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Premier-designate John Horgan speaks to the media in Victoria on June 29. (CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Premier-designate John Horgan speaks to the media in Victoria on June 29. (CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Vancouver to hold by-election to fill council seat vacated by Horgan’s pick for chief of staff Add to ...

Vancouver’s civic political parties are scrambling to prepare for a by-election after a councillor resigned to work for the NDP premier-designate.

The October by-election will fill the council seat of Geoff Meggs, a member of the ruling Vancouver Vision party who has accepted a job as chief of staff to John Horgan.

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver party will be fighting hard to hang on to the seat, while the other parties will be looking at the campaign as a chance to demonstrate they are best positioned to challenge the current government in the next civic election in October, 2018.

Officials or potential candidates with Vision Vancouver, as well as the Non-Partisan Association, the Green Party and OneCity, all say they are racing to hold meetings or discussions to figure out the process of choosing a candidate. And no one sees the race as a cakewalk.

Mr. Robertson acknowledged that it will be a “hotly contested seat.”

Potential candidates agree.

“I think it will be a really brutal fight. I expect it will be tough for Vision to hang on to that seat,” said Patti Bacchus, the former Vision chair of the Vancouver school board, who says that, in spite of the odds, she has “let the party know I’m interested.”

Ms. Bacchus may also have the option of running for the school board again, if the new NDP government decides to hold another election for that group, as it promised during the recent campaign. Currently, the district is being run by an appointed trustee after the whole board was fired by the Liberal government last October.

Pete Fry, a candidate for the Green Party in the 2014 election, is also strongly considering a run, although he is feeling more optimistic about the party’s chances.

“The general populace is looking for some change. Vision had a good 10-year run but their approach might have stalled.”

Many agree that putting resources into the fight for the seat is worth it because it will give whoever wins an advantage in the next election.

And it will give the candidate’s party momentum for the 2018 general civic elections.

“Running in a by-election puts our candidate in an incumbent role, changes the equation a little bit,” said RJ Aquino, a spokesperson for OneCity, a left-wing party that emerged in the 2014 election.

In the meantime, everyone is trying to decide how to choose a candidate. Vision’s executive director, Stepan Vdovine, said the party is meeting later this week to decide what kind of process should be used. Other parties are in the same position.

The NPA and Green Party representatives said it will be hard to hold an open nomination for a candidate, as that would require notifying members, allowing candidates to do membership sign-ups, and setting a date for an internal election when there is little more than three months for the whole campaign.

“If we can get moving quickly, we would prefer an open nomination,” NPA president Sarah Weddell said. But, she said, there may not be time.

No one has come forward as a potential NPA candidate, but insiders say that park-board commissioners such as John Coupar or Sarah Kirby-Yung might be interested, as well as Gabe Garfinkel, who ran for the Liberals in the Vancouver-Fairview riding in the recent provincial election, and Kirk LaPointe, who was the NPA’s mayoral candidate in 2014.

Ms. Weddell said she thinks the NPA stands a good chance of winning.

“The NPA was fairly competitive in the last election,” she noted. The party won three of 11 council seats, four of nine school-board seats and four of seven park-board positions.

“And I think the level of frustration is quite high on issues like affordability and process at the city.”

At the Green Party, current councillor Adriane Carr said the party is holding an emergency meeting this week to decide on a process for a candidate – something she sees as a far from academic exercise.

“I really believe this is a chance to elect another Green. There’s a huge opportunity for the Greens,” said Ms. Carr, who was the first Green Vancouver councillor when she was elected in 2011.

Ms. Carr said she is “definitely encouraging” Mr. Fry to run.

At OneCity, Mr. Aquino said the group will be making an announcement shortly about its plans for electing a candidate.

Tim Louis of COPE, the city’s oldest left-wing party, says that no one has expressed interest yet in running, but “I would would predict we would have someone.”

As well, he says he thinks COPE has a good chance because “the public is fed up with Vision’s connection to developers.”

COPE came to power briefly in 2002, with Larry Campbell as mayor, but fractured by the end of its three-year term. Moderates in the party formed Vision Vancouver, which came to power with Mr. Robertson as mayor in 2008.

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