Former NPA school board trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo are running in the November election with a new civic party called Vancouver First.
“During the past few years we’ve heard a lot from parents from ethnic communities. They’re saying that both the Vision [dominated] school board and the NPA [dominated] school board, they do not listen to parents, they do not listen to ethnic communities, they [do] not [have] enough representation, especially about the multicultural communities,” Woo said. “So we decided to join Vancouver First because they won’t force the party line.”
The NPA expelled the pair in June after they hosted a press conference arguing the school board’s revised sexual orientation and gender identities policy could hurt real estate in Vancouver by deterring international buyers.
The duo also ran into trouble in 2012 for comments they made in two videos, one about a link to a website that featured graphic sex scenes from a gay-positive provincial teaching resource, and the other about a supposed special anti-bullying policy in the works to protect queer students.
(Denike later told the Courier: “The reason we talked to the realtors and why it was rather important is that they are the ones who have the key and who have their nose to the ground in regards to international students. That’s what it was about, it wasn’t about house prices.”)
Jesse Johl sits on the executive for Vancouver First. The president of the Riley Park/Hillcrest Community Association was initially an NPA candidate in the 2011 civic election but the party dropped him before Vancouverites cast their votes.
The NPA considered renaming itself Vancouver First in 2010 but Denike said he wouldn’t characterize Vancouver First as the older party’s offshoot.
“We have a power base, if you want to put it that way, in the Chinese community,” Denike said. “It’s going to be very difficult for either of the two main parties to win without that.”
Besides Johl, Denike would only specify actor Brent Chapman, who’s married to the Minister of National Revenue, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, is vice-president for Vancouver First.
Denike said representatives with links to the federal Conservative and Liberal parties are involved with Vancouver First.
Even as opposition trustees, Denike and Woo say they made a positive difference. They got a professional day in 2015 shifted to mark the Lunar New Year.
“It should have been done a long time ago,” Denike said.
They’ve pushed for improved safety for students, advocated maintaining drug prevention worker positions in schools and got Mosquito devices, which deter young vandals from schools by emitting a high-pitched sound, switched back on.
Denike said they want the school board to focus on financial management instead of concentrating on lobbying the provincial government for more money, as he says the Vision-dominated board does. They also want the VSB to address “internet gaming disorder,” or compulsive gaming, which is being considered for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association.
Denike said Vancouver First candidates for park board will be announced within two weeks with candidates for city council after that.
Note: This story has been modified since it was first posted.