Vancouver’s centre-right political party now has a pitched battle between newcomers and veterans as it prepares to nominate a mayoral candidate for this year’s civic election to replace Mayor Gregor Robertson.
John Coupar, a long-time member of Vancouver’s once-dominant Non-Partisan Association, has launched a bid for the slot, saying the party needs “experienced leadership.”
That move by the park-board commissioner appears to be a direct challenge to the energetic campaign for the mayoral slot by the city’s newest councillor, Hector Bremner, a 37-year-old who was only elected last October and had never been involved in civic politics before.
“Hector is a bright young man but I think you need experience,” said Mr. Coupar, who was first elected to the park board in 2011 after having successfully campaigned to save the Bloedel Conservatory from cuts. He was accompanied by two other long-term NPA politicians, former councillor and mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton and current councillor George Affleck.
“You need someone who has led large organizations before, someone who has political experience. You kind of need to know your way around the place to get things done,” said Mr. Coupar, who is 61. He is the president of the courier company, Novex Delivery Solutions, which touts its low-carbon systems as one of its advantages over competitors.
Mr. Bremner, a former BC Liberal Party appointee and currently the vice-president of a lobbying firm, has branded his campaign with the slogan #LetsFixHousing to demonstrate his focus on what he says is the city’s dominant problem: housing that is too expensive for local workers.
But Mr. Coupar says that housing is too complex for one-shot solutions. He promised that he will address housing issues by listening to people carefully and developing feasible solutions, some of which should be focused on using already available city land.
This fall’s election will see Vancouver elect its first new mayor in a decade. Mr. Robertson, who was first elected as part of the Vision Vancouver party in 2008, is not running for relection.
Besides Mr. Coupar and Mr. Bremner, the only other declared candidate for the NPA mayoral nomination, which has now been set for May 29, is Glen Chernen.
Mr. Chernen, a 48-year-old investment manager who is vociferous on Twitter about mistakes and cover-ups connected to city land deals, has also focused much of his campaign attention on the housing issue, saying that Mr. Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party have turned the city over to luxury-condo development.
The NPA’s leadership battles have cast some doubt about whether it will be able to sweep in and take over, which might have been the normal course of events in past years as the pendulum swung from right to left.
Although the 10-year reign of Vision Vancouver has clearly resulted in much of the public looking for something new and different in this October’s civic election, the muddled politics on both sides mean the field is still wide open.
On the other side of the political fence, the situation is no clearer. The city’s four somewhat left-wing parties, ranging from Vision to the Green Party, OneCity and the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), are struggling with whether to run individual mayoral candidates or to jointly endorse an independent.
COPE held a meeting recently with the Greens and OneCity to talk about shared goals, though party members haven’t made any decisions yet.
A former Vision Vancouver board member, Shauna Sylvester, is said to be strongly considering a run as an independent. Ms. Sylvester has strong credentials with the green movement and is the current director of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue.
However, the party is also still considering whether to run its own mayoral candidate, with some in Vision arguing that it needs to reserve that possibility in case there is no independent candidate that the non-NPA parties can agree on.