September 29, 2022

Opinion: Vancouver’s oldest political party is on the verge of collapse

With the rise of spin-off parties, the Vancouver Nonpartisan Association (NPA) could be on the verge of irrelevance as the October election approaches.

The NPA is in trouble.

Ahead of this year’s municipal elections, Vancouver’s oldest political party – the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) – is struggling to reap any perceived benefits of office or name recognition. Worse still, the NPA is a dysfunctional shell of a political party that continues to cede valuable political capital to competing parties, which, in turn, have become more viable alternatives to oppose Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

In the 2018 municipal elections, the NPA won five seats on Vancouver City Council. Their mayoral candidate, Ken Sim, lost by just 957 votes. Beneath the surface of these election results, however, lie the cracked foundations of a political party struggling to hold together (let alone build) a coalition that could reclaim Vancouver City Hall.

As election day approaches on October 15, the NPA has only one councilor left. The other four councilors left the party, citing an “out of touch” NPA board that did not reflect party values.

For its part, the NPA board has repeatedly interfered in the selection of a candidate for mayor, driving swaths of potential supporters to other parties. In 2018, the council rejected the mayoral nomination of Hector Bremner – a sitting NPA councilor at the time. In 2021, the council simply nominated Park Board Commissioner John Coupar as the party’s mayoral candidate, upsetting members and forfeiting the chance to build party membership through a competitive nominating contest .

Three of the NPA’s former serving city councilors – Rebecca Bligh, Lisa Dominato and Sarah Kirby-Yung – are running for re-election with A Better City (ABC) Vancouver whose mayoral candidate is the former mayoral candidate of the aforementioned NPA, Ken Sim. ABC is further bolstered by the addition of media-savvy city council candidates — Peter Meiszner and Brian Montague — and a team of skilled organizers, some of whom have just won Kevin Falcon’s Liberal leadership campaign. in British Columbia.

The fourth sitting city councilor to leave the NPA, Colleen Hardwick, is now the mayoral candidate for TEAM for a Liveable Vancouver, a spiritual successor to the voter action movement that held the majority of city council seats in 1972. to 1976. TEAM recently announced that political strategist and lobbyist Bill Tieleman would be one of their candidates for city council. Tieleman has become something of a spokesperson against mass development in Vancouver after gaining widespread media coverage for his vocal opposition to the Broadway Plan, the city’s guide to development along the 2.8 billion subway Broadway dollars.

In 2018, the NPA also clashed with spin-off parties (namely, Yes Vancouver and Coalition Vancouver), which arguably cost Ken Sim the mayoralty. Now, the spin-off parts of the NPA – ABC and TEAM – could completely obliterate the NPA.

After spending years alienating its own elected officials and party members, the NPA has announced a rather disappointing list of candidates for city council compared to the candidates announced by TEAM and ABC in particular.

Moreover, the NPA has yet to establish its propositional value to Vancouver voters beyond simply opposing Mayor Stewart. By contrast, ABC has quickly established itself as a commercial and business-friendly choice for Vancouver voters, while TEAM clearly opposes rapid densification, effectively cornering Vancouver’s vocal anti-development crowd. Both ABC and TEAM have taken tough public safety stances on crime, further undermining the NPA’s traditional appeal to voters.

This was illustrated last month after a Research Co. mayoral election poll had John Coupar at just 8%, far behind Ken Sim (26%) and Colleen Hardwick (19%). Although there are still months of campaigning to come, this poll should be alarming for the NPA, as the party has always been said to have built-in support rooted in its longstanding brand; The NPA was expected to vote well so far from an election. Instead, the NPA has apparently already lost considerable support for ABC and TEAM.

With a battered mark, an unclear contrast in the electoral field, a list of low-key candidates and a hemorrhage of supporters, the NPA is no longer running against Kennedy Stewart. Rather, the NPA is coming against the very people it has driven from its tent, for winning back these former supporters will prove to be a far greater challenge than defeating Kennedy Stewart ever was.

Mo Amir is the host of This is VANCOLOUR, Vancouver’s authentic culture and politics podcast, now also airing Sundays at 7 p.m. on CHEK News.