The COPE election victory in context

cope city we need

In the 2018 Vancouver municipal election, COPE ran an energetic campaign, helped by abundant volunteers and a progressive platform that featured rent freeze and mansion tax planks. [Photo by COPE]

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — COPE is back!

Last Saturday was election day and for the first time since 2011, COPE had candidates elected not just to Vancouver’s city council, where Jean Swanson came in fourth, but also to the city’s school board, with Barb Parrott, and park board, with Gwen Giesbrecht and John Irwin.

Many predicted the disappearance of COPE in 2014 when it failed to elect anybody. Historically, parties that fail to elect any candidates find it very difficult to remain in existence. It’s a tribute to our COPE membership that they never gave up.

Full disclosure: I say this as someone who helped keep COPE afloat during difficult years. I did it because the party so strongly supports the needs of ordinary citizens and is not in the pocket of developers. Remember, COPE stands for the Coalition of Progressive Electors.

After COPE’s historic landslide victory in 2002, when it elected 8 of 10 city councillors along with mayor Larry Campbell, a pro-developer, pro-gambling-expansion faction broke away from COPE. This faction went on to become Vision Vancouver.

For many years, a debate took place within COPE over whether or not the party should align itself with Vision. In the 2005, 2008 and 2011 election cycles, a pro-Vision faction within COPE won the debate at our AGMs, resulting in electoral alliances between COPE and Vision Vancouver. The result was disastrous for COPE. In election after election, the party continued in a downward slide.

Finally, in the 2014 election cycle, the pro-Vision faction within COPE was defeated by an “Independent COPE” faction. The result was yet another split —- the pro-Vision faction left COPE to establish a new party called One City.

In 2014, COPE began to improve its standing in the polls but still failed to elect any candidates.

This year, however, COPE ran a very energetic campaign with more volunteers than we’ve had for a very long time along with a very appealing platform. Our rent freeze plank spoke to the majority of Vancouverites who are renters. Our mansion tax appealed to those who believe it’s time we address the city’s housing crisis.

We managed to achieve this historic breakthrough without a mayoral candidate. We had planned on running UBC’s notable urban planning professor, Patrick Condon. Sadly, he suffered a debilitating stroke just days before we were set to nominate him. Imagine what we would have achieved had he been able to run as our mayoral candidate!

Still, I am thrilled with the election results. Not only is COPE finally back, but Vision Vancouver is virtually wiped out. They elected no candidates to city council or park board and only one to school board.

It will be interesting to see how Christine Boyle, the single One City city councillor, votes on development issues and whether or not she follows in the footsteps of Vision Vancouver.

We have an exciting four years ahead of us! Three cheers for COPE!

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