Shoestring newcomers battled rich opponents

Vancouver 1st leader Jesse Johl admits he will be shocked if his upstart party gets a candidate elected to city council or park board Nov. 15. He’ll also be surprised if the party spent more than $15,000.

“We don’t have the paid forces of NPA and Vision, we don’t have money for a robocall or a mail drop,” said Johl, one of the party’s five city council candidates.

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Instead, Johl has relied on all-candidates meeting appearances, doorknocking, leafleting, “Burma shaving” and erecting 2,000 lawn signs, of which he said 250 went missing. The party also produced snappy YouTube videos comparing Vision Vancouver and the NPA to two types of baloney and branding the mayor as “Highrise Robertson” for all the Vision Vancouver-approved tower projects.

The ex-NPA member said he is disappointed by “how much money plays a factor” in Vancouver politics and envies Ontario, where political parties are not allowed municipally. He led the successful battle by six community centre associations to stop park board from evicting them for resisting the centralized OneCard system. Last month, Johl quit Riley Park Hillcrest to focus on the campaign after a bitter legal battle over board control with another ex-NPA member Ken Charko.

The biggest name on Vancouver 1st’s 13-member ticket is London 2012 Olympic bronze medal swimmer Brent Hayden, who is seeking a park board seat. School board incumbents Ken Denike and Sophia Woo may be the party’s best hope. They were ejected from the NPA caucus in June after a press conference, which cited realtors opposing the school board’s moves to accommodate transgendered pupils.

“What they said and what they meant wasn’t conveyed very well,” Johl conceded.

Cedar Party leader Glen Chernen originally sought the mayoralty, but opted to run for city council when he endorsed independent Bob Kasting. Kasting withdrew Nov. 6 to endorse NPA’s Kirk LaPointe for mayor, a move Chernen supported.

The financial analyst said he “never expected that it would be so hard to be heard.” He said Cedar’s biggest external donation was $1,000 from the Vancouver Firefighters Union Local 18 and that the campaign is expected to cost “well under $50,000.” The biggest cost was renting a storefront office on Dunbar last winter and moving to West Broadway in the summer to promote its four council candidates, including brother Nicholas Chernen, Charlene Gunn and Jeremy Gustafson.

“The fact that we did not owe anybody anything allowed us to say what we felt, when we felt,” Chernen said. “(NPA and Vision) had an advantage over us with the funding, so we had an advantage over them by being real with the people.”

Chernen said long before veteran newsman LaPointe joined the race, it was Cedar that was “raising the secrecy of city hall, the duplicity of the members of the Vision party.”

Chernen gained attention last February for filing a court petition alleging Robertson was in conflict of interest over the 2012 lease of a civic building to HootSuite, which hosted a Vision Vancouver event two days before the 2011 election. It failed, but the judge noted city hall’s relationship with the social media company had been “shrouded in secrecy.” Chernen opposed the Oakridge Centre rezoning and unsuccessfully challenged Robertson’s nomination for not listing the address of the downtown apartment in which he claims to live.

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