Jamie Lee Hamilton seeks COPE nod for park board

Candidate seeks a public referendum of keeping cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium

Sex trade advocate and noted political gadfly Jamie Lee Hamilton is once again running for Vancouver park board. This time Hamilton, who in 1996 became Canada’s first transgender person to run for political office, is seeking the nomination to run as a Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) candidate. She joins two other confirmed COPE candidates, Imtiaz Popat and Ezra Fulford, in running for park board, and she told the Courier last Friday that former COPE park board commissioner Anita Romaniuk also plans to seek re-election.

Hamilton, the party’s transgender caucus representative, ran as an independent candidate for park board in the last two elections. She came in twelfth place in 2011 for one of the seven seats, the most of any independent, but still earned less than half the votes of the seventh-place finisher, Trevor Loke of Vision Vancouver.

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“When I ran last time, I was still a COPE member and I’ve always retained my membership,” said Hamilton, who announced her candidacy on Sunday at Emery Barnes Park in Yaletown. “I do prefer my independence, as anyone who knows me will probably agree, but the reality is you can’t win as an independent.”

Hamilton, who has run unsuccessfully for public office five times in total, also considered trying her luck with the Green Party and shares its belief over the need for a public referendum on the issue of keeping cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium, which is located on park board-controlled property.

“I could easily have gone Green too and I’m going to be supportive of [former Green Party park board commissioner] Stuart Mackinnon, who is running again. We are all on the record for wanting it. Vision won’t be supporting a referendum and I think citizens want a choice. Any time we’ve had a major issue that concerns the public interest, the citizens have wanted to have their voices heard with a referendum. We did it with the Olympics and we did it with the [Stanley Park] zoo. Clearly a lot of people don’t want whales and dolphins kept in captivity and anybody on park board who opposes that is committing political suicide.”

She added she is also concerned about the commercialization of public spaces and budget cuts that have reduced services to child and youth programs.

“The reason I had my announcement at Emery Barnes Park is because that whole city block was earmarked to be a park, and what Vision did was change the rezoning and sold off part of it that was supposed to be a park,” said Hamilton, who admitted that choosing a place named after the father of Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Constance Barnes was also part of the appeal.

“Vision haven’t created one new park. That is their legacy and this is a party that is supposed to be green. Vision has instead been focused on increasing density while removing green space and that is just a fact, there is no getting around that. Over at Kits Beach, they took away green space for asphalt parking.”

COPE members will vote on endorsing candidates at a nominating conference Sept. 7. COPE is the only major civic party in this year’s Nov. 15 election whose candidates are selected by the party’s membership.

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