Vancouver’s oldest and once-dominant civic political party is in turmoil after one of its council representatives quit, saying the party’s newly elected board is the result of infiltration by far-right elements, with some involved in anti-gay and anti-trans movements.
That stand from Councillor Rebecca Bligh prompted all the councillors, school trustees and park commissioners elected with the Non-Partisan Association to issue a statement shortly after her resignation announcement, saying they supported her while also detailing the NPA’s long history of supporting gay and trans rights.
But the newly elected president of the NPA hit back Saturday, saying Ms. Bligh did not check into her allegations about various NPA board members nor bring her concerns to the board.
“Ms. Bligh failed to understand that the new board consists of 15 members. If two of the board members have views that are contrary to hers on LGBT, which is completely untrue and actually false, that doesn’t mean the entire NPA board are opposed to her personal views,” David Mawhinney said in his own statement on the issue.
Ms. Bligh said she decided to resign immediately after the first board meeting this past Monday. She felt a more conservative group was in control because directors who were more aligned with that group were chosen for executive positions on the board.
“If it was one or two people on the board, sure, okay. But it was a majority electing people [to executive positions] who have a track record of far-right conservatism,” she said. That has a lot of implications, Ms. Bligh said, since the board, although it can’t dictate policy, does play a big role in building membership and fundraising for the party.
But the debate is unlikely to end there, as both politicians and NPA supporters try to parse what is really going on inside the party that almost won a majority in the 2018 civic elections.
They are faced with one group now saying publicly it has swung right and another saying their members are just trying to bring together a wider coalition of right-leaning supporters in order to win the next election.
Former NPA politicians and strategists such as George Affleck and Gavin Dew are saying it’s not a winning strategy for the party to go more right.
But one of the board candidates who didn’t win (he is now challenging his loss) and who supports the new board said the NPA needed to reach out to the many groups it lost in the 2018 election.
“This new party is more inclusive and better for the city,” Wes Mussio said. He said this week’s uproar is nothing more than a small group of sore losers who used to control the NPA.
The public spat will mean more difficulties as the NPA struggles to bring together conservatives and liberals once again in the successful formula that was used to win civic elections for most of the second half of the 20th century.
It is a strategy that has mostly eluded the party in the past two decades, even more so in recent years as bigger tensions have arisen between the liberal side and the conservative side.
The nine elected NPA politicians held a meeting Sunday night to figure out what next, as the party deals with the fallout of a contentious board election Nov. 25 that saw two informal factions pitted against each other.
In the internal split, one slate, which got an endorsement from the NPA’s 2018 mayoral candidate Ken Sim, saw five of its seven choices elected.
But those who appeared to be more aligned with the conservative part of the NPA seemed to gain more votes from the 300 people at the annual general meeting.
Those elected included a number of newcomers with socially conservative backgrounds. Among them were Ryan Warawa, listed as the president of the B.C. Conservative Party, and the former B.C. bureau chief for the right-wing Rebel Media outlet, Chris Wilson.
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