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Vancouver’s centre-right political party to pick mayoral candidate after in-fighting

Vancouver voters will find out on Sunday who among a trio of very different hopefuls will be the mayoral candidate from the city’s once-dominant centre-right party, whose leaders are hoping to take back city council.

Non-Partisan Association members will be choosing from Glen Chernen, a populist who wants to root out what he says is corruption at city hall; John Coupar, a park-board commissioner who promises to be thoughtful and knowledgeable about city government; or Ken Sim, an entrepreneur who says he can bring valuable management experience to the city.

That vote comes after several tumultuous months for the NPA. A onetime mayoral candidate, former federal Conservative MP Wai Young, left the party last fall, saying it systematically tried to exclude Chinese members she signed up.

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Another candidate, Hector Bremner, was barred from running by the party’s board, which indicated he had too many conflicts of interest because of his job at a communications and lobbying company. Mr. Bremner has claimed that Mr. Chernen’s supporters orchestrated that decision and he has said he is going to start a new political party that will be more open.

Some NPA supporters say the party’s brand and voter base is still strong, and that the candidate they choose from the three is the most likely to win against left-wing candidates in the Oct. 20 civic election – albeit after a tight race on Sunday.

“I think it’s going to be very, very close and I don’t think there’s a front-runner,” said George Affleck, an NPA councillor supporting Mr. Coupar.

He also acknowledged it’s going to be an odd competition, given that Ms. Young and Mr. Bremner signed up hundreds of members, who may decide to vote on the remaining three candidates.

None of the three candidates has been on council before. They are all homeowners with properties on the west side.

Mr. Chernen, who makes his living managing his personal investments and who started and ran with a new political party in the last election, has made a name for himself by investigating city decisions about real estate and with his court cases and appeals. He has more than once been reprimanded by judges or tribunal members for bringing frivolous or poorly researched arguments forward.

Apart from his attacks on city real-estate deals, he holds many traditional NPA positions, promising, for example, to remove the bike lanes around Vancouver General Hospital if elected.

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He has also said he’d like to limit sales of local housing to people who have paid taxes locally and he supports other measures to limit foreign investment.

But, while viewed by some as a one-note obsessive who knows little about city government, he is admired by others.

“Glen is honest in his opinions, and willing to take on well-organized groups who benefit from maintaining the status quo,” said Raza Mirza, who is involved with a housing activist organization that lobbies for more controls on foreign investors.

Mr. Sim, a co-founder of Nurse Next Door and Rosemary Rocksalt bagels, gets support from people in the business community, who see him as someone who could bring better management to city hall. Peter Armstrong, the onetime president of the NPA, is a supporter, as is Tracey McVicar, a prominent partner in a private-equity firm in Vancouver.

“He’s a big thinker who has executed really well. He’s a leader and he strives to be a great employer.”

Mr. Coupar, who is also the president of the courier company Novex Delivery Solutions, gets support from many long-time NPA members, who see him as the best candidate to bring back the low-key, moderate approach of someone like Philip Owen, who was mayor from 1993 to 2002.

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Mr. Owen is, in fact, endorsing Mr. Coupar, as is former city councillor and B.C. attorney-general Suzanne Anton.

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