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Vancouver civic party dumps sitting councillor

Vancouver's minority left-wing party has deposed one of its sitting councillors as a candidate for the November election.

Instead, the three candidates it runs for council will include a man who has steadfastly opposed working co-operatively with the ruling Vision Vancouver party since it came into existence six years ago.

In a meeting that was unprecedented for its size and ethnic diversity, the Coalition of Progressive Electors dumped Councillor David Cadman, and voted for former councillor Tim Louis, sitting Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, and newcomer RJ Aquino, the party's first-ever Filipino candidate.

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The results produced a roar of excitement and disbelief in the high-school gym where they were announced Sunday evening.

Mr. Louis led the fight seven years ago between traditional COPE members and a newer more moderate wing led by former mayor Larry Campbell, as the party fractured after its first and only election victory. Sunday, he promised he will abide by the party's agreement to work together with Vision.

"Right after the last vote was announced [on the agreement to work together], and I had voted against it, I said, 'The membership is always right.' "

The agreement, worked out in the spring, spelled out that the two parties would split the council, school and park slates with no overlap and that they would not compete against or criticize each other. It also required that any candidate COPE subsequently elected would have to sign a document promising to abide by the agreement.

The vote for candidates did not appear to be a vote to reject the Vision agreement. Ms. Woodsworth, who championed it and has worked together with Vision for the past three years, won handily, with 534 votes among 615 ballots. Mr. Louis got 345, Mr. Aquino, 316, and Mr. Cadman, 309.

Mr. Aquino, a 30-year-old health-services systems manager, was also part of a slate with Ms. Woodsworth and Mr. Cadman. He signed up 300 of the party's current 2,000 members in advance of the vote.

Mr. Cadman led the effort to revive COPE in 1999 after it failed to win a single seat against the governing Non-Partisan Association, even taking out a $30,000 mortgage on his house at one point to help pay campaign expenses.

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But in recent years, he has devoted a lot of attention to international groups focused on environmental issues and his attendance at council and neighbourhood meetings has been at a noticeably lower level than Ms. Woodsworth's.

He's also been flayed by right-wing bloggers for his international trips and the amount they cost taxpayers.

Asked what had happened, Mr. Cadman said: "It was a great signup by RJ, a great signup by Tim. I thought I'd done my job but I guess I hadn't."

The nomination of Mr. Louis raises all kinds of questions for the coming election about where voters are headed and what the consequences of COPE's nomination choices will have for other parties.

NPA strategists were gleefully hoping for a win by Mr. Louis, an indefatigable fighter who has never wavered from traditional left-wing goals. He won't likely breach the letter of the agreement not to criticize Vision Mayor Gregor Robertson or his candidates. Mr. Louis, however, is likely to do everything he can short of that to underline the difference between himself and Vision, particularly on key issues like affordable housing, homelessness and overdevelopment in neighbourhoods.

Ms. Woodsworth has opposed some Vision policies on those issues, but she has also worked with the party and praised them for others.

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Although COPE is officially urging all of its supporters to vote for the full 10-person slate of COPE and Vision candidates, Mr. Louis's nomination indicates there may be a group of them who will only vote COPE, peeling some left-wing votes away from Vision.

Vision is also entering the election with some fraying of support from the Green Party. It too had worked co-operatively with Vision in the past election. However, in a close vote this spring, the party voted to run a candidate for council, even though Vision had not left a spot open for that.

The party recently nominated Green Party of Canada deputy leader Adriane Carr to run, a move that prompted some members to resign.

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