The man who was the mayoral candidate for Vancouver’s oldest civic party in the last election says he’s going to run again in 2022 at the forefront of a “new movement” that is growing.
Ken Sim, who lost by fewer than 1,000 votes to current Mayor Kennedy Stewart, said he is hearing from an increasing number of people saying they want to create a new party that better represents the socially progressive, fiscally responsible approach Vancouverites want rather than the Non-Partisan Association, the party Mr. Sim represented in the 2018 election.
Mr. Sim, a businessman who founded Nurse Next Door and the Rosemary Rocksalt bagel shop chain, said he does not want to make it public yet who is supporting the movement to create an alternative to the NPA, but said it’s a broad range of people from different sectors of Vancouver who want a party that doesn’t pit right against left.
“The next election will not be left-right or east-west. It will be smart versus stupid,” he said. “And we’re going to have an amazing kitchen cabinet, people from all over the city. We just want to see the city run well.”
But many people who have been part of the NPA in the past say it’s too soon to give up on what has been a powerful brand and a party with a history of progressive policies, especially since the next election looks uncertain with four different parties, an independent mayor and no majority on the current council. That has resulted in erratic decisions at times and a sense that the council has no clear direction.
The support for the NPA remains despite recent controversies about the board.
One NPA councillor quit after some board members with far-right and anti-gay leanings were elected in November. Last month, four long-time party members resigned from the board, saying the new group isn’t inclusive, isn’t listening to Vancouverites and isn’t acting effectively.
But the board is not the party or the elected representatives, defenders say.
“There’s two years left until the next election. It’s too early to say who will work together and form an alliance,” current NPA councillor Melissa De Genova said. “I wish [Ken] well, but I’d hesitate to just walk away from the NPA without real consideration of … the fact that the NPA does have a long history of inclusion.”
Two previous councillors, Suzanne Anton and George Affleck, also said it’s premature to bail on what has been a strong party.
“I think it’s a distraction and an error,” Ms. Anton sid. “The NPA is not as strong as it used to be, but it is still a very strong brand.”
Mr. Affleck said Mr. Sim is so far proposing something that seems very vague, at the wrong time in the election cycle.
Even a former NPA councillor who quit the NPA last November said she is not sure she’s ready to jump to something new.
Rebecca Bligh said she has been approached by Mr. Sim about joining his new group, but she’s not ready to make that kind of decision. “He’s put a tonne of effort into starting something from nothing and he is somebody who could create that. But it’s early days for me as an independent to declare what I will do next time.”
Unlike Ms. De Genova and others, she is not confident the NPA can be an effective political machine for selecting a good representation of candidates for a Vancouver election.
“The board has influence in the next election cycle because their role is to build membership. But the majority of the board all ran against the NPA in the last election and for more right-leaning parties. And those are multiyear seats,” she said. (In fact, three of the board’s 15 members after the November board election were people who had run with other parties in 2018.)
“Without a mayor or a sworn leader, I think the party is quite vulnerable to the board. And can they turn it around before 2022? I would be surprised.”
But those with longer histories with the NPA said as long as the current board runs a fair and open nomination process and members choose a strong and inclusive team of candidates, the party has every chance of doing well.
Several current and former NPA members are pondering mayoral runs, Mr. Affleck said. They include himself and John Coupar, a parks board commissioner, as well as current councillors Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung.
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