Vancouver’s once-dominant civic political party has been hit with another blow, as three more councillors elected under the Non-Partisan Association banner said they are leaving to sit as independents.
Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung issued a news release Wednesday afternoon, saying they were blindsided by the NPA board’s secret decision two weeks ago to name an NPA park-board commissioner as the party’s mayoral candidate for the 2022 civic election.
The move leaves the historic party with only one sitting councillor after five were elected in the 2018 election, which the party lost by only 1,000 votes. One other councillor had departed 18 months ago.
“NPA supporters and Vancouverites deserve better, which is why the three of us are stepping away from the NPA to sit as a group of independents,” Ms. Hardwick said in the release.
“Instead of a fair and democratic process to select the best mayoral candidate, the NPA board and John Coupar sidelined the elected members of the NPA and made a backroom deal. By any measure, it was about as old-boys’-club as it gets.”
The departures began a year and a half ago when Rebecca Bligh left to sit as an independent after concerns about newly elected board members’ affiliations with extreme right-wing or homophobic groups. Concerns about the NPA board accelerated when other allegations of ties to white-supremacist groups, anti-vaxxer sentiments and other controversial connections emerged.
Melissa De Genova remains as the lone sitting NPA councillor. The party still has two school-board trustees and two park-board commissioners.
Ms. De Genova said she has no plans to leave the party.
“The reality is, little will change for me,” she said. “As a caucus, sometimes we would vote together, sometimes not. I expect that to continue.”
The NPA board issued a statement thanking the councillors for their work, while pointing out they were chosen to run as candidates through the same process as Mr. Coupar.
“The NPA would like to remind our members and the public that each of the three departing councillors were appointed to their role as candidates for the NPA in the exact same manner as our current mayoral candidate, Mr. John Coupar,” the statement read.
“We also look forward to promoting fresh new faces that will vote according to the needs of Vancouverites, not Kennedy Stewart.”
After he was appointed the party’s candidate for mayor, Mr. Coupar said he was planning to make the board more inclusive and representative of Vancouver residents.
Ms. Dominato said the group reached out to Ms. De Genova in the past weeks over the board’s ongoing failure to hold an annual general meeting and its private vote to choose Mr. Coupar as the party’s mayoral candidate, but she indicated that she planned to continue supporting the party.
They also met with NPA president David Mawhinney and Mr. Coupar on Monday to relay their concerns.
“I left the meeting feeling disappointed,” Ms. Dominato said. “It wasn’t responsive. We lost confidence that anything will change.”
She said it was an extremely difficult decision to leave a party with such a long history.
“I really don’t have words. It’s very strange.”
The election now has four declared candidates for the mayor’s job – including current mayor Kennedy Stewart, who plans to run again. Besides Mr. Coupar, candidates include political consultant Mark Marissen and Ken Sim, who ran for the NPA in 2018.
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