school trustee Penny Noble and businessman Glen Chernen, the former leader of the Cedar Party. Bremner is a vice-president of public affairs for the Pace Group, whose managing partner Norman Stowe was once a campaign manager for the party.

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Bremner told the Courier he won 243 votes to Chernen’s 84 and Noble’s 80. The meeting was held at the Italian Cultural Centre of Vancouver.

“It was a lot of hard work but I’m looking forward to the real race,” he said, noting his campaign will focus on making Vancouver a more affordable city.

Part of his plan, he said, includes stopping spot rezoning of neighbourhoods, freeing up the building permit process and having the city better utilize its land for affordable housing. More townhouses and other forms of housing are needed, he added.

“Doing a more gentle spilling out of density,” he said, acknowledging the city’s new housing strategy calls for more types of housing. “But what good are these plans if no one can afford to live in the communities?”

Edmonton-born Bremner, who rents a three-bedroom condo downtown for $2,750 per month, where he, his wife and two children live, said he is fortunate to have a good job. But, he added, he knows what it’s like not to have a home, telling a story of how his family’s business of selling and servicing satellite dishes went bankrupt in the 1990s and “we lost everything.”

“At one point, in Calgary, we had kind of what you would call a [single-room-occupancy hotel] almost and we couldn’t afford to eat and pay rent,” he said. “So the guy took mercy on us — the landlord. He would move my father and I from unit to unit as one was available… we had two mattresses on the floor and a red toolbox to sit on. That was my life for a long time.”

Bremner was executive assistant to Coleman for more than one year and executive assistant to the provincial minister of trade, Teresa Wat, for one year and four months. He was also the chief executive officer for Touch Marketing Inc. for six years.

The NPA membership chose Bremner the same day the ruling Vision Vancouver party announced that Diego Cardona is their choice in the council race. Both men are not widely known outside their networks, with name recognition likely to be a challenge during the campaign.

“I don’t view it as a challenge, I view it as a positive thing,” Bremner said. “What difference does it make if somebody’s famous, or not? It doesn’t matter. That’s the beautiful part of democracy – everybody gets a chance to run.”

As previous municipal election results have shown, candidates tied to the well-funded NPA and Vision, which have spent millions of dollars over the years promoting their teams, have a better chance at being elected than independent candidates and those belonging to smaller parties.

An independent has not been elected to council since 1988, when Carole Taylor won a seat after she lost a controversial NPA nomination bid to Gim Huey. Vancouver’s other mainstream party, COPE, which won a majority in 2002 under the leadership of mayoral candidate Larry Campbell, is no longer a force in civic politics, with the party endorsing independent Jean Swanson this time around.

The Green Party, meanwhile, has had a presence on council since Adriane Carr was elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2014. Carr topped the polls in the last election. The party is running Pete Fry, a Strathcona community activist who collected 46,522 votes in the 2014 civic election, in the byelection.

The NPA, once a dominate party in Vancouver politics, has been in opposition since Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver won a majority in 2008. George Affleck, Melissa De Genova and Elizabeth Ball are the NPA’s three representatives on the 11-member council.

Adding Bremner to the NPA’s caucus would boost the party’s presence at city hall, but Vision would retain its majority until the general election in October 2018. The city will release an unofficial list Sept. 8 of all council and school board candidates competing in the byelection, which was triggered after former Vision councillor Geoff Meggs resigned to become chief of staff for Premier John Horgan.

mhowell@vancourier.com

@Howellings

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