The once-mighty civic party that ruled Vancouver for decades is preparing to stage a comeback with a splashy campaign launch and dinner at which it will ask donors to pay up to $50,000 a table.
That is in stark contrast to the high-school-gym-style fundraiser the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association held three years ago at the Hellenic Community Centre, when the party appeared to be economizing even while trying to persuade people to write cheques for the campaign.
The event at the Vancouver Convention Centre on May 7 is clearly aimed at starting to raise the kind of money it takes to run a serious campaign in the city – $2-million or more. The party is selling tables at different prices, starting at $3,500 and going up to $20,000, $30,000 and $50,000.
But in spite of all those efforts – and the fact that the party president, businessman Peter Armstrong, has been throwing his money and time into the campaign for well over a year – the NPA still does not have a mayoral candidate after months of hunting for one.
NPA spokeswoman Natasha Westover said the party is going to announce the names of some of its other candidates at the event, although how many is unclear because the internal "green-light" committee is currently vetting the applicants.
The number "depends on how many get through by then," Ms. Westover said.
Ms. Westover said the party is also considering whether to have a nomination meeting to choose the candidates, although, with less than a month before the fundraiser, organizing something like that would be difficult.
A debate is going on behind the scenes about that process, and some board members are uncomfortable with simply appointing people.
The NPA, which had dominated Vancouver city council since the mid-1980s, lost to COPE and Larry Campbell in 2002, but squeaked back in with Sam Sullivan in 2005. However, the Vision party, then new, swept to power in 2008, and Suzanne Anton was the only NPA member to win a council seat. Ms. Anton, now the B.C. Liberal Justice Minister, ran for mayor in 2011 and lost. The NPA won only two council seats.
Vision, which dominates city council, the school board and the park board, has a nomination meeting scheduled for June 14.
It will definitely have to find some new candidates, with four of five Vision park-board commissioners leaving.
One, Niki Sharma, will be aiming for council, while Aaron Jasper, Constance Barnes, and Sarah Blyth have all said they will not run again.
"I can't do this any more for $8,000 a year," Ms. Barnes said. "It's a hell of a lot of work."
All seven of the current councillors are expected to run again.
But Vision is likely to decide to run more candidates for the 10-member council.
Last time, it did not run a full slate as part of its collaboration with the centre-left party COPE, but the two parties have had a falling-out. Candidates are already lining up.
Vision has moved into high gear with its own fundraising and campaign. Condo marketer Bob Rennie put on a $25,000-a-plate lunch for developers with Vision Mayor Gregor Robertson last month.
On Sunday, about 150 Vision members gathered at a policy meeting to offer ideas on the major issues the party should focus on for the election.
Mr. Robertson urged them not just to provide ideas but help rally people to Vision's cause again.
"This is where we can start to build momentum over the next six months."