A newly elected city councillor vying to represent Vancouver’s centre-right party for mayor in the civic election this fall has been rejected as a candidate by the party’s leadership.
The startling move comes after Hector Bremner was given the go-ahead to run for the party’s nomination by the Non-Partisan Association’s (NPA) internal green-light committee. The reversal threatens to blow apart the NPA. The drama also foreshadows an election campaign that is expected to be fought primarily on how to address Vancouver’s skyrocketing real estate prices and resulting housing crisis.
Mr. Bremner won a council seat in a by-election in October representing the party that opposes Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. He has focused his run for mayor on allowing more density in city neighbourhoods.
NPA president Greg Baker would not say why the party’s board rejected Mr. Bremner. The board voted against accepting him as a candidate after hearing the committee’s verbal report on Monday.
The committee “had significant concerns about his answers and about how he answered some questions on the application. They thought it was better for Hector not to put them on paper,” Mr. Baker said.
The controversy appears to be centred around Mr. Bremner’s ties to developers. 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, major developers in the city.
Last month, an NPA member filed a complaint with the city alleging Mr. Bremner was in a conflict of interest.
Mr. Bremner did not give interviews on Tuesday, but he and his supporters posted social-media messages throughout the day, expressing shock and outrage.
“Tonight, unfortunately, was more clear evidence our board has been taken over by people with another agenda,” Mr. Bremner posted on his Facebook page on Monday night.
He blamed a smear campaign by one of his opponents and he said he had signed up more than 2,000 new NPA members – more than any other candidate.
Some NPA board members are considering resignation, according to one of them. The board member declined to be identified. Board members are not allowed to speak about internal matters.
Mr. Bremner had signed up many younger members who liked his approach to tackling Vancouver’s housing crisis, which was to call for densification among the city’s single-family neighbourhoods.
He had also recruited three young council candidates for the NPA, including Musqueam member Wade Grant.
At least one of those candidates, Adrian Crook, says he won’t run with the party.
“There’s no way I’d run with the NPA now. I couldn’t line up behind the mayoral candidates that are left,” said Mr. Crook, who is a member of a Vancouver group that supports more building as one way to alleviate the housing crunch.
With Mr. Bremner’s ouster, the party is left with three candidates to run for the nomination, including Glen Chernen, who has been outspoken in accusing Mr. Robertson’s city hall of arranging bad real estate deals and blaming foreign investors for skewing Vancouver’s housing market. The others are park-board commissioner John Coupar and entrepreneur Ken Sim.
Former NPA mayor Sam Sullivan said it was “unprecedented for a board to reject a candidate the green-light committee has accepted.”
However, other former NPA mayoral candidates said it’s not unusual for parties to exercise the right to decide which candidates will run.
Meanwhile, there is no clear successor to Mr. Robertson. The city has four centre-to-left parties and there is no agreement on how to collaborate to ensure a defeat for the NPA.
The latest development is that federal NDP MP Kennedy Stewart said in interviews that he is considering a mayoral run. However, an announcement has been delayed as he talks to all the parties about whether to run independently or with one of them.