A strongly pro-development candidate for mayor is getting a rough ride inside his own political party as Vancouver heads for a civic election that sees both the right and the left divided on how to handle the city’s housing crisis.
At least one board member from the Non-Partisan Association has raised concerns internally about whether Hector Bremner, one of four candidates vying for the party’s mayoral nomination, should be allowed to run because of allegations of a conflict of interest, according to documents given to The Globe and Mail.
And the party’s president, Greg Baker, says that an internal green-light committee will be deciding whether negative information circulating publicly about Mr. Bremner will disqualify him from running.
“We have a very thorough process. Everything will be looked at. Anything is possible,” said Mr. Baker.
Mr. Bremner, who won a by-election for a council seat representing the NPA, has come under attack in the past three weeks from people inside and outside the party saying that he is in a conflict of interest.
Mr. Bremner is a vice-president at the Pace Group, a company that does public relations, communications and lobbying for a wide variety of clients, including the Aquilini family, which is very involved in development in the city, as well as grocery-store chains that have been lobbying city councils in the region for permission to sell liquor inside their stores.
Mr. Baker has also expressed concerns internally about reports that Mr. Bremner’s campaign included a volunteer, Raj Bhela, who has been dropped by the federal Conservative party as an organizer because of concerns about court cases over his financial irregularities.
Peter Armstrong, a former president of the NPA who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to previous campaigns, has sent out e-mails urging people to support entrepreneur Ken Sim for the mayoral nomination.
Mr. Armstrong said in an interview that he believes Mr. Sim has stronger people skills and management experience than anyone else. “For council, Hector would be a great representative for the NPA.”
Mr. Bremner’s supporters blame the sudden round of public accusations and the internal discord on a backlash from the party’s old guard – who would prefer other candidates such as park-board commissioner John Coupar or Mr. Sim – and a concerted effort by others who support anti-developer candidate Glen Chernen.
An e-mail from Mr. Bremner’s campaign manager, Mike Wilson, sent to the board in late March, outlines frustrations the team was having with the party’s membership-acceptance and nomination processes, suggesting that they aren’t clear or transparent.
Mr. Chernen declined to comment on the internal division, saying, “I’m not going to go there, but I’m happy with how things are going [with the nomination process].”
Last week, NPA member Raza Mirza filed a complaint with the city alleging Mr. Bremner was in a conflict of interest. The complaint noted Mr. Bremner’s votes on Northeast False Creek and on an initiative to rezone a small section of Point Grey for higher density, saying that the Aquilini family’s company stands to benefit from the effects of both of those policies because of land they will be developing within or near those two areas.
Mr. Mirza sits on an internal party committee of the NDP and also has ties to Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT), a Vancouver residents group that is fiercely opposed to foreign investment in the city.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has written to Mr. Mirza saying a special investigator would be appointed within 30 days if both parties agreed on the choice of investigator.
Mr. Bremner declined to comment on the issue to The Globe, saying only that he is focused on signing up as many members as possible for the nomination race by the deadline of April 29.
In previous weeks, he has told other media that he has not done any direct work for the Aquilinis since he was elected and that the complaint against him is just a political attempt to discredit him.
Special to The Globe and Mail